The Roots of Terror

In the rush to bipartisan support for the Bush administration response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, let's not forget that what was wrong with Bush policies on September 10 is wrong with Bush policies on September 12. Criticism of administration policies that destroy the environment, marginalize the poor, line the pockets of corporate supporters, and increase the likelihood of armed conflict is not "partisan bickering" but an expression of patriotism. And from Britain to the Middle East commentators agree that Bush policies increased the potential of a terrorist attack against the US and limited US intelligence services' ability to detect it beforehand.

British intelligence analyst Daniel Plesch, in remarks to the BBC that were subsequently removed from their web site, described Bush as having started his term as if the U.S. didn't need anyone else in the world. "The rock has come through the window," he said. Despite occasional rhetoric to the contrary, Bush foreign policy has taken a unilaterlist direction from the outset. Bush's resumption of the bombing of Iraq in February, supported only by Britain, increased Saddam Hussein's stature in the Arab world, and validated his worldview in which he leads a confederation of Arab nations in opposition to western imperialism. As we've pointed out elsewhere in The Dubya Report after only three months in office, the Bush administration had

  • Threatened the U.S. relationship with Russia by expelling Soviet diplomats following the arrest of Robert Hanssen, and meeting with the Chechen ambassador
  • Indicated its plans to develop a capability to fight and win a nuclear war in the Far East
  • Pledged to sell arms to Taiwan, and to defend Taiwan in a conflict with the Peoples Republic of China, reversing decades of U.S. foreign policy
  • Promoted its missile defense shield in the face of Russian and nearly unanimous European Union opposition
  • Suspended negotiations with North Korea

Subsequently the administration indicated it would trash the ABM treaty, which has been the basis of global arms control since 1972. It withdrew support for the Kyoto protocol to limit global warming. And, as if at the direction of the NRA, it refused to support a U.N. treaty to limit proliferation of small arms.

For some observers abroad, the image of the U.S. stomping around the world appropriating resources and wielding power to narrowly benefit its own purposes, began with George Bush, Sr. In addition to the actions described above, the U.S. has restructured global financial systems for its own benefit, sent troops wherever and whenever it pleased, bombed (in addition to Iraq), Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yugoslavia without consulting the United Nations, and maintained an unevenhanded support of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the face of a popular uprising. In many parts of the world, the disproportionate distribution of wealth and power in the world offers little democracy. If Osama bin Laden and his supporters are ultimately shown to have perpetrated the terrorist action on September 11, the U.S. will, as The Guardian UK put it, " once again [be] reaping a dragons' teeth harvest they themselves sowed." Bin Laden and his guerilla troops were armed and trained by the CIA and the British MI6 in the war in Afghanistan that ousted a Soviet-supported regime in the 1980s. The current regime in Afghanistan, the Taliban, was established by the Pakistani intelligence service with U.S. backing. Eventually Bin Laden turned against the U.S., as the Taliban became his protectors, prompting the U.S. to institute sanctions against Afghanistan that have brought its population to near starvation and created an exodus of refugees.

Press in the Arab world, except in Iraq, expressed disapproval of the terrorist action. This included countries previously accused by the U.S. of sponsoring terrorism, such as Libya, Iran, and Syria. But several note the anger and resentment of the man-in-the-street throughout the Arab world. The Jordan Times points to U.S. policy toward Iraq and Palestine as having

... fueled anti-American sentiments amongst most social political sectors in the Arab world. Even traditional and loyal allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are finding it extremely difficult to continue dealing with Washington with the same cordiality.

US decision-makers should evaluate whether they have steered the world's only superpower to dominate under the insignia of justice and international legitimacy, or succumbed to short-term interests, shortsighted considerations and the power of arrogance.

The widely publicized celebration by some Palestinian extremists was echoed in moderated tone by ordinary citizens throughout the Middle East. Bush's failure to take on an active peace making role is seen by many as tacit endorsement of the policies of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, who has recently directed assassination squads to eliminate even members of the Palestinian National Authority government. One of the side effects of increased anti-American sentiment in the Arab world is that it has become more difficult for western intelliegnce agencies to monitor the region.

Ironically, as US Middle East policy likely moves to a narrow focus on retaliation for the terrorist actions in New York and Washington, the real loser may be Yasser Arafat, starting with the cancellation of his scheduled meeting with Bush. Conversely, Sharon, by identifying himself and Israel as fellow victims of the terror visited on the U.S. may emerge with an even freer hand to implement his repressive policies in the Palestinian territory.

Terrorism is an expression of outrage. It arises out of a specific set of social conditions. Rhetorical labels such as "mindless terrorism" obscure the reality that terrorism and terrorists will continue until the injustices and inequalities that produce them are addressed.


Muir, Jim "Analysis: Impact on the Middle East" BBC 12 Sep. 2001

Milne, Seumas "They can't see why they are hated: Americans cannot ignore what their government does abroad" The Guardian UK 13 Sep. 2001

Whitaker, Brian "What the Middle East papers say" The Guardian UK 12 Sep. 2001

"American under attack" The Economist 12 Sep. 2001