In the years immediately following September 11th, 2001, one would occasionally hear exasperated anti-war progressives pointing out that you can’t declare war on a tactic. No, but as the progressive intelligentsia soon realized, you can wage war with a tactic. That is precisely what the West has done. Washington, Europe, Israel, and Saudi Arabia principally have harnessed terrorism as a tool to advance the West’s globalist agenda. . At the behest of the western ruling classes, the criminal plutocracy that controls the ‘commanding heights’ of global capital, this coalition of nations have together have shaped Islamic extremism into a powerful weapon against its enemies, which are the countries that refuse to submit to the “Washington Consensus” view of the world, a globalized world market funded by the World Bank, policed by NATO, and exploited by western multinationals.
In so doing, the West has nurtured and created the ideal conditions for some savage confederacies of Islamic extremists to arise. Organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and ISIS, all had their origins in or were swiftly incorporated into the imperial designs of the West. These groups are used like javelins to pierce and fracture the Middle East, creating the justifications for western interventions and the reshaping of power dynamics of the region. These rag-tag militias think they are the soldiers of caliphate, but are simply the misguided cannon fodder of empire. Their short mercenary lives are characterized by migrant trips from one theater of western imperialism to another, where they are paid, armed, and directed by western intelligence.
It’s a necessarily messy business, finding, motivating, and conscripting young men and women into the cause of jihad. And more and more in recent years, it has spilled over into the West. Manchester, Brussels, Paris, Nice. As Islamic extremists filter into western societies through refugees inflows or as radicalized first- or second-generation children of immigrants, societies increasingly experience the blowback of their government’s foreign policies. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said terror attacks were “part and parcel” of living in an urban metropolis. Various media outlets refer to urban terror in Europe as a fact of life.
Muslims that have staged attacks on European soil are frequently among the marginalized asylum seekers and immigrants who have seen their nations mercilessly attacked and have found solace and purpose in the message of Islamic jihad. To them, it seems the savagery of coalition wars against Arab nations is nothing other than capitalist imperialism. In attacking western Europe, they often claim revenge for the wars against their native lands, or their parents’ land. Most of them draw a clear connection. Stop bombing Afghanistan. Stop bombing Iraq. Stop bombing Syria. Stop bombing Yemen. Stop bombing Libya. But these calls go unanswered. In fact, the bombings are usually accelerated.
This radicalization of Muslim terrorists appears to be a two-step process. First, western imperialists destroy their countries. Second, Islam gives them a path to vengeance. But this process is rarely unpacked in the mainstream. The focus falls on religious extremism, as though it appeared out of thin air, or by the fault of corrupt Arab leaders that couldn’t stabilize Muslim nations rife with sectarianism. The Democrats use softer language than the Republicans, but both point their guns at the Islamic groups that claim responsibility for the attacks.
ISIS, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda, and so on, all birds of a common feather. No attention is given to the bomb-wracked societies that gave birth to such movements. Yet that is precisely what is so critical to see. Because it seems fairly plausible that before they want sharia law ruling the West, and before they want a caliphate on the Euphrates, they want revenge.
Mum’s the Word
It’s this underlying genesis of terrorism that can’t be named. You can see this feverish avoidance every morning when you crack open your fresh copy of The New York Times, or tune into CNN, or whatever herd media channel you might subscribe to. For instance, the latest terrorist attack in the West, this time an attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, is being covered in the usual fashion. Namely, allotting ceaseless media coverage to the immediate cause of the attack, a radicalized Brit of Libyan descent, and implementing a total media lockdown on coverage of the exploration of the causes of Salman Abedi’s descent into violence, namely, western imperialism.
Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rationally links the Manchester attack to Britain’s own foreign aggression, and is instantly buried beneath an avalanche of self-righteous piety, accusing him of excusing the attack altogether. In the Wall Street Journal article on the bomber’s links to Libya, the West’s role in the destruction of that country is elided from the story. The passive voice is used nine paragraphs into the article, when it notes that “longtime dictator” Moammar Gadhafi “was toppled from power.” A second article called Gadhafi’s fall a “chaotic collapse” before attributing it to the Arab Spring.
On CNN, the Manchester attacks are given wall-to-wall coverage. Various retired intelligence officers are combed with styling gel, powdered with foundation, and wheeled before the cameras, where they are gazed upon by the deeply medicated American viewership, serene as Hindu cows. These caffeinated monomaniacs typically launch into a primer on forensics and how to track terrorist cells. First, watch the grainy CCTV footage. Identify (Arab) suspects. Obtain digital profile. Send SWAT teams to last address. Assemble known associates. And so on.
But we’ve all seen CSI and the Bourne Trilogy and know how this kind of Interpol dragnet unfolds. What we’d rather hear, perhaps, is why these sleeper cells are being formed in the first place and why these suicide bombers are sacrificing their lives? At best we hear baffled Atlanticists ponder what to do about the sheer savagery of these benighted tribal cultures. The answer usually comes that these nomadic desert caliphates must be sent through ‘the laundromat of the Enlightenment,’ as deceased Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn said.
You won’t get much else from the hastily assembled punditry. Many intelligence graybeards and westernized Arab analysts will talk tactics and ideology without ever addressing the root of the conflict. They will run a terrorist ticker across the foot of the flat screen for the next week, until all suspected plotters have been hunted down and arrested or shot on sight. Live scenes will show Interpol police standing around in roped off areas in some Parisian banlieue or council flat in Liverpool. The streets will be wet with rain. The skies will be gray. Wolf Blitzer’s metronomic screech will narrate the nonaction. Death tolls will fluctuate and then settle on an unsettlingly high number. New arrests will be announced. It may later be found that said terrorists were known to western intelligence agencies and perhaps even had regular contact with them and were enraged by callous western interventions.
