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Why Did The Saudis Kill U.S. Sailors While Three Others Filmed It?

Cato Recent Op Eds - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 08:52

Doug Bandow

The U.S. military is training Saudi Arabian pilots here in States, who later leave to slaughter Yemeni civilians thousands of miles away. Unfortunately, some of that violence was turned against us, when a Saudi trainee killed three American sailors at Pensacola Air Station on December 6.

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In fact, a half dozen Saudis were arrested in the incident. Three of them apparently filmed the murders, presumably to post online. Yet afterward President Donald Trump spent more time justifying the Saudi royals than supporting the victims’ families. 

Every time a terrorist commits murder and mayhem, Americans ask why? U.S. officials usually insist that it is because we are so “good.” If only. 

Why terrorists kill should not be a mystery since they themselves tell us why. And none of them has said it is because the U.S. has the First Amendment, holds democratic elections, or leads the world in charitable giving.

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We need to get over the old trope that they hate us because we are free.

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Consider Mohammed Saeed al-Shamrani, the Saudi pilot-in-training at Pensacola. On Twitter he declared: “I’m against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil.”  

He explained: “I’m not against you for just being American, I don’t hate you because [of] your freedoms, I hate you because every day you [are] supporting, funding and committing crimes not only against Muslims but also humanity.” Al-Shamrani’s complaint is against U.S. foreign policy, which today so often means bombing, invading, and occupying other nations and killing their peoples.

Drones have become America’s newest form of warfare, on the upsurge under Trump. Alas, according to the New York Times: “Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.” Yet the administration has made it even more difficult to judge the impact of the attacks. 

Almost a decade ago Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born naturalized American citizen, attempted to set off a car bomb in New York City’s Times Square. Thankfully, he failed to set the timer properly. Then he waited two days to flee the country, giving authorities the time to identify and arrest him. 

Ajani Marwat, the intelligence officer with the New York Police Department who investigated Shahzad, explained: “It’s simple. It’s American policies in his country. That’s it. Americans are so closed-minded. They have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world. And he did know. Every time you turn on al-Jazeera, they show our people being killed.” A terrorist organizer in Pakistan told Marwat: “We don’t have to do anything to attract them. The Americans and the Pakistani government do our work for us. With the drone attacks targeting the innocents who live [here], the sympathies of most of the nation are always with us.”

At his September 2010 sentencing Shahzad declared himself to be “part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations. I’m avenging the attacks because the Americans only care about their people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.” He vowed that “until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S.”

Federal  judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum made the obvious point that he targeted civilians. Shahzad responded that in a democracy it was civilians who “select the government.” How about children, asked Cedarbaum? Shahzad answered: “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.” 

Terrorism has become a tool of many nationalist and separatist groups. Pakistani-backed Muslim Kashmiris who object to rule by Hindu India routinely rely on terrorism. So do Palestinians in territory long occupied by Israel. Russia suffered numerous attacks from Chechens, including by “Black Widows,” whose husbands died in Chechnya’s struggle for independence. Hindu Tamil Liberation Tigers targeted the dominant Buddhist Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, for a time becoming the most prolific suicide bombers on earth, conducting 168 such attacks between 1980 and 2000. 

So, too, has America become a target of this horror, though Washington policymakers prefer not to talk about the causes of terrorism.Consider the 1983 bombings of its embassy and Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. The Reagan administration foolishly intervened in a multi-sided civil war to back the “national” government, which ruled little more than Beirut. After Washington launched air and naval attacks on opposing forces, Lebanese Muslims saw aggression, not liberty, and responded accordingly. 

In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef cited Washington’s use of sanctions to kill Iraqi children as motivation for his actions. He uncannily anticipated then-UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright who, three years later, was asked on 60 Minutes about the sanctions-induced deaths of a half million Iraqi kids. She replied chillingly: “We think the price is worth it.” She never did explain why “we” were authorized to make that choice.

Polls found that large majorities of Arabs and Muslims shared these criticisms of U.S. policy despite expressing admiration for American values and products. University of Chicago’s Robert A. Pape found that terrorists almost always confronted foreign occupation. After studying more than 2,100 suicide attacks, he concluded that “overall, foreign military occupation accounts for 98.5 percent—and the deployment of American combat forces for 92 percent—of all the 1,833 suicide terrorist attacks around the world” between 2004 and 2009. The solution? Said Pape: “By ending the perception that the United States and its allies are occupiers, we can cut the fuse to the suicide terrorism threat.”

