Ignoring the Whys of Terrorism

For years Americans have been warned that George W. Bush’s brutal “war on terror” and his invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan would spur more anti-U.S. terrorism. But when such events occur – as in Boston last month – anyone who observes that fact is shouted down, as happened to Richard Falk, notes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, published an analysis of the episode entitled “A Commentary on the Marathon Murders.

In this analysis Falk pointed out that there are “serious deficiencies in how the U.S. sees itself in the world. We should be worried by the taboo . . . imposed on any type of self-scrutiny [of U.S. foreign policy] by either the political leadership or the mainstream media.”  This taboo essentially blinds us to the reality of our situation.

Richard Falk,, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories.

Falk continues, “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.  . . . Especially if there is no disposition to rethink U.S. relations with others . . . starting with the Middle East.”

It seems obvious that if Washington wants to prevent future attacks, it is not enough to pursue alleged terrorists and beef up “homeland security.” It seems logical that one needs to also perform a foreign policy review, preferably in a public manner, to determine if any American policies or behaviors are unnecessarily provoking animosity.

For instance, will continued unqualified U.S. support of Israeli oppression of Palestinians increase or decrease future violent anti-American episodes at home or abroad? Yet, this critical aspect of any response to terrorism has apparently never been performed.

As regards the administration of George W. Bush, this comes as no surprise. Bush and his neoconservative supporters were (and still are) ideologically driven and so are incapable of the objectivity necessary for such a self-critical review. That is why Bush came up with a range of cockamamie reasons, including the famous “they hate our values,” for the 9/11 attacks.

President Obama, on the other hand, seemed, at least at first, capable of corrective insight. Back in 2009 Obama went to Cairo and made a speech which suggested that a rethinking of American relations with the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular, was in order. Yet the theory represented in the speech was never turned into practice. Why not?

Falk explains that “the strong push-back by Israel” caused Obama to backpedal. As a consequence the “politics of denial” continued. In Falk’s opinion, “As long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.”

Attacking the Messenger

When it comes to policies that might provoke terrorist attack, U.S. complicity in Israeli belligerency, racism and colonial expansion is just the tip of the iceberg. Washington’s mistakes go further. They include the unprovoked invasion of Iraq following years of devastating economic sanctions, the ill-conceived stationing of troops on Arabian soil, the unnecessary occupation of Afghanistan, and the collateral-damage-prone-tactic of drone warfare now actively pursued in places like Yemen and Pakistan.

Unbeknownst to the American public, all of these have seriously alienated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. It has driven some of this number to violent actions which, from their perspective, represent counterattacks and revenge.

Thus, looked at from outside of the self-justifying perspective of the United States government, everything Richard Falk says is accurate. However, from the inside of the official government worldview, Falk is a heretic and his message dangerous verbal poison. Therefore, the reaction of those dedicated to customary policies and alliances has been shrill.

For instance, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said that she was “outraged by Richard Falk’s highly offensive Boston comments. Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the UN. Past time for him to go.”

Similar statements came from members of Congress who are collecting signatures on a letter demanding that President Obama “take action” against Falk. The British mission to the UN. released a statement to the effect that “this is the third time we have had cause to express our concerns about Mr. Falk’s anti-Semitic remarks.”

This is an embarrassingly ignorant statement that confuses criticism of Israel with hostility to Jews in general. By the way, Richard Falk is Jewish. For its part, Israel has long barred Falk from even entering the Palestinian territories for which he has responsibility.

Finally, Zionists have accused Falk of being “an anti-American and pro-radical Islam activist.” This is another statement that is both factually incorrect and ignorant, because Falk is a deeply knowledgeable American trying to talk some sense to politicians leading the nation toward a dangerous cliff, and because it confuses criticism of Israel with supporting “radical Islam.”

The ugly fact is that most Americans have been kept dangerously ignorant of the wanton damage caused by their government’s foreign policies, and those who would prevent them from knowing the truth are, at the very least, indirectly responsible for terrorist attacks launched in reaction to those policies.

Richard Falk’s crime is to be a person of note, an esteemed academic and a respected servant of the United Nations, who is trying to break through with the truth. It is all the more frightening to the U.S. and its allies that, in this effort, Falk has access to an independent platform. He regularly reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where he has the ear of many of the 47 nations that make up this body. Unfortunately, the one group most in need of Falk’s wisdom, the American public, remains beyond the range of his voice.

If it could get away with it, the U.S. government would probably cart Richard Falk off to some hellhole prison. However, despite disturbing signs to the contrary, Washington isn’t yet ready to take such actions against a man of Falk’s stature. Still, do not mistake such forbearance for the mark of a mature and stable society. No. Such societies (just like mature and stable adults) are capable of self-criticism.

At least at the level of leadership and media, the United States is not capable of such self-reflection and so its citizens are likely to be the last to know that much of the terrorism they fear is a product of their own government’s continuing barbarism.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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12 comments on “Ignoring the Whys of Terrorism

  1. F. G. Sanford on said:

    When you stop and think about it, Bush was right. They hate our values. Hypocrisy, intransigent ideology, theocratic self-righteousness, blind arrogance and unfettered brutality are the only “values” we’ve shown them so far. Our unfaltering support for policies of racism, apartheid, torture, human rights abuses and intransigent conscription of territory by military force are the real face of our “values”. Pointing out these affronts to reason and fairness are not examples of “antisemitism”. They are merely statements of fact which document examples of justice denied.

  2. petronmb on said:

    Falk’s commentary is a beginning. What additional dynamics underlie US foreign policy in terms of “full spectrum dominance,” resource wars, munitions sales, and manipulation of conflicts for regional control? Why are we so hot to join extremist jihadis in Syria, our supposed mortal enemies, and produce another Libya? How does that connect with attacking Iran, and why are we interested in doing that? More paranoia and bluster from Susan Rice should get her fired, not Falk.

