It seems as though a great madness has gripped our world today. Every time one turns on the news, there is a new story of destruction, of violence, of terror. New wars seem to crop up daily. Other military missions, labelled as “humanitarian interventions”, make any rational person question the definition of humanitarianism. In today's wars, no one is safe. Battles are no longer fought between armed soldiers on the front lines, but have been brought into people's very homes. Men, women, and children alike are victims.
The war on terrorism was supposed to make the world a safer place. Humanitarian interventions to topple dictators were supposed to improve human rights and democracy. Yet any rational person can see that terrorist attacks, both in the Middle East and Western countries, have increased since 9/11. Human rights in the Middle East have not improved but crumbled away under the pressure of war. In the West, our civil rights have been dramatically curtailed in the name of stopping terrorism.
Why has over a decade of war and occupation in the Middle East failed to stop or even slow terrorism? Perhaps the war on terror is a facade, just smoke and mirrors designed to distract us from the true cause of these wars: Western imperialism.
Imperialism, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is "a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means". Is this the policy the US and their allies have been pursuing in the Middle East for the past fourteen years, or have they truly been waging a war on terrorism? Let us review the results of fourteen years of war in the Middle East and North Africa (we will cover the situation in Africa as a whole in a future article).
Within weeks of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the US was bombing Afghanistan. The invasion succeeded in overthrowing the Taliban government (which, ironically, came to being out of US funding of anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s). However, the downfall of the Taliban certainly did not usher in democracy. While the current government of President Ashraf Ghani is favoured by the US and internationally recognized, it holds little real power outside of Kabul. Either local warlords or the Taliban form the de facto government in most of the country, even collecting taxes and carrying out judicial duties in some cases.
The war has forced 4.1 million Afghans from their homes, according to the UNHCR. Nearly 450,000 of these are internally displaced persons -- refugees in their own country. They live in squalid camps on the outskirts of the cities, with little access to food or water and little hope of returning home.
Poverty is epidemic in Afghanistan, with 42% of the population living on less than $2/day. This is exacerbated by high unemployment, sitting at around 40%. Children often must work to feed their families, while the war's widows are often forced into prostitution in order to survive. Though life in Afghanistan was difficult even before the war, the instability created by ongoing bombings and firefights has created an even more desperate situation.
The 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq killed over a million people, according to estimates by the Lancet Medical Journal. Tragic as this loss of life is, there are a thousand more tragedies to Iraq's story since 2003. The country's health care system, once one of the best in the region, is in shambles. Many hospitals were destroyed in the US bombing campaign and occupation, only a fraction of which have been rebuilt. Many of Iraq's best doctors were lost in the war, either killed or forced to leave the country.
The bombing campaign also left Iraqis with the horrific legacy of depleted uranium and other toxic munitions. The overall cancer rate in the country has increased from 40 cases per 100,000 people in 1991 to 1,600 per 100,000 in 2005, according to Iraqi government statistics. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has also reported a sharp rise in miscarriages, infertility and most horrifying, children being born with grotesque and previously unseen birth defects. Sadly, this toxic legacy will remain in Iraq's soil and water for thousands of years to come.
The overthrow of Saddam Hussein certainly did not bring democracy to Iraq, either. Twelve years after the invasion, the country has been torn apart by the violent extremists known as ISIS. ISIS was born from various Sunni insurgent organizations and al-Qaeda in Iraq, an organization which had virtually no presence in the secular Iraqi state prior to the 2003 invasion.
Now, the US and their allies, including Canada, have begun bombing the country again in the name of fighting ISIS -- the very terrorist force which they helped to create.
NATO countries, including Canada, began bombing Libya in 2011, claiming they were supporting a movement for democracy against Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. What in fact took place in Libya was one of the biggest blows to democracy, secularism, and human rights in the region. Prior to NATO's intervention, Libya was the wealthiest country in Africa. Education was free right through university. Quality health care was free as well.
Today, Libya is a shattered country, ruled by a variety of militias and terrorist organizations, including ISIS. The country's economy is in shambles. The health care system is in crisis as instability has forced hospitals to close and caused many foreign health care workers to leave the country. Women's rights have been eroded as religious fanatics and sectarian of all sorts have taken control in many areas.
