Whether the US is responsible for world terrorism or not is a very contentious issue for the entire world, as the debate rages on for decades. Here is an attempt at collating some of the arguments from the debate, through this OpinionFront write-up.
Considering the terror attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as the defining point in the history of terrorism, sheerly due to its magnitude, we can look at terrorism as a major issue confronting the world, before and after this attack. It was not that terrorism did not exist prior to 9/11, but that the world could associate with it now because it had a blatant face. The images of the twin towers coming down really can never be forgotten.
The ‘War on Terror’ followed as part of the immediate political response launched by the Bush administration. Despite several efforts, terrorism does not appear to have been leashed. A major reason lies in the reality of this worldly menace. It has fostered owing to several strong support systems – financial, military, and political, or what is known as ‘Terrorist Financing’. This is where the question arises as to whether the United States is responsible for world terrorism?
(Defense Science Board, The Defense Science Board 1997 Summer Study Task Force on DoD Responses to Transnational Threats (Washington: U.S. Department of Defense, October 1997), vol. 1, Final Report, p. 15.)
This particular excerpt clarifies that the world did actually see this evil coming. Politics in the Middle East over oil and the tussle between world powers to establish control over the countries with rich petroleum reserves had complicated relations between friends and foes. As is now well-known, terrorism did not originate on the lands of either of the two Cold War rivals. It bred on Afghan soil as a tool against the Soviet Union, to contain the spread of communism.
There is almost a universal sentiment amongst the people of the Middle East of hatred for America. This has roots in the several armed interventions carried out by the United States into other countries. Be it Iraq or Afghanistan, the continuous US combat and war effort has taken a heavy toll on men, women, and children.
General William Odom, Director of the National Security Agency during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, recently mentioned, “by any measure the U.S. has long used terrorism. In 1978-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the U.S. would be in violation.”
The United States is believed to have backed, not just Al-Qaeda, but also the Jamaat-e-Islami against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan, and the Sarekat Islam who opposed Sukarno in Indonesia. Besides, the CIA is known to have used the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against the Soviet expansionist policy. The ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the former Al-Qaeda in Iraq) is the recent group to strike back at the US. The Iraq invasion of 2003 is purported to be the reason behind this Sunni group, or ‘Islamic State’ as it is commonly known, to grow stronger.
‘Operation Cyclone’ was the effort by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency, USA) to arm and finance the Afghan ‘mujahideen’ during the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-89), and also prior to that. The US had been diverting substantial aid―financial and military―to Pakistan and Afghanistan mujahideen since then. This aid given by America was misused by other resistant Pakistan-backed forces in Afghanistan, which the US refuses any responsibility for. Besides the support to Afghan rebels in the 1980s, there are no concrete bases to prove any exchange of weapons. It remains in the form of allegations and some less publicized conspiracy theories.
However, more recently, weapons found with the Taliban have been argued to be coming from the US. The Taliban militants using ‘Stinger missiles’ to attack a US Chinook helicopter in Kunar, Afghanistan, in 2012, clearly indicates a terrible mishit of military aid. It is believed that the weapons handed over to Qatar to fight against Muammar Gaddafi (Khadafy) in Libya had reached the Taliban instead. Kenneth R. Timmerman, in his book ‘Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Benghazi’, has traced the path to this weapon circulation.
Al-Qaeda was named the perpetrator of the September 2001 attacks on the US. This terrorist organization was founded and headed by Osama bin Laden. The CIA has consistently denied any allegations regarding the US extending any kind of support to the Taliban, to Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, or any Arab mujahideen. There are also no direct evidences or reports to prove links between the CIA and Al-Qaeda.
Nevertheless, the CIA is understood to have nursed Osama bin Laden and his organization, according to some studies. Robin Cook, former British Foreign Secretary, had confirmed Al-Qaeda to be a product of Western intelligence agencies. He explained that, the literal meaning of the word ‘Al-Qaeda’ was ‘the database’, which referred to the computer database of thousands of extremists. These militants, he said, were trained by the CIA with funding from the Saudis against the Russians in Afghanistan.
Some critics of US foreign policy maintain ‘Operation Cyclone’ to be responsible for what resulted into the attacks of 9/11. In fact, many consider Al-Qaeda to be an American creation. The game of vested interests leading to long-lasting ties amongst the political elite intensified oil diplomacy long ago. Scholars, therefore, attribute the US to be a hidden support of terrorist groups.
Although a significant action on part of the government, the secretive killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALs cannot do any substantial justice to the victims of terror across the world. The fault lies in the foreign policy of the United States, as rightly pointed out by several critics. It has been revolving around oil and resources of the Middle East. Even if there will never be any clear evidences to prove it, suspicion regarding the responsibility of the US in generating this monstrous Frankenstein (as once warned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to President George H.W. Bush) cannot be ignored or declared void for sure.