In Reducing Terrorism, The US Might Step Up Its Own Effort

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US President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations Security Council was, as usual, a fine piece of rhetoric. As we are all well aware, few people in the world surpass his oratory talent. A quick comparison between the words spoken and the actions taken, however, reveals an ever-widening divide. Let’s have a closer look at what the most powerful man in the world exactly has to say about terrorism.

“[…] I called this meeting because we must come together — as nations and an international community — to confront the real and growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters.”

What does Mr. Obama mean by this ‘growing threat’? His own agencies, the FBI and Homeland Security, have just stated there are “no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from the Islamic State militant group,” reducing Obama’s statement to fiction.

Lessons

“As I said earlier today, the tactic of terrorism is not new. So many nations represented here today, including my own, have seen our citizens killed by terrorists who target innocents. And today, the people of the world have been horrified by another brutal murder, of Herve Gourdel, by terrorists in Algeria. President Hollande, we stand with you and the French people not only as you grieve this terrible loss, but as you show resolve against terror and in defense of liberty.”

Mr. Obama is not mistaken in saying the tactics of terrorism are not new. In fact, it was the US initiating a terrorist campaign against Cuba in the early 1960s, led by John F. Kennedy’s brother Robert, shortly after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. It was the US who was systematically supporting a vicious dictatorship in Chile, after the 1973 CIA-backed military coup in that country. It was, yet again, the US, led by actor-to-become-president Ronald Reagan, who unleashed a campaign of terror against the Nicaraguan democratic Sandinista government in the 1980s. It was the US who trained and armed the death squads in El Salvador throughout the same decade, resulting in tens of thousands of dead and disappeared.

The world is indeed horrified by the murder of Hervé Gourdell by a group affiliated with ISIL. But the world is – or at least ought to be – even more horrified by the million left dead in Iraq after the last war waged against that country, an act of aggression which, in international law, is an even greater crime than terrorism. As far as terrorism goes, the US doesn’t have to take lessons from any other country in the world.

Barack Obama speeching at the United Nations General Assembly, September 2014

Barack Obama speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, September 2014

“What brings us together today, what is new is the unprecedented flow of fighters in recent years to and from conflict zones, including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Libya, and most recently, Syria and Iraq.”

It is no coincidence that these are many of the countries that have been bombed over the last decade by US warplanes and remote-controlled drones. Might there be a corollary between US involvement in these countries (Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iraq) and the increasing appeal to Muslim fighters around the world to join their fellow-believers in the region?

Goals, proclaimed and true

“Earlier this year at West Point, I called for a new Partnership to help nations build their capacity to meet the evolving threat of terrorism, including foreign terrorist fighters. And preventing these individuals from reaching Syria and then slipping back across our borders is a critical element of our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

The ultimate goal is not the destruction of ISIL. The US hasn’t cared about the suffering of the peoples of the region, whether it were the Iranians under the Shah between 1953 and 1979, the Iranians and Iraqis during the appalling ‘80-‘88 war, the 5,000 gassed Kurds of Halabja in 1988, the Iraqis in the first American Gulf War of 1991, 500,000 dying Iraqi children as a result of the US-UK sanctions in the ’90s, the Afghanis since 2001 or again the Iraqis since the US invasion of 2003.

The real goal of US foreign policy in the Middle East is the perpetual hegemony over the region’s natural resources. American and British multinationals in the oil and arms industry have made enormous profits since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and are counting on the continuation of this never-ending war. Stock prices for American arms manufactures, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, “set all-time record highs last week as it became increasingly clear that President Obama was committed to a massive, sustained air war in Iraq and Syria.”

International law

“The historic resolution that we just adopted enshrines our commitment to meet this challenge. It is legally binding. It establishes new obligations that nations must meet. Specifically, nations are required to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping” of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the financing of their travel or activities. Nations must “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups” through their territory, and ensure that their domestic laws allow for the prosecution of those who attempt to do so.”

Obama’s call that the agreements are legally binding, should be met, by any reasonable person, with utter ridicule. The Unites States trump every other country’s track record in violation of international law. Starting to act according to UN resolutions by the US itself might actually hand the Nobel Peace Prize laureate some credibility.

The most obvious example is the cosy relationship between US governments and Cuban terrorists, such as Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for hundreds of dead, and Orlando Bosch, both trained by the CIA and both labelled ‘terrorists’ by the US intelligence agencies themselves.

These Cuban terrorists (those that are still alive today) are living comfortable lives in Florida, after being pardoned by former American president George Bush Senior. Several Latin American countries have demanded Posada’s extradition, which Washington has, obviously, refused, while at the same time bullying the countries offering asylum to whistle-blower Edward Snowden. As far as ‘preventing terrorist movement’ goes, the US itself might step up its own effort.

“[…] And it makes clear that respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law is not optional — it is an essential part of successful counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, history teaches us that the failure to uphold these rights and freedoms can actually fuel violent extremism.”

This happens to be absolutely true. History teaches us exactly that America’s unrivalled disregard for international law and its subsequent invasion of a sovereign country (Iraq) in 2003 are the direct cause for the quagmire that it is getting itself into today, being a new Iraq war, which will eventually kill thousands of innocent people, cost billions in taxpayers’ dollars and leave another part of the planet in ruins, having resolved absolutely nothing.

“Likewise, even as we are unrelenting against terrorists who threaten our people, we must redouble our work to address the conditions — the repression, the lack of opportunity, too often the hopelessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to appeals to extremism and violence. And this includes continuing to pursue a political solution in Syria that allows all Syrians to live in security, dignity, and peace.”

Perhaps president Obama can start by terminating his country’s relentless support for some of the cruellest dictatorships in the region. Saudi-Arabia, the source of Wahhabism in the world, is still viewed by the US, and many other Western powers, as a loyal ally in those countries’ foreign policy. At the same time, the Saudi regime decapitated 19 people in 17 days last August, according to Human Rights Watch, eight of them for nonviolent offences.

This information is not new. It has long been known by American foreign planners why many in the Middle East regard the US as a hostile power. It continuously blocks independent political and economic development in the region, avoiding the enormous natural resources to be used to improve the lives of so many Middle Easterners.

The return of diplomacy?

As far as the current situation with ISIS (or ISIL, or IS) goes, the only way to real solution in the region is diplomacy. A new never-ending war of the United States and its loyal or occasional allies in the region and beyond, will not solve anything.

Iran, not having been invited to the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’, might actually play a major role in the region, especially after the recent improvements – although modest – in Washington-Tehran relations. The same goes for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, if its leader, Mohamed Morsi, hadn’t been ousted by a military coup last year. Involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood might have appeased the Sunni sentiments in working towards a reasonable compromise.

It seems as if diplomats nowadays no longer master the art of diplomacy, but instead they excel in war-mongering. As popular resistance against a new war in the Middle East continues to grow, in spite of mainstream media backing to an impressive extent their jingoist governments, the importance of a diplomatic settlement cannot be underestimated.

Barack Obama, as the most powerful man in the world, should do everything in his power to start preparing to leave a true legacy to the world, a more or less peaceful Middle East, instead of burdening his successor with yet another unwinnable war in a far-away country, and the innocent peoples in Iraq and Syria with many thousands of dead, devastated lives, villages and a new, radical generation of young Muslims worldwide.

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