Rational Fears and "Gut Feelings:" U.S. Policy, the Middle East and the Privileging of Hegemony Over Survival
Rational Fears and "Gut Feelings:" U.S. Policy, the Middle East and the Privileging of Hegemony Over Survival
"Security is an important element of human life, and free people do not give up their security. Unlike what Bush says - that we hate freedom - let him tell us why didn't we attack
- Osama bin-Laden, 2003
"I. guess while I was there [in
- Jeff Englehart, former Specialist, Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, United States Army, 2006
Like United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, I've got a "gut feeling" (Associated Press 2007) that the
Unlike Chertoff, I don't claim to get this feeling from any specific recent national security data or "chatter."
I have no idea if Chertoff is right to say that the danger is especially strong this summer.
I have no official information about which groups are most likely to attack or which
"THE POLITICS OF FEAR"
And I have the distinct impression that Chertoff's "feeling"and subsequent terror warnings from the executive branch have as much to do with the politics of George W. Bush's disastrous Iraq War as with any specific intelligence about escalated dangers. As the New York Times' editorial page observed in a piece titled "The Politics of Fear" last Wednesday:
"It had to happen. President Bush's bungling of the war in
"Enter, stage right, the fear of terrorism."
"...The message, as always: Be very afraid. And don't question the president."
"...The White House has never hesitated to play on fear for political gain, starting with the first homeland security secretary,
WHY THEY DIDN'T ATTACK
My "gut feeling" is more general, basic, existential and longstanding than Chertoff's. It's the same nagging sense I had long before 9/11.
I'll have it next summer even if no attack occurs between now and then - unless the
The main "intelligence" source for my dread today is the same one that made me less than surprised when the twin towers fell in the late summer of 2001: a common-sense understanding that people from (and/or with allegiances to) the Muslim world and Middle East are being massively and dangerously incited by a U.S. foreign policy that privileges American global dominance over the security of the U.S. people (Chomsky 2003).
Those who claim that "Islamofascist" hatred of western "freedom" and "democracy" was the driving force behind al Qaeda's stunning jetliner attacks have little explanation for why Osama bin-Laden (OBL) et al. specifically targeted the United States for attack. If bin-Laden and his followers and supporters were motivated by loathing of "American freedom and democracy," why were they on the side of the U.S. in the late 1980s, when America enjoyed at least as much domestic freedom and democracy as in the summer of 2001, if not more?
And if bin-Laden and the rest were so angry at the internal freedom and democracy of '"infidel" Western nations, why were Canada, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Switzerland - to name a few non-Islamic democratic states where democratic institutions were healthier and more developed - right to be much less worried about major attacks from al Qaeda during and after the 1990s?
The answer, of course, is to be found in American foreign policy.
Before as after 9/11, Uncle Sam was no innocent bystander in the crisis of Middle Eastern life. The United States was (and remains) the leading sponsor and supplier of the hated regional non- (many Muslims would say anti-) Islamic superpower Israel - the officially Jewish state that has brutally occupied Muslim Palestine since the late 1940s - and of the corrupt, arch-repressive and oil-rich Saudi Arabian regime.
It permitted, equipped and defended
Reflecting the American Empire's longstanding obsession with the control of globally super-strategic Middle Eastern oil,
It killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during "Operation Dessert Storm" (officially seeking to punish a brutal dictator it had long supported) and continued to attack
Last but not least, the U.S. was the leading enforcer of a savage decade-long "economic sanctions" (embargo) regime that killed more than a million Iraqis and helped deepen the grip of the hated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on his desperate populace. It continued to exercise regular terrorism from the skies against
For these and other reasons, there was always as much substance as bluster in al Qaeda's claim that the Muslim world was under imperial assault from the
I'd had a "gut feeling" that such attack was inevitable since first learning about the
It's probably the same sort of feeling that white
Imperial and racist violence can spark bitter retaliation. What goes around comes around, especially in a global age when terrible methods and technologies of mass killing are more accessible and transportable than ever before.
"BECAUSE OF WHAT WE HAVE DONE"
You don't have to be a Left anti-imperialist to make these basic connections. Here's how the conservative Catholic Middle Eastern expert and leading CIA al Qaeda analyst Michael Scheurer described U.S. policy in the Middle East in seeking to explain 9/11 and al Qaeda's subsequent popularity in the Muslim world in late 2003: "Professor Telhami's accurate depiction of America's non-credibility in the Muslim world encapsulates the consequences of a half century of U.S. Middle Eastern policy that moved America from being the much admired champion of liberty and self-government to the hated and feared advocate of a new imperial order, one that has much the same characteristics as nineteenth-century European imperialism: military garrisons; economic penetration and control; support for leaders, no matter how brutal and undemocratic, as long as they obey the imperial power; and the exploitation and depletion of natural resources" (Anonymous [Scheurer] 2004, p. 15).
By Scheurer's account, "the greatest danger for Americans facing the radical Islamist threat is to believe - at the urging of
"A DARK AND DEPRAVED
My own "gut feeling" regarding the American "homeland" (lovely imperial term) terror threat emanating from the
The sanctions against
Muslim Afghanistan is occupied and effectively ruled by "Christian" America and its messianic "crusader" president, thanks to an illegal invasion than both ruling
The biggest ongoing incitement to renewed "anti-American" terror, however, is the continuing mass-murderous
It has been conducted with shocking racist and imperial violence before, during and since the terrible Abu Ghraib revelations of 2004. As Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian report in the July 30th edition of The Nation, the occupation is a "a dark and depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory."
In a fact sheet handed out to antiwar activists in his
"I guess while I was there [in Iraq]," one returning occupation soldier (Jeff Englehart, former Specialist, Third Brigade, First U.S. Army Infantry Division) told Hedges and Al-Arian, " the general attitude was ' a dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi. You know, so what?"
