Wars are always easier to start than to finish, and Iraq-style wars in the name of fighting “international terrorism” have led to more terrorist attacks. The people of the United States and the world are less safe from both terrorists and the abuses of their own government, thanks to the Bush administration and its supporters.
The attacks on London subways and buses show this.
Both the attackers and the Bush and Blair governments are using arguments and advancing policies that reinforce each other, leading to a vicious and escalating cycle of more terrorist attacks and more military interventions in the name of counterterrorism.
In the past, guerillas were those who attacked primarily police and military targets in an insurgent war or against an occupying power. Terrorists attacked civilian targets in order to gain attention for their cause.
In Iraq, many of the “insurgents” are essentially guerillas fighting an occupation, with a variety of political motivations. They have attacked primarily police and military targets, but have shown little regard for the civilians whom they kill in the attacks. The political forces that they represent deserve no support from anyone on the left, but they are the creation of the war and occupation, not of any international terrorist group.
In London in recent weeks, Madrid last year, and the U.S. on September 11, groups carried out terrorist attacks that killed civilians to make a political point. Since the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, some of that is starting to happen in Iraq as well. Many point out that the Bush administration has turned Iraq into a convergence point for terrorists.
To conflate guerillas and terrorists, as the Bush administration has done since the September 11 attacks, is either out of stupidity or design to invite and instigate disaster.
The representatives of the Iraqi people, not the occupiers, have to take the lead in overcoming the guerillas through both social reconstruction and diplomatic and military means. If the guerilla war is to end, the Iraqi people have to be shown through U.S and British deeds, not empty words, that their oil will not be looted and their government will not become a puppet state. Iraqi trade unions, secular progressives, Communists and socialists, the very forces that the U.S. tried to defeat in the past by supporting the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein, are the best hope for the Iraqi people today. They are the ones that we should support as we call for an end to the occupation and a policy of international aid for economic and social reconstruction of Iraq.
Meanwhile, terrorists have to be dealt with by national and international police and intelligence action and cooperation. Treating terrorists as if they were guerillas, by invading countries that supposedly support them, makes little sense, since such military interventions usually produce guerilla wars. Also, mobile terrorist groups and leadership can relocate rapidly. And Bush’s unilateral militarist policies have alienated France, Germany, and other nations whose police and intelligence cooperation is necessary to stop terrorist attacks.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban were the Frankenstein monsters created by the Reagan and Bush I administrations out of their war to destroy the People’s Democratic party of Afghanistan and its Soviet supporters. Nothing was done against the Taliban government when it carried out terror and murder against the people of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, led by the black sheep of the wealthiest capitalist family in the Middle East, was not taken too seriously until the September 11 attacks. Only the Communist Party, USA, of all political parties in the U.S., supported the Afghan government and its Soviet allies, when everyone else, including sections of the left, were cheering on the “freedom fighters” who later became the Taliban and Al Qaeda. No one at the time realized that the Soviet army was not only defending Afghanistan’s attempt to carry forward a social revolution, but also defending the people of New York and London.
Using terrorist attacks to justify increased military budgets and more military interventionism serves the imperialist interests of the Bush administration. Its definition of peace resembles the comment of one of the Roman Empire’s “barbarian” victims, as quoted by Roman historian Tacitus: “They make a desert and they call it peace.”
Military interventionism serves the interest of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda as they enter and recruit from war-torn societies and position themselves for new terrorist attacks.
The Bush administration’s central emphasis on military force and alliance with reactionary forces in the “war against terrorism” has boomeranged against the people of the United States. It continues to undermine our security and freedom.
Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University.