We here in America live in a strange time. People are increasingly self-consumed. Our days begin and end with Tweets, Facebook status updates, and redundant pictures on Instagram of either our faces or our food. The focus on one’s self drowns out the people around us. Relationships with family and friends suffer and weaken as our attention is turned inward. This phenomena is happening between individuals, but has also crept into our foreign policy, with many people behaving as though America acts in a vacuum.
The CIA coined the term “blowback” to refer to unintended consequences of covert operations. Examples of blowback are numerous, but due to the secretive nature of covert operations, there can be no exact number of times when American foreign policy has resulted in very different outcomes than intended. Luckily for the State, America’s public education has done a pitiful job teaching history, including recent history. The effects of American foreign policy over the past 70 years are still being felt today, yet few people connect the dots.
The most famous case of blowback was the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. While this should have been a wake up call, a sign that continued military interventionism would result in more terrorism, the naive public was sold a lie by its leaders. “They hate us because of our freedom.”
This of course flew in the face of the words of Osama bin Laden, who made it quite clear that the 9/11 attacks were retaliation for American occupation of Holy Land in Saudi Arabia. In 2004 bin Laden said in an interview,
“I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example – Sweden? And we know that freedom-haters don’t possess defiant spirits like those of the 19 – may Allah have mercy on them.
“No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours. No one except a dumb thief plays with the security of others and then makes himself believe he will be secure. Whereas thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again.”
The arrogance of those in power muted the words of the attackers and led us into a war in Afghanistan, where we have remained for 16 years. It was not the first time America was involved in Afghanistan. Some will recall Operation Cyclone, when American forces backed the mujahideen during the 1980s against an invading Soviet Union. The story began prior to the 80s though, and prior to the Russian invasion.
Former National Security Advisor under President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said in a 1998 interview,
“According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
“That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
American forces deliberately drew the Soviet Union into a war in Afghanistan, with the intention of creating the USSR’s Vietnam. Knowing this, and having received training from the United States during the 1980s, bin Laden used the same tactic to draw America into the war that brought down the Soviet Union. It is clear that after $3 trillion, thousands of lives, and 16 years, this plan is well on its way to working to topple American imperialism.
Not only is the war in Afghanistan (and throughout the middle east) bankrupting America financially, but it continues to demoralize both our troops as well as the American public. At the same time, little has been accomplished in the region. Since 9/11 and the subsequent American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of terrorists has only increased.
Since the invasion of Iraq, reports say that terrorism in the Middle East has increased as much as 6500%. In the same time period, casualties from terrorist attacks have increased 4500%. As early as 11 years ago, secret intelligence reports were confirming that the U.S. invasion of Iraq “made the overall terrorism problem worse.”
I recall a scene from the recent Netflix Original “War Machine” starring Brad Pitt, playing the role of General Glen McMahon. In a speech, McMahon explains that if there are 10 terrorists, and you kill 2 terrorists, this does not mean there are 8 terrorist left. Instead, in this situation, 10-2=20. A report by Physicians for Social Responsibility found that in the years since the invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent middle east interventions there have been 1.3 million civilian casualties. This kind of destructive and deadly foreign policy does not make America safer and actually increases the number of terrorists.
As we near the day of remembrance of those lost on 9/11, America ought to change it’s policy in the middle east. The lives lost on that day were not due to an attack on “America”, but rather on “American foreign policy.” It is only the ego and narcissism of public officials who dictate our stances towards the rest of the world that keep us in a position of eternal conflict and increased risk of attacks.