Can war end terrorism?

My father called me after the bombings. A World War II “Greatest Generation” veteran, he was shaken by the terrorist attacks on London.

“What’s it gonna take to stop some madman from killing people like that?” he raged. I hesitated, and then decided to plunge into an uneasy conversation. “I don’t know, Dad, but war certainly isn’t the answer. These networks have to be isolated politically,” I said. “War just foments more terrorism.”

Surprisingly, my dad then offered his non-war solution: “Why can’t we just cut off the money that finances these operations?”

The world’s majority opinion — from North America to South America, from Africa to the Middle East, from Asia to Europe and Australia — is overwhelmingly against terrorism. Yet terrorism hasn’t diminished. Since George W. Bush declared a “war” against terror, terrorist attacks have increased rather than decreased. Why?

Terrorism and war are two sides of the same coin. They both come from the bowels of imperialism and reactionary ideology. They are both ways to conduct politics with violence and disregard for human life. They reinforce each other.

The July 7 London bombings were a gift to the ultra-right, the Bush administration and the forces of war and violence. Instead of dealing with issues of extreme poverty and looming environmental disaster, the “war on terror” architects — Bush and Blair in the first place — took the platform to reinforce their dangerous idea that the world is divided between the “civilized” and the forces of “evil and terror.”

Political, diplomatic, law enforcement solutions; international cooperation and respect for sovereignty; and international laws are necessary in order to isolate and diminish terrorism. The Bush administration has done none of this. It has upended international treaties like the Geneva Conventions and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, used torture, racism, cluster bombs and other internationally banned weapons, and lied, lied, lied through it all. The Bush administration’s war on terror will never end terrorism. It will only increase it.

Instead of a “war” let’s consider some sensible steps like:

• Condemning all acts of terrorism, including state terrorism.

• Ending the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. Close down all foreign U.S. military bases. Iraq is now called the “frontline” of terror. But before the U.S. invasion there were no suicide bombings or other terrorist attacks. One terrorism expert, Robert Pape, argues that foreign military occupation, not religious fanaticism, is the driving force behind most terrorist attacks.

• Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution: a just and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with an Israeli state.

• Increasing U.S. support for the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, and observing international law in apprehending, questioning and prosecuting terrorist suspects.

• Ending U.S. support to criminal networks. Osama bin Laden got support from the CIA. U.S. government agencies often support terrorists and organized crime networks in order to further their narrow agenda.

• Rejecting regime change as a foreign policy option. Sovereignty must be respected. The democratic forces in Iraq wanted international support in their quest to democratize their country, not an invasion.

• U.S. adherence to all international nuclear, biological and chemical weapons treaties.

If implemented, these steps will go much farther in preventing terrorism and saving lives than Bush’s perilous war.

Terrie Albano (talbano@pww.org) is editor of the People’s Weekly World.