The Real Terrorists

Article by David D’Amato.
Reporting on the “death toll for a grisly hostage situation” that began on Tuesday (March 29) in Iraq, the Associated Press counts 57 dead and 98 wounded. “Gunmen wearing explosives belts,” says the AP, seized a government building in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin, holding off police for five hours in a plot that was apparently aimed at the province’s governing council.

Officials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s puppet government, fingering al-Qaeda while invoking the cult of “security,” parroted all the Empire’s standard bilge about terrorists’ attempts to undermine “the very foundations of democracy.” For the United States and its colonial government in Iraq, “democracy” — the structure that Iraqis have apparently “strived so valiantly to build” — would seem to mean little more than superficial participation in the occasional, ceremonial celebration of the state.

In contrast, the people of Iraq, as opposed to their masters, probably have a very different notion of democracy in mind when they’re striving to build the future of their country, one that presumably doesn’t involve the lordly oversight of American plutocrats. And if we’re going to be considering what the U.S. Embassy calls “horrific acts,” we should probably take some time out to evaluate those of the United States in Iraq.

We often hear that people like those who took the Iraqi hostages “hate us because we’re free,” a narrative that — leaving aside its irony (how “free” are we?) — willfully ignores the United States’ military imperialism not just in Iraq, but around the world. Lest anyone should mistake revulsion toward the Empire as an apology for the murder of innocents, Glenn Greenwald has helpfully explained the distinction:

“[T]he issue is not justification — it is inherently unjust to deliberately target civilians with violence — but causation. … Imagine the fury and craving for vengeance and violence that would be unleashed in the U.S. if we were being invaded, occupied, bombed, tortured, disappeared, and indefinitely, lawlessly detained by a foreign Muslim power on U.S. soil for a full decade or more.”

Terrorist attacks, if indeed they are disproportionately directed at the U.S. and its surrogates, are, while monstrous and morally detestable, the desperate convulsions of a people trapped and oppressed by the weight of empire. As Greenwald notes, violence like the hostage situation in Iraq is inevitable, the natural response of human beings comparable to thrashing, caged animals.

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