How To Win The War On Terrorism: Call It Off

by | Jul 14, 2005 | Scott Horton's Articles | 4 comments

By Scott Horton

This is one I wrote back in the summer of 2005 for the blog at

If we pretend, and accept the premise that the War on Terror is actually about stopping jihadists who target American citizens, then we might have to conclude that our government’s efforts are counterproductive. Bin Laden has begun his second term, and the war in Iraq is an unfolding disaster that can only get worse.

The War Party’s “flypaper” thesis, purely made up after the fact, goes about like this: we invade a country that doesn’t associate with independent terrorist groups, to attract the terrorists to our neighbor’s sons like fish to hooks – but “there,” not “here.” Truly the nobility of a plan to use young men’s lives as bait should never be questioned in wartime, but we’re only attracting new terrorists.

America’s invasion of Iraq, whose only previous ties to terrorism were the safekeeping of Abu Nidal, who never targeted America and died in 2002, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi‘s Ansar Al Islam group which was protected by the administration in its base in the autonomous Kurdish north in 2002 and 2003, and Hussein’s payments to Hamas suicide bombers against Israel, which is not a state in the Union, has only increased the number of people determined to kill Americans. It’s not too often that Israelis and Saudis see eye to eye, however recently a pair of studies by an Israeli think tank and the government of Saudi Arabia found that virtually all of the “foreign fighter” jihadists who have traveled to Iraq to fight the Americans were “radicalized by the war” itself. Only some of the recruiters can be traced back to pre-invasion terrorist activity.

This was easily predictable, and was predicted. For example, the recently “reelected” military dictator, and long time American stooge Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said before the invasion that we would create “100 bin Ladens.” He was ignored.

The CIA’s National Intelligence Council released a report last January, which, according to the Washington Post, claimed:

“Iraq provides terrorists with ‘a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills,’ said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. ‘There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries.’ … ‘At the moment,’ NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq ‘is a magnet for international terrorist activity.'”

The Royal Institute for International Affairs, the center of the English foreign policy establishment, recently released a report [.pdf] which asserted:

“There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism. It gave a boost to the al-Qaeda network’s propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. ’¦ Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and U.S. military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure, and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign.”

When asked for comment, even former prime minister John Major conceded it was true.

Michael Scheuer, the former head analyst of the CIA’s bin Laden unit says in his book Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror that our policies in the Middle East are “completing the radicalization of the Islamic world.” Something Osama had been trying to do, with “incomplete success,” and therefore the US, is bin Laden’s “indispensable ally.”

Robert A. Pape, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, studied every single suicide bomber since 1980, found that when the occupation ends, recruitment dries up. Osama and company can rant on and on about a world caliphate, and about how we need to be killed for our freedom, but history shows that their recruits are only interested as long as they can use removing us from their “holy” places as their sales pitch.

Osama bin Laden takes a defensive stance – not that he’s a good guy, just good at public relations. He knows that the defender in a fight wins the moral authority. He lost any he gained from Clinton’s pathetic cruise missile strikes with the attacks of September 11th, when all across the Middle East there were outpourings of sympathy for the US and widely held mistrust of al Qaeda. Unfortunately, the aggressive foreign policy of Cheney and the neoconservatives has given his defensive stance right back to him.

Scheuer lists the main six grievances on al Qaeda’s list:

First and foremost are the U.S. combat forces that spent 13 years in Saudi Arabia after the first Iraq war, and have now mostly been moved to other bases on the Arabian Peninsula. As Professor Pape told me, moving them to Qatar is a distinction without a difference to bin Laden, who, he says, deliberately uses the Arabic word for “Arabian Peninsula,” rather than for “Saudi Arabia.” These borders were drawn by the British, after all.

Second is America’s unconditional support for Israel, which occupies Jerusalem.

Third on the list were the long-term blockade of Iraq and the bombing of the “no-fly” zone, which happened, on average, once every three days for over a decade. These have now been replaced by the wars against, and ongoing occupations of, Afghanistan and Iraq — even more valuable recruiting tools as Afghanistan is the site of the holy warriors’ great victory over the USSR, and Iraq, being home of many religious sites, is holy land in Islam as well.

Fourth on Scheuer’s list of bin Laden’s motivations is American support for Russia, China, and India in their suppression of Muslims.

Fifth and sixth are U.S. government support for corrupt governments in the Middle East, none of which are democratic (among these are Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, and now Iraq), and pressure (that is, threats of violence) to keep oil prices set where American mercantilists want them.

Is it a surprise that all of the 9/11 hijackers were from countries (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) with governments friendly to our own, and that none of them were from Iran, Iraq, or Syria?

