Escalating Terrorism: U.S. policy and the Israel-Hezbollah war

by Sep 26, 2006Foreign Policy0 comments

U.S. intelligence analysts, in a recent National Intelligence Estimate, have once again reiterated that “The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat”—the […]

U.S. intelligence analysts, in a recent National Intelligence Estimate, have once again reiterated that “The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat”—the predicted result of the invasion.[1]

It is difficult to ignore the conclusion that, rhetoric aside, fighting terrorism is simply not a high priority for the U.S. government. Noam Chomsky has observed that in cases of an ongoing atrocity, there are three possible responses a nation could choose from, which similarly present themselves with the response to the threat from terrorism: 1) try to mitigate the threat; 2) do nothing; 3) try to escalate the threat.[2]

The U.S. has repeatedly chosen to act in ways which, predictably, escalate the threat of terrorism, with the so-called “war on terrorism” being merely a continuation of earlier policies under a variation of the familiar pretext. Its recent support for Israel’s violations of international law, including collective punishment and targeting of civilian infrastructure in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, is simply another chapter in a long history demonstrating that patently obvious, but rarely articulated, fact.

According to official legend, the U.S. was responsible, in its usual role as an “honest broker” in the Middle East, for bringing about a U.N. sponsored cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and thus putting an end to the tragic acts of violence that have resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.

The facts tell quite a different story.

The language of the U.N. resolution itself calls for “the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations.”[3] However, Israel and the U.S., according to custom, reserve to themselves the right to unilaterally interpret U.N. resolutions how they see fit; and since both countries insist that Israel has had no “offensive” operations in Lebanon, but has only acted in “self-defense”, the U.N. resolution effectively permits Israel to continue to act with impunity.

The results were predictable, and articulated by The New York Times in an article entitled, “Villages See Violations of a Cease-Fire That Israel Says Doesn’t Exist.” The Times observed that ongoing Israeli violence in Lebanon since the passing of the resolution

underscores two fundamentally different views of the uneasy truce that has held in southern Lebanon for the past two weeks. Secretary General Kofi Annan cited numbers from the United Nations forces on Tuesday indicating that Israel had violated the cease-fire nearly 70 times, while Hezbollah had done so only 4 times. But the Israelis do not believe there is a cease-fire to violate.

Israel’s interpretation of U.N. resolution 1701 “is apparent every day across southern Lebanon. Israeli tanks crisscross the dry brown hills, shooting into the fields and smashing up houses and stone walls.”

If the object of Israel’s military operations in Lebanon is to sow the seeds of hatred and increase the threat that there will be more terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in the future, then the operation has certainly been a success, the results being along predictable lines. “They destroyed our school in the village,” the Times quoted a Lebanese schoolteacher as saying, “but we will teach the children under the trees. And we will teach them to hate Israel and love the resistance.”[4]

The official legend also ignores the fact that, in the weeks prior to the adoption of what has been called a “cease-fire” resolution, the U.S. repeatedly expressed its opposition to an immediate cease-fire, favoring instead what it called a “sustainable cease-fire,” a euphemism by which was meant an ultimatum to Hezbollah and the government of Lebanon which must be acquiesced to while Israel continues bombing the civilian infrastructure of the country in an effort to terrorize the population into submission.

Explaining the U.S. opposition to a cease-fire, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that, while the U.S. does “seek an end to the current violence,” any action that “simply returns us to the status quo” would be “a guarantee of future violence,” and so the present violence must be allowed to continue. The bloodshed was, Rice explained, merely “the birth pangs of a new Middle East”—no great consolation to the victims.[5]

A “sustainable cease-fire,” U.S. officials made clear, was one which condemned Hezbollah and called for the group’s disarmament while characterizing Israel’s actions as legitimate self-defense. No criticism of Israel would be tolerated.

