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Weissman: Kill Them There, or They'll Kill Us Here

Kill Them There, or They'll Kill Us Here

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 26 July 2005

Having lived in London during the IRA bombing campaign of the 1970s, I can feel a small part of the terror that bus and subway riders must have felt when the four bombs exploded on July 7, and again when only the detonators went off last week. This is what life has become in an age of terror, and it could get even worse unless we get a grip on how terror works.

One key is how we choose to respond.

Like most people, I feel anger and revulsion for the suicidal "Fools of God" who believe that their religious faith gives them the right to maim and kill others. But history and logic suggest that striking back the wrong way too often harms more of the innocent and only helps the terrorists get what they want. Just look at how our deadly military reaction to 9/11 has built support for Osama bin Laden throughout the Islamic world.

To prove more effective against the terrorists, I would act on a different emotion - the disgust many of us feel when President Bush rushes to use every act of terror to sell his own murderous Crusade.

Addressing the July 7 bombings in London on his weekend radio address two days later, Mr. Bush could hardly wait to repeat his customary mantra:

"We are now waging a global war on terror - from the mountains of Afghanistan ... to the plains of Iraq," he declared. "We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home."

Kill them there, or they'll kill us here.

Never mind that Mr. Bush's show of force in Afghanistan and Iraq did not stop the terrorists from killing and maiming in Bali, Casablanca, Riyadh, Jakarta, Istanbul, Madrid, Baghdad, and London.

Never mind that the CIA's National Intelligence Council warned over a year ago that Iraq had replaced Afghanistan as both a recruiting and training ground for the next generation of professionalized terrorists, who will over time "disperse to various other countries," including the United States.

Never mind that the CIA warned again this May that Iraq had become a real-world laboratory for urban combat, dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict.

Forget every inconvenient fact. Just suck in your gut and repeat after your president: Kill them there, or they'll kill us here.

In the terrifying shadow of 9/11, Mr. Bush's words worked. They helped win him a second term. And they allowed him to pursue control of an increasing share of the world's oil and natural gas - not just in Iraq, but across Central Asia. Somehow, Mr. Bush always seems to find the biggest terrorist threats in those countries that his friends in Big Oil and his neo-con advisers most covet.

But, his mantra appears to be losing its magic. According to the polls, a sizeable majority of Americans now oppose the war in Iraq, and many are beginning to see the continued presence of American troops over there as a provocation to Arabs and other Muslims and a growing threat to American security at home....

Give the disillusionment a few more months to simmer, add a bit more scandal over the administration's outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, and even more Americans will see just how Mr. Bush has betrayed us all in a truly disgusting way.

The hard job will be to mobilize that disgust into an effective political opposition.

But, don't go cock-a-hoop quite yet. Though Iraq has enflamed Muslims everywhere and recruited untold thousands to commit terrorist atrocities, bringing American troops home will not end the attacks. As the Muslim Brotherhood splinter led by Abd al-Salam Farag showed with the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and the North African Salafis showed with their bombings in France during the 1990s, politicized Islamists turned to terror long before Iraq.

The gain would be more nuanced. Terrorists would find far less support among their fellow Muslims. Team Bush would suffer a major political defeat, opening the door to a more rational response to any further acts of terror. And the world would turn away from a faith-based clash of civilizations, in which we would all end up being losers.


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.

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