In response to the Islamic State’s execution of American journalist James Foley, President Obama referred to Foley’s killers as a “cancer.” That, of course, implies that anti-American terrorism is like a disease, one that strikes at nations willy nilly, without rhyme or reason.
Obama’s cancer metaphor for ISIS brings to mind what President Bush said about al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks — that the terrorists were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values.
Under either formulation — cancer or hatred for America’s freedom and values — the war on terrorism is going to last a very long time, which naturally means an ongoing presence and ever-increasing budgets for the Cold War-era national-security establishment, i.e., the military and the CIA.
But the truth is that anti-American terrorism is not like cancer and it’s not motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values. It is instead a direct result of the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy. Interventionism generates the rage within foreigners that motivates them to respond with acts of anti-American terrorism.
This is what Obama and Bush, who share the same commitment to foreign interventionism, just don’t get or won’t get. They can’t afford to get it. If they got it and said it, the American people might ask a very simple, discomforting question: Why not bring an end to foreign interventionism, which would bring an end to anti-American terrorism?
Consider the beheading of James Foley. He was being kept alive by his captors up until Obama’s air force initiated bombing runs over Iraq that killed many of the ISIS fighters. Those U.S. killings of ISIS fighters produced the rage within Foley’s captors that motivated them to respond by killing an American citizen, in this case James Foley.
What conclusion can be drawn from this episode?
It’s a very simple, straightforward conclusion: Anti-American terrorism is motivated by the rage that results from the interventionist policies of the U.S. government.
Why is Obama unable or unwilling to acknowledging that simple phenomenon? My hunch is that he doesn’t want the American people discussing or debating the entire philosophy of foreign interventionism that has held our nation in its grip for decades. After all, if people began discussing and debating whether to embrace the libertarian position favoring an anti-empire, noninterventionist foreign policy, they might also begin discussing why it’s still necessary to have a gigantic national-security state apparatus, one that continues demanding ever-increasing budgets.
It was no different, of course, after the 9/11 attacks. Bush and his people within the national-security establishment immediately went on the attack by saying that the hijackers were motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”
The truth was that the hijackers were instead motivated by hatred and rage over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, especially after the Cold War ended and U.S. officials needed new official enemies to justify the continuation of America’s gigantic warfare-state apparatus. The more than ten years of brutal sanctions against Iraq, which succeeded in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, were a big reason people were angry. Another reason was U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s statement that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions had been “worth it.” There were those U.S. troops stationed near Islamic holy lands. The deadly no-fly zones over Iraq. The unconditional military and financial support provided the Israeli government. The support of brutal dictatorships in the Middle East.
It all produced a boiling cauldron of anti-American rage and hatred, which was manifested in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993, on the USS Cole, on the U.S. Embassies in East Africa, and, of course, on the Pentagon and WTC in the 9/11 attacks.
As Ron Paul put it so succinctly in that presidential debate that threw his interventionist opponents into such a tizzy: “They came over here because we were over there.”
The situation was only made worse when, in response to the 9/11 attacks, U.S. forces invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and began killing, maiming, detaining, and torturing countless people who had had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. That includes the CIA’s torture and execution of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, not one of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks.
And it has been made worse again with the U.S. warfare state’s assassination program in Yemen, Pakistan, and other areas.
The truth is that U.S. foreign policy became — and still is — the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history. The beheading of James Foley is just one more confirmation of that fact. They more people that U.S. forces kill, detain, torture, destroy, or abuse, the more people are motivated to do bad things to Americans in revenge.
There is but one solution to all this: Restore America’s founding principles of anti-empire and noninterventionism.
Otherwise, sit back and continue to experience an ever-changing array of official enemies and a permanent climate of fear, anxiety, surveillance, infringements on civil liberties and privacy, militarism, color codes, crisis, war, and conflict, not to mention the ongoing problem of out-of-control federal spending and debt that is sending the United States down the road to bankruptcy.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.