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.
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.