I have no idea who was involved in the latest atrocity in Paris, the Russian airplane bombing in the Sinai, the attacks in South Beirut or recent siege in Mali, but I’m pretty sure there will be a long line of those only too willing to take credit for the mayhem; and even more talking heads assigning blame based upon their "experience," source information, or six figure paychecks from main stream media, as token resident "terrorism" experts for sale. Who cares.
The real issue is what, if anything, can be done to stanch the mindless bloodletting that has become routine in many corners of the world today. The answer is simple- as was successfully done in Vietnam, declare victory and get out.
Putting aside, for the moment, the lawlessness of it all, the days of identifying the "bad guy" and simply taking him or her out are long gone. Other than Israeli slaughters of Palestinians, the all too simplistic notion that there are tight- knit hierarchical organizations or a calibrated theology ultimately responsible for massacres of civilians, be it in France, Tunisia, Baghdad or Kenya, may sell to a now clearly numbed and frightened public, but ultimately it’s just so much fool’s gold. We all see how successful the targeted drone murders of "key" terrorists throughout the Middle East and Africa have been and, of course, the assassination of Osama Bin Laden did prove to be a watershed moment in turning back the clock to the warm comforting days of TV’s "Father Knows Best." The bottom line: it’s all too little, too late, and if it wasn’t so damned deadly, downright silly.
For far too long, the civilian body count has grown higher and higher throughout the world, piled mostly with the remains of Muslims… some of whom just don’t seem to appreciate the superior Judeo/Christian traditions of peace and love which, to some degree, have fueled it… and who have long been the favorite targets of the marauding faith-based West and its surrogate states. Of course, when the mayhem is caused or viewed by the West as necessary to protect its own claimed interests or that of friends, or to fulfill so-called treaty obligations with other neocolonial powers, the bombs, drones, and water-boarding they use are just fine; always, of course, carried out in the name of democracy and security. The bottom line: the West needs to get out of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia completely leaving the folks on the ground to decide their own fate, in their own countries, in their own ways, as they, alone, determine their course for existence
For generations the West carved up foreign regions where most of the fighting is ongoing today, stealing their natural resources, anointing archaic despotic regimes and promoting or turning a blind eye to human rights violations by regimes who host meaningless conferences in exotic ports with marching bands that can’t play their own national anthems yet are adept playing those of Western leaders who attend to protect their own colonial self-interests… even as those very interests crash and burn.
Unfortunately, at its core, the imperial notion continues that the "first" world has the best laid plans, the finest of motives and, of course, all the answers to dampen, if not extinguish, revolutionary fervor by hundreds of millions of mostly principled and determined women and men throughout the "third-world", seeking nothing more than true independence and the ability to chart a future for themselves and their families… removed from shadows of world capitals thousands of miles from the streets and fields they call home. Tragically, it seems the cultural, religious and racial arrogance of the West is reason enough to cause an endless stream of alienated and angry youth to throw themselves under the proverbial bus and, in so doing, drag a bunch of other innocents along with them. To view today’s violence in a vacuum and simply the result of an age-old messianic religious call, is to guarantee future generations of death and destruction leading to continued head-scratching and failure to figure out reasons behind it.
Today, much of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia are in the midst of a tumultuous revolutionary period like that of the West not so very long ago. It’s bloody indeed. In these regions, Western, and now Russian, forces are holding on for dear geopolitical life as they see final vestiges of their imperial run collapse in the face of indigenous aspirations of people fighting to eradicate lingering images of foreign intervention, still running and ruining their lives..
The historical road of freedom, tragically paved with the blood of today’s civilians, runs parallel to centuries of colonial exploitation of these regions. Specifically, in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine in the Middle East, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, the Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia on the African continent… and elsewhere… the streets exploding with nationalist bombs were designed and long controlled by France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Still, today, these and other former colonial powers have apparently missed the message… there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is no longer Jacque, Neville, Hans, or Billy Bob.