The horror of 9/11 made it almost impossible to question the official Bush administration meme that Americans were targeted because they were so good, virtuous, and free. But that simply wasn’t the case. That doesn’t mean the victims “deserved” what they got. Rather, there sometimes are awful consequences to terrible policies. With far greater reason than Washington wanted to admit, the attackers viewed a militarily interventionist America as being at war with them. 

In 1996 bin Laden complained that “the people of Islam [have] suffered from aggression, iniquity and injustice imposed on them by the Zionist-Crusaders alliance and their collaborators,” and noted the blood “spilled in Palestine and Iraq” and the killings and interventions elsewhere. On multiple occasions he cited American support for Israel, sanctions against Iraq, and the military presence in Saudi Arabia. In an October 2004 video, he spoke of viewing dead Arab Muslims, after which it occurred to him that “we should punish the oppressor in kind—and that we should destroy the towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted, and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.” Bin Laden was a moral monster, but he had a coherent and logical political objective, one inextricably tied to militaristic U.S. policies.

At least some top Bush administration officials understood the truth. After the Iraq invasion Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz observed: “We can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It’s been a huge recruiting device for al-Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina.”

Tragically, the Iraq war became another extremist recruiting bonanza. Indeed, studies in both Israel and Saudi Arabia found that most of Iraq’s terrorists were new recruits not previously part of the jihadist movement, who were drawn by the war to attack Americans. 

The Pensacola murders similarly reflect America’s misguided foreign policy. It is the primary trigger for attacks on Americans. 

Washington cannot escape the malign if unintended consequences of its actions. The U.S. regularly meddles in other nations’ affairs. Worse, it routinely invades, bombs, occupies, drones, and sanctions other countries. When outraged foreigners strike back, innocent Americans become targets.

The president should end our endless wars, as he promised. He should also rethink policies that make unnecessary enemies. The motto for statesmanship in this new age should be Hippocratic: first do no harm. 

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Trump envoy explains White House's next steps in fight against anti-Semitism

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 08:44
U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr told Fox News in an interview that the U.S. needs to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism not only inside its borders, but around the world. 

What if North Korea Launches a Satellite?

Cato Recent Op Eds - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 08:30

Ted Galen Carpenter

Multiple reports are circulating in the news media that North Korea has tested a new, larger, and more capable rocket engine. There is growing concern that Pyongyang may be about to give the United States and the rest of the world an unwanted Christmas present by launching a long-range missile. U.S.-DPRK negotiations regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear program and related issues have stalled noticeably since the much-ballyhooed “photo-op” summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone in June. Kim may have decided that the launch of an ICBM into the central or eastern Pacific would prod Washington both into giving the bilateral negotiations higher priority and into making significant concessions.

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Such a move would inflame tensions throughout East Asia to an alarming extent, empowering hardliners in the United States and Japan who have opposed President Trump's pursuit of a rapprochement with North Korea from the beginning. North Korean leaders must be aware of the underlying dangers if they conduct an overtly military missile test.  But what if Pyongyang chooses to use the new missile engine to launch a satellite into Earth orbit instead? It is not entirely clear how the United States and its East Asian allies would (or should) react to that development. 

North Korea apparently tried to achieve the goal once before—in 2012—although the launch failed. Pyongyang has made noticeable progress on its missile technology since then, and the leadership may be ready for another attempt. A satellite launch would create an acute policy dilemma for U.S. officials. Ostensibly, such a launch would be for peaceful, scientific purposes, and it would be a justifiable source of national pride for North Koreans. However, a missile capable of putting a satellite into orbit also would be able to strike a long-distance target with a nuclear warhead.

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It is not entirely clear how the United States and its East Asian allies would (or should) react to that development.

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Understandably, U.S leaders do not want the DPRK to possess such a capability, since it would bring portions of the continental United States (and perhaps the entire country) into range for an attack. However, does the United States and its allies have the right to demand that North Korean scientific and prestige ambitions remain hobbled? Could U.S. leaders even enforce such an edict short of a willingness to take preemptive military action against North Korean launch sites—an action that could well trigger general war on the Korean Peninsula? Preemptive strikes also would most likely lead to widespread condemnation throughout the international community, further damaging Washington's already frayed reputation.

In short, if Kim decides on an indirect, ambiguous provocation rather than a blatant one, he could create consternation and nasty policy problems in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo. The best path out of such a dilemma is to revive the stalled bilateral talks between the United States and the DPRK and make a concerted effort to establish a normal relationship between the two governments. 