The U.S. punctuated the latter point by vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for an end to hostilities in the Gaza Strip. The proposed resolution condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel and the abduction of an Israeli soldier and called upon the Palestinian Authority to take action to end the violence. But it also condemned Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip for causing civilian casualties and destroying property and civilian infrastructure, including the destruction of a power plant. It called upon Israel to halt its disproportionate military operations and release the democratically elected Palestinian officials who had been abducted. This was unacceptable to the U.S., which made that point clear by using its veto, alone in opposition to a resolution designed to bring about an end to the tragic ongoing violence.[6]

The point was reiterated again after Israel bombed a U.N. post in Lebanon, killing four U.N. observers. “I am shocked,” said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, “and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon.”[7] The U.N. sought to produce a statement condemning Israel for the attack, but the effort was blocked by the U.S., which “rejected any criticism of the Israeli attack.”[8]

Israel’s declared objective in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon was to obtain the release of its soldiers who had been abducted. Yet it took actions which virtually guaranteed that the soldiers would not be released. In Gaza, Israel abducted elected Palestinian officials, ensuring that the Palestinian Authority would be helpless to pressure the Hamas militants responsible for the abduction to release the soldier. Its actions also served to hinder efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form a unity government and a deal in which Hamas would agree to hold a referendum implicitly recognizing the 1967 green line as the border of Israel. Its assault against the civilian population and infrastructure guaranteed that popular support for militant factions of Hamas would increase. Israel’s assault on Lebanon had the same effect of increasing popular support for Hezbollah.

An editorial in the Israeli Ha’aretz entitled “The government is losing its reason,” noted that

The tactic of pressuring civilians has been tried before, and more than once. The Lebanese, for example, are very familiar with the Israeli tactic of destroying power stations and infrastructure. Entire villages in south Lebanon have been terrorized, with the inhabitants fleeing in their thousands for Beirut. But what also happens under such extreme stress is that local divisions evaporate and a strong, united leadership is forged.

The editorial noted further that “Israel also kidnapped people from Lebanon to serve as bargaining chips in dealings with the kidnappers of Israeli soldiers. Now, it is trying out this tactic on Hamas politicians.” Prime Minister Olmert “should know that arresting leaders only strengthens them and their supporters. But this is not merely faulty reasoning; arresting people to use as bargaining chips is the act of a gang, not of a state.”[9]

A common theme during the height of the violence was that Israel’s actions were appropriate and justified, that it was merely acting in “self-defense” against “terrorists” who threatened not only Israeli civilians, but, in some versions, civilization itself. It was acknowledged that Israel was responsible for the deaths of far more civilians than Hezbollah, but the difference, we were told, is that Hezbollah intentionally targets civilians while Israel makes every possible effort to avoid killing innocents.

This argument was articulated by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who said, “I think it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts,” referring to Israelis killed as a result of Hezbollah rocket attacks. In contrast, acting in “self-defense,” Israel’s military action merely had “the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths.” But, he added, “It’s simply not the same thing to say that it’s the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense.”[10]

If we were forced to accept rhetoric as evidence, we might be tempted to accept this framework for analysis. But again, the facts tell a different story. According to the World Health Organization, by the end of July, 34 Israelis had been killed and more than 350 Lebanese, almost half of them children. Israel’s air strikes had “caused widespread destruction of the country’s public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and road networks preventing the humanitarian community from accessing vulnerable populations and civilians fleeing war-affected areas.” 800,000 people were directly affected by the bombardment, including the displaced, those under siege, and refugees. More than 150,000 had fled Lebanon. “Particularly vulnerable groups include the elderly and chronically ill – especially those confined to hospitals, women and children.”[11]

