(cross-posted from Salon)
By Glenn Greenwald
It is supporters of Obama’s aggression, not its opponents, who are likely to provoke another Terrorist attack
(updated below [Wed.] â€“ Update II [Wed.])
What frustrates me about Conorâ€™s position â€“ and Greenwaldâ€™s as well â€“ is that it kind of assumes 9/11 didnâ€™t happen or couldnâ€™t happen again, and dismisses far too glibly the presidentâ€™s actual responsibility as commander-in-chief to counter these acts of mass terror.
This is exactly backward. I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe itâ€™s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan â€”Â and George PackerÂ â€” have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 canâ€™t happen, Iâ€™m amazed that it hasnâ€™t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shootingÂ huge numbersÂ of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?
Just consider what one single, isolated attack on American soil more than a decade ago did to Sullivan, Packer and company: the desire for violence which that one attack 11 years ago unleashed is seemingly boundless by time or intensity. Given the ongoing American quest for violence from that one-day attack, just imagine the impact which continuous attacks over the course of aÂ full decadeÂ must have on those whom weâ€™ve beenÂ invading, droning, cluster-bombing,Â occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting.
One of the many reasons I oppose Obamaâ€™s ongoing aggression is precisely that I believe the policies Sullivan and Packer cheer will cause another 9/11 (the other reasons include the lawlessness of it, the imperial mindset driving it, the large-scale civilian deaths it causes, the extreme and unaccountable secrecy with which itâ€™s done, the erosion of civil liberties that inevitably accompanies it, the patently criminalÂ applicationsÂ of these weapons, theÂ precedentÂ it sets, etc.). I realize that screaming â€œ9/11â€³ has been the trite tactic of choice for those seeking to justify the U.S. Governmentâ€™s militarism over the last decade, but invoking that event strongly militates against the policies itâ€™s invoked to justify, precisely because those policies are the principal cause of such attacks, for obvious reasons.
In fact, one need not â€œimagineâ€? anything. One can simply look at the explanations given by virtually every captured individual accused of attempting serious Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The Times Square bomber, the Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad,Â said this:
As soon as he was taken into custody May 3 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, onboard a flight to Dubai, the Pakistani-born Shahzad told agents that he wasÂ motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said.
â€œOne of the first things he said was, â€˜How would you feel if people attacked the United States?Â You are attacking a sovereign Pakistanâ€™,â€? said one law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the interrogation reports are not public. â€œIn the first two hours, he was talking about his desire to strike a blow against the United States for the cause.â€?
When the federal judge who sentenced Shahzad asked with disgust how he could try to detonate bombs knowing that innocent children would die, he replied: â€œWell, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they donâ€™t see children, they donâ€™t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody.â€?Â Those statements are consistent with aÂ decadeâ€™s worth of emails and other private communications from Shahzad, as he railed with increasing fury against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drone attacks in Pakistan, Israeli violence against Palestinians and Muslims generally, Guantanamo and torture, and asked: â€œCan you tell me a way to save the oppressed? And aÂ way to fight back when rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?â€?
Najibullah Zazi, one of the first Afghans ever to be accused of Terrorism on U.S. soil when he plotted to detonate bombs in the New York subway system, wasÂ radicalizedÂ by the U.S. occupation of his country (â€œThis is the payback for the atrocities that you do,â€?he said). Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)Â expressly saidÂ that the Christmas Day bomb attempt by Umar FaroukÂ Abdulmutallab was in retaliation for theÂ Obama cluster-bomb airstrikeÂ in Yemen that killed dozens of women and children along with U.S. support for the Yemeni dictator. The Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan wasÂ motivatedÂ by â€œthe killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.â€?
Anwar Awlaki wasÂ once such a moderateÂ that he vehemently denounced the 9/11 attacks, gotÂ invitedÂ to the Pentagon to speak, andÂ hosted a columnÂ inÂ The Washington PostÂ on Islam â€” but then became radicalized by the constant post-9/11 killing of Muslims by his country (the U.S.). David Rodhe, the formerÂ New York TimesÂ reporter who was held hostage by the Taliban for nine months,Â saidÂ after he was released that Taliban â€œcommandersÂ fixated on the deaths of Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian civilians in military airstrikes, as well as theÂ American detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged.â€?