For that goal to have a decent chance of success, though, U.S. officials must adopt more realistic expectations and drop their demand for North Korea's complete denuclearization. Clinging to that implausible objective creates the likelihood of a continued diplomatic impasse, eventually followed by a breakdown of negotiations and the resumption of extremely dangerous tensions. Whatever slight chance once existed that Pyongyang would agree to renounce its ambitions for a nuclear deterrent disappeared when the United States and its allies negotiated a similar agreement with Libya's Muammar Qaddafi regarding that country's embryonic nuclear program and then just a few years later launched a regime-change war that overthrew him. North Korean leaders learned that the possession of a nuclear arsenal may be the only way to prevent Washington from pursuing a similar strategy toward the DPRK.

The lack of trust regarding the nuclear issue is emblematic of more widespread suspicions and wariness on both sides. There are initiatives that Washington can and should take to reduce the toxic nature of the bilateral relationship. One measure would be a partial lifting of the existing economic sanctions against the DPRK in exchange for a verifiable freeze on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs. Ultimately, the goal should be to lift sanctions on all products not having direct military applications. Another important diplomatic step would be to commence negotiations for a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. A third step would be to establish full, formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the DPRK, including the exchange of ambassadors.

All of those initiatives would aim to develop a normal bilateral relationship. Given the autocratic and brutal nature of the North Korean government, the United States and the DPRK are unlikely to become friends.  But Washington has developed cooperative relations with numerous autocratic regimes over the decades. Indeed, the United States has forged constructive relationships with former enemies, despite the continued ugly nature of their entrenched authoritarian governments. Vietnam and China are two prominent examples. A similar relationship is possible between Washington and Pyongyang. Under such circumstances, U.S. leaders should then be able to make a distinction between a peaceful satellite launch and a menacing ICBM test and adopt a policy of tolerating the former.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs. Among his books is the Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea (co-authored with Doug Bandow).

Dems plow ahead with impeachment articles, in heated all-day session

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 07:53
The House Judiciary Committee became the scene of a fresh partisan clash Thursday as lawmakers pressed ahead with two articles of impeachment against President Trump, with majority Democrats turning back a last-ditch bid by Republicans to scrap one of them. 

UK election: Jeremy Corbyn could become nation's first socialist leader in 40 years

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 07:06
As Brits prepare to head to the polls on Thursday to vote in the country’s general election, the chance that far-left Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn could be Britain’s next prime minister, remains very, very real -- a prospect that has even raised red flags from members of his own party.

Eric Holder, once Obama’s ‘wingman,’ now calling out Barr for loyalty to Trump

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 04:43
Eric Holder, who headed the U.S. Justice Department under former President Barack Obama, penned a column late Wednesday in which he calls Attorney General William Barr an unfit successor due to "nakedly partisan" actions and loyalty to President Trump.

Lisa Page slams Trump after he suggests she got restraining order against Peter Strzok

Fox News (Politics) - Thu, 12/12/2019 - 00:48
Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page slammed President Trump Wednesday after he suggested she had to get a restraining order against ex-FBI investigator Peter Strzok. 

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas tried hiding $1M Russia payment, prosecutors allege

Fox News (Politics) - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 21:25
U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday accused Rudy Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas of receiving $1 million from Russia just one month before he was charged with campaign finance violations.

Reporter's Notebook: Congress rings in holidays with one of its most stressful Decembers ever

Fox News (Politics) - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 20:56
The sheer volume of work and stress often in Congress each December saps away holiday cheer as lawmakers, staff and journalists toil around the clock.

House approves defense bill authorizing Space Force, 12 weeks of paid family leave for feds

Fox News (Politics) - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 19:33
The Democrat-controlled House passed a $738 billion Pentagon defense package on Wednesday that allocated 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees and authorized the creation of President Trump's sought-after "Space Force." 

Michael Cohen seeks reduced sentence, says AG Barr acted in bad faith

Fox News (Politics) - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 19:20
President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen is seeking to reduce his 36-month prison sentence on the basis that Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department acted in bad faith during his legal battle, according to court documents obtained by Fox News.

Biden paid female staff less than males for decades, report says

Fox News (Politics) - Wed, 12/11/2019 - 19:14
A new report claims that former Vice President Joe Biden spent 35 years paying his female staffmembers less -- with an average of just 67 cents for every dollar earned by males.

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