There is no one to blame for this crisis but the US and NATO. Clare Lopez, a former CIA officer told the Daily Mail that the US was "knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures" in Libya. The real crime of the Libyan government in the eyes of the US and NATO was its firm stance on maintaining the country's right to independence and control over its own resources.
In Syria, a so-called “popular movement” against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2012, ostensibly as part of the wave of “Arab Spring” protests that swept the Middle East and North Africa. However, evidence quickly began to mount that these rebels were not acting alone. The New York Times reported that CIA operatives were working inside Syria, helping to supply weapons to the rebels.
The “civil war” in Syria -- created largely by support from the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, has claimed over 210,000 lives (various estimation) and displaced over 10 million people, according to the UNHCR. The country's health care system has also suffered greatly. Over half of the country's hospitals have been destroyed in the fighting, leaving many without basic medical care.
And once again, Western intervention has not stopped terrorism - in the case of Syria, it has directly aided the terrorists. The US supplied the “rebels” of the Free Syrian Army with material support, even as “hundreds of fighters under the command of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) have reportedly switched allegiance to al-Qaeda-aligned groups," according to a 2013 report by Al-Jazeera.
Today, a large portion of Syria is under the control of ISIS -- sadly in large part to support, direct or indirect, from the US and her imperialists allies.
The newest front of war in the Middle East is the bombing campaign of Yemen by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia. The bombing began after rebels opposed to the government of former President Mansur Hadi - a staunch Saudi and US puppet - began to make gains across the country, including capturing the capital. The bombing campaign has claimed the lives of over 1100 Yemenis to date, including at least 115 children. While the US have claiming has not been directly involved in this bombing campaign, they have been providing logistical and intelligence support to the Saudis. Nevertheless, one must think what would be more “direct “intervention by US in Yemen.
However, the US has in fact been carrying out their own bombing campaign of Yemen for years. The CIA has been launching air strikes from drones against those who they deem to be terrorists. These air strikes have killed hundreds of people, including children.
Millions of Yemenis are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, but Saudi Arabia is preventing even basic essentials like food and water from entering the country. According to the United Nations, the shortage of fuel in the country means that most Yemeni hospitals will no longer have electricity within two weeks, which will leave many ill and injured without care.
Why has the War on Terror failed?
The last fourteen years have succeeded in completely destroying the Middle East. In that time, however, Western countries have not succeeded in stopping terrorism. In fact, the most violent extremists now have their own state! So why hasn't the war on terror succeeded, even in a small sense?
The truth is that the US, Canada, and their allies are not fighting terrorism -- in many cases, in fact, they are working with the terrorists. The real motives behind the wars in the Middle East are political and economic. As global competition for trade markets and natural resources increases, imperialist countries are trying to ensure they have the upper hand in the market. They are trying to crush any government or popular resistance movement which is fighting for independence and against imperialist influence and domination in their countries. They are also attempting to ensure they have a foothold in the region above their competitors, particularly China and Russia.
Of course, we must not forget that our own government has involved us in this mess. People in Canada can no longer sit idly by and claim that the Americans have a patent on wars and atrocities. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan - and how many Afghans died at the hands of the Canadian Forces? Canada has bombed Libya and now Iraq as well. Blood is on Canada's hands, even though the majority of Canadians oppose these wars. Silent opposition is not enough, though -- if we are to end these atrocities, we must actively oppose them.
Who is the real enemy?
It is not Russia, China, Iran, or the governments which the West has overthrown in the name of democracy. Our real enemy - the greatest, most immediate threat to humanity - is imperialism. The wolves of imperialism—be they American, Canadian, British, French or other--have no human principles or morals. The last few years have proven that they will ally themselves with anyone--be it the antidemocratic and despotic Saudi regime or even the terrorists themselves--to achieve their goals. They are plundering our pockets--stripping away services like health care and education - while more and more funding is put into these wars. This destruction of the Middle East and North Africa has not made the world safer. It has ruined millions of lives, torn apart countries, and supported the development of extremism.
If we care about our future, our children's future, and the future of our world, there is only one thing to do: unite to end these bloodsheds and atrocities, to stop wars and occupations.
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