Avoiding Reality on Terrorist Motivation
By Jacob G. Hornberger / fff.org
May 1, 2013

Before 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev was interrogated, President Obama asked, “Why did these young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?”

Yesterday, the Washington Post provided the answer to the president in a news article entitled, “Boston Bombing Suspect Cites U.S. Wars as Motivation, Officials Say.” According to the article,

The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews…. the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.”

What I find fascinating is that President Obama would have such a difficult time conceiving of that possibility. Why wouldn’t it occur to the president that the death, destruction, abuse, and humiliation that the U.S. government has wreaked upon people in the Middle East, who are predominantly Arabs and Muslims, would make some people, including people of Muslim faith, angry.

For some 20 years, U.S. forces have killed, maimed, and abused hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. We can go back to the Persian Gulf intervention, when U.S. forces slaughtered Iraqi soldiers and killed many non-combatants during the war. There were the hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraqi children from the 11 years of sanctions. There were the countless deaths from the Iraq invasion in 2003 and subsequent occupation. There was the abuse at Abu Ghraib. There were the countless deaths in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. There have been all the people killed in drone assassinations. There is the unconditional military and financial support provided the Israeli government and, for that matter, to various Middle East dictators who have used the U.S. aid to kill, torture, and oppress their own citizenry.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would be surprised over the fact that there would be people who are angry over such things. After all, Americans got angry over the killings on 9/11 and in Boston. Why wouldn’t there be people who would get angry over the U.S. national-security state’s killings over there, including parents and other relatives, friends, countrymen, or people of Muslim faith?

It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Immediately after 9/11, President Bush announced that the terrorists had struck because they hated America for its freedom and values. Like President Obama, Bush simply could not fathom that anyone would be angry at the U.S. government for the death and destruction that it had wreaked in the Middle East prior to 9/11.

Why? Why do warfare statists have such a difficult time understanding that people get angry over such  things? Consider, for example, an article in the front page of today’s New York Times entitled “Boston Suspects Seen as Zealots, and Self Taught.” It doesn’t even mention what the Washington Post reported yesterday, as detailed above. Instead, it states:

Law enforcement officials … said some of [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s] statements suggested that the two brothers could represent the kind of emerging threat that federal authorities have long feared: angry and alienated young men…. [Dzhokar Tsarnaev] told federal agents that he and his brother were motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs, when he was interviewed Sunday at the hospital.

The NYT article then quotes Senator Marco Rubio:

The increasing signals are that these were individuals who were radicalized, especially the older brother, over a period of time—radicalized by Islamist fundamentalist terrorists, basically using Internet sources to gain not just the types of philosophical beliefs that radicalized them.

Why can’t these people simply acknowledge that the two brothers were filled with anger and rage over the death and destruction that the U.S. national-security state has wreaked on people in the Middle East and Afghanistan, most of whom are Arab and Muslim, and that that rage manifested itself with violence? Why is it so difficult for them to say that, especially when Dzhokhar expressly tells them that that is what happened?

In fact, if you go to the bottom of the NYT article, there’s a quote from the ex-husband of Tamerlan Tsarnaeve’s younger sister:

He was looking for connections between the wars in the Middle East and oppression of Muslim population around the globe. It was very hard to argue with him on themes somehow connected to religion. On the other hand, he did not hate Christians. He respected their faith. Never said anything bad about other religions. But he was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.

How could things be any more obvious? The U.S. government goes on a killing and maiming spree, both before and after 9/11. Most of the people it kills and injures are Arabs and Muslims. That makes some people very angry. That includes parents, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents of the victims who have been killed or maimed. But it also includes people of Muslim faith who don’t fail to notice that most of the people killed and maimed are of Muslim faith.

Why can’t people like Bush and Obama see that? Why can’t the New York Times see that? Why can’t warfare statists see that?

My hunch is that the big reason is because the national-security state, along with its overseas empire of bases and its policy of foreign hegemony and interventionism have become, in the minds of the warfare statists, a permanent part of American life. They obviously view America as a free country and consider that this Cold War apparatus is a core feature of America’s free way of life. In their minds, America without the national-security state apparatus would cease to exist as a country. That’s why, I think, U.S. warfare statists are convinced that when people overseas resist the Pentagon and the CIA with violence, they are attacking the “freedom” of the American people rather than the imperialism of the U.S. national-security state. For them, America and the national-security state are one and the same thing.

But the truth is that America’s heritage is one that is opposite to the national-security state. Our country was founded on the principle of no-standing armies, no militarist society, no overseas military bases, no foreign interventionism, no foreign wars, no CIA, no entangling alliances, and no foreign aid. The national-security state apparatus, which was engrafted onto our constitutional order to initiate the Cold War against America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union, represents everything America’s Founding Fathers opposed, including its dark-side programs and practices, such as assassination, torture, tribunals, secret prisons, indefinite detention, and denial of due process of law.

The last thing people like Bush, Obama, and warfare statists want Americans to start contemplating is the very existence of the national-security state. They don’t want Americans to even think about questioning the major role of the Pentagon and the CIA in the daily lives of the American people. They don’t want them to be contemplating what life would be like without the national-security state, along with the never-ending crises engendered by it.

Instead, they want Americans to continue going about their lives as normal, even if they are living in an aberrant, drug-ridden, violence-filled society. They want them to continue believing that terrorists are attacking America out of hatred for America’s freedom and values and not because of what the U.S. government is doing to people overseas. They want them to continue deferring to the authority of the national-security state with respect to the massive death and destruction they continue to wreak in other parts of the world. Most important, they want them to continue living lives of subservience while remaining convinced of how free they are.


(All dates referenced above remain in the context of the original, published on April 24, 2013)

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Avoiding Reality on Terrorist Motivation