The struggle against terror can't be won with bombs

4 December 2017

The struggle against terror can't be won with bombs

Shortly after the horrific attacks of 11th September 2001 in New York, George W. Bush unleashed the War on Terror. Once and for all, terrorist organisations like Al Qa’ida had to be dealt with. The War on Terror began in October of the same year with the invasion of Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was ousted, and there followed the attack on and invasion of Iraq, which put an end to Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Years and years of occupation followed in both cases.

By Sadet Karabulut

In addition, a number of secret wars were initiated, as in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, with the armed drone as favoured weapon. Later, Libya was added to this ever-growing list following a NATO intervention in that country that left chaos in its wake. In 2014, after American troops had withdrawn from Iraq, the country became once more a theatre of strife, one soon to be joined by Syria.

Supporters of this military response to the threat of terrorism claim that significant successes have been achieved. Recently they have pointed in particular to the destruction of the ISIS 'caliphate' in Iraq and Syria. That ISIS can no longer function as a state is a boon for the region, but to claim it as a success is an extremely sick joke. Without the illegal intervention in Iraq in 2003 and the occupation and violence which ensued, ISIS, which could be seen as the radical vanguard of the oppressed Sunni minority, would probably never have seen the light of day. Even President Obama admitted as much a couple of years ago.

Anyone willing to come to a fair assessment of sixteen years of war politics, during which billions have been spent, must surely conclude that it has been entirely counterproductive and that its principle achievement has been to destroy a great deal. In 2017 there are more jihadist organisations in the mold of Al Qa’ida and ISIS with more fighting men available than there were in 2001. In Syria alone, for example, Al Qa’ida has some 25,000 under arms. There are in addition far more terrorist attacks, most of them in the Middle East but also in Europe, where Brussels, Berlin, London, Manchester, Paris and Barcelona have all been victims. The terrorist threat has grown enormously.

Everywhere western bombs have fallen what's left in their wake is a trail of destruction. The Iraq war of 2003 alone led to more than a million deaths. Monitoring organisation Airwars has reported that many thousands more civilians have been killed in the struggle against ISIS. Cities such as Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, recaptured with western air support, lie largely in ruins. To save the city it first had to be destroyed, as journalists who were on the spot cynically remarked.

Neither can the refugee crisis be seen as unconnected to western interference in the region. The War on Terror has certainly not been its only cause, but it's no coincidence that countries that for years on end have been the targets of F16 air-raids are high on the list of those from which asylum-seekers originate. The reconquest of Mosul and Raqqa alone was responsible for the flight of more than a million refugees.

Since the accession to the White House in January President Trump, who incidentally is not averse to threatening total destruction and the deployment of nuclear weapons, has escalated the War on Terror on all fronts. More death and destruction, more refugees and more terrorism will once again be the consequences of this senseless and endless violence.

The government intends early in the new year to continue the Netherlands' military contribution to the American wars, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq. The results of sixteen years of war do not justify such a decision. Instead of money being wasted money on yet more bombs, it would be better spent on sorely needed humanitarian aid.

Getting rid of terrorism by using bombs is impossible. It's high time that the government listened to criticism of its own actions and learned the lessons accordingly.

Sadet Karabulut is a Member of Parliament for the SP and the party's spokeswoman on defence and international relations.

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