The Article: A Rumsfeld-era reminder about what causes Terrorism by Glenn Greenwald in Salon.
The Text: The debate over Afghanistan — or, more accurately, the multi-pronged effort to pressure Obama into escalating — is looking increasingly familiar, i.e., like the “debate” over Iraq. The New York Times is publishing articles filled with quotes from anonymous war advocates. Permanent war-justifier Michael O’Hanlon is regularly featured in “news accounts” as he all but blames Obama for increasing combat deaths due to his failure to escalate the moment the military demanded it. The New Republic is churning out pro-war screeds. Every option is on the proverbial table except one: not fighting the war. And there’s a widening gap between (a) public opinion (which sees Afghanistan as “turning into another Vietnam” and which opposes more troops, with 49% favoring a full or partial withdrawal) and (b) the virtual unanimity of establishment punditry which, as always, is cheerleading for the war. The only difference is that, with a Democratic President, there seems to be more Democratic and progressive support for this war (though there was, of course, plenty of that for Iraq, too).
The primary rationale for remaining — and escalating — in Afghanistan is the same all-purpose justification offered for virtually everything the U.S. has done since 2001: Terrorism. Apparently, the way to solve the Terrorist threat is by sending 60,000 more American troops into a Muslim country and committing to at least five more years of war there. That, so the pro-escalation reasoning goes, will make us safer.
In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld directed the Defense Science Board Task Force to review the impact which the administration’s policies — specifically the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — were having on Terrorism and Islamic radicalism. They issued a report in September, 2004 (.pdf) and it vigorously condemned the Bush/Cheney approach as entirely counter-productive, i.e., as worsening the Terrorist threat those policies purportedly sought to reduce. It’s well worth reviewing their analysis, as it has as much resonance now as it did then (h/t sysprog).
The Task Force began by noting what are the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security“: namely, the “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”.
And what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism? “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan“.
Let’s just repeat that: ”Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” And nothing fuels — meaning: helps — the Islamic radicals’ case against the U.S. more than ongoing American occupation of Muslim countries.
For that reason, “a year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger [had] intensified” and the war had thus “weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide” (see. 14-15). Similarly, as of six months into his presidency, Obama had vastly improved perceptions of the U.S. among Western Europeans but — as Der Spiegel put it – he “has actually made little progress in the regions where the US faces its biggest foreign policy problems,” particularly the Muslim world (other than Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his childhood, and Egypt, where Obama spoke).
We can’t combat Terrorism by sending our military into Muslim countries. Doing that only exacerbates the problem, since it inevitably intensifies the anti-American sentiment that enables and fuels the terrorist threat in the first place. All of that is so basic. It’s been empirically proven over and over during the last decade. It’s not Noam Chomsky or Al Jazeera pointing out these basic truths, but instead, a 2004 Task Force handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to review and assess the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts, principally the wars they were waging in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Undoubtedly, there is some small faction of ”Islamic radicals” principally motivated by religious fervor which will likely hate the West regardless of what it does, but — as the 2004 Pentagon-commissioned Report found — their most potent weapons are American policies that inflame anti-American hatred in the Muslim world, beginning with ongoing wars waged by the U.S. military in Muslim countries. That’s so self-evident it shouldn’t require a report to document it, but since it seems to, here’s a very credible report that does exactly that.