Already the war in Iraq is spreading its disease across the Middle East. Just a few weeks back missiles were fired at a US naval vessel from Jordan. The shooters were experienced from time spent fighting Americans in Iraq.

This is exactly what bin Laden wanted. He said so in his October 2004 speech:

“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedin to the furthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.

“This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahedin, bled Russia for ten years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat… So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Osama thought it was funny that his interests and Bush’s converged so closely:

“That being said, those who say that al-Qaeda has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise, because when one scrutinizes the results, one cannot say that al-Qaeda is the sole factor in achieving those spectacular gains.

“Rather, the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations — whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction — has helped al-Qaeda to achieve these enormous results.

“And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and us are playing as one team toward the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ.”

His partner Zawahiri is more specific. According to author James Bamford:

“Ayman al-Zawahiri argued that al-Qaeda should bring the war to ‘the distant enemy’ in order to provoke the Americans to strike back and ‘personally wage the battle against Muslims.’ It was that battle that bin Laden and Zawahiri wanted to spark [with the 9/11 attacks]. As they made clear in their declaration of war ‘against Jews and Crusaders.’ They believed that the United States and Israel had been waging war against Muslims for decades. Now their hope was to draw Americans into a desert Vietnam, with bin Laden in the role of North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh.”

Ideas of individual liberty and property rights are worth spreading, but using the biggest (that is, most deadly and most expensive) government program in the history of the world – the US military – to create a new government is hardly spreading liberty. We tell them we’re invading to change their culture to one of American values, just as we call their dead innocents “collateral damage.” Iraq has a very tribal culture, but collectivists are still individuals, and when innocents are killed, they are remembered as such by loved ones for sure. Our masters in the nation’s capital tells us that we’re spreading “democracy” as though that counts for anything when only the slimmest minority even believe in individual liberty or limited government. If you read the new Iraqi constitution, you will see that the government their new democracy has created is a total one. Democracy there is as farcical as democracy in Afghanistan, or worse.

Let’s attempt to take a measure of what this democracy has brought the people Iraq: The US has installed the tyranny of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and his political allies in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Da’wa party, both of whose members were loyal to and protected by Iran all through the Iran-Iraq war and up until the invasion. Their murderous Badr Brigades are now roaming around killing whomever they like. Religious nut Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army has taken over parts of the south at various times, though his loyalty to Iran is perhaps not as clear as is his loyalty to his own power. The brutal Kurdish peshmergas and their Israeli allies in the north of Iraq are insisting on a level of autonomy that is sure to entice separatist movements in Iran and Syria – perhaps Turkey as well. The peshmergas have already begun ethnically cleansing Kirkuk of Turkmen and Arab Sunnis (the inverse of Saddam’s policy). Massive kidnapping and forced removal are already taking place while a final purge awaits.

George Bush says the US has to stay in Iraq until the new government is “able to defend itself against the terrorists,” which presumably means the Sunni insurgency that has violently resisted so far and the foreigners holy warriors who fight among them. That is a lie, though who knows what they tell Bush? The Badr Brigades and peshmergas could easily put an end to the Arab Sunni uprising, but it would take a brutal campaign for them to do so. Shi’ite and Kurdish leaders have already stated that they wished to use their militias for this purpose – an “offer” the US refused. American forces are now protecting the “terrorist” Sunni from the Iran-Firster Shi’ites whom we have empowered.

The War Party says we can’t “cut and run” because it will make America look bad, though it’s already apparent that we look as bad as can be and getting worse by the day. They then retreat to the circular argument that we must honor the death of 2,000 soldiers by getting even more of them killed.

The only way they can get away with this is because, despite their personal dislike of George W. Bush, so many American liberals truly believe in the authority of the national government to aggressively invade “rogue’ states in order to liberate people – and for that matter its ability to do so. Rather than insisting on the immediate withdrawal of American combat forces from where they have no legitimate business, the Vichy Democrats in DC would rather try to outflank the aggressiveness of Cheney and his neoconservatives, approving the policy, but insisting that they would be more more competent at carrying it out. This is a national disgrace.

Cindy Sheehan is right, the war in Iraq must end now. And further, all American troops should be brought home and fired immediately. Our government’s aggressive foreign policy is creating new enemies who want to kill us. The violent foreign interventions – and the entangling political alliances which cause them – must finally come to an end. We’ve been cleaning up the last war’s messes since 1941. More intervention doesn’t help. It will be hell in Iraq after we leave, but it already is, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.

What of the would-be terrorists who are already so driven that they’d kill us anyway? Relegalize guns.

Scott Horton is an assistant editor at and hosts the Weekend Interview Show in Austin, Texas.

Listen to The Scott Horton Show