Is The United States Foreign Policy As Barbaric And
Depraved As The Islamic State?
By William Blum
Their precious young minds and our precious
She was a redheaded rebel, the singer in the family, a
trash-talking, tattooed 21-year-old wrapped up in a hip-hop dream of
becoming Holland’s Eminem. Then Betsy found Allah. After her sudden
conversion to Islam last summer, Betsy began dressing in full Muslim robes.
By January, the once-agnostic Dutch woman, raised in a home where the only
sign of religion was a dusty Bible on a shelf, began defending homegrown
terrorists. … Denis Cuspert, a German hip-hop artist known as Deso Dogg who
converted in 2010 and later joined The Islamic State [ISIS], delivers a
rap-like chant portraying the path to jihad as a chance for empowerment,
spiritual fulfillment, vengeance and adventure. … ‘The door to jihad is
standing there waiting for you,’ says a Swedish convert to Islam in a video.
‘It is the fastest way to paradise.’ (1)
May 26, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - Tales told many times in recent
years, all over Europe, at times in the United States. Parents and authorities
are deeply distressed and perplexed. How can young people raised in the West –
the freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled West –
join the Islamic State and support the public cutting off of the heads of
breathing, living human beings? Each of us in our own way are lost souls
searching for answers to the awful mysteries of life. But THIS? What life-quest
does The Islamic State satisfy that our beloved West can’t satisfy? ISIS is
unique in the world in making US foreign policy look good. The Defense
Department and the State Department have special task forces studying the new
enemy; the latter regularly puts out videos to counteract the many Islamic State
I hope those researching the question look inwardly as well as at ISIS. How do
young people raised in the West – the same West we know and love – coldly
machine-gun to death more than a dozen Iraqis, men, women, children, reporters,
absolutely in cold blood, in the video made famous by Chelsea Manning; but this
of course is nothing compared to Fallujah with its two-headed babies, even
three-headed, an eye in the middle of the forehead. The Islamic State has done
nothing compared to what the United States did to the people of Fallujah. Can
anyone name a horror in all of history more gruesome? Yes, there are some, but
not many; and much of Fallujah was personally executed by nice, clean-cut,
freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled made-in
America young men.
Here’s US Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, in his memoir, April 6, 2004, the
time of Fallujah, in video teleconference with President Bush, Secretary of
State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “We’ve got to
smash somebody’s ass quickly,” said Powell. “There has to be a total victory
somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” Then Bush spoke: “At
the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be
arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop
the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher
than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We
can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. … There is
a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we
are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be
confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!” (2)
“Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in
freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with
the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima” in
World War II. – George W. Bush, 2006 (3)
Well, George, it’s either that or Fallujah was one of the key reasons for the
rise of ISIS.
My point here is not that United States foreign policy is as barbaric and
depraved as The Islamic State. It’s not. Most of the time. I simply hope to make
it a bit easier to understand the enemy by seeing ourselves without the stars in
our eyes. And I haven’t even mentioned what the United States has led the world
in for over a century – torture.
and ever-revealing subject of ideology
Jeb Bush has gotten himself into trouble because, like all politicians running
for office, he is unable to give simple honest answers to simple straightforward
questions, for fear of offending one or another segment of the population. How
refreshing it would be to have a politician say only what s/he actually
believes, even if it’s as stupid as usual.
The brother of the previous president has been asked repeatedly: “Knowing what
we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” At first his
answer was “yes”, then at times “I don’t know”, even “no” at least once, or he’s
refused to answer at all. Clearly he’s been guessing about which reply would win
him points with the most people, or which would lose him the least.
This caused a minor uproar, even among conservatives. Right-wing radio host
Laura Ingraham was moved to make a rare rational remark: “You can’t still think
that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to. If you
do, there has to be something wrong with you.”
Such discussions always leave out a critical point. Why did millions of
Americans, and even more millions abroad, march against the war in the fall of
2002 and early 2003, before it began? What did they know that the Bush brothers
and countless other politicians didn’t know? It was clear to the protesters that
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were habitual liars, that they couldn’t care less
about the people of Iraq, that the defenseless people of that ancient
civilization were going to be bombed to hell; most of the protesters knew
something about the bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Yugoslavia, or
Afghanistan; and they knew about napalm, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, etc.
Those who marched knew that the impending war was something a moral person could
not support; and that it was totally illegal, a textbook case of a “war of
aggression”; one didn’t have to be an expert in international law to know this.
Didn’t the Brothers Bush, Hillary Clinton (who voted for the war in the Senate),
et al know about any of these things? Of course they did. They just didn’t care
enough; supporting the empire’s domination and expansion was a given, and
remains so; no US politician gets very far – certainly not to the White House –
questioning the right of American Exceptionalism to impose itself upon humanity
(for humanity’s sake of course).
Consider the darlings du jour of the American Left, Senators Elizabeth Warren
and Bernie Sanders. They very seldom speak out critically about US foreign
policy or even the military budget. The anti-war/anti-imperialist segment of the
American left need to put proper pressure on the two senators.
