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July 11, 2015

Smarter Foreign Policies or Bigger Blowbacks?

Ralph Nader

Are Washington’s relentless bombings and military immersions in sectarian battles
within Arab and neighboring regions accelerating the spread of terrorist attacks? Yes.
The recent rash of terror attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, Somalia, France, and other
countries are tragic examples of the strategic failures of our government and its very
heavy reliance on military interventions, including the omnipresent drones that
terrorize civilians.

From the first bombings of al-Qaeda’s small band of fighters in the mountains of
Afghanistan to the toppling of the Taliban government there by President George
Bush in 2001, all Washington’s weaponry, soldiers, and trillions of dollars have
accomplished is to spread al-Qaeda’s numerous offshoots into over a dozen countries.

The CIA calls this “blowback.” For fourteen years this “blowback” has destabilized
countries, initiated civil wars costing millions of mostly civilian lives and leaving others
sickened and injured, and caused many families to be driven out of their homes as
masses of weeping refugees.

In the meantime, hatred of the U.S. in those regions grows. The attackers we have
helped to provoke are becoming better trained on how to use their weaponry to
create more devastation over larger ranges of territories.

Could there have been an overreaction by the U.S. militarists, including Republicans
such as Senator Lindsay Graham (R- SC) and Democrats such as then-Senator John
Kerry (D-MA)? Kerry, especially, had a record in the Senate so extreme as to criticize
the belligerent Bush/Cheney administration for not deploying more weaponry and
soldiers and invading more countries.

The effects of this widespread violence that overrides sovereign rights of other
countries and violates international law and our Constitution also have ongoing
domestic consequences. All empires eventually devour themselves; the U.S. is
proving to be no exception. Unlawful mass surveillance and violations of due process
and civil liberties by the misnamed Patriot Act have created a climate of suspicion that
criminalizes speech and expands malicious prosecutions.

Moreover, trillions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been wasted destroying other
countries and bloating our military budget. Our soldiers and veterans pay the price
with painful (physical, mental, and emotional) experiences. The massive sums of
taxpayer dollars could have been used to create well-paying jobs repairing and
rebuilding America’s crumbling public facilities—its schools, water/sewage systems,
public transit, roads, bridges, airports, ports, clinics, libraries, and parks. Knee-jerk
militarism and corporatism do nothing to improve the quality of life in our country or to
promote global security.

Our government spends tens of billions of dollars on intelligence gathering and
strategic planning. Yet, our government officials seem to have underestimated the
impact that these policies have on our adversaries abroad. Our vulnerabilities have
revealed themselves through profitable fear-mongering. One significant terror attack
can, once again, turn our country upside–down and continue to divert our resources
and attention away from very serious health and safety priorities that can save
countless American lives here at home.

Osama bin Laden wanted economic damage and suffering in the U.S. after 9/11 far
more than he wanted to cause a mass loss of life. He is getting his wish for U.S.
immolation, year after year.

When is our government going to admit that fighting terror with more mechanized
state terror is not working? We have much more to lose than those adversaries in
these impoverished countries. They are there every day and night, knowing their
terrain, their tribes, and how to appeal to cultural stamina for repelling foreign

Some have asserted that all this American “blood and treasure” was worth it because
there has not been another 9/11. However, this has been rebuked by subsequent
evidence that has shown that al-Qaeda had no second strike capability in the U.S.
The hijackings on 9/11 revealed the many weaknesses in aviation security, from a
lack of proper screenings to unhardened cockpit doors to government agencies not
sharing counterterrorism intelligence.

Unfortunately, there is no indication that the Obama administration has any diplomatic
plan to extricate our country from these uncontrollable vortexes, including Hillary
Clinton’s undeclared, unfunded war on Libya and the chaotic, violent aftermath that
has spread into central Africa.

There needs to be a stronger focus on humanitarian programs to help those suffering
from the death and destruction in their communities and countries. That is the real
way to win “hearts and minds” and for those with a focus on the bottom-line, it is far
cheaper in the long run to fund development in these regions than it is to fund our
ever-growing militarism. As Ashraf Ghani has explained well before being elected
President of Afghanistan, justice is the best answer to terrorism. The alternative is
perpetual, expanding wars with no exit strategy.

Maybe our peace-waging groups such as Veterans for Peace, composed of men and
women who have served in hot wars, can gain access to some presidential
candidates, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Governor Martin O’Malley
(D-MD), and James Webb (former Senator (D-VA) and Secretary of the Navy), who
could launch a serious national focus on replacing the failed militarization of foreign
policy that is eating away at our country’s future.