US mis­reads ter­ror­ism even 15 years af­ter 9/11

The US’ un­jus­ti­fied in­va­sion of Iraq might have turned moreMus­lims into rad­i­cals, and its equally baf­fling, hur­ried with­drawal of com­bat troops from the frac­tured coun­try has cre­ated an even fer­tile soil that breeds ter­ror­ists.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

TheUnited States has not suf­fered any ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the 15 years fol­low­ing the Sept 11, 2001, at­tacks. But that does not mean it has been free of ter­ror­ist at­tacks or threats; on the con­trary, they are on the rise given the emer­gence of “lone wolf” at­tack­ers.

The past fewyears have seen ter­ror­ists’ at­tempt to tar­get Times Square in­NewYork City, two ex­plo­sions rock­ing Bos­ton on the day of the city’s an­nual marathon and, more re­cently, NewYork and NewJersey caught in the grip of panic af­ter three bomb­ings or bomb­ing at­tempts.

TheUS is awk­ward with the fact that apart from those rad­i­calMus­lims who have launched at­tacks in Amer­ica, some of the at­tack­ers were rad­i­cal­ized af­ter be­com­ing nat­u­ral­izedUS cit­i­zens. This shows for­mer pres­i­den­tGe­orgeW. Bush’s anti-ter­ror­ism nar­ra­tive has not worked well. TheUS’ un­jus­ti­fied in­va­sion of Iraq might have turned moreMus­lims into rad­i­cals, and its equally baf­fling, hur­ried with­drawal of com­bat troops from the frac­tured coun­try has cre­ated an even fer­tile soil that breeds ter­ror­ists.

Nev­er­the­less, theUS has been rel­a­tively safe from ter­ror­ists be­cause of its se­cu­rity strat­egy re­form, which in­cludes the stream­lin­ing of var­i­ous se­cu­rity agen­cies and cre­ation of some newa­gen­cies to deal with emerg­ing threats. In par­tic­u­lar, the es­tab­lish­ment of the Depart­ment ofHome­land Se­cu­rity in 2003 has made theUS more se­cure. It has also im­ple­mented newse­cu­rity laws, ap­pointed a di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence to co­or­di­nate with other agen­cies, and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased its bud­get to com­bat ter­ror­ism.

But the re­sults ofWash­ing­ton’s “war on ter­ror” have been un­bal­anced. While theUS has be­come more se­cure, the rest of the world is suf­fer­ing the con­se­quences of ris­ing ter­ror­ism. Europe has ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the past years, with Paris and Brus­sels bear­ing the brunt.

TheUS in­va­sion of Iraq in re­sponse to 9/11 was a com­plete mis­take. By top­pling the Sad­dam Hus­sein gov­ern­ment in Iraq, caus­ing the loss of hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives and un­nec­es­sar­ily (and covertly) med­dling in Syria’s af­fairs, theUS paved the way for the emer­gence of the Is­lamic State group that has un­leashed a reign of ter­ror in Iraq and Syria. TheUS in­va­sion of Iraq, the in­ces­sant sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that fol­lowed and the Syr­ian civil war have turned mil­lions of peo­ple into refugees. And the refugee cri­sis has made the fight against ter­ror­ism more com­pli­cated and dif­fi­cult.

Al­though these de­vel­op­ments should prompt theUS to re­viewits poli­cies to com­bat ter­ror­ism, this is un­likely to hap­pen be­cause go­ing by the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign nei­ther can­di­date seems in­ter­ested in do­ing so. Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s prom­ise to build a new “GreatWall” may pre­vent il­le­gal im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing rad­i­cal Mus­lims, from en­ter­ing theUS, but it can­not stop Amer­i­cans within the con­fines of the so-called wall from be­com­ing rad­i­cal­ized.

That theUS should learn to dis­tin­guish ter­ror­ists from in­no­cent peo­ple, rather than con­demn­ing al­lMus­lims as ter­ror­ists goes with­out say­ing. More im­por­tant, theUS has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to cre­ate con­di­tions that not only pre­vent peo­ple from be­com­ing ter­ror­ists, but also com­pel ter­ror­ists to see rea­son and trans­form them­selves. Though the task is very dif­fi­cult, it is not im­pos­si­ble. As a first step, Wash­ing­ton should apol­o­gize for killing so many in­no­cent Iraqis and oth­ers in the name of “war on ter­ror”, pay ad­e­quate com­pen­sa­tion to the be­reaved and dev­as­tated fam­i­lies, and hold all those re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing such a hu­man­i­tar­ian disas­ter ac­count­able.

Since killing in­no­cent peo­ple will cre­ate more ter­ror­ists, theUS has to find the real rea­sons be­hind the chal­lenges posed by ter­ror­ism to se­cure a work­able so­lu­tion. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at and as­so­ci­ate dean of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Fu­dan Univer­sity.

In the past week, Snow­den has again been in the spot­light. Oliver Stone’s movie Snow­den hit US the­aters on Sept 16. And Snow­den has sought Obama’s par­don, ar­gu­ing that his leak of NSA sur­veil­lance pro­grams was “not only morally right” but also “left cit­i­zens bet­ter off”.

On Sept 14, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union launched the Par­don Snow­den cam­paign to urge Obama to par­don Snow­den. The cam­paign was joined by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, Hu­man Rights Watch and more than 100 le­gal schol­ars, for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers, hu­man rights ac­tivists and artists.

Most of the peo­ple who be­lieve that Snow­den is a traitor and should spend the rest of his life in prison ar­gue that he broke an oath and put the US na­tional se­cu­rity in danger. It is true that Snow­den breached the trust placed in him, but he did so af­ter find­ing out the US ad­min­is­tra­tion was in­volved in se­ri­ous wrong­do­ings, which is a much more se­ri­ous crime than peo­ple re­al­ize. Even for­mer US at­tor­ney gen­eral EricHolder ad­mit­ted that “we can cer­tainly ar­gue about the way in which Snow­den did what he did, but I think that he ac­tu­ally per­formed a pub­lic ser­vice by rais­ing the de­bate that we en­gaged in and by the changes that we made”.

How­ever, the USHouse In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously signed a let­ter to Obama on Sept 15 not to par­don Snow­den.

Obama once said the de­bate trig­gered by Snow­den “will make us stronger”, yet it does not look like he will have the good sense to par­don Snow­den be­fore leav­ing the WhiteHouse in Jan­uary.

Both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton are against grant­ing Snow­den a par­don. The only 2016 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who sup­ported Snow­den is no longer in the race. Demo­crat Bernie San­ders said, “the in­for­ma­tion dis­closed by Snow­den has al­lowed Congress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple to un­der­stand the de­gree to which the NSA has abused its author­ity and vi­o­lated our con­sti­tu­tional rights”.

For the third year in a row, Snow­den has been nom­i­nated for the No­bel Peace Prize. Who­ever wins the prize on Oct 7, it is clear that Snow­den has done the world a great ser­vice, so much more than Obama had when he was awarded the prize in 2009.

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