Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Look at the Nineties: Blaming America's Policies for Terrorist Attacks

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the Blame America First, the America Is the Biggest Terrorist, crowd point to American policies as a cause of terrorism against us. Well, I have a few questions. For example, exactly what policies are they talking about? Lets review our policies of the nineties, which was the festering and recruitment period for Muslim extremist groups like Al-Qaeda. The terrorists that struck the U.S. on September 11, 2001 really began to come of age in the late nineties. If our policies are to blame, then it must be the policies of the nineties that caused such hatred. After all, according to a recent Pew poll of six Muslim countries found monumental drops in the number of Muslims who support the use of terrorism in defense of Islam and an increase in the number of Muslims who thought democracy could be successful in their respective countries. It sounds to me like the policies of the current decade may be reducing the enthusiasm for using terror as a tool but I digress; back to the nineties.
So what was it we did that was so awful in the nineties? First lets take a look at military actions taken by the US in the nineties. First on the list would be the Gulf War. What was that all about? Well, we fought a war to liberate a Muslim country, Kuwait, which had been brutally overrun by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; we also secured another Muslim country, Saudi Arabia to prevent it from being overrun by Iraq. And guess what; we did it for free. Actually that is not true, it cost the US money and lives and somehow we owed the Saudis money at the wars end. Some said then as they say now that it was all about protecting our oil interests. This is true but these countries along with many other oil producing countries would be poverty-stricken sandboxes if it were not for the Western world’s dependence on their oil. After the Gulf War we did not bring in our oil tankers and have a free for all with Saudi and Kuwaiti crude. We rebuilt their oil infrastructures, in Kuwait’s case, and we paid for the oil as always. We not only rescued and protected them but continue provide a market for their only resource.
In February of 1993 foreign terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City with a car bomb in the basement. This was the act of Al-Qaeda, a Muslim extremist group led by Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. reaction was that of a criminal investigation and in 1997 and 1998 six conspirators were sentenced to a total of 240 years in prison. Neither their sources of money and training nor their extremist brethren back in Afghanistan and elsewhere were subject to military action.
Also in 1993 was the Signing of the Oslo Accords, which reflected the U.S.’s unrelenting attempts to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, Arafat, the man who had encouraged so many Palestinian youth to blow themselves up for his cause would not get on board with the agreement for fear he would be killedby his own terrorist followers.
Next stop on the nineties timeline would be Somalia where the U.S. military was used to help distribute humanitarian aid to starving Somalis whose clan leaders were using hunger as a weapon. One must note that many U.S. troops were involved in Somalia over a period from December 1992 until May 1993 in operation Restore Hope. It was a UN sanctioned coalition, of course led by the U.S. When things heated up they were authorized to use whatever force necessary to see to it that food was distributed. This included the acts of heroism on the part of Task Force Ranger, made famous by Mark Bowden’s book and subsequent movie Blackhawk Down. Unfortunately, this story included the loss of 18 of Americans finest, largely because of lack of adequate air support and armor assets combined with poor planning. The U.S. responded to this loss of life by quickly withdrawing Task Force Ranger and later all troops in response to these deaths. None-the-less, Operation Restore Hope was considered a success and hundreds of thousands of Muslims got to eat, thanks to the U.S. led efforts.
One will likely recall the events of 1998 in which 2 of our embassies were bombed in Africa by Al-Qaeda. One was in Nairobi, Kenya and one was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Our primary response was not large scale military action on known terrorists hideouts and training camps; it was a law enforcement investigation.
Our little journey through time takes us now to Kosovo in 1999. From March through June of this year the U.S. led a coalition of NATO forces (minus France) to stop then Yugoslav President Milosevic from slaughtering the majority population in Kosovo who were ethnic Albanians. The Albanians were Muslims. The U.S. committed 31,600 personnel to this mission that successfully kept Milosevic in check and stopped the genocide of Muslim Albanians. To this day the US keeps a security force in Kosovo as well as Bosnia. One will recall Bosnia was the location of the slaughter of Muslims under the noses of UN peacekeepers in 1994.
Ushering in the next decade was the suicide attack on the USS Cole by six Yemeni extremists, Al-Qaeda. Seventeen American sailors died, thirty-nine were wounded. The U.S. response was another law enforcement investigation and changes in security policy and procedures for navy ships. It was not until 2004 when the first justice was dished out to those responsible by a CIA drone. It sent a hellfire missile into a bomber's car in Yemen. By then U.S. policies had changed. Subsequently the Yemeni court has sentenced two participants to death and others were sentenced from five to ten years in prison.
Our policies of the nineties also included foreign aid to Muslim countries. For example in 1995 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spent eight and a half million on improving Yemenis’ health. In 1998 USAID dropped $815,000,000 in Egypt. Assistance to Pakistan by USAID between 1985 and 1995 totaled $237,000,000 it was earmarked for child health and general welfare. These are the contributions of one US government agency, there are others. Also, there are numerous U.S. NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that dump money, material and personnel into Muslim countries in the form of humanitarian aid. Add to that the foreign aid by other western nations and Japan, also targeted by Islamic terrorists and I think you’ll get the picture. For example, Oman got close to $75,000,000 in aid from around the world in 1995. Arab countries such as Kuwait and Qatar do not get any foreign aid because they are simply very wealthy because of the oil western industrial countries buy from them.
Now lets summarize the awful policies of the U.S. in the nineties. Militarily we spent our time, money and American lives preventing genocide of Muslims, the starvation of Muslims and we liberated Muslims and rebuilt their means of drilling and pumping oil. Muslim terrorists attacked us and we did not respond militarily with a heavy hand. We handled these cases as law enforcement issues, wearing kid gloves.
So if these are the policies of which the anti-Americans among us speak, they seem to me to be Muslim friendly. I would say that that we bent over backward to help Muslims in the nineties. In short this was a policy of appeasement. It did not work. Which is no surprise, you cannot appease radical Islamists who, as Bin Laden stated, will not rest until the U.S. is a Muslim state. But did these policies cause the hatred of the Muslim world? No, America is not to be blamed for provoking attacks due to our so-called evil policies. First of all, all of the Muslims in the world don’t hate us but that is beside the point. The extremists hate us regardless of what we do for them or their people. I would, however, argue that our policies of minimal response to the terrorist acts in the nineties certainly emboldened and motivated them. Appeasement did not prevent attacks and sadly yesterday's headlines of a suicide bomber lighting himself up in a bus station in Israel demonstrate that appeasement is not a tool for use against terrorists of any kind. It marked the first attack on Israel by the Palestinians sine Israel withdrew it citizens with force from the Gaza strip to appease the Palestinians.
So before Americans and others start with their America the Bad Guy mantras maybe they should take the time to educate themselves on the facts of the matter and evaluate them objectively. Emotion is not a good filter of reality. The U.S. has made and still makes policies that help Muslims. The few radicals that want us all killed will not relent regardless of our policies in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.
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