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem put the number of Palestinians killed in June at 42, 24 of whom “did not participate in the hostilities, but were bystanders who were killed in attacks by Israel’s air force.”[12] This number did not include the seven members of the Ghaliya family killed on a Gaza beach. Israel denied responsibility for the killing, but an investigation by Human Rights Watch demonstrated the implausibility of the denials.[13] The group appealed to the Israeli government to stop harming the civilian population of Gaza, noting that the Israeli military had “interrupted the supply of fuel to Gaza and kept Gaza’s crossings mostly closed to supply of food and other humanitarian goods.” Hospitals in Gaza were forced to reduce “their activities to life-saving procedures,” but because of the blockade and the destruction of Gaza’s power station on June 28, “hospitals cannot perform life-saving surgery.” The action of the Israeli military, the group noted, “constitutes collective punishment, in violation of international law.”[14]

By the end of July, 524 Lebanese had been killed and 51 Israelis, 18 of whom were civilians, according to media reports.[15] In other words, while most Lebanese deaths during the violence were civilians, most of the Israelis killed were soldiers. It’s no slight irony, which alone should be enough to invite skepticism of the official interpretation of events, that the “terrorist” party which deliberately tries to kill civilians is so incompetent it ends up killing more soldiers than innocent bystanders; while the reverse is true for the party that is supposedly doing everything it can to prevent civilian casualties.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Hezbollah claims that some of its attacks are aimed at military bases inside Israel, which are legitimate targets. But most of the attacks appear to have been directed at civilian areas and have hit pedestrians, hospitals, schools, homes and businesses.”[16] Hezbollah’s claims, of course, are given no serious consideration; and the group is rather judged by its actions and by the facts on the ground, leading observers to conclude, rightfully, that Hezbollah is engaged in terrorism for firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel. Yet this standard doesn’t apply to Israel, whose declarations of benevolent intent are accepted at face value and regarded as evidence or statements of fact. Few commentators—none in the mainstream—are willing apply the same standard and to similarly term Israel’s actions “terrorism”. Hypocrisy prevails.

By August 24, according to the World Health Organization, 1,184 Lebanese had been killed, with the number of displaced people in excess of 900,000. “In addition,” the W.H.O. notes,

the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) military operation has caused enormous damage to residential areas and key civilian infrastructure such as power plants, seaports, fuel depots, and hospital and health centres were destroyed. Seventy-two bridges and virtually all road networks have been systematically destroyed leaving entire communities in the South inaccessible…. The remains of unexploded ordinance splattered all over form a major ongoing threat to the health of the population.[17]

Peter Bouckaert, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, noted that

Time after time, Israel has hit civilian homes and cars in the southern border zone, killing dozens of people with no evidence of any military objective…. Israel says the fault for the massive civilian death toll lies with Hezbollah, claiming its fighters are hiding weapons inside civilian homes and firing them from civilian areas. But even if the Israeli forces could show evidence of Hezbollah activity in some civilian areas, it could not justify the extensive use of indiscriminate force that has cast so many lives.[18]

Journalist Mitch Prothero made a similar observation:

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths – the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far – on “terrorists” who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection. But this claim is almost always false…. For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they’ll get some fighters, too.[19]

After Israel targeted a residential building in the Lebanese village of Qana on Sunday, July 30, killing dozens of civilians, Israel claimed that Hezbollah had been firing rockets from the vicinity. “However,” noted B’Tselem, “information which has since been made public reveals that on the day of the attack no rockets were launched from the village of Qana.”[20]

Israel blamed the deaths on Hezbollah not only by claiming rockets had been fired from the area but also by saying it had warned residents of Qana to evacuate. “But,” reported the Associated Press, “many in Qana—like the thousands believed holed up across south Lebanon—said they were too afraid to leave on roads that have been heavily bombarded by Israeli forces. The main road to the nearest city, Tyre, is lined with cars smashed by missiles and pancaked buildings.”[21] In an earlier incident, Israel had “incinerated a van in south Lebanon, killing 20 people, among them 15 children,” as the van, “carrying two families,” was “fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes.”[22]

