AMERICA’S “WAR AGAISNT TERROR”: PERMANENT WAR (PART I)

By Stephen J. Sniegoski

[This article published in: Zeit-Fragen Nr. 40, 10/10/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/.]


America’s “war against terror” is basically a war against the Islamic anti-American Middle East. The war in Iraq is part of the “war against terror”. The assumption that the terrorist enemies of the US in the Middle East form a network covering the different worldly and religious-Islamic groups underlies the “war against terror”: secular Baathists, radical Wahabitish Sunnites and radical Iranian Shiites. All these different groups are stylized as America’s monolithic threat.

The war is described as a battle between good and evil shocking and spanning the world in which America must destroy the terrorists of the Middle East and the terrorist states. To be successful in this venture, the Islamic societies of the Middle East must be changed. The West can only be secure from terror with democratic societies. Undemocratic societies are either terrorist or a breeding ground for terrorism. The terrorists bred in the Middle East will ultimately attack the US itself. In his weekly radio address of August 20, 2005, president George W. Bush said: “If we don’t face these wicked men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets.” (1)

The neo-conservative advocates of the war against terror in the Middle East compare it with the Second World War and the Cold War. While the assumption that communism could be checked was decisive for American foreign policy at that time, people now seem convinced that America’s survival depends on the complete destruction of the terrorists of the Middle East and their political supporters. As Bush said on August 22, 2005, he would never “be satisfied with less than total victory over the terrorists and their hate-filled ideology.” (2)

I propose the thesis that the war of the Bush administration against terror is leading to even more terror in the world. The idea that terror cannot be eliminated through war is obviously not new. Yohoshafat Harkabi, an Israeli scholar and former advisor of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, formulated correctly: “Terrorism uses demagogues and is the ideal theme for stirring up public opinion, exciting rage and gaining popularity.” Harkabi added in a depressed tone that from Israeli experience “the problem is that there is no quick blow against terrorism and no military operation can end it.” (3) Thus the US war against terror will be an endless conflict that enlarges the terrorist danger and can even provoke a disastrous catastrophe between the great world powers.

While a necessity of combating real terrorists doubtlessly exists, the American “war against terror” – a war according to the discretion of the United States – was completely superfluous when taking action against concrete terrorists was imperative. There was no real reason to march into Iraq or forcefully transform the Middle East. There was no connection between the terror attacks of September 11 and Saddam’s Iraq. The Islamic terrorists were opponents of Saddam’s secular regime. As brutally as he treated the Iraqi power, Saddam did not represent any international threat.

No real threat through weapons of mass destruction started from Saddam. A July 2002 memorandum of Downing Street made known this year confirmed this. “The secret service and the facts were arranged for the sake of policy.” In short, the decision for war was the basis for the secret service discoveries. The secret service did not determine policy. The United States did not march into war on the basis of facts that – according to objective analysis – showed a grave danger of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and of a preemptive attack. Rather the information of the secret service was selected, interpreted and presented so a decision to invade made long ago could be justified. Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction provided the pretext not the reason for the US attack against Iraq.

The effect of the war against terror on the United States and on the world is counter-productive. This war has provoked new terrorist dangers. Bush, Tony Blair and other defenders of war deny this terrorist connection with the war against terror. Nevertheless the connection is clear. Many persons in the Islamic Middle East detest western culture. However it is the American war policy that leads them in hordes to join terrorism.

Robert Pape, author of the new book “Dying to Win,” emphasized that practically all the suicides of recent times “pursued a clearly non-religious and strategic goal to force democracies to withdraw troops from the national homeland of the terrorists. Pape argues: “Since suicide terrorism is first of all a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the action of a strong military power to transform Moslem societies will increase the number of suicide-terrorists who come to us.” (4)

Under the title “Young Moslems and Extremists,” the British government issued a comprehensive report warning that the American-British foreign policy in the Middle East infuriates many Moslems because it “understands the war against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan as actions against Islam.” (5)

The American CIA and other experts admit that the current war against Iraq allows the number of Islamic terrorists to grow and even gives them a training ground to prepare terror around the world. The war in Iraq gives extremists an opportunity to kill US soldiers so they acquire abilities that can be used in western countries. Terrorists hardened through battle and trained in the Iraq conflict spread over the whole earth. Germany’s newsmagazine “Der Spiegel” stated that Moslem extremists have come to Europe from Iraq in large numbers – all “outfitted with fresh battle experience and filled with ideological indoctrination.” (6)

Unfortunately many of the negative effects of the war against terror are not really understood in the US. Even those who admit the war was a mistake are convinced the US must bring the task of pacifying Iraq to an end. However this task will not end. The continuing war in Iraq only leads to more hatred and terrorism around the world.

