The Endless War on Terrorism

It feels good when a public official, especially the president of the United States, speaks the truth, which is what happened on Monday when President George W. Bush uttered words that The Future of Freedom Foundation has been publishing ever since 9/11 — “I don’t think you can win [the war on terror].”

Well, duh! Of course, the president is absolutely right, even if he did backtrack a bit the following day with his claim, “We are winning and we will win [the war on terror].” The president was right the first time — the federal war on terror can no more be won than the federal war on drugs can be won, and efforts to “win” the war are only making matters worse for the American people.

When Americans were killed on 9/11, the response of most Americans was deep anger and a thirst for revenge over the loss of innocent life. But according to U.S. government officials, humans who are citizens of other countries are different — when their family members, friends, and countrymen are killed, it’s no big deal to them because human life supposedly has no value for them.

So, the argument goes, the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with the U.S. government’s killings of foreigners overseas because foreigners don’t care when their friends, relatives, and countrymen are killed. Losing their loved ones, the argument goes, is akin to losing, say, a plant in their backyard.

Thus, the 9/11 attacks, the argument goes, were instead motivated by hatred of America’s “freedom and values,” i.e., the First Amendment, religious freedom, Wal-Mart, and rock and roll, not by the loss of their loved ones at the hands of the U.S. government.

How logical is that?

Answer: It’s not logical at all. The truth is that foreigners hurt just as deeply when their loved ones and countrymen are killed as Americans do. Thus, when you factor in decades of brutal U.S. intervention in the Middle East (long before 9/11), including helping dictators to kill and torture their own people (e.g., the Shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein), the Persian Gulf intervention that not only killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis but also targeted Iraqi water and sewage treatment plants, the more than a decade of sanctions against the Iraqi people which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children without any remorse among U.S. officials, the illegal no-fly zones over Iraq, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the unconditional support of Israeli government policies, and then the illegal and unconstitutional invasion and occupation of Iraq which has killed or maimed tens of thousands more Iraqis, why would it surprise anyone that there would be a deep anger and a thirst for revenge among the people of the Middle East?

Thus, the reason the president felt the war on terrorism will never end is he simply cannot imagine a scenario in which the U.S. government isn’t meddling and intervening and killing in the Middle East and he simply cannot imagine that the foreigners get upset over it anyway. (Keep in mind that the U.S. government was doing bad things to people in the Middle East long before the 9/11 attacks and, for that matter, before the 1993 terror attack on the World Trade Center.)

In declaring that the war on terrorism can never be won, President Bush should have also mentioned that, coincidentally, the big beneficiary of all this is the federal government, because its power continues to grow and grow and grow under perpetual war.

Unfortunately, while speaking a partial truth, President Bush failed to tell the whole truth — that by altering U.S. foreign policy to prevent meddling, intervention, and killing in the Middle East (and elsewhere), the war on terrorism (and ever-growing big government) would come to an end for the simple reason that foreigners would no longer be suffering the deep anger and thirst for revenge that derives from the killing of their relatives, friends, and countrymen. That’s the only way to restore America to the road to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony among the peoples of the world.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.