Dan Gillerman, the Israeli representative to the U.N., when asked whether Israel was “losing world opinion” after the attack in Qana, responded by saying, “There may be a very serious blow to Israeli—to the Israeli public opinion and to world opinion towards Israel this morning, but this is exactly what Hezbollah wanted. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was scheduled and targeted exactly to happen while Secretary Rice is there.” He reiterated the theme that the difference between Israel and Hezbollah was that, “For us, every dead Lebanese child is a horrible mistake and a tragedy. For them, every dead Israeli child is a victory and a cause for celebration.” Moreover, Hezbollah’s arms

come from the two main sponsors of terror in the world, from Iran and Syria, who, together with the Hezbollah, form the world’s most horrible, ominous, lethal axis of terror. And I think that even on this horrible, horrible difficult day, most of the world, including some of our neighbors, who have to say what they’re saying today, deep down inside realize that we are fighting this war not just for ourselves, but for them. We may be doing the dirty work and paying a very high price, but we’re doing it for the rest of the world, to rid it of this danger directed from Tehran and from Damascus, not just at the hearts of our children and our citizens, but at the heart of civilization as we know it.[23]

Somehow, the “dirty work” of slaughtering civilians, as “horrible” and “difficult” as it is, is necessary to save “civilization” itself from the “axis of terror”; the massacre of innocents is “a very high price” to pay for the world to be free of “this danger”, but Israel is “doing it for the rest of the world”—no great consolation for the victims of Israeli violence.

According to Human Rights Watch, by early August “More than 500 people have been killed in Lebanon by Israeli fire since fighting began on July 12, most of them civilians.”[24] In the same time period, Hezbollah rocket attacks killed 30 Israeli civilians.[25]

Amnesty International reported in mid-September that around 1,000 Lebanese civilians had been killed in the violence, while Hezbollah rocket attacks into Israel had killed 43 Israeli civilians, or around 23 dead Lebanese civilians for every dead Israeli civilian.[26]

Moreover, an investigation by B’Tselem concluded that Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian civilians as human shields during the escalated violence, a not uncommon practice. Despite Geneva Convention prohibitions, “following the outbreak of the second intifada, particularly during Operation Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the IDF systematically used Palestinian civilians as human shields, forcing them to carry out military actions which threatened their lives.”[27] On August 5, the group reported that “Since the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, in late June, until the end of August, Israeli security forces killed 226 Palestinians,” more than half of whom were not taking part in the hostilities.[28]

One could readily hear in the U.S. media that

Hezbollah’s barbaric assault on Israel – kidnapping soldiers who weren’t engaged in hostilities, firing waves of missiles into cities and towns, packing rockets with ball bearings designed to maximize suffering by shredding human flesh – is part and parcel of the radical Islamist jihad against the free world.[29]

But, instructively, nobody read about Israel’s assault on Lebanon in similar terms—the kidnapping of civilians, the raining down of bombs onto cities and towns, the use of cluster bombs, munitions packed with hundreds of bomblets released prior to impact designed to maximize suffering by shredding human flesh; unexploded bomblets effectively becoming landmines that will kill indiscriminately well into the future—part and parcel of the Western imperialist crusade against the rule of law, the very foundation of civilization itself.[30] The reasons for the disparity are perhaps not too surprising: the bombs rained down on Lebanon are U.S.-made bombs, including U.S.-made cluster munitions, dropped from U.S.-made aircraft. And the violence rains down upon Lebanon with full U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support. These are uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. Hence, the compliant priests of the state religion dutifully perform their task of presenting acceptable alternatives to reality in the mainstream media, whether by design or as the result of self-delusion, impervious to fact. Hypocrisy reigns.

U.S. support for Israel follows a long historical pattern. Many commentators accurately predicted that Israel would point to the U.S.’s “war on terrorism” as granting legitimacy to its own acts of violence and aggression, as well as its ongoing illegal occupation. But there are additional incentives for U.S. support in the case of the most recent crisis, aside from the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” and the status quo that relationship implies.

