October 26, 2003
Protecting the American homeland has never been easy ... Just ask an Indian

LINDA MCQUAIG writes: "Rumsfeld's memo about the difficulty of winning the war on terror, leaked to the media last week, brought to mind a clever T-shirt I saw recently. It featured a photo of four armed native Americans along with the words, 'Homeland security; fighting terrorism since 1492.'"

In our obsession with terrorism these days, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that terrorism has been around since time immemorial. And it often comes down to a fight over land — which is what wars are generally fought over, too, with results that are just as horrific for innocent civilians.

Once we strip away the now-debunked U.S. justifications for entering Iraq, what we're left with is an old-fashioned invasion of a foreign country.

Washington now insists it was just liberating the Iraqi people, but this doesn't explain why — as an occupying power — it went ahead last month and launched a massive privatization of the Iraqi economy, rather than leaving this huge political decision to the Iraqi people, once they're given the right to vote (whenever that will be). Why was it so urgent to open up Iraq to foreign ownership — before the lights are even working and the water running?

Rumsfeld admits in his memo that things are going worse than the administration usually concedes and he questions whether new "terrorists" (i.e. people resisting U.S. occupation) aren't popping up faster than Washington can kill or capture them.

The real flaw in the Bush administration's approach to terrorism — and it's reflected in the Rumsfeld memo — is that it scrupulously avoids addressing the grievances that seem to drive people to terrorism.

Indeed, it never even acknowledges that grievances exist; terrorists are deemed to act out of nothing more than blind hatred and a wish for death.

But even a superficial analysis reveals that one common cause of "terrorism" is having one's land occupied by a foreign power.

That makes people angry; you could say it makes them crazy with anger. (If the U.S. were occupied by a foreign power, could we count on Americans to respond in ways that were measured, moderate and in keeping with the law?)

One of the biggest complaints of Osama bin Laden was the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the U.S. has now withdrawn those troops — a smart move, but one that unfortunately was offset by the arrival of many more U.S. troops in neighbouring Iraq.

By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. has created a whole new hotbed of "terrorism." The anger of Iraqis used to be directed against Saddam Hussein, but is now directed against U.S. forces, which experience an average of 25 attacks there a day. In what sense can that be seen as progress in the U.S. "war against terror?"

Yet Rumsfeld, in addition to his dreams of a big new bureaucracy, seems to be proposing more of the same, perhaps ratcheted up to a bolder level. But if Washington simply kills more terrorists or kills them faster, won't more terrorists just appear to replace the dead ones?

The best idea I've heard for tackling "terrorism" in Iraq is noticeably absent from the Rumsfeld memo: Hand Iraq over to the Iraqis. Now.

There are lots of problems with this solution, which was proposed last month by the president of France. The only thing in its favour is that the alternative — not handing Iraq over to the Iraqis right now — is even worse.

It's been suggested that the Iraqis, after decades of tyranny under Saddam, aren't really ready for democracy.

But democracy doesn't guarantee good results, no matter how used to the institution people may be, as we saw in California earlier this month.

Would we expect that Iraqis could do much worse than elect a leader who is alleged to have sexually assaulted more than a dozen women and who once referred to Hitler's good points?

Posted by tstubbs at October 26, 2003 07:49 AM | Trackback
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