Numerous veterans "described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses."
"We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs," Hedges and Al-Arian report, "that some soldiers had so lost their moral compasses that they mocked or desecrated Iraqi civilian corpses."
Twenty four veterans "said they had witnessed or heard stories from those in their unit of unarmed civilians being shot or run over by convoys. These incidents were so numerous that many were never reported."
The killing of "unarmed Iraqis" is "so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape."
Several interviewees told Hedges and Al-Arian of cases where
"Mom, we killed women on the street today," one
"THE BEST OF INTENTIONS"
Throughout this arch-criminal enterprise, both leading imperial U.S. political parties cling to the preposterous claim that the United States invaded Iraq to bring popular governance and national independence (ala 1776) to Iraq and the Middle East (Goldberg 2007; Street 2007a, 2007b, and 2007c). "We want to continue to export democracy," Hillary Clinton told the New Yorker at the end of 2006, "but we want to deliver it in digestible steps" (Goldberg 2007).
The mendacious "mush-mouthed" militarist Barack Obama (Ford 2005; Street 2007d; and Street 2007e) defends the occupation as having been carried out with "the best of [democratic] intentions" (Obama 2006, pp. 290-309) - a mistaken effort "to impose democracy with the barrel of a gun" (Obama 2006, p.317).
Never mind that the occupation is a monumentally illegal war crime committed in defiance of Iraqi and world opinion and international law and directed at deepening U.S. control over Middle Eastern energy resources - a goal (encoded in the recent U.S.-drafted and U.S.-imposed Iraqi Petroleum Law) that stands in direct conflict with the alleged motive of promoting democracy within and beyond Iraq.
"BLAME AND HOLD"
Now that the war faces widespread opposition inside the
The task is to mask continued petro-imperialist occupation and control as "withdrawal" while deflecting and undermining legitimate calls for the payment of reparations for the monumental damage the American Empire has inflicted on
WHY THEY STILL HATE US
"Our" media was obsessed with the tragic murder of 32 innocent students at Virginia Tech but cannot bring itself to focus in any meaningful, honest or respectful way on routinely larger and daily civilian body counts in U.S.-mangled
In a similar vein, "our" military offers hundreds of thousands of dollars for information about three
Gee, but is this all perhaps part of the answer to the great supposed mystery of "Why They Hate Us?"
Is it part of the response to the related question of why we will soon - early in 2009, according to Bill and Hillary Clinton - face another "terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11?" The
Too bad Hillary Clinton is a highly experienced inciter of the Islamic world and the
HEGEMONY OVER SURVIVAL
"For U.S.-U.K. planners, invading
"The willingness of top planners to risk increase of terrorism does not of course indicate that they welcome such outcomes. Rather, they are simply not a high priority in comparison with other objectives, such as controlling the world's major energy resources" (Chomsky 2007, p.135).
RATIONAL FEAR AND PROJECTION
As Chomsky noted during a lecture in
In a similar vein, many of us Americans (many but not enough, thanks to biased media coverage) know in our bones that "our" imperial policymakers have been deeply inciting the people of the
The Times editorial board is right to observe the Bush administration's cynical creation and manipulation of national security fears to quell domestic dissent. But some of this fear is grounded in an accurate sense - a "gut feeling," one might say - that people wronged by "our" government and society might seek to fight back in desperate and destructive ways.
Our "gut feeling" that something bad is coming around the corner is based partly on projection - on a sense of WHAT WE WOULD DO if we were under the sort of foreign attack that "our" government is launching on, say, the people of Iraq and the Middle East.
What's new today - more rational basis for fear - is the relative ease with which victims (real and/or self-perceived) of imperial oppression can resort to mass violence to exploit
The White House may be "playing on fear for political gain." But we shouldn't underestimate the significant extent to which mass fear of foreign terrorism is rationally rooted in a sense that foreign actors possess motive and capacity to inflict enormous damage on
Veteran radical historian, journalist, and activist
Anthony Arnove 2007. "Why Bush Won't Admit Fail;ure in
Associated Press 2007. "Chertoff Remark on Terror Elicits Little Alarm," July 11, 2007, available online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19700127/.
Noam Chomsky 2003. Hegemony Over Survival:
Noam Chomsky 2007. Interventions (
Tom Engelhardt 2007. "What Price Slaughter?" Tom Dispatch, reproduced on ZNet (May 14, 2007) and available on at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle. cfm?ItemID=12829.
Glen Ford 2005. "Obama Mouths Mush on War," Black Commentator (December 1, 2005), now available online at http://www.blackagendareport.com/archives/gf/gf_20051201_obama_mushmouf.php.
Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. 2007. Hillary's War," New York Times Sunday Magazine (June 3 2007), p. 41.
Jeffrey Goldberg 2007. "The Starting Gate: Foreign Policy Divides the Democrats," The New Yorker, January 15, 2007.
Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian 2007. "The Other War:
New York Times Editorial Board 2007. "The Politics of Fear," New York Times, 18 July 2007, p. A18.
Barack Obama 2006. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (
Michael Scheurer ("Anonymous") 2004. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is losing the War on Terror (
Paul Street 2007c. "Imperial Temptations: John Edwards, Barack Obama and the Myth of Post-WWII U.S. Benevolence," Empire and Inequality Report No. 19 (May 28 2007), available online at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=12928 .
Paul Street 2007d. "Obama's Audacious Deference to Power," Black Agenda Report (January 31, 2007) available online at http://www.blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=61.
Ian Urbina 2007. "Even as Loved Ones Fight On, War Doubts Arise," New York Times, 15 July 2007, p. A1.