Indeed, as long as the West continues to interfere with, or tries to micro-manage, the destinies of age-old regions, by direct intervention or through the repressive control of hand chosen home grown agents, we simply will not see an end to militant, often deadly, resistance in the capitals of third world states or mindless revenge carried out in the streets of the more "civilized" West. Its all too easy and convenient to forget there’s nothing uniquely Western about the natural instinct of people to crave freedom or resist occupation, be it political, military, or economic, home grown or foreign.
History regales those generations who fought to chart their own course in the light of the needs, priorities, and aspirations of their own developing states and people. Indeed, the thirst for independence is very much a constant of life dating back to man’s beginnings eons before the West’s greed-driven redesign of the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century to suit its own economic and political self-interests. How conveniently forgetful are historical memory banks of the United States, France and Russia in overlooking those millions who sacrificed their lives in homegrown revolutions to gain freedom from colonial or monarchical rule.
Not ones to weary from the drain of their own deadly roots, many in the West returned not long thereafter to vicious and deadly internecine warfare often destroying large swaths of their own countries in pursuit of domestic political power. No more damning example can be found than in the case of the U.S. Civil War. In four years of carnage there were more than a million casualties. One out of every 30 who lived in the US at that time was a victim of this horrible bloodbath. During this dark period, dozens of cities, villages and farmlands throughout the South were burned to the ground… including Atlanta, Georgia which was leveled to accomplish little more than terrorizing its civilian population. This devastation was carried out without the aid of today’s high-tech weaponry, communication systems, or outside intervention.
The descendants of those who fought and died to obtain freedom from earlier colonial architects unfortunately forgot the price their ancestors paid, or why, as they themselves later established their own colonial fiefdoms well beyond the shores of their own countries. With missionary zeal that typically reduced highly sophisticated millennium-old religions, cultures and traditions to mere trappings and idolatry of "savages," Western powers took control of entire continents by military might and economic force. When the smoke cleared, millions of so-called rebels lay dead with new states artificially created everywhere to suit the needs of their occupiers and the iron-fisted rule of their obedient local surrogates.
In Southwest Africa men, women and children were driven by Germany into the desert where they were forced into labor camps and denied food and water. Hundreds of thousands perished. Germany repeated this "trail of tears" in East Africa where it burned countless villages to the ground, murdering upwards of 300,000 natives. In its South African "burn and capture" campaigns, after destroying 20,000 farms, Great Britain displaced hundreds of thousands of Africans… relocating them to isolated tent cities behind barbed wire without sufficient food, medical attention, and blankets to survive. Tens of thousands, mostly women and children, died of malnutrition and disease. In Ethiopia, and elsewhere, Italy used poison gas to put down rebellions by restive nationalists.. In Afghanistan, during the Soviet invasion and occupation, upwards of a million Afghanis lost their lives as Russia bombed and depopulated rural areas creating a refugee flight of some four million. Sound familiar?
Today we enter the seventh decade of rebellions in many of these once occupied lands where, one by one, Western powers have been defeated by local uprisings. In the mid-twentieth century, Algerians rose up and overthrew the colonial tyranny of France that had long oppressed and exploited them for their natural resources. In that rebellion, it’s estimated that there were upwards of one million Algerian casualties. While hundreds of thousands of civilians were detained and tortured, millions more were forcibly displaced as their homes and businesses were destroyed. Under France’s scorched earth policy numerous peasant villages were eradicated by napalm. For many years, France remained no less a colonial tyrant to millions in Syria and Lebanon. Even today, its deadly military reach rages on in the Middle East and Africa with its forces deployed in Syria, Iraq, Mauritania and, not long ago, even in tiny Mali. Of course, US, British, and German missiles also continue to rain down throughout these regions driving more and more civilians into the camp of the desperate… those willing to risk and sacrifice all, including others, in the name of self-determination.
