On October 2, 2015, Russia began dropping bombs in Syria, which has been engulfed in civil war since an uprising against brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. Over 210,000 have died, and millions of refugees are fleeing to Europe.
Russia claimed to be targeting the Islamic State (ISIS), the extremist group that’s taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq, but the U.S. quickly accused Russia of focusing more on anti-Assad forces (which the U.S. is supporting) than ISIS (which the U.S. is bombing). Russia supports Assad, in the same way the U.S. has spent a century aiding the most murderous dictators in the Middle East and around the globe.
In reality, ISIS is an anti-Assad force, just one the U.S. doesn’t fund and arm. ISIS policy is to overthrow Assad and take the rest of Syria. So the Obama administration is both supporting and bombing anti-Assad forces, insisting it supports only “moderate” rebels.
But a classified Pentagon report from August 2012, exposed this past May, revealed the U.S. supported AQI, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other extremist groups in their fight against Assad (this was later acknowledged by the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency). The report predicted these extremists would combine to form something like the Islamic State, helpful in “unifying the jihad” against Assad, but warning it could “create grave danger” to the region. The military decided to continue supporting the extremists despite this risk.
The U.S. instantly condemned Russia for getting involved, declaring the deaths of civilians under Russian bombs “will only fuel more extremism and radicalization.”
The Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, while insisting U.S. drones were far more accurate than Russia bombers and thus didn’t kill as many innocents, said, “We believe if you inadvertently kill innocent men, women and children, then there’s a backlash from that…. We might kill three and create 10 terrorists. It really goes back to the question of are we killing more than we’re making?”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Russia was “pouring gasoline on the fire,” warning the bombings would “backfire.”
These were all said with straight faces. If only they were honest warnings against making the same mistakes as the U.S., rather than an unhealthy mix of hypocrisy, historical amnesia, and nationalist lust to control global events. Everything the officials said was true, they just don’t believe it applies to the U.S.
Yet without question violent U.S. foreign policy creates new terror groups. The bloody U.S. bombing and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, which killed over 1 million people, attracted terrorists from throughout the Arab world, some of whom formed Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which later formed ISIS.
After September 11, 2001, intelligence officials warned the Bush administration that violence would breed more enemies. According to foreign policy intellectual Noam Chomsky (Hopes and Prospects), a Pentagon advisory panel, referring to a quote from Bush, said, “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather they hate our policies.” A CIA official in charge of tracking Osama bin Laden called the U.S. “bin Laden’s only indispensable ally” because how our wars fueled extremism.
Abu Musab Al-Suri, an Al-Qaeda strategist, said “the war in Iraq almost single-handedly rescued the jihadi movement.” Acting CIA director Mike Morell said in last month that Al-Qaeda’s “great victory” was the spread of its ideology in the last 14 years.
Looking back even further, bin Laden, originally waging jihad against the Soviets occupying Afghanistan in the 1980s, declared war on the U.S. after U.S. military interventions in the Middle East in the 1980s and 90s.
In his 1996 “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” and his 2002 “Letter to America,” bin Laden gave his justifications for violence: U.S. military bases near Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, U.S. support for Israel, the massive death toll of innocent Muslim civilians in Somalia, Lebanon, and especially Iraq during and after the 1991 Gulf War (over 500,000 Iraqi children under age 5 died as a result of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Iraqi army was driven from Kuwait; U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeline Albright infamously said, “We think the price is worth it”).
Bin Laden wrote in 2002, “Why are we fighting and opposing you? …Because you attacked us and continue to attack us…. [Y]our forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them.”
The rest of the story is easy enough for Americans to remember: Al-Qaeda bombing the World Trade Center, American embassies, and an American warship in the 1990s, and finally the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001.
This backstory does not serve to justify the atrocities committed by Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the like. It illustrates the cause-and-effect relationship of foreign military intervention and terrorism, how violence creates more violence.
Bombing Middle East nations, supporting brutal dictators, and aiding certain factions in a civil war could very well lead to Russia’s own 9/11.
And as for the U.S.? The day after it condemned Russia’s attacks, the U.S. bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including three children.