The fatal effects of the war against terror on world peace are not only limited to the aggravation of terrorism. The war against terror also makes conflicts between nation states more likely and moves them to war readiness. This is a consequence of America violating international law with its attack against Iraq.

That the attack of the United States on Iraq was an offense against international law – helping maintain world peace – is a crucial point. The United States was not attacked or threatened. The claims regarding weapons of mass destruction were invented and a mere pretext for launching the attack. The US participates in an offensive war that was called the main crime of Nazi Germany by the distinguished Nuremberg Tribunal. The judgment of the 1948 International War Crimes Tribunal declared: “Beginning an offensive war is the most serious international crime.” (7)

In 1945 the prohibition of offensive wars was anchored in the UN Charter, the most authoritative document of international law. In Chapter I, the Charter forbids the “use of force” against a sovereign state when this state has not committed any aggression against other states. According to the Charter, waging war is only be allowed under two conditions: a land may wage a defensive war as a response to an armed attack or when authorized by the UN Security Council according to Article 42.

The former UN General secretary Boutros-Ghali and the current UN General secretary Kofi Annan recognized the illegality of the US attack against Iraq. Even Richard Perle, a leading neo-conservative, admitted that the invasion in Iraq was illegal measured by the principles of international law. He acknowledged, “international law demands our leaving Saddam Hussein in peace” but added “international law stands in the way of doing what is right.” (8)

The American leaders minimized international law and consciously refused its recognition. A question about the legality of the American course enticed president George Bush to the witty remark: “International law? I should call my lawyer.” (9) John Bolton, now American ambassador at the UN, said: “For us, it is a great mistake to grant any authority to international law, even if this corresponds to our future interests.” (10)

The US will obviously continue its pompous, high-sounding lecturing about supposed offenses of other countries against international law. However the US regards American officials as above international law. The US in relation to moral authority is obviously assumed to be a unique nation. It cannot be wrong when the US charitable everywhere correctly uses force to give just punishment to an evildoer.

International law fulfills a fundamental purpose in maintaining world peace and limiting war preparations of individual countries. America’s readiness for preemptive strikes naturally occasions other countries to get the most potent – nuclear – weapons to defend itself from the US. An attack of the US against a nuclear-armed state is less likely than against a powerless state. Thus the American government prefers diplomacy toward a nuclear-armed North Korea in contrast to the violent coup in Iraq.

America’s double standards with nuclear weapons are connected with this theme. The US solemnly proclaims that it seeks to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons. However the US tolerates and even favors Israel’s possession of these dreadful weapons. Recently the US announced its intention to join in India’s nuclear energy projects, use nuclear weapons and not sign the nuclear weapon test ban treaty. Given these unilateral overtures of the US, states like Iran cannot see any moral reason not to gain nuclear weapons for itself. These weapons are necessary to deter nuclear-armed enemies.

The violation of international law by the US has led other states to violate international law. Over the whole 20th century, the US has publically championed peace and stability in the world on the basis of international law. The US doubtlessly violates these rules with its present practice. Nevertheless the framework of rules and standards has helped limit armed conflicts worldwide.

The United States always preaches honesty and reserve regarding the use of force to other countries. When America with a false justification makes a preemptive attack on a country, this undoubtedly reduces its ability to restrain others. These others will also regard striking preemptively against their enemies as necessary and conjure some justifying reasons to do this. In short, waging a preemptive war brings about a destabilization of the world order. The United States does this on the basis of a deception so that this has an even greater destabilization effect. The model of a peaceful world of law that the US tried to support changes into a Hobbesian world of lawlessness in which only power conquers. Perhaps the US has sufficient military power to insure that other countries hold to this order for a while. The present chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan promises nothing good.