It’s Not the Koran, It’s Us

The corporate media chorus willfully ignores that U.S. actions, not Islam, fuel jihadism.

Leonard C. Goodman December 30, 2014

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab after a strike from a U.S.-led coalition on October 14. (Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

For a brief time after the 911 ter­ror attacks, Amer­i­cans could be heard ask­ing the rea­son­able ques­tion: Why do these men from Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries (back then, most­ly Saud­is) hate us so much that they would give their own lives to cause us pain? With­in a few weeks, the offi­cial expla­na­tion became: They hate us for our free­dom, end of story.

A UN report suggests that Washington’s latest air campaign against ISIS has led foreign militants to join the movement on 'an unprecedented scale.'

When you fol­low the mon­ey, it is easy to under­stand why the gov­ern­ment avoid­ed any hon­est dis­cus­sion of the caus­es of ter­ror­ism. By one esti­mate, U.S. tax­pay­ers have squan­dered $10 tril­lion over four decades to pro­tect the flow of oil on behalf of multi­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions. The result is an empire of U.S. mil­i­tary bases which have gar­risoned the Greater Mid­dle East. In the Per­sian Gulf alone, the Unit­ed States has bases in every coun­try save Iran. These bases sup­port repres­sive, unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic regimes, and act as stag­ing grounds to launch wars, inter­ven­tions and drone strikes. And they gen­er­ate tremen­dous prof­its for defense contractors.

The exis­tence of these bases helps gen­er­ate rad­i­cal­ism, anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment and ter­ror­ist attacks. The drone attacks have incit­ed even more hatred for us, which should come as lit­tle sur­prise. The U.S. uses drones to incin­er­ate sus­pect­ed mil­i­tants (and any­one else in the vicin­i­ty) on secret evi­dence, but only if they are liv­ing in Mus­lim nations like Pak­istan, Yemen, Iraq or Soma­lia. We don’t fly killer drones over dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hoods in Detroit or Chica­go, or in Iguala, Mex­i­co, where 43 stu­dents were recent­ly mas­sa­cred by gang mem­bers aid­ed by cor­rupt police.

The fact that our mis­guid­ed for­eign pol­i­cy cre­ates ter­ror­ism is almost nev­er dis­cussed in polite soci­ety. There is of course no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a ter­ror attack on inno­cents. But if our lead­ers tru­ly cared as much about pro­tect­ing Amer­i­cans from ter­ror as they do about pro­tect­ing cor­po­rate prof­its, they would have an hon­est dis­cus­sion of what’s prompt­ing the violence.

The truth is that near­ly every ter­ror attack or threat to Amer­i­ca by an Islam­ic extrem­ist can be direct­ly linked to blow­back” from our ven­tures in the Mid­dle East. Osama bin Laden cit­ed the pres­ence of U.S. troops on Sau­di holy land as a moti­va­tion for the 911 attacks. Dzhokhar Tsar­naev said the Boston marathon bomb­ing was ret­ri­bu­tion for the U.S. crimes against Mus­lims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.” Faisal Shahzad said his attempt­ed bomb­ing in Times Square was retal­i­a­tion for U.S. drone attacks” in Pak­istan, which he had per­son­al­ly wit­nessed. The under­wear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdul­mu­tal­lab, said that his attempt to blow up a U.S. air­lin­er bound for Detroit was revenge for U.S. attacks on Mus­lims. Last month in Chica­go, a teenag­er was arrest­ed attempt­ing to trav­el to Syr­ia to join ISIS. He explained in a let­ter to his par­ents that he was upset that he was oblig­at­ed to pay tax­es that would be used to kill his Mus­lim broth­ers and sis­ters over­seas. But when the Chica­go Tri­bune told the sto­ry, it left this fact out, instead report­ing that the teen had com­plained about the immoral­i­ty of West­ern society.

And long before the Sen­ate released its damn­ing tor­ture report, Al Qae­da and ISIS were using accounts of U.S. tor­ture as a recruit­ing tool.

The truth about what is rad­i­cal­iz­ing Mus­lims to hate the West is rarely dis­cussed in the main­stream press or in polit­i­cal debate. Instead, we are told by cor­po­rate-fund­ed ter­ror experts like the Brook­ings Institution’s William McCants and the Aspen Institute’s Frances Townsend that Islam is the ori­gin of rad­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy. Anti-Amer­i­can jihadis sup­pos­ed­ly learn to hate by read­ing the Koran and going to mosques. So one-sided is the dis­cus­sion that even Bill Maher, a promi­nent lib­er­al, has pub­licly described Islam as the one reli­gion in the world that kills you when you dis­agree with them.”

With the launch of our lat­est mul­ti-bil­lion-dol­lar war in Iraq and Syr­ia, the Unit­ed States has now bombed at least 13 coun­tries in the Greater Mid­dle East since 1980. A UN report sug­gests that Washington’s lat­est air cam­paign against ISIS has led for­eign mil­i­tants to join the move­ment on an unprece­dent­ed scale.” This time, the ter­ror experts haven’t both­ered to pre­tend that we have a coher­ent plan or any chance of improv­ing the dire sit­u­a­tion in those coun­tries. Still, they agree that ISIS mil­i­tants’ anti‑U.S. hatred orig­i­nates with their Islam­ic faith and is unre­lat­ed to any U.S. actions.

As the nov­el­ist Upton Sin­clair once observed: It is dif­fi­cult to get a man to under­stand some­thing when his job depends on not under­stand­ing it.

Leonard Good­man is a Chica­go crim­i­nal defense lawyer and Adjunct Pro­fes­sor of Law at DePaul University.
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