A “Middle East expert” told journalist Seymour Hersh that the White House wanted to see Hezbollah disarmed because “if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.”[31] This is certainly plausible.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “According to a well-worn script that Israel has grown accustomed to over the years, the arrival of the US secretary of state during wartime means an end to Israeli military advances. But this time the script is different.” Rice, it was recognized “is not expected to dictate a cease-fire to Israel” because “Bush is keen on providing Israel more time to pound Hizbullah because while this serves Israel’s interests, it also serves America’s goals,” in part because “a defeated Hizbullah is a blow to Iran.”[32] The Israeli paper Ha’aretz similarly reported that “On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Jerusalem, senior officials believe Israel has received American approval to continue operations against Hezbollah at least until next Sunday.”[33]

Meeting with Rice on July 25, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assured the world that Israel was “conscious of the humanitarian difficulties that are a part of the life in Lebanon these days”—as a result of the Israeli bombardment.[34] (Just how “conscious” the Israeli government was of the “humanitarian difficulties” was illustrated by an event that occurred the same day of Olmert’s meeting with Rice. The day before, a senior air force officer told army radio that “Army chief of Staff Dan Halutz has given the order to the air force to destroy 10 multi-storey buildings in the Dahaya district (of Beirut) in response to every rocket fired on Haifa.”[35] The next day, as Olmert was meeting with Rice, “IAF fighter jets bombarded Beirut,” The Jerusalem Post reported. “The IDF confirmed it had destroyed 10 buildings in the Lebanese capital….”[36] Halutz had earlier threatened to target Lebanon’s infrastructure and “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years”—a goal Israel made no small steps towards achieving.[37] This clear and loud statement in the form of state terrorism passed without comment in the U.S. press as it reported on Rice’s visit to Israel.)

“The real problem,” Max Boot wrote in The Los Angeles Time, “is that Israel’s response has been all too proportional,” since it “has only gone after Hamas and Hezbollah” (he adds that “Some collateral damage is inevitable because these groups hide among civilians”). Israel “is showing superhuman restraint by not, at the very least, ‘accidentally’ bombing the Syrian and Iranian embassies in Beirut” (he adds that “It’s hard to know what accounts for this Israeli restraint, for which, of course, it gets no thanks”). “Iran may be too far away for much Israeli retaliation beyond a single strike on its nuclear weapons complex” (he adds that “Now wouldn’t be a bad time” for such a strike). “But Syria is weak and next door.” Israel “needs to hit the Assad regime. Hard. If it does, it will be doing Washington’s dirty work. Our best response is exactly what Bush has done so far—reject premature calls for a cease-fire and let Israel finish the job.”[38]

And if there was any doubt that this was the official policy of the Bush administration, those doubts could be laid to rest by a fact sheet issued by the White House in response to criticism that conservatives don’t stand behind the President’s policies. To demonstrate that this was false, the fact sheet cited Boot’s article as an example of conservative support for White House policy, quoting selectively: “Our Best Is Exactly What Bush Has Done So Far – Reject Premature Calls For A Cease-Fire And Let Israel Finish The Job.”[39]

William Kristol argued in favor of “countering this act of Iranian aggression” (that is, the abduction of Israeli soldiers and firing of rockets into Israel by Hezbollah) with “a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.” “Why wait?” he asks, apparently coming up with no good reason, and adding, “This is our war, too.”[40]

Former CIA director James Woolsey declared on Fox News that “Iran is the puppetmaster and Syria and Hezbollah and Hamas to varying degrees are puppets”, adding that the conflict in Lebanon “is really about Iran versus the U.S. and Israel is in the way.” Lebanon, also “in the way,” in this interpretation, and indeed bearing the brunt of the violence, is apparently not worthy of mention.

As an aside, this follows a familiar convention, racist in nature, among the U.S. intelligentsia. As already noted, John Bolton declared that there was no “moral equivalence” between actions resulting in Israeli deaths and actions resulting in Lebanese deaths. Only the former are worthy of condemnation. The latter are perhaps unfortunate, but understandable.