Mr. Sanders should also be asked why he routinely refers to himself as a
“democratic socialist”. Why not just “socialist”? It’s likely a legacy of the
Cold War. I think that he and other political figures who use the term are,
consciously or unconsciously, trying to disassociate themselves from communism,
the Soviet Union, Marxism, etc., all those things that are not good for you.
(The word “socialist” once connoted furtive men with European accents, sinister
facial hair, and bombs.)
It would be delightful to hear Sanders openly declare that he is simply a
“socialist”. Socialism can be democratic; indeed, a lot more so than capitalism,
particularly concerning the distribution of wealth and all the ramifications of
that. Presented here are some relevant thoughts on these issues, from myself and
It’s only the socialists who maintain as a bedrock principle: People before
Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology
anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all
evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a
centralized, planned economy. (Oh my God, a damn Commie!) Modern society is much
too complex and technical to leave its operation in the hands of libertarians,
communitarians, or anarchists seeking to return to a “community” or “village”
“Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than
totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In
the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient
popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate
them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the
world views.” – Naomi Klein
“If it is true, as often said, that most socialist regimes turn out to be
dictatorships, that is largely because a dictatorship is much harder to
overthrow or subvert than a democracy.” – Jean Bricmont, Belgian author of
“Humanitarian Imperialism” (2006)
Without a proclaimed socialist vision, radical change becomes too many different
things for too many different individuals and groups.
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better
distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” – Martin
The United States is so fearful of the word “socialism” that it changed the
“social sciences” to the “behavioral sciences”.
If for no other reason than to save the environment, the world needs to abandon
the capitalist system. Every day, in every spot on earth, in a multitude of
ways, corporations are faced with a choice: to optimize profits or to do what’s
best for the planet.
The great majority of people in any society work for a salary. They don’t need
to be motivated by the profit motive. It’s not in anyone’s genes. Virtually
everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main
motivations are to help others, improve the quality of life of society, and
provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work. It’s not natural to be
primarily motivated by trying to win or steal “customers” from other people, no
holds barred, survival of the fittest or the least honest.
And what about this thing called “democracy”, or “majority rule”? Many millions
marched against the invasion of Iraq before it began. I don’t know of a single
soul who marched in favor of it, although I’m sure there must have been someone
somewhere. That lucky soul was the one they listened to.
Finally, the question being asked of Jeb Bush and others is not the best one.
They’re asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion
of Iraq?” A more important question would be: “Knowing what we knew then, would
you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” And the answer should be “no”,
because we knew that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his weapons of mass
destruction. This is very well documented, from diverse sources, international
and Iraqi, including Saddam himself and his chief lieutenants.
The American Mainstream Media – A Classic Tale Of Propaganda
“When an American warplane accidentally struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade
in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign …”
These words appeared in the Washington Post on April 24, 2015 as part of a story
about US drone warfare and how an American drone attack in Pakistan in January
had accidentally killed two Western aid workers. The Post felt no need to
document the Belgrade incident, or explain it any further. Almost anyone who
follows international news halfway seriously knows about this famous “accident”
of May 7, 1999. The only problem is that the story is pure propaganda.
Three people inside the Chinese embassy were killed and Washington apologized
profusely to Beijing, blaming outdated maps among other problems. However, two
well-documented and very convincing reports in The Observer of London in October
and November of that year, based on NATO and US military and intelligence
sources, revealed that the embassy had been purposely targeted after NATO
discovered that it was being used to transmit Yugoslav army communications. The
Chinese were doing this after NATO planes had successfully silenced the Yugoslav
government’s own transmitters. (5) The story of how the US mainstream media
covered up the real story behind the embassy bombing is absolutely embarrassing.
Over and above the military need, there may have been a political purpose
served. China, then as now, was clearly the principal barrier to US hegemony in
Asia, if not elsewhere. The bombing of the embassy was perhaps Washington’s
charming way of telling Beijing that this is only a small sample of what can
happen to you if you have any ideas of resisting or competing with the American
juggernaut. Since an American bombing campaign over Belgrade was already being
carried out, Washington was able to have a much better than usual “plausible
denial” for the embassy bombing. The opportunity may have been irresistible to
American leaders. The chance might never come again.
All of US/NATO’s other bombing “mistakes” in Yugoslavia were typically followed
by their spokesman telling the world: “We regret the loss of life.” These same
words were used by the IRA in Northern Ireland on a number of occasions over the
years following one of their bombings which appeared to have struck the wrong
target. But their actions were invariably called “terrorist”.
Undoubtedly, the US media will be writing of the “accidental” American bombing
of the Chinese embassy as long as the empire exists and China does not become a
member of NATO.
William Blum is
an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the
author of Killing Hope:
U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and
Rogue State: A Guide to the
World’s Only Superpower, among others.
1) Washington Post, May 7, 2015
2) Ricardo Sanchez, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), pages 349-350
3) Associated Press, November 11, 2006
4) William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, pp. 61-2
5) The Observer (London), October 17, 1999 (“Nato bombed Chinese deliberately”),
and November 28, 1999 (“Truth behind America’s raid on Belgrade”)
6) Extra! Update (magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR], New
York), December 1999; appeared first as solitary article October 22, 1999 (“U.S.
Media Overlook Expose on Chinese Embassy Bombing”)