Grasping the Motives for Terror

The Paris terror attacks — particularly the methodical shooting of unarmed civilians — have shocked the world and generated new tough talk from policymakers. But the West cannot ignore how some of its violent policy prescriptions over the past 35 years have contributed to the crisis, writes James Paul.

By James Paul

As we mourn the many killed in Paris by the terror attacks of Nov. 13, we may be tempted to react mainly with anger and outrage and to rally around the Western governments in their “war” against the Islamic jihadists. But if we want to live in a world free of terror, we must do more than react blindly in support of widened Western military campaigns, air strikes, drone attacks, secret operations, assassinations, destabilization campaigns, secret prisons and all the apparatus of official violence.

We must ask honestly and fairly: what is the Western responsibility for these horrible attacks on our cities and our people? Can there be, in our governments’ actions over the years, causes that would motivate and set in motion such horror? And what might be an alternative?

Aftermath of the U.S. destruction of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. (Graphic credit: RT)

Aftermath of the U.S. destruction of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. (Graphic credit: RT)

There is, of course, a considerable responsibility that even Western security experts acknowledge. And unless we do something to bring those policies to an end, we can expect more terror and more suffering, both here and in the war-torn lands of the Middle East (and beyond). The history is clear.

First of all, we should consider the many wars of Israel, supported by Washington and other Western governments, wars that have caused great suffering and aroused enormous anger in the region. Then, there are the decades of warfare in Afghanistan, where Washington and its partners funded and armed Islamic fundamentalists (the “mujahedeen”) beginning in 1979. The war to control Afghanistan has raged almost continuously ever since.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan man a checkpoint near Takhteh Pol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

U.S. troops in Afghanistan man a checkpoint near Takhteh Pol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

Another brutal conflict, the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, was notorious for its wholesale…

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