Similarly, Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz argued that “some” civilian deaths “are more tragic than others” after which he proceeded to explain which deaths are “more tragic”: Israeli ones. The typical Israeli victim, in his argument, is “the 2-year-old”, while the typical Lebanese is the “30-year-old-civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets.” Every Israeli is an innocent victim, as innocent as a “2-year-old” child, while—following the standard convention—every Lebanese is either a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. Any Lebanese “who voluntarily remain” in populated areas after Israel has warned that they will be bombed, “become complicit” and cannot be “counted among the innocent victims.” (One is reminded of the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” where the helicopter gunner, shooting down civilians in a field, cries, “Every gook that runs is a V.C.! Every gook that stands still is a well-trained V.C.!”)[41]

A typical characterization of civilian deaths in The New York Times explained that Arab “satellite television shows images of civilians killed and maimed by Israeli bombs,” while “Hezbollah fires rockets into Israeli cities and towns, killing and wounding Israelis.” Israeli victims of Hezbollah violence are real. Lebanese victims of Israeli violence are merely images of Arab propaganda.[42]

One could also read in The Los Angeles Times how the “main criticism” being leveled against Israel “that Israel is using ‘disproportionate force'” is “just silly.” The title implies the explanation for why this is so: “Who Says War Has to Be Proportional?” Such willful ignorance of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions, is not atypical among U.S. intellectuals. The author, Jonathan Chait, concludes that while “it is true that Israel’s counteroffensive has taken the lives of several hundred Lebanese civilians,” “proportionality,” as already noted, “has nothing to do with it”—at least not if one holds international law in contempt; “balancing the number of dead Israelis against dead Lebanese tells us nothing”—a convenient argument for apologists of Israeli foreign policy and U.S. support for actions in violation of international law, which we may pretend doesn’t exist. Nothing to see here.

The New York Times remarked dryly on the “Debate Over Proportion” by saying:

The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians…. The cold figures, combined with Israeli air attacks on civilian infrastructure like power plants, electricity transformers, airports, bridges, highways and government buildings, have led to accusations by France and the European Union, echoed by some nongovernmental organizations, that Israel is guilty of “disproportionate use of force” in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and of “collective punishment” of the civilian populations. Israel has heard these arguments before.[43]

One unfamiliar with the convention might ask what there is to debate, but the Times is not unfamiliar with it, and so takes the “debate,” which is curiously limited to the U.S. amongst the nations of the world, quite seriously.

A Congressional Research Service report on the crisis stated that “Israel’s political will” has been demonstrated “despite the high cost the campaign has paid in civilian casualties from rocket attacks in northern Israel and soldiers’ lives lost in ground operations.” Apparently, Lebanese civilians aren’t worthy of being counted amongst the “costs” of Israel’s military operations.[44]

There is no shortage of other examples.

Returning to former CIA director Woolsey, in his interview, he continued on to argue that the U.S. should bomb Syria, hitting the airport and President Bashar Assad’s office. “I think the last thing we ought to do now,” he argued, “is to start talking about cease-fires and the rest.” The U.S. needs to weaken Iran, and “undermining the Syrian government with airstrikes would help weaken them badly.” When asked why the U.S. didn’t just “hit something in Iran,” he replied, “Well, uh, one has to take things to some degree by steps. I think it would be a huge blow to Iran if the Israelis are able after a few more days to badly damage Hezbollah and Hamas, as they are doing, and if we were able to, uh, help undermine the continuation of the Assad regime.”[45]

If the U.S. was serious about mitigating the threat of terrorism, the first elementary moral and logical step would be to stop committing and supporting terrorism and the greater crime of aggression. We may dismiss pretenses evidenced by rhetoric alone, contrary to the facts, that Israel’s recent violence was an act of “self-defense.” Giving Israel and its benefactor the benefit of the doubt, the crime against Lebanon was international terrorism, though one could make the case that it rose to the level of a war of aggression, “the supreme international crime” as defined at Nuremberg. In the case of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there can be no such benefit of the doubt, and it is well recognized that it was not merely a case of international terrorism.