But this storyline will drift into the dustbin, and a repulsive hypocrite from the government that everyone reviles will stride purposefully onto a dais and announce with bourgeois bravado that his nation will brook no such violence. He or she will tell us the bombs will fall in even greater number until the colonial vassals are pacified.
The beltway fare isn’t any more appetizing than the media’s. Take our Exxon Mobil™ Senate or the Monsanto™ House of Representatives, for instance. These corporate knaves are oblivious to the proletariat these days as they are busily assembling lists of Russian business contacts in their hysterical witch hunt to impeach President Trump.
So obsessed with their baseless investigations into the president’s relationship with Russia, they can’t be bothered to notice the fusillade of bombs that continue to fall just out of earshot–or their domestic consequences. For context, Obama dropped 23,000 bombs on Muslims in 2015 and 26,000 last year. The Pentagon actually started running out of bombs to use in Syria. For Congress, the final cause of all evil appears to be Russia, with Iran in the deputy role, including all manner of terrorism.
If Congress won’t address the first causes of terrorism, neither will the Goldman Sachs™ White House. The Commander-in-Chief has been spending his time abroad being feted by the oil sheiks that spread the message of extremism to the Muslim world. In other words, he is acting to exacerbate the scourge that leads to tragedies like Manchester. Nevertheless, the Middle East tour is staged as a curtain-raiser on a new era of cooperation to combat the phenomenon of terrorism.
That Saudi Arabia is the ideological hub of Islamic extremism is occasionally noted, though the fact that terrorism rose sevenfold after America began the War on Terror is nearly never mentioned. As part of the theatrical display, the Saudis even had the effrontery to announce a counter-terrorism center in Riyadh. Evidently, no funds have been spared in the creation of this SPECTRE-like headquarters. In true Orwellian fashion, this center will be used to organize terror activities around the region, destabilizing independent Shia governments and making the world safer for neoliberal extremism.
The president then headed to the home of 2014’s State Terrorist of the Year, Israel, where he performed his Zionist duties in Jerusalem by donning a yarmulke and placing his hand on the wailing wall, where he gazed blankly at the sacred stone before him, part of the wall that once enclosed the Second Temple (successor to Solomon’s Temple).
Perhaps he reminded himself that Israel is the tip of Washington’s imperial spear. He spent most of his time glad-handing the murderous Benjamin Netanyahu, who dropped almost as many tons of explosives on Gaza in 2014 as the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. When he wasn’t flattering Bibi, he was uncomfortably trying to tune out Washington puppet and titular Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the latter reiterated calls for a two-state peace along the 1967 borders. Israel’s legacy of oppression against Palestinians, the country’s illogical claim to be a Jewish democracy, and Washington’s decades of support for the occupation send a clear signal to everyone that state terror against Arabs is acceptable.
The Ruling Class Has a Plan for You
In sum, you won’t hear any of the root causes of terrorism addressed in any center of power because to address the cause would be to unmask Western imperialism, a fact that is incompatible with a half-century of post-colonial narratives about the glories of globalization. Globalization, as practiced by Washington, is a looting mechanism designed to extract wealth from emerging economies and shovel it into the coffers of the military, finance, and energy cartels of the West.
It must, however, be portrayed as an enlightened campaign to bring the universal values of democracy to the world. This is a lie, but it has been successfully sold to western publics and has kept them largely silent and indifferent as their governments have pillaged the planet, often using terror as a wedge to pry open once-protected countries and markets.
The fact is, global imperialism is a class project of the ruling class, and terrorism is its tool. The consequences or blowback of this project land squarely on the shoulders of the working class. Instead of recognizing the class-based character of blowback, western working classes splinter into pieces, accusing each other of either racism or excessive tolerance, fundamentalism or decadence, socialism or anarchy.
The left sees the imperialist sources of extremism, but fails to see how they are channeled by radical religion. The right sees how religion radicalizes rage, but fails to see how that rage is produced by imperial aggression. For its part, the ruling class is perfectly content to watch its true rival, the 99 percent, self-destruct. It actively encourages its self-destruction by using its owned media to inflame the sectarian prejudices of the left and right, ensuring they never transcend their petty infighting and understand the root of the conflict.
So long as this goes on, the working classes at home and abroad–but mostly abroad–will bear the brunt of ruling class behavior. We’re seeing it now domestically in the frequency of terrorism in the West. The Manchester attack is another wound inflicted on western populations by the policies of its own governments. The immediate or proximate cause is the suicide bomber, but the underlying cause is western imperialism propelled by an American corporatocracy that privileges profit above all. This is the cause you will never hear addressed in the West, except on the fringe of the mainstream, here among the tumbleweeds, where the ‘woke’ minority surfaces to read the latest atrocity reports. Here where class is not a dirty word.
But make no mistake, terror on the home front is rapidly being integrated into the template for the future of western civilization–an impoverished third-world society of cheap goods and low-wage work, overcrowded, heavily surveilled, militantly policed, and only patronizingly addressed by the jet-setting ruling class that spends no time whatsoever on the streets of its kingdom. They will increasingly live at altitude, in locked towers and on transatlantic jets, where the drinks are free, the class interests are pure, and their extremist ideology, so eloquently peddled in the pages of The Economist, the Journal, and Forbes, is never more than a mouse click or a seat-back away.
Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 4th Media