Instilling fear is the key to US victory in the “war against terrorism”, according to Stephen Pollard, a senior fellow at the Centre for the New Europe, Brussels. Writing in The Independent, Pollard claims that before the atrocities of September 11, terrorist attacks on US personnel had produced only “a feeble American response” (“America’s get-tough attitude is succeeding beyond Afghanistan”, The Independent, 26 November; http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=106751).
Pollard refers to the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998. He claims bizarrely “America’s response was to do pretty much nothing”. In fact, the US launched deadly air attacks on the Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation. Soon after, and possibly even at the time, it was clear that one of the targets – the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum – had never produced chemical weapons, despite US and UK disinformation to the contrary (Andrew Marshall, The Independent, 6 May, 1999). Around half of Sudan’s pharmaceuticals capacity was destroyed in the attack. The number of direct and indirect deaths likely ran into the tens of thousands was likely in the tens of thousands (many people probably died as a result of the destruction of life-saving medicines). We do not know the exact number of casualties because the US blocked a UN investigation into the matter.
“Through her inaction”, Pollard goes on, “America has been the greatest recruiting agent for Mr bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida and other extremist movements. The more daring the terror, and the more unimpressive the response, the greater the lure of a movement that appeared to be winning against the Great Satan.” Pollard continues in the same vein: “America has effectively turned the other cheek in response to previous terrorist attacks, and has thus been treated with contempt.”
Presumably America’s “inaction” and turning of the “other cheek” include active support for Israel’s persecution of Palestinians, attacks on Libya, downing of Iranian airliners, the Gulf War, and the ongoing devastating sanctions regime imposed on Iraq which has directly contributed to the deaths of over one million Iraqis. Pollard writes “The Islamic extremists saw America as a soft target that never fought back, no matter how much it was attacked. The message was clear: America was there for the taking.” Media Lens is intrigued to know where Pollard obtained this information. The extremists themselves – bin Laden, for example – say they are responding to US support of violent, totalitarian regimes, sanctions against Iraq, and support for Israel’s oppressive policies against the Palestinians. These arguments are freely available from interviews with bin Laden and others. We wrote to Mr. Pollard, asking him from which extremists he had learned that America was viewed as a “soft target”. As yet we have received no answer.
Pollard’s article promotes the dangerous idea that yet more violence will cow opponents of US foreign policy. We find it truly remarkable that a commentator can place so much faith in terror and violence when the hideous and unending tit for tat terror between Israelis and Palestinians is clear for all to see. How much evidence do we need before we are convinced that violence leads only to more violence.
Write to Stephen Pollard ([email protected]) and ask him from which extremists he has learned that the United States was previously viewed as a “soft target”. Ask him if he believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be resolved by a massive increase in force by one of the warring parties – if so, which one? Would he recommend that the other side should resort to violence to face down this increased violence, as he recommends in the case of the United States?
You may wish to copy your email to the Comment Editor of The Independent who published the article: [email protected].