Our Bombs Make Things Worse
Thirteen years ago this month, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror.” He claimed that Al Qaeda had attacked us because “they hate our freedoms.” Yet Osama Bin Laden’s manifesto—“Letter to America”—gives a noticeably different explanation. Along with heavy doses of extremism and anti-Semitism, it is comprised of a list of grievances, which include but are not limited to: our political and economic support for the ongoing Israeli military occupation, our continued support for repressive autocratic regimes in the Middle East, our support for Russian atrocities in Chechnya, our hundreds of military bases around the world, and our genocidal sanctions on Iraq during the ‘90s. In other words, Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda hated our imperialism and interventions, not our so-called freedoms.
Extremism begets extremism. If you see your family members slaughtered over the years by Western-backed armies or militias, by drones, or by bombs, there is a high chance you will become radicalized. And historically, nothing builds support for a cause in the Middle East like Western imperialism. This goes all the way back to Nasser’s Pan-Arabism. Our bombs will only swell the ranks of ISIS, engender more extremism, and make more enemies along the way. Indeed, we already have.
As a result of our latest illegal bombing campaign in Syria, the Al-Qaeda affiliated group in that country, Jabhat Al-Nusra, has now pledged to exact revenge. The leader of this organization, Mohamed al-Golani, made this pronouncement: “Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed.” Before the strikes, Jabhat Al-Nusra was primarily concerned with fighting the Assad regime. They were also previously at odds with ISIS. Now, the Guardian reports that there are plans between the two groups to reconcile their differences in order to join forces.
As Americans, we should have no illusions about the purported humanitarian intentions of the US. The government always has its geopolitical and strategic interests in mind. And the cynical use of the deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Obama administration in order to justify war is frankly repulsive. Government officials threatened Jim’s family with prosecution if they attempted to pay his ransom. Not to mention our double standards and hypocrisy. We decided to choose a coalition of anachronisms to join the air strikes—namely, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Bahrain. As our very own Professor Stephen Zunes notes in a piece he wrote recently on ISIS, “All five of these countries . . . are absolute monarchies notorious for the very kind of corruption and repression that spawn extremist groups. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, has engaged in far more beheadings in recent years than has ISIS.”
We should also not forget as Americans the historical context in which ISIS arose. Prior to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, there were no Al Qaeda linked groups in that country. They proliferated post-invasion, and flourished due to the US-backed sectarian Maliki government, which brutally repressed the Sunni minority population.
ISIS is a sadistic and murderous organization that very well may need to be stopped by force. Yet we should have no hand in it. Our military intervention will only exacerbate the problem and strengthen their so-called cause.
ISIS: No Other Options
People around the world watched in horror as James Foley, a U.S journalist, was executed by the extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on Aug. 19. This same group also executed U.S journalist, Steven Sotloff, and a U.K aid worker, David Haines. However, the atrocities of this terrorist group do not just end there; they have beheaded countless civilians that refused to follow their imposed Sharia law. Obama and the rest of the world’s response to this? Send drones and warplanes to Syria. Which bring up the questions: is this the correct method to handle the situation? Can a group as horrible as ISIS be taken care of any other way?
It really is hard to tell whether sending drones or war planes to Syria was the correct method of handling the situation. According to Time magazine’s article, “The Never Ending War,” by Michael Crowley, the number of radical Islamist groups have increased nearly 60% in the past year while attacks by Al-Qaeda groups–not ISIS–have tripled. However, he also wrote that because of these drones and warplanes, they were able to take out 10,000 fighting men involved with ISIS, kill Ahmed Abdi Godan–who killed dozens of people in a terrorist attack at a Kenyan mall–and they were able to kill three Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan all the same day. Obama’s pentagon disclosed the information that due to these accomplishments and many more, they plan to build a new drone base in the desert of Niger. It may seem like a successful plan but it is also important to take into consideration the number of civilians who have died in these airstrikes. The Washington Post wrote an article that discussed an investigation done by the Human Rights Watch. They investigated six airstrike areas and found that 57 out of 82 people killed were civilians. The Washington Post also wrote, “In Pakistan, Amnesty International investigated nine suspected U.S. drone strikes that occurred between May 2012 and July 2013 in the territory of North Waziristan. The group said it found strong evidence that more than 30 civilians were killed in four of the attacks.” Both the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim that there are facts that the U.S has not released about their drone strikes. They would like for the government to have their “drone policies more transparent and to publicly investigate reports of civilian casualties,” according to The Washington Post. For these reasons, it becomes hard to see why this method is the best for dealing with ISIS.
However, it should be noted that ISIS members are not rational people who can be reasoned with. Farah Shirdon (aka Abu Usamah Somali), a man who is known for his presence in an ISIS propaganda video threatening U.S. President Obama, starts off an interview with VICE by telling the media company’s founder, Shane Smith, ISIS’ chilling agenda. Shirdon claims that there are thousands of his religious brothers in Western areas that are ready to fight for ISIS immediately. He threatens that some of those members were planning an attack on New York City, mentions the success he had in escaping to Syria before Canadian intelligence could catch him, the amount of Western prisoners ISIS has as hostages that they plan to behead if anyone opposes them, and how prepared they are to die for Allah’s sake. They might stop when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is crucified, but he also said, “they will not stop until all the infidel leaders are dead and an Islamic flag hangs over the White House.” At the same time, he brings up the implied solution that if Western countries stop getting involved with them, then they will stop attacking their citizens. But how can countries not get involved in their affairs when, as stated by The Guardian and their article “Iraqi civilian death toll passes 5,500 in wake of ISIS offense,” ISIS is responsible for the death of 5,576 people and the displacement of 1.2 million. ISIS acts with violence and religious fanaticism, and because of this they do not really give foreign countries many options, making drone strikes and warplanes the best option despite the negative consequences they may have.