day Mulla Nasruddin went to his neighbor, known to be a mean fellow.
"Sir," he explained, "your ox has gored my cow and killed her
after she refused his amorous advances." His neighbors shot back,
"So what has that got to do with me? Should a man be held responsible
for what an animal does." The Mulla answered cheekily, "Thank
you, Sir. It was my ox that gored your cow."
from: Idries Shah, The Pleasantries of the Incredible
United States declared a 'global war on terrorism' within days
of the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the Twin Towers and the
Pentagon. Instantly, terrorism was elevated by the US establishment
and media into the greatest, most ominous threat the 'civilized
world' had faced since the collapse of communism.
Why did the
United States choose to frame its imperialist posture after 9-11
as a 'global war on terrorism?' Not a few have been puzzled by
this way of justifying the new projection of American power. Terrorism
is a tactic, not a country; it is tool, not an ideology or an
end. How does one wage war against a tactic or a tool?
the frame was cleverly chosen. It was and remains a most effective
tool for mobilizing the American public behind the neo-conservative
project of using wars - multiple and endless, if necessary - to
deepen America's global dominance and to make it irreversible.
of tracking them down
through surveillance and police work,
the United States has used the
elusiveness of terrorists to justify
pre-emptive strikes and wars.
In addition, since terrorists may be
hiding anywhere, the war against
terrorism must be global.
11, 2001, 19 terrorists tragically brought death to Americans
on their own soil. Barring the attacks of Pearl Harbor, this was
unprecedented in American history. The terrorists had demonstrated
that Americans were vulnerable to attacks inside their own shores.
It now appeared that the blowback from US policies in the Middle
East could reach across the Atlantic to hit the US itself. To
say the least, this was disconcerting.
policy makers chose to magnify this new vulnerability to advance
their imperialist goals. By constantly harping on terrorism, by
hyping the threat of terrorist attacks, fearful Americans would
both endorse curbs on liberties at home and endless wars abroad
- anything that would prevent 'Islamic' terrorists from crossing
American shores. The 'global war against terrorism' looked like
the perfect tool for producing these twin results.
of terrorism had other uses too. Terrorists operate without a
return address, are ready to strike anywhere, and sometimes die
with their victims. Instead of tracking them down through surveillance
and police work, the United States has used the elusiveness of
terrorists to justify pre-emptive strikes and wars. In addition,
since terrorists may be hiding anywhere, the war against terrorism
must be global.
Just as importantly,
the United States has used its rhetoric of terrorism to delegitimize
all forms of resistance. This occurs in two stages. First,
US agencies employ a definition of terrorism that covers all groups
that use violence as a means to achieve political ends, even legitimate
political ends. Thus, Hamas and Hizbullah are 'terrorists.' Next,
individuals or groups who provide 'material assistance' to 'terrorists'
are also 'terrorists.' The United States has stretched this logic
to delegitimize all resistance movements that it views as contrary
to US interests.
Google search also reveals that
the 'global war on terrorism'
is directed primarily at Muslims.
A search for exact phrases that
combined 'Islamic,' 'Muslim,' 'Moslem,'
and 'Islam and,' with 'terrorism,'
'terrorists,' and 'terror' yielded a total
of 3.3 million hits. On the other hand,
exact phrases that combined 'Tamil'
with 'terrorism,' 'terrorists,' and
'terror' turned up only 26,000 hits.
Substituting 'Jewish' for 'Tamil'
produced 211,000 hits.
the United States has almost exclusively targeted Muslims in recent
years, it continues to insist that Muslims per se are not
the enemy. They only target those who are 'terrorists' and those
who support 'terrorist.' It is a clever distinction that empowers
the 'good' Muslims who are on our side - mostly corrupt
and despotic rulers - to fight the 'bad' Muslims, who are 'terrorists.'
words, the 'global war against terrorism' is a powerful rhetorical
device that mobilized overwhelming domestic support at least,
before the Iraq war became a quagmire behind America's imperialist
posture that depended on endless, pre-emptive and illegal wars.
It is scarcely
surprising, therefore, that 'terrorism' as the new cover for a
more invasive imperialism has quickly come to dominate the global
public discourse. A Google search for 'terrorism' turned up 72
million hits, not too far behind the 97 million hits for 'democracy.'
Taken together, the related terms 'terror,' 'terrorism,' and 'terrorists'
generated 236 million hits, which exceed the 210 million hits
search also reveals that the 'global war on terrorism' is directed
primarily at Muslims. A search for exact phrases that combined
'Islamic,' 'Muslim,' 'Moslem,' and 'Islam and,' with 'terrorism,'
'terrorists,' and 'terror' yielded a total of 3.3 million hits.
On the other hand, exact phrases that combined 'Tamil' with 'terrorism,'
'terrorists,' and 'terror' turned up only 26,000 hits. Substituting
'Jewish' for 'Tamil' produced 211,000 hits.
Why is the
talk of terrorism directed overwhelmingly at Muslims? Despite
the rhetoric of a 'global war on terrorism,' by now we know all
too well that this war is aimed at Muslims, mainly at Muslims
in the Middle East. This is a war of 'colonial pacification' of
Islamic lands: the Muslims must be 'pacified' to secure 'our'
oil wells in the Persian Gulf, and to entrench Israeli hegemony
over the Middle East. This is also a religious war for the radical
core of American evangelicals; it fits into their theology of
end times. We ignore this only at our peril.
here for other articles by M. Shahid Alam:
Has Regime Change Boomeranged?
An 'Islamic Civil War'
Pitting The West Against Islam
Not All Terrorists Are Muslim
Israel, The U.S. And The New Orientalism
The Muslims America Loves
Real Men Go To Tehran
Did Thomas Friedman Flunk History
Shahid Alam, professor of economics at a university in Boston,
is also a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of
his CounterPunch essays are now available
in the book, Is There An Islamic Problem? (Kuala Lumpur: The
Other Press, 2004). He is also the author of Challenging the
New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America's 'War
Against Islam' (IPI Publications: forthcoming).He may be reached
Overseas readers can click
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