6 March 2002

Former CIA Senior Officer Says Bush War on Terror Won't Work

A very good read on the "War on Terror" by an ex-CIA officer - he gives his reasons why he believes U.S. military action will never be effective in solving the problem of terrorism against the United States and he explains why he feels we need to understand the root causes behind the terrorism.
  1. My number one root cause is the support by the U.S. over recent years for the policies of Israel with respect to the Palestinians, and the belief among Arabs and Muslims that the United States is as much to blame as Israel itself for the continuing, almost 35-year-long Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

  2. My number two root cause is the present drive of the United States to spread its hegemony and its version of big-corporation, free enterprise globalization around the world. At the same time, the massive poverty of average people, not only in Arab and Muslim nations but also in the whole third world, has become more important as a global political issue. The gap between rich and poor nations, and rich and poor people within most of the nations, has grown wider during the last 20 years of globalization or, more precisely, the U.S. version of globalization. Animosities against the United States have grown among the poor of the world, who have watched as the U.S. has expanded both its hegemony and a type of globalization based on its own economic system, while they themselves have seen no or very little benefit from these changes.

  3. The number three root cause I want to discuss is the continuing sanctions and lack of food and medicines for the people of Iraq, deaths of Iraqi children, and the almost daily bombing of Iraq by the U.S. and Great Britain. Right or wrong, the Arab and Muslim "street" blames this on the U.S., not on Saddam Hussein.

  4. My number four root cause is the continued presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

  5. The fifth root cause on my list is the dissatisfaction and anger of many average and even elite Arabs and Muslims over their own authoritarian, undemocratic, and often corrupt governments, which are supported by the United States.

  6. The sixth and last root cause on my list arises directly from the U.S. "war on terrorism." It has to do with the kind of war the U.S. is now able to fight. On three recent occasions ­ the Gulf War of 1990-1991, the Kosovo war of 1999 against Yugoslavia, and the current war against Afghanistan ­ the United States has easily achieved victories by relying almost exclusively on air power, on missiles launched from a great distance, and now even on drone aircraft with no humans on board. The U.S. has won these wars with practically no casualties among its own forces. But while few Americans get killed, sizable numbers of other nationalities do.

Some more of the article extract ...

The first and most basic belief I have about the current situation is that military action will never be effective in solving the problem of terrorism against the United States. At best it will only prevent terrorism temporarily. As I've already mentioned, there's little doubt that the U.S. will somehow kill or capture or otherwise neutralize Osama bin Laden and most of his lieutenants. The U.S. has already pretty much pulverized Afghanistan by bombing, and has incidentally killed an unknown number of innocent noncombatants in the process. The U.S. government, by the way, seems uninterested in even estimating how many innocent noncombatants have in fact been killed, but it is possible that the number is as large as or larger than the 3,000 killed in the U.S. on September 11. Whatever the military success of the U.S., however, a couple of years hence new extremists just as clever as bin Laden, and hating the U.S. even more, will almost certainly arise somewhere else in the world. That's why we need to understand the root causes behind the terrorism. If I am right that military action will not prevent future terrorism, but only delay it, we should start working on these root causes right away. We should not wait until the military actions are finished before looking at root causes, as some people would urge us to do.

  1. My first comment on this issue is that it is a more controversial root cause than any of the others on our list. The government of Israel, and many supporters of Israel in the United States, really did not want to talk about any root causes immediately after September 11. Top leaders in the United States, most of whom strongly support Israel, preferred to talk only in general terms ­ about how the terrorists were mad and irrational, and how they had attacked "freedom itself," out of mindless hatred. More recently, when pressured to talk about root causes at all, the Israelis and their supporters have gone to great lengths to reject arguments that Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians, or U.S. support for Israel, are in any way even a partial cause of the terrorism. When forced to say something positive about root causes, they tend to allege a broader Islamic religious hatred of the West and its modern technology than I think exists. They also emphasize the internal tensions within the Arab world, the lack of democracy and the dictatorial rulers of Arab nations, who are depicted as trying to distract their people from their own internal grievances by whipping up hatred of Israel.

  2. This problem of poverty around the world is so immense that it's almost impossible to grasp. Global statistics are far from perfect, buy they show that the world's population hit 6 billion last year. 2.8 billion people, almost half of the world's total, have incomes of less than two dollars a day. Here's another statistic: the richest one percent of the world's people receive as much income as the poorest 57 percent. And here's a final statistic: The richest 25 million people in the United States receive more income than the 2 billion poorest people of the world ­ one third of the world's total population. Can we here, sitting in this room, even comprehend the magnitude of the injustice that these figures represent? And have no doubt ­ we in the United States are, rightly or wrongly, blamed for these figures.

  3. I don't have much to comment about on this one. The sanctions and the bombings have been in effect for ten years, and have neither brought about the ouster of Saddam Hussein nor significantly weakened him. And they have caused the deaths of children variously estimated at up to or over a million. The U.S. government's position is that Saddam himself is to blame for the troubles of the Iraqi people, but the fact remains that after all these years, the Iraqi people are the ones hurt by U.S. actions, not Saddam.

  4. Ten years ago this was the principal cause of Osama bin Laden's hostility toward the United States. (His hostility on account of U.S. actions against Iraq and then the massive U.S. support for Israel came later and in both cases may be tactical ­ an effort to broaden his own popularity in the Arab world.) Today the thousands of U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia are a constant irritant in Saudi-U.S. relations. The Saudi people clearly do not want them there. Unless we plan to invade Iraq again, I doubt there is any longer a vital reason to keep men and U.S. ground-based military facilities there.

  5. My first comment here is that Osama bin Laden is a good example of this particular root cause. His extremist wrath was directed as much against the Saudi government, for example, as it was against the United States. His opposition to what used to be his own government was probably the main reason why he had the support of a majority of the young men under 25 in Saudi Arabia. He received similar support from many young men in other Arab and Muslim states as well. Right now these groups of angry young men obviously no longer have a viable leader in Osama bin Laden, but other extremist leaders are almost sure to arise. In addition, the next generation of leaders in at least some of these states may well emerge from among these young men. If any of them do come into power, their future governments will likely be more anti-American than the present governments, which Washington likes to call "moderate," but which are really nothing of the sort. If we have not reduced our energy dependence on oil in the meantime, we may face serious trouble.

  6. Most people in the United States are proud both of these victories and of the low U.S. casualties in these three wars. From the viewpoint of anyone who supports the wars, this prowess of U.S. armed forces deserves to be honored. But elsewhere in much of the world, especially the underdeveloped world, this overwhelming invincibility of the U.S. military intensifies the frustrations about and hatred of the United States. This in turn makes future terrorist acts against the U.S. ­ or what is now called by U.S. strategic thinkers asymmetrical warfare ­ even more likely. Those in underdeveloped lands who oppose the U.S. drive for worldwide hegemony are increasingly coming to see no means other than terrorism as an effective method of opposing the United States.

I'm not so sure I agree with #1 and #3, but #2, #4, #5, and #6 do resonate with me ...


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