Saturday, February 28, 2009

Last man standing

Here’s what I see as the basic flaw in our War on Terror. We’re not fighting an army. We’re fighting people.

We call them terrorists; but they’re people who passionately believe we’re greedy, imperialist murderers who want to occupy their lands and plunder their resources. And we’ve played right into that belief.

From their perspective, the United States helped the Jews invade the Holy Land after World War II and has since provided Israel with aid and weapons of mass destruction that resulted in tens of thousands of Muslim deaths over the last fifty years.

In 1953, we sponsored a coup in Iran because their Prime Minister Mosaddeeq wanted to nationalize Iran’s British-owned oil company, and we didn’t want to lose control of Iran’s oil supply. We reinstated the Shah, a repressive dictator who had been overthrown by a Muslim revolution.

Over the next two and a half decades, we supported the Shah and his shockingly opulent lifestyle against the wishes of a starving Iranian people. He was ousted again in 1978, and the United States welcomed him here as a friend.

A few hundred outraged Muslim students retaliated in 1979 by taking over the US embassy in Iran and holding American diplomats hostage. The Reagan Administration negotiated a clandestine deal for the release of the hostages in return for US-held Iranian assets and immunity from all charges.

When war broke out between Iran and Iraq, the United States supplied weapons to Iran including a secret arms-for-hostage deal involving the Israelis. Most neighboring countries supported Iraq. Estimates of deaths from that war run as high as 1.5 million.

In 1990, the Bush Administration practically goaded the ruthless Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait. This provided the US with a reason to invade Iraq and gain control of Iraqi oil fields. In a bombing campaign of historically unprecedented proportions, US armed forces destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and killed as many as a hundred thousand civilians.

A small number of Muslim extremists again retaliated by bombing New York’s World Trade Center in 1993 and by finally destroying it in 2001. The United States responded by invading Afghanistan and then Iraq. We indiscriminately killed, captured and tortured people as part of our War on Terror. The Bush Administration did it’s best to hide the number of civilian casualties, but international groups report that deaths exceed twenty thousand in Afghanistan and more than a half million in Iraq over the last seven years. And who knows how many maimed and crippled.

Is it any wonder these people believe we're evil? Each time we kill one of them, we confirm their beliefs. Each family member we kill turns the rest of that family against us. Each man we torture ignites hatred among his brothers, cousins and neighbors. We may not share their beliefs, but we damned well better figure out a better way to deal with them.

We’ve been dragged into an endless war – a war than can only end with the last man standing.

It’s time to stop.

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