Politicians and pundits continue to discuss alleged terror suspect Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Time Square, but few are asking the obvious—how could our wars on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere have prevented an individual like Shahzad from trying to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil? Furthermore, to what extent do our wars in the Middle East inspire such attacks? Aren’t we “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here?” And if so, why are we still fighting them here?
In December, when it was discovered that the so-called “underwear bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had visited Yemen, I jokingly asked my radio audience, “So are we going to start bombing Yemen now?” The very next day, Senator Joe Lieberman said we should consider military action against Yemen, something that nation’s president quickly warned would only create more terrorists. Given Shahzad’s current place of residence and following Lieberman’s logic, perhaps we should now start bombing Connecticut? If that terrorist-harboring state could be magically transplanted to a more oil-rich, defense contractor-benefitting and Israel-approximate location, no doubt Lieberman might consider it.
Since taking office, President Obama has supported the drastic increase of drone strikes on Pakistan where civilian casualties have been noticeably high, or as the Los Angeles Times reports “Civilian deaths caused by Western arms are a source of deep anger in Pakistan.” Unlike virtually everyone else, international affairs expert Stephen Walt has dared to ask the obvious concerning Shahzad, writing in Foreign Policy magazine: “then there’s the question of why he tried to do this. Based on the still-sketchy information I’ve read so far, it seems likely that he wanted to kill Americans in New York City because he didn’t like our killing people in Central Asia. (Most of our victims are suspected terrorists, but we sometimes kill innocent civilians by mistake). Whether he was acting alone or in cahoots with Pakistani extremists, his abortive attack was probably a response to our efforts to eradicate terrorist groups in Pakistan via drone strikes and other special operations. In short, he decided to enlist in the ‘war on terror,’ but not on America’s side.” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Quresh, who seems to be plagued by the same sort of pesky logic as Yemen’s president, told CBS News of the Pakistan-born Shahzad, “This is retaliation. And you could expect that … let’s not be naïve… They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you (to) sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”
Shahzad’s alleged attempt was only one of many in Times Square since 9/11, and such incidents have not-so-coincidentally correlated with the further entrenchment of the United States in the Middle East, a phenomenon the CIA calls “blowback.” Mainstream media discussions that attempt to address Islamic terrorism while pretending “blowback” doesn’t exist, are about as useful as Obama officials who try to address the national deficit while pretending their own, expensive agenda doesn’t exist. Those who still naively contend that such terrorism has nothing to do with our foreign interventionism, but is exclusively due to some Islamic plan to dominate the world or “Caliphate,” should remember that New Yorkers attending the Broadway premiere of “My Fair Lady” in 1956 never had to worry about any car bombs bringing down the house, much less Times Square. Since Islam isn’t exactly a brand new religion, has the Koran been rewritten to be more intolerant of “freedom” than it was during Broadway’s golden age? Or could it possibly be something else?
With Shahzad, some military analysts are inclined to think it might be something else, or as The American Conservative’s Chase Madar writes: “David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, respectively a former adviser to General Petraeus and a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, are both leading theorists of counterinsurgency warfare at the Center for a New American Security. They have testified before Congress that drone strikes are perceived to be wildly inaccurate—killing, they say, 700 people in attacks on 14 targets—and are undermining the ‘hearts and minds’ offensive that is central to the campaign. They recommend scrapping drone attacks. And then there is the American Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who happens to be a retired Army general. In leaked cables to the president, Eikenberry severely questioned the wisdom of the counterinsurgency campaign and the escalation… Is anyone listening to these well-informed skeptics?”
Obviously they’re not being listened to and worse, no one seems to be having similar conversations that actually address the root problem of why Islamic terrorists do what they do. In the minds of many Democrats, Obama’s Bush-style foreign policy is anything but, and too many Republicans believe we would be fighting even more terrorists on American soil if it were not for our wars overseas, with Shahzad only making it as far as he did because Obama is somehow wimpier than Dubya. It’s hard to imagine a more insane view of foreign policy. They fight us over here precisely because we are over there—and they will continue to do so until Americans find the will or the wisdom to finally question what their country is doing over there in the first place.