In a press conference yesterday about Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who allegedly tried to blow up the car bomb in Times Square, Attorney General Eric Holder stated, The reality that there is a constant threat from those who wish to do us harm simply because of our way of life.
We havent yet heard any public statements from Shahzad himself. But my hunch is that the way of life that allegedly motivated him has to do with what the U.S. government has been doing to people in the Middle East.
Consider Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. How many Iraqi citizens have been killed and maimed in the U.S. governments invasion and occupation of that country? While the estimates range from a hundred thousand to a million, actually no American can answer that question with any degree of certainty. The reason? Early on, the U.S. government announced that while it would keep track of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and injured, it would not do the same with Iraqis. They just werent important enough.
Moreover, consider the cavalier attitude toward Iraqis that U.S. officials have maintained ever since those infamous WMDs failed to materialize. Their attitude has been this: that any number of deaths of Iraqi people are worth bringing democracy to Iraq.
Indeed, consider the fact that not one single Iraqi who was tortured, raped, sexually abused, and incarcerated at Abu Ghraib had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11. Every one of those victims was innocent of that crime.
But its all justified under the notion that were bringing democracy to your country.
Isnt that nice? We will invade your country and kill you, your spouse, your children, your parents, or your friends and neighbors, but actually you should be grateful for our performing this service for you because in the long run your nation will have democracy, which is beautiful.
And get this: there has never been an upward limit on the number of Iraqis who could be killed in the pursuit of this illustrious goal. No number of Iraqi deaths and injuries could ever be considered too high, given the benefits of democracy.
How nice. How cavalier.
This Bush-Obama attitude toward Iraqi life was no different during the Clinton administration, when the brutal sanctions were being enforced against Iraq for more than 10 long years. When Clintons Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 (five years before the sanctions expired) whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it, she replied that they were worth it. Her reply perfectly encapsulated the mindset of U.S. officials, both then and now.
Perhaps its just a coincidence that the Times square attempted bombing took place after the U.S. governments repeated acts of assassination in Pakistan, but I doubt it. My hunch is that there is as much anger over those assassinations as there was during the time that those brutal sanctions were killing all those Iraqi children.
The U.S. government justifies the assassinations by saying that the people theyre targeting are terrorists. But how many of those people who theyve assassinated had anything to do with 9/11, which, let us not forget, was the purported reason for invading Afghanistan in the first place. We dont know the answer to that question because the U.S. government wont answer questions on its assassination program. But my hunch is that 99 percent of the people theyve assassinated in Pakistan had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and that the only reason they were labeled terrorists is because they were opposing the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, a neighboring country, just as the U.S. government, working with Osama bin Laden and others, were trying to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In fact, my hunch is that 99 percent of the people theyve killed and maimed in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 and are simply considered terrorists because they oppose the foreign occupation of their country.
Moreover, notwithstanding the standard apologies that are issued after wives, children, grandparents, friends, and neighbors are killed in those drone assassinations in Pakistan or in the military attacks in Afghanistan, any reasonable person can surely understand why such deaths have served to swell the ranks of would-be terrorists, especially when such collateral damage is calculated in advance of the attacks to be worth it.
Supporters of the death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan repeat the old canard that the Taliban gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and, therefore, that all this death and destruction is justified to keep the Taliban from returning to power. But there are big problems with that claim.
One, the U.S. government has never provided one iota of proof that the Taliban and al Qaeda conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks. Lets not forget, after all, that some of the 9/11 hijackers were living in Saudi Arabia and, well, also here in the United States, before the attacks. In other words, the simple fact that a suspected terrorist is living in a particular country prior to an attack doesnt necessarily mean that the government of that country has conspired with the terrorist to commit the attack.
Two, before attacking Afghanistan the Bush administration asked the Taliban to unconditionally extradite bin Laden to the United States. If the Taliban had actually participated in the 9/11 attacks, would Bush have bothered to make such a request?
Three, prior to his invasion of Afghanistan Bush was negotiating with the UN Security Council to give him permission to invade Afghanistan. Would he have done that if he had proof that the Taliban had participated in the 9/11 attacks?
Lets face the truth: U.S. troops are killing and injuring people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, not out of a sense of justice for 9/11 but simply out of the long-term U.S. foreign policy of installing and maintaining U.S.-favored rulers in foreign regimes. And it doesnt matter whether the regime is totalitarian, democratic, authoritarian, or whatever. All that matters is that U.S. foreign policy dictates that it be a U.S-approved regime.
Thats what Holder undoubtedly is referring to when he says that terrorists want to do us harm because of our way of life a way of life that involves empire, interventionism, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, occupations, torture, bombings, foreign aid, support of dictatorships, and assassinations.
As long as Americans permit their government to pursue such an immoral, cruel, brutal, destructive, and hypocritical way of life, they had better come to terms with the virtual certainty that there will be victims of this way of life who will do their best to retaliate.