  3. R. Colescott on said:

    Our values are not much different today than they’ve ever been. It’s just that in the past 100 years oil and energy have become vital to western economies, so the foreign policies and the resultant repression have been targeted to the areas that contain these resources. The series on Al Jazeera called The Secret of the Seven Sisters is an excellent look at the history of oil and the control the international oil companies have exerted on the world.

  4. Andrew P Nichols on said:

    The truly extarordinary thing about this is that Falks essay is not linked to any of the articles attacking him so people can read it for themselves. If the outraged parties like Rice and the slimey Hagues Brit propagandists at the UN were making an honest interpretation of Falks comments as a school english comprehension test they would grade F. But they aren’t doing that at all – and the biggest disgrace here is the failure (complicity?) of the MSM to openly challenge/ridicule their obvious smear campaign. Truly Orwellian!

    • lokywoky on said:

      Of course not, they don’t want anyone to actually see what he actually said! Then you might be able so know the truth! Horrors!

  5. Paul G. on said:

    I think this demonstrates that US foreign policy, particularly with respect to Israel is suicidal; and Americans think jihadist suicide bombers are crazy. Americans especially their leaders have an aversion to mirrors.

  6. delia ruhe on said:

    Falk is a serious danger to the likes of Rice, Obama, the Zionites, and all the others who got their Manchurian brain implants on inauguration day. Falk isn’t saying anything we haven’t already heard from a multitude of analysts, but Falk has stature. When he speaks, people listen, and the administration is forced to respond — and thereby make fools of themselves.

  7. Knut on said:

    It’s good to see that some men still has a clear mind and a backbone to stad up and say the things that must be said. it’s obvious that this is the thruth.
    Spread the word…

  8. Igor Slamoff on said:

    From prior encounters with the murky phrase “the “why” of terrorism” I have learnt that it actually alludes not to the roots of terrorism as such, but rather to the grounds for the hostility that many Muslims feel toward the West. Terrorism is but one of the many forms that this hostility assumes.
    “The “why” of terrorism” is a slogan that postulates that every act of Muslim violence against the West can be traced back to an event that ultimately caused it. Furthermore it implies that the “cause” was quite likely an injustice perpetrated by the target of the violence, namely the West or one of its components or sidekicks.
    This is known as the “underlying causes” theory of Muslim hostility. The term was coined by Col. Kenneth Coughlin, an expert on Islamic law who was blackballed by the establishment for teaching US military officers that Muslim hostility to the West is largely instigated by Muslim ideology and does not need to be triggered by any “underlying cause”. By writing this I do not mean to imply that there are never any underlying causes, merely that underlying causes are not an indispensable input. Coughlin’s extensive treatise on this issue, grounded in Islamic law, is available on the web.
    The underlying causes theory ensues from attempts by secular Westerners to explain behavior that they find incomprehensible. To explain it they impose their own secularist world-view on the Muslim in question. Since they disqualify religion as a motive force they conclude that there must be an underlying cause.
    To sum up, “the “why” of terrorism” is merely an expression of willful ignorance uttered by people who can’t be bothered to find out the facts.
    Igor Slamoff

  9. borat on said:

    Falk and much of the UN today, unfortunately is under the sway of the old fashioned antisemites who blame the woes of the world on Jews and Israel. He may be tolerated in much of Europe, but not from me, and many other who have heard this crap over and over.

  10. Igor Slamoff on said:

    The correct name of the Islamic law expert I cited in my previous note is Stephen Coughlin, NOT Kenneth.

    Now I shall disprove Falk and Davidson.
    Richard Falk’s claims to rationality are preposterous.

    If US imperialism is the underlying cause of Muslim terrorism against the US, how come imperialist savagery against Nicaragua or Guatemala never fostered any terror attacks? Or Vietnam? Or Cambodia? Or Serbia? etc. etc. ad nauseam.

    30 of the 32 people that the FBI wants most are Mohammedan terrorists. If US imperialism were the principal cause of terrorism against the US, this implies that roughly 94% of US imperialist excesses were committed against Mohammedans.

    I challenge Messrs. Falk, Wilkerson et al. to produce body counts or other proxies of human suffering that back up such a preposterous claim. Last time I checked, only about 8 thousand civilians have been killed on both sides in the Israel-Palestine ruckus since 1953 or so.

    Reagan’s Contra bandits killed about that many civilians in Nicaragua every two or three months. How many Nicaraguan terrorists are on the FBI’s most wanted list?

    Compared to the millions killed in the Viet Nam war, that’s peanuts. How many Vietnamese terrorists are on the FBI’s most wanted list?

    The only non-Muslim country that ever generated a terrorist attack against the US is Puerto Rico (1953 pot-shots at US Congress). Before 2003, the wrongs done to Mohammedans by the US paled in comparison to the havoc it had wrought elsewhere. But Islamic terrorism against the US started long before 2003.

    The answer is obvious to anyone except obstinate ideologues like Richard Falk, Lawrence Davidson and the rest of that addle-pated crew.

    There are only two logical explanations:
    1) EITHER fanatical Mohammedans are waging a religious war against the West, including the US,
    2) OR Islam is a preternaturally bloodthirsty credo
    3) OR BOTH OF THE ABOVE.

    Additional evidence that Mohammedan hostility to the West is not principally caused by imperialism is provided by Islamic terrorism in Sweden, Italy, Kenya, Thailand, the Philippines and … Iran and Pakistan, where Sunni death squads backed by Saudi Arabia murder Shias wholesale!