Days after the tragic attacks in Paris, the French government began bombing Raqqa, the ‘capital’ of the Islamic State and home to hundreds of thousands of civilians. As a member of the Western coalition, France has conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State since 2014. In disturbing statements released by ISIS that claim responsibility for the Paris attacks (translated by intelligence group SITE), the radical Islamist group states:
Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State, and that the smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the Crusader campaign, and dare to curse our Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him… and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes, which did not help them at all in the streets of Paris and its rotten alleys.
Much like the Taliban, which has been regaining control of Afghanistan after more than a decade of bombing and occupation, ISIS blends in with the local population of Raqqa. Which might explain the New York Times reporting that the activist group Raqqa_SL (which is in opposition of ISIS) are claiming targeted sites in the French airstrikes “included clinics, a museum and other buildings in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage unknown.” The continuing destruction of homes and acceleration of warfare will undoubtedly increase the number of refugees fleeing the violence.
But a few million refugees don’t stop the war machine from churning.
According to the United States Department of Defense, the US alone has spent billions of dollars ($11 million per day) conducting thousands of airstrikes against ISIS during operation ‘Inherent Resolve.’ Apparently these airstrikes have proven ineffective in crippling the Islamic State’s capacity to carry out attacks against a growing list of different countries.
Given that the explicit reason for the attacks in Paris were France’s involvement in bombing campaigns, one wonders about the logic that necessitates the escalation of bombing in Syria and Iraq. Surely this will not stop terrorism, which is a reaction to these policies. In fact, after the United States carpet bombed Iraq and then occupied it for years, a study in 2007 concluded there was a 600% increase in terrorist activities. As presidential candidate Bernie Sander noted during the recent debate, “I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the modern history of the United States.”
The war against ISIS is asymmetrical, meaning that ISIS (thankfully) has no real capacity to fight with foreign bombers. Instead of direct warfare, the Islamic State responded by recruiting pathological French and Belgium nationals (along with a Syrian refugee who came through Greece) to strap on suicide belts and cut down innocents in a pitiless act of mass murder. On Saturday November 14th, French President Francois Hollande promised to continue the cycle of death saying, “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.”
But the results of such a pitiless war would not necessarily be of benefit to the world. Just look at our historical record. In the former French colony of Laos, America dropped more bombs during the Indochina war than the combined total of those dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped at least two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
If you would like to travel to Laos as an American and search the web for information on obtaining a visa, you will find that the U.S. Department of State warns on its very own website (under the Safety and Security tab) that, “The large amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the Indochina War causes more than 300 casualties per year. UXO can be found in some parts of Savannakhet, Xieng Khouang, Saravane, Khammouane, Sekong, Champassak, Houaphan, Attapeu, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane Provinces. In addition, numerous mine fields are left over from the war along Route 7 (from Route 13 to the Vietnam border), Route 9 (Savannakhet to the Vietnam border), and Route 20 (Pakse to Saravane). Never pick up unknown metal objects and avoid traveling off well-used roads, tracks, and paths.”
The U.S. government acknowledges that 300 people annually die to this day from the unbelievable amount of bomblets it littered all over the country. That’s over twice the number of casualties from the Paris attacks every year. Still to this day. 40 years after the fact. The United States’ goal while dropping these bombs was supposedly to stop InodChina from becoming communist. Laos, along with Vietnam, are both currently communist countries. Funny how local people rebel against mass doses of foreign bombings.
So if simply bombing is not effective at removing adversarial political structures like ISIS (who thrived in the chaos and conflict created by Western invasions), then what can the West do? Is it all hopeless?
Well, it could start by removing support for some of its main allies in the region. In an article for the New Statesmen, Karen Armstrong documents how the Wahhabi doctrines of Islam, which form the roots of the Islamic State’s pathological ideology, were exported from Saudi Arabia. This ideological connection helps to give a background to the New York Times article reporting that private donors from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have been funneling money and weapons to ISIS since its inception. As far back as March 9th, 2014, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents his troops were battling in western Anbar province. And this support is not unknown to powerful Western leaders. According to a Wikileaks diplomatic cable signed by Hillary Clinton in December of 2009, “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,”
In a Brookings Institute report [PDF] from December 2013, author Elizabeth Dickinson writes, “Over the last two and a half years, Kuwait has emerged as a financing and organizational hub for charities and individuals supporting Syria’s myriad rebel groups.” The report documents how fundraisers use social media to raise money for specific weapons like an $800 donation for a directed missile or an RPG. She states that, “The buzz attracts donors not just from Kuwait but likely from individuals across the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As a U.S. Treasury official explained, “Use of social media also enables fund-raisers to aggressively solicit donations from supporters in countries, notably Saudi Arabia.””
Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9/11 were citizens of Saudi Arabia (none from Iraq or Syria), and there is speculation that funding for the attacks came from government connected Saudis. Yet we still supply signals intelligence and billions of dollars of military equipment to a country that has beheaded 100 people this year and is bombing civilians in Yemen.
That should stop. If Western governments actually cared about stopping terrorism, their undying support for Saudi Arabia would cease, and the media would decry their fueling of Jihadi terrorism in the region and across the globe. Sadly, powerful defense contractors who fund the U.S. government wind up making lots of money after high profile terrorist attacks. The endless war on terror and its incessant bombing and drone strikes are, by design, made to continue the cycle of violence indefinitely. The best way to stop terrorism is by no longer participating in it. And remember: