Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Earlier today I posted an exchange between Spencer Ackerman and Pat Buchanan on MSNBC's "Morning Joe". The point that I wanted to make was that after incidents like the failed terrorist bombing of the Northwest flight on Christmas, we often see the reactionaries come out of the woodwork.

Like Buchanan they argue for torture as well as for racial profiling and preemptive military strikes against whichever country the suspect(s) is/are from. It is a disconcerting pattern that always takes us two steps backward in meaningful discussions on how to handle these threats to the country.

One important point that receives little to no discussion within the corporate media is the cause and effect cycle that has been repeated time and time again in these incidents. Glenn Greenwald highlights this point in this post today. Here is an excerpt:

In the wake of the latest failed terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines, one can smell the excitement in the air -- that all-too-familiar, giddy, bipartisan climate that emerges in American media discourse whenever there's a new country we get to learn about so that we can explain why we're morally and strategically justified in bombing it some more. "Yemen" is suddenly on every Serious Person's lips. We spent the last month centrally involved to some secret degree in waging air attacks on that country -- including some that resulted in numerous civilian deaths -- but everyone now knows that this isn't enough and it's time to Get Really Serious and Do More.

For all the endless, exciting talk about the latest Terrorist attack, one issue is, as usual, conspicuously absent: motive. Why would a young Nigerian from a wealthy, well-connected family want to blow himself up on one of our airplanes along with 300 innocent people, and why would Saudi and Yemeni extremists want to enable him to do so?


Despite that taboo, evidence always ends up emerging on this question. As numerous reports have indicated, the Al Qaeda group in the Arabian Peninsula has said that this attempted attack is in "retaliation" for the multiple, recent missile attacks on Yemen in which numerous innocent Muslim civilians were killed, as well as for the U.S.'s multi-faceted support for the not-exactly-democratic Yemeni government. That is similar to reports that Nidal Hasan was motivated to attack Fort Hood because "he was upset at the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan."


As always, the most confounding aspect of the reaction to the latest attempted terrorist episode is the professed confusion and self-righteous innocence that is universally expressed. Whether justified or not, we are constantly delivering death to the Muslim world. We do not see it very much, but they certainly do. Again, independent of justification, what do we think is going to happen if we continuously invade, occupy and bomb Muslim countries and arm and enable others to do so? Isn't it obvious that our five-front actions are going to cause at least some Muslims -- subjected to constant images of American troops in their world and dead Muslim civilians at our hands, even if unintended -- to want to return the violence? Just look at the bloodthirsty sentiments unleashed among Americans even from a failed Terrorist attempt. What sentiments do we think we're unleashing from a decade-long (and continuing and increasing) multi-front "war" in the Muslim war?

In a media world full of pundits who immediately label terror suspects as the epitome of evil, a deeper discussion of causation is often missed. This is the same thing that happened after 9/11 and after countless other attempts at acts of terrorism. Isn't it slightly obvious that the bombing and occupation of Muslim countries could spawn the kind of backlash that would motivate someone to retaliate against the country that is doing the bombing? It would be nice to see these points inserted into the mainstream discussions after incidents like these.

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