Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why they fight

Every once in a while, Mickey Z drops an old Ward Churchill quote that bears repeating:
"Stop killing our kids, if you want your own to be safe."
I also keep saying that it really doesn't get any simpler than that. Glenn Greenwald points out the obvious yet again:

The New York Times' David Rohde writes about the seven months he was held hostage by a group of extremist Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and conveys this observation about what motivates them:

My captors harbored many delusions about Westerners. But I also saw how some of the consequences of Washington’s antiterrorism policies had galvanized the Taliban. Commanders fixated on the deaths of Afghan, Iraqi and Palestinian civilians in military airstrikes, as well as the American detention of Muslim prisoners who had been held for years without being charged.

Apparently, when we drop bombs on Muslim countries -- or when Israel attacks Palestinians -- that fuels anti-American hatred and militarism among Muslims. The same outcomes occur when we imprison Muslims without charges in places like Guantanamo and Bagram. Imagine that. Recall, according to Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, what prompted 9/11 "ringleader" Mohammed Atta to devote himself to a suicide mission, as recounted by Juan Cole during the Israel/Gaza war:

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Cana/ Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs wrought a different sort of transformation. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. As soon as operation Grapes of Wrath had begun the week before, he had written out a martyrdom will, indicating his willingness to die avenging the victims, killed in that operation--with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center. (Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower, p. 307: "On April 11, 1996, when Atta was twenty-seven years old, he signed a standardized will he got from the al-Quds mosque. It was the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation grapes of Wrath. According to one of his friends, Atta was enraged, and by filling out his last testament during the attack he was offering his life in response").

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660.

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.

One could -- and should -- ask that question every time the U.S. or Israel engages in another military strike that kills Muslim civilians, or for that matter, every day that goes by when we continue to wage war inside Muslim countries. Rohde adds this about what motivates these Taliban:

America, Europe and Israel preached democracy, human rights and impartial justice to the Muslim world, they said, but failed to follow those principles themselves.

One of the taboo topics in the American media is how the U.S. Government routinely violates the principles we espouse for, and try to impose on, the rest of the world. We systematically torture Muslims and then cover it up and protect our torturers while preaching accountability and the rule of law; we condemn deprivations of due process while maintaining and expanding lawless prison systems for Muslims; we demand adherence to U.N. dictates and international law while blocking investigations into U.N. reports of war crimes and possible "crimes against humanity" by our allies; we righteously oppose aggression while invading and simultaneously occupying numerous countries, while threatening to attack still more, and arming countries like Israel to the teeth to wage still other attacks, etc. etc.

As a result of the media avoidance of such topics, many Americans don't ever think much about the huge gap between what we claim about ourselves and what we do. But much of the rest of the world -- certainly including the Muslim world -- sees that discrepancy quite clearly, often up-close. That's what accounts for the radically different, even irreconcilable, perceptions that Americans and so many people in the rest of the world have about who we are and what we do ("why do the hate us?").
As one reads the updates to that particular post, you'll also run into a tidbit on who the "Taliban" are. There may be a very small proportion who are religious ideologues (the article Greenwald quotes suggests around 10 percent). The remainder are members of various tribal factions who simply want US and NATO troops out of their turf.

Safety needs are very fundamental to the human condition. Those needs have been violated across the Middle East and central Asia quite consistently for some time now. You want to feel safe in your back yard? Stop the goddamn bombings. It really is that simple.

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