Last night's horrifying bloodbath in Paris reminds us yet again of the urgency of a change in Western policy in the Middle East. Until and unless that happens - and it can't happen unless an aroused and informed public makes it happen - more massacres are inevitable.
ISIS has taken responsibility - proudly - for the attacks that killed well over a hundred people out for Friday night fun, and promised more and worse to come. Before we get swept up in jingoist hysteria, let us recall that ISIS is not self-begotten, but emerged from the murderous chaos that followed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Recall as well that the U.N.'s Humanitarian Coordinator Denis Halliday accused the U.S. of genocide in Iraq five years BEFORE that invasion as a result of the crippling sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. In other words, the West's systematic destruction of Iraq for an entire generation has given birth to a terrorist movement dedicated to killing as many Westerners as possible. Hideous? Yes. Surprising? No.
Not a single leader on the American scene has offered an intelligent policy response. Self-righteous posturing and threats of retaliation are the order of the day. France is planning bombing raids in Syria, which at least one of the terrorists involved in the Friday night massacres said was the motivation for the Paris attacks in the first place.
Mourning the dead doesn't mean much if we immediately reinforce the policies that led to their deaths. Have we not had enough of slaughter? Why do we not see on TV the effects of the West's constant military interventions in the Middle East? If we regularly saw the tortured, maimed and killed on our TV screens, we would be in a better position to judge events like the hideous attacks in Paris on Friday night. These were clearly revenge attacks, as they have no military significance whatsoever. Why treat them as unprovoked attacks?
And let's stop with the idiotic questions like, "Can a similar attack happen in the U.S.?" Of course it can. Anybody remember 911? The grievances that provoked that appalling attack are still in play, as nothing was done about them. (See post for May 1, 2011 "Osama Bin Laden: The Real Story" for a review.)
ISIS would not exist were it not for the West's (especially the U.S.'s - the European powers follow Washington's lead) constant interventions in the Middle East. So why are we there? To make sure Israel can continue to colonize Arab land? What legitimate U.S. interest is there in perpetuating that? To topple Bashar al Assad in Syria? He is the legitimate leader of Syria; what U.S. interest is there in overthrowing him, which would make ISIS even more powerful? To "defend" against Iran and Putin? Iran is more influential than ever thanks to our destruction of the Iraqi state, and Putin is an avowed and active enemy of ISIS. What U.S. interest is there in opposing either of them?
Until U.S. leaders stop bad-mouthing Assad, Putin, and the mullahs in Iran, we will know that they are not serious about reducing the threat of terrorist violence. For it is the overweening arrogance of foreigners attempting to govern peoples over whom they have no legitimate authority that has bred the violence these leaders pretend to abhor in the first place.
British activist and author Tariq Ali has offered the following sensible advice on how to end the terrorist nightmare emanating from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan: "There are three important pre-requisites to re-stabilizing the region: end of Western support to the extended Saudi royal family (the source of extremist Islamic sects); end of all Western intervention in the region; a single Israeli/Palestinian state with equal rights for all its citizens."
This agenda has no traction in Washington. Serious advocates of peace need to learn how to give it some.