It’s been more than twenty years since the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. The attack on a US military base in Dahran, Saudi Arabia occurred three years later. The so-called Twin Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania occurred in 1998 and the attack on the US Cole some two years later in the port of Aden in Yemen. The destruction of the World Trade Center is now rubbing up against some fifteen years of blind, often mindless revenge triggered in part by their destruction. Over two decades of the West’s so-called war on terror, we have seen well more than a million and a half civilians slaughtered in the Middle East alone… largely by Western military intervention. Although these attacks have been carried out at times under the umbrella of NATO or the United Nations, in reality, most of the death and destruction has been meted out through the hands of the United States and its immediate allies… in particular France and Great Britain. Indeed, in the most recent run-up by the West to bring "freedom, security and prosperity" to the third-world, we’ve seen once vibrant states destroyed with millions reduced to refugees fleeing violence profitable not only to those making armaments but to international conglomerates poised to swoop in and exploit natural resources from regions aflame with carnage caused or funded by foreign armies. Over this period, much of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia have been left in ruins… largely leveled by foreign-employed or supplied high tech weapons and policy decisions reached many thousands of miles away from the burning fields of the Middle East and Africa.
I mourn for the hundreds of civilians recently slaughtered in France and on a Russian airliner. To target, take hostage, or murder civilians for political ends, indeed for any end, is evil in its most evil form. However, it is no more evil than state sponsored terrorism carried out by the West and Russia for decades in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere that has left a trail of mass death and destruction where they have put their own political and economic self-interests above those of the billions who call these regions home.
Today, Congress is once again exploiting a tragedy as it debates extension of the largest domestic surveillance operation in history, recently uncovered and declared illegal by federal courts under US Law, all in the empty guise of national security. Predictably, numerous US governors and other petty politicians are posturing to win votes at the expense of a relative handful of vulnerable and desperate refugees fleeing mayhem largely caused by American dollars through their unconstitutional demand that we pick and choose who can come to the United States, and who cannot, based on little more than their national roots and religious beliefs.
Religion and belief-based fear mongering is not at all new in this country. Once, our ancestors feared witches and burned women. Long ago, it was unleashed during the so-called Palmer Raids in the early twentieth century when immigrants… then mostly Jews and Italians… were rounded up and jailed; many deported because of their political leanings, associations, and religious beliefs. In World War II, we interred hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans solely on the basis of their ancestry…destroying families, businesses, and entire communities along the way. In the shadow of 9-11, we saw the same xenophobic hatred unleashed through ugly political rhetoric, harassment, and physical attacks upon vulnerable Muslims and recent immigrants of color. Often, Muslims, Arabs, and Africans who neither broke the law, nor urged others to do so, were detained… some for years through illegal immigration and "security" sweeps. Many found themselves added to no-fly lists, saw bank accounts frozen or attended mosques that were illegally surveilled and harassed. Hundreds of thousands of mainly Middle Eastern, African and Southeast Asian immigrants eventually fled the United States… once again seeking safety from the tyranny of those who terrorize because they can.
Not to be undone, throughout Europe, doors are now being kicked in as "anti-terror" forces swoop down to detain, often indefinitely, those unfortunate enough to be named Mohammed or Nadia and who arrived in their new homes through earlier refugee flights to find safety and start new lives, only to once again be subjected to religious and race based hatred fueled by events in which they played no role. How long before European newspapers, mosques and borders are closed, refugees refused and immigrants deported in a mad futile rush to make communities in the West "safe" by further punishing the most vulnerable among them, civilians already victimized, in the countries of their birth, by mass carnage from which they fled.
Meanwhile, US drones, French jets, British tanks and Russian missiles are being readied to unleash another day of vicious, punishing attacks too often upon defenseless civilians abroad whose only crime is to live in the wrong place at the wrong time as they are caught up in a political crossfire between the new and very old worlds warring over which will control the economic and political destiny of several billion people in the years to come.
Enough is enough. Declare victory. End the madness. Come home.
Stanley Cohen is a noted Human Rights Attorney who, among a long list of prominent clients, represented Mousa Abu Marzook, as well other Hamas leaders, conducted work for alleged leaders of Hezbollah, represented the son-in law of Osama Bin Laden (Suliman AbuGhayth) in NYC, worked on behalf of prisoners detained in Gitmo and last year tried unsuccessfully, with former members of AQ and Gitmo veterans, to obtain release of US hostage Peter Kassig through discussions with ISIS. He has appeared several times on "Open Borders, with Ahmed Mansour, participated in the Doha Debates and is currently banned from entering both Israel and Egypt. From prison, he posts at the website Caged But Undaunted.