EvenÂ The Washington PostÂ just two weeks agoÂ pointed outÂ that the primary source of strength for AQAP â€” the Terror group which the U.S. Government insists is the greatest threat to the U.S. â€” are repeated U.S. drone strikes in Yemen; saidÂ The Post: â€œAn escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes isÂ stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants and driving tribesmen to join a network linked to terrorist plots against the United States.â€? In late 2009 â€” almost three years ago â€“Â The New York TimesÂ pointed outÂ exactly the same thing when quoting a Yemeni official after Obamaâ€™s civilian-killing cluster bomb attack (â€œThe problem is that the involvement of the United StatesÂ creates sympathy for Al Qaedaâ€œ). Even Sullivan acknowledges: â€œthere does seem a danger, especially in Yemen, that drones may be focusing the Islamistsâ€™ attention away from their own government and onto ours.â€?
In other words, the very policies that Sullivan and Packer adore are exactly the ones that make another 9/11 so likely. Running around screaming â€œ9/11â€³ at Obama critics to justify his ongoing American violence in the Muslim world is like running around screaming â€œlung cancerâ€? to justify heavy cigarette smoking. It isnâ€™t those of us who oppose American aggression in the Muslim world who need manipulative, exploitative reminders about 9/11; itâ€™s those who cheer for these policies who are making a follow-up attack ever more likely.
Prior to 9/11, of course, the U.S. spent decades propping up dictators in that part of that world, overthrowing their democratically elected leaders, imposing devastating sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Muslim children â€” literally â€” and thenÂ blithely justifying itÂ like it was the most insignificant problem in the world, arming, funding and diplomatically protecting continuous Israeli aggression, and otherwise interfering in and dominating their countries. Thereâ€™s a reason they decided to attack the U.S. as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Finland, or Brazil, or Japan, or Portugal, or China. It isnâ€™t because The Terrorists put the names of all the countries into a hat and â€” bad luck for us â€” randomly picked out the piece of paper that said â€œThe United States.â€?
Itâ€™s because the U.S. has been and continues to be guided byÂ the imperial mindsetÂ that causes Andrew Sullivan, George Packer and people like them to cheer and cheer and cheer for U.S. violence and other forms of coercion in that part of the world â€” violence and coercion that they would be the first to denounce and demand war in response to if it were doneÂ toÂ the U.S. rather thanÂ byÂ the U.S.Â Indeed, thatâ€™s precisely how they reacted â€” and, a full decade later, are still reacting â€” to a one-time attack on U.S. soil.
In light of that, I canâ€™t even conceive of the uncontrolled rage, righteous fury and insatiable desire for violence in which they would be drowning if those attacks lasted not a single day but a full decade, if it involved constant video imagery on American television of dead American children and charred American wedding parties and thousands of Americans imprisoned for years in cages in a distant ocean prison without charges and surveillance and weaponized drones flying constantly over American soil and unignited cluster bombs left on American soil that explode when American children find them.
Although I canâ€™t conceive of the rage that would be produced in people like Sullivan and Packer from a decadeâ€™s worth of that kind of violence on American soil, they should spend some time trying toÂ imagine it. Then perhaps theyâ€™d understand how much they â€” and the President whose foreign policyÂ they venerateÂ â€” are doing to bring about â€œanother 9/11â€³ with the non-stop violence they so enthusiastically endorse.
* * * * *
For those who donâ€™t understand or who like purposely to ignore the difference betweenÂ observations about causationÂ (A causes B) andÂ arguments about justificationÂ (B is justified) â€” where â€œBâ€? is â€œviolent attacks on civiliansâ€? â€” seeÂ here. To be clear, this analysis is an example of the former (a causal argument), not the latter (an argument about justification).
On a related note: a Democratic Party club recently createdÂ a websiteÂ to toutÂ all of President Obamaâ€™s sterling achievements. AsÂ Charles DavisÂ andÂ ReasonÂ both note, half of those â€œachievementsâ€? are corpses that he created. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your Democratic Party in the Era of Obama:
I have no idea who my President keeps killing â€” never heard of almost any of them â€” but Iâ€™m going to blissfully assume that theyâ€™re TERRORISTS and thus stand and cheer when their lives are ended.
Why do they hate us?
UPDATE [Wed.]: MyÂ SalonÂ colleague Jefferson Morley hasÂ an excellent articleÂ documenting the mass political instability that Obamaâ€™s militarism in that part of the world is breeding; itâ€™s well worth reading.
UPDATE II [Wed.]: AÂ new pollÂ from the Pew Research Center finds that â€œThe Obama administrationâ€™s increasing use of unmanned drone strikes to kill terror suspects isÂ widely opposed around the worldâ€œ; in particular: â€œin 17 out of 21 countries surveyed, more than half of the people disapproved of U.S. drone attacks.â€? Caring about world opinion is so 2004.