Ceasing from engaging in or supporting terrorism and aggression would itself put an end to a great deal of violence and bloodshed. If we can’t rise to even that most fundamental level, there’s no sense talking about what can be done to win the “war on terrorism”. If, on the other hand, we are capable of and willing to accept this most elementary moral and logical truism, we can go further.

A second possible step would be to examine the root causes of terrorism. While acts of violence falling within the definition of the term are unjustifiable, they are not impossible to understand, and are, in fact, well understood, despite a pretense of ignorance. We were told, for instance, that the root cause of the atrocities that occurred on September 11, 2001 was the hatred of freedom that some radical Islamists espouse. Osama bin Laden was presumed to be the mastermind of the attacks. Over the course of years, bin Laden has stated explicitly his grievances against the U.S., beginning with U.S. support for Israel’s illegal occupation, violence, and aggression and followed by a host of other grievances, from U.S. support for tyrannical regimes, such as in Saudi Arabia, to the draconian sanctions regime in Iraq which led to the deaths of more than a million Iraqis—at least half a million children.

It was well predicted prior to the invasion of Iraq that it would increase the threat of terrorism. This was no great feat of prescience by competent analysts, but an elementary observation based on even a very limited knowledge and understanding of the conditions that lead people to commit heinous acts of violence. In the case of the Middle East, even a precursory examination of the legitimate grievances of the Arab world against the U.S. suffice to empower us to recognize that a continuation or escalation of policies which led to the September 11 attacks will only escalate the threat of terrorism.

The recent National Intelligence Estimate, which “has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks,” is not a new assessment. A series of intelligence reports from last year noted that Iraq had become a terrorist “training ground.”[46] U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the same observation several months later.[47] The number of terrorist incidents around the globe more than tripled from 2003 to 2004, a large percentage of which were attributable to terrorist attacks in Iraq, according to the State Department in a report it initially sought to suppress.[48] The Iraq war, as predicted, has increased hatred of U.S. foreign policy (distinguishable from hatred of “freedom”) not only in the Middle East, but around the globe; just as its ongoing support for Israeli crimes continues to do.

Another elementary point of logic is that disregarding or holding international law in contempt hardly helps to ensure that others will live up to their treaty obligations or, in the case of individuals or groups not party to any body of international law, to ensure that the moral and legal principles espoused therein will be honored. Violence begets violence. Behaving lawlessly and with impunity breeds anger, despair, and hatred. This is well recognized, certainly no great secret; and when official enemies behave lawlessly, we rightfully condemn them for it. But our response is quite different when it’s we who behave in a similar or worse manner.

There are a great number of possible steps that could be taken to help mitigate the threat of terrorism in the world today. Choosing to do so would be a good alternative to the course so commonly plotted by U.S. policy makers.


[1] Karen DeYoung, “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting U.S. Terror Fight,” The Washington Post, September 24, 2006; A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/23/AR2006092301130.html

[2] Noam Chomsky, “The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo” (Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME 1999)

[3] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, August 11, 2006

[4] Robert F. Worth, “Villagers See Violations of a Cease-Fire That Israel Says Doesn’t Exist,” The New York Times, September 1, 2006

[5] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Press Briefing, July 21, 2006

[6] United Nations Press Release, July 13, 2006

[7] “Israeli air strike kills UN observers,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 26, 2006

[8] “Security Council struggles over statement on observer deaths,” Agence-France Presse, July 27, 2006

[9] “The government is losing its reason,” Editorial, Ha’aretz, July 8, 2006

[10] “Lebanon civilian deaths morally not same as ‘terror victims’—Bolton,” Agence France Presse, July 17, 2006

[11] “Lebanon Crisis 2006 Flash Appeal,” World Health Organization, July 28, 2006

