Look, I’m not trying to be an ISIS sympathizer (and most would stop reading right there), but there’s a few pieces of the American ISIS narrative that are deliberately false. You might say: “who cares the origins? We just care if we and our children are safe here in America!” You would probably yell that at me because you, too, are frustrated with global politics. So, I would buy you a double martini to calm your ass down, then make you hear me out before I address your statement.
Olives or a twist?
Comfortable? Great, now let’s begin our discussion with the acknowledgment of some key facts. David Stockman, at his Contra Corner, tells us that:
“During the 14 years between the horrific but flukish events of 9/11 and last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, there had been just six civilians killed on American soil by jihadist oriented terrorists.”
Yep, 6. The Pentagon, in a seeming effort at parity, claims that the US has only taken 6 lives in its struggle against ISIS. The number is actually closer to 680+, and “we’ll likely kill hundreds more.”
The approximate number of American lives lost as a result of homegrown mass shootings is 462 (shootingtracker.com). Putting those numbers together, what we learn is that a handful of American citizens have died from terrorist attacks, but hundreds of American citizens died at the hands of fellow citizens, and even hundreds more Syrian and Iraqi citizens have died due to America’s war efforts. On top of the hundreds of citizens we kill, ISIS kills just as many (in the Middle East), and Assad kills even more than that.
What’s the moral of the story so far? We need to put a lid on our fears that the faceless terrorists are going to swoop in and kill us all tomorrow. Furthermore, we need to understand that those terrorists are not faceless – we, in fact, gave them their identity.
Eqbal Ahmad was a political scientist, historian and expert in the study of terrorism. He explained how terrorism and jihad came into being (largely) in the 1980s, when the US rallied for support against Russia. Ahmad states:
"In Islamic history, jihad as an international violent phenomenon had disappeared in the last 400 years, for all practical purposes. It was revived suddenly with American help in the 1980s. When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, Zia ul-Haq, the [U.S.-backed] military dictator of Pakistan, which borders on Afghanistan, saw an opportunity and launched a jihad there against godless communism. The U.S. saw a God-sent opportunity to mobilize one billion Muslims against what Reagan called the ‘Evil Empire.’.”
So, the US builds its little dream machine in the Mid East in order to piss off Russia, and they liked the power rush they got out of doing so. But as time goes on, the US doesn’t leave, starts throwing its money around, and decides it wants to play house in the whole region. Now, the guy who was the US’ top student – Osama bin Laden – becomes its opponent, but it just keeps getting worse from there.
“In 1990, the U.S. goes into Saudi Arabia with forces. Saudi Arabia is the holy place of Muslims, Mecca, and Medina. There had never been foreign troops there. In 1990, during the Gulf War, they went in, in the name of helping Saudi Arabia defeat Saddam Hussein. Osama Bin Laden remained quiet. Saddam was defeated, but the American troops stayed on in the land of the Ka’aba [the most sacred site of Islam, in Mecca], foreign troops. He wrote letter after letter saying, ‘Why are you here? Get out! You came to help but you have stayed on.’ Finally he started a jihad against the other occupiers. His mission is to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia. His earlier mission was to get Russian troops out of Afghanistan.”
The US uses Mecca like a Lazy Boy recliner at the neighbor's house, then wonders why everyone is so mad. Stockman agrees that the central problem is the unwelcomed US presence in the Mid East. He writes:
“No, jihadist style terrorism came to America only after Washington trained and armed the Mujahedeen in the 1980s, waged unprovoked war in Arabia and Mesopotamia in the 1990s and fostered the anarchy of failed middle eastern states thereafter.”
Stockman and Ahmad provide the same analysis and the same warning: essentially, the US created and unleashed a beast it now has no idea how to stop. And rather than admit culpability and change direction, policy makers and leaders would rather convince the public that a) ISIS is simply a cultish uprising out of a backwoods religion, and b) citizens should fear their wrath (re: terrorism) – if we buy these 2 points, then the government is free to pretend it didn’t play a role in ISIS creation, is able to capitalize on the fear of citizens to tighten “security” at home and abroad, and keep playing its war games in the Mid East at the expense of many innocent lives.
The danger is not so much death by terrorist (remember – only 6!), as it is the threat to innocent lives everywhere, as well as the threat to our American freedoms. Per Stockman:
“At the end of the day, the greatest danger to the homeland is the anti-terrorist hysteria of demagogueing domestic politicians. It is the Donald Trumps, and their like and sundry but less bombastic imitators, who threaten our true constitutional liberties of speech, assembly, religion, property and due process.”
To return, then, to your original statement about safety, I would ask you to learn the actual history of US involvement in the creation of ISIS. I would ask you to suspend your knee-jerk reaction to, like Trump, vilify an entire group of people or discriminate against an entire religion. We made ourselves the enemy of ISIS – and not for any noble reason or reason worth fighting for. If we stop making such enemies, that is to say, if we get the fuck out of the Mid East long enough to let it heal or burn itself, then perhaps we can regain our sense of security, our sense of perspective, and our sense of humanity.