[12] “42 Palestinians and 3 Israelis killed in June,” Press Release, B’Tselem, July 2, 2006

[13] “Israel: Gaza Beach Investigation Ignores Evidence,” Human Rights Watch, June 20, 2006

[14] “Human rights groups to Israeli High Court: Stop the harm to the civilian population in Gaza,” Press Release, B’Tselem, July 11, 2006

[15] “Israeli warplanes strike targets deep in Lebanon,” MSNBC, July 31, 2006

[16] Human Rights Watch Press Release, August 5, 2006

[17] “Lebanon Crisis: Service Availability Assessment,” World Health Organization, August 29, 2006

[18] “For Israel, Innocent Civilians Are Fair Game”, International Herald Tribune, August 3, 2006

[19] Mitch Prothero, “The ‘hiding among civilians’ myth”, Salon, July 28, 2006

[20] “Possible War Crime: Killing of Tens of Lebanese Civilians in the village of Qana,” Press Release, B’Tselem, July 30, 2006

[21] “Rescue workers perform grim duty: pulling children from wreckage in Qana,” Associated Press, July 30, 2006

[22] “Israel kills 32 in air strikes”, Reuters, July 15, 2006

[23] Interview with Dan Gillerman, NBC Meet the Press, July 30, 2006

[24] Human Rights Watch Press Release, August 3, 2006

[25] Human Rights Watch Press Release, August 5, 2006

[26] “Israel/Lebanon Under fire: Hizbullah’s attacks on northern Israel,” Amnesty International, September 14, 2006

[27] “Israeli Soldiers use civilians as Human Shields in Beit Hanun”, Press Release, B’Tselem, July 20, 2006

[28] “76 Palestinians killed in August – over half did not participate in the hostilities,” Press Release, B’Tselem, August 5, 2006

[29] Jeff Jacoby, “Hezbollah is our enemy, too,” The Boston Globe, July 30, 2006

[30] “Lebanon: Israeli Cluster Munitions Threaten Civilians,” Press Release, Human Rights Watch, August 17, 2006

[31] Seymour M. Hersh, “Watching Lebanon,” The New Yorker, August 21, 2006

[32] Herb Keinon, “US keen on giving Israel time in Lebanon,” The Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2006

[33] Aluf Benn, Shmuel Rosner, and Shlomo Shamir, “Israel believes U.S. will grant it a week to end incursion,” Ha’aretz, July 23, 2006

[34] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, July 25, 2006

[35] “10 buildings for every rocket,” Agence France Presse, July 24, 2006

[36] Yaakov Katz, “IAF destroys 10 buildings in Beirut,” The Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2006

[37] “Israel Bombs Foreign Ministry in Gaza,” CBS News, July 12, 2006

[38] Max Boot, “Let Israel Take Off the Gloves,” The Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2006

[39] “Setting the Record Straight: President Bush’s Foreign Policy Is Succeeding,” White House Fact Sheet, July 21, 2006

[40] William Kristol, “It’s Our War,” The Weekly Standard, July 24, 2006

[41] Alan Dershowitz, “‘Civilian Casualty’? It Depends,” The Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2006

[42] Edward Wong and Michael Slackman, “Iraqi Prime Minister Denounces Israel’s Actions,” The New York Times, July 20, 2006

[43] Steven Erlanger, “With Israeli Use of Force, Debate Over Proportion,” The New York Times, July 19, 2006

[44] “Lebanon: The Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah Conflict,” Congressional Research Service, August 14, 2006

[45] Interview with James Woolsey, Fox News The Big Story, July 17

[46] Dana Priest, “Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground,” The Washington Post, January 14, 2005; “Iraq is a terrorist training ground, CIA says,” Reuters, June 22, 2005

[47] Kofi Annan Interview, BBC, September 6, 2005

[48] Susan B. Glasser, “U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise In Terrorism,” The Washington Post, April 27, 2005; A01

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

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