If you listened to many politicians on both the right and left discussing the rise of ISIS (or ISIL) and terrorism at large, you'd think that everything began with 9/11. Even people like Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton -- who, let's remember, voted in favor of the '03 Iraq War -- argues that though she voted incorrectly, terrorism isn't on the rise simply because of that invasion. She and other leaders are quick to remind us of the greatest attack on American soil, 9/11. While no one minimizes the catastrophic brutality of 9/11 and the thousands of American lives lost on that tragic day, it is woefully misleading to act as if we weren't already entrenched in the Middle East beforehand. Even something as major as the first Iraq war is somehow left out of context when we discuss civilian deaths, the rise in terrorism and the current global crisis now facing everyone. ISIS may have risen out of the instability created after an unnecessary war in '03, but terrorism was around long before then -- as was Western aggression.
Bloomberg published a piece in '03 titled 'Toting the Casualties of War.' In it, they included an interview with Beth Osborne Daponte, a Commerce Department demographer who in '92 publicly contradicted then-Secretary of Defense Cheney on the issue of Iraqi civilian casualties during the first Gulf War, and who was later told she was losing her job (though she fought back). The piece contains the following passages:
In all, 40,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the conflict, she concluded, putting total Iraqi losses from the war and its aftermath at 158,000, including 86,194 men, 39,612 women and 32,195 children... She has since published two studies in scholarly journals about the effects of economic sanctions on Iraqi children, and casualties from the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath. Her final estimates were higher than her original ones: 205,500 Iraqis died in the war and postwar period, she believes today.
It is difficult to wrap one's mind around those figures. In '03, the BBC also published a piece titled "Flashback: 1991 Gulf War" where they state the following: "Nobody knows how many civilians died in the war, but estimates for civilian deaths as a direct result of the war range from 100,000 to 200,000." Whether the figure is in the 100,000s or the 200,000s, it is an atrocious, inexcusable number of deaths. If we don't think that these casualties, or casualties from other conflicts like Afghanistan, Iraq '03 and drone deaths in places like Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere aren't being utilized as a recruiting tool by groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda and others, then we are simply kidding ourselves.
I want to be perfectly clear that I am in no way ever condoning violence of any kind anywhere, nor justifying horrible acts of terrorism like that which we just witnessed in Paris. But when events like that most recent tragedy are presented under the banner of "they hate our values," or "they are unable to assimilate," or "they hate liberty, freedom and equality," then we are doing a disservice to both Westerners and the 'Muslim world.' We cannot continue to pretend as if these horrid acts are occurring on their own, nor can we shy away from accepting responsibility for the innocent blood that has been shed as a direct result of our actions.
Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France and others have been participating in joint efforts for their mutual interests for years. Those mutual interests have often been about resources, land and the removal of certain dictators and sadly, many many innocent civilians have been killed in the process. There is barely an accounting of those deaths, or even accurate figures available -- let alone vigils held across the world. Are they not human too? Do we not value their souls? Were they not simply going about their daily routines when their lives were cut short because larger forces were busy vying for power?
People across the planet are grieving and mourning for Paris right now -- and rightfully so. But where is the mourning for victims of the Beirut attack that occurred during the same week? Or for the victims of so many attacks in places like Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, etc? Or for the victims of our wars, our efforts to remove leaders when we feel like it and our drone attacks? We cannot continue to place a higher value on Western lives, and discount the very real suffering of others. All life is precious. The sad reality is that the deaths of innocent Muslims doesn't fit a convenient narrative for the hawks, or some so-called leaders with great political aspirations. It's a hell of a lot easier to say "they hate us for our values" then it is to accept responsibility for death, destruction and instability.
Just as groups like ISIS use propaganda of these conflicts to recruit for their evil cult, those always thirsting for war will likely use the Paris tragedy as fuel for more aggression. And who will be caught in the middle? More innocent civilians. Innocent refugees fleeing hell on earth, innocents in Syria or wherever else we increase our presence and innocent victims of more ISIS attacks both in the Muslim world and in the West. It is a vicious, ugly cycle that those in power in a host of countries from all ends of the spectrum are benefiting from while the rest of us are duped into a debate about whether or not we should use the term "radical Islam."
Since the attacks in Paris, we've heard GOP hopeful Donald Trump say he'd consider shutting down mosques to fight terrorism and would be in favor of bringing back surveillance of NYC mosques (though it is debatable whether or not that surveillance actually ever ended). Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have called for 'boots on the ground', with Graham suggesting a force of 100,000 troops from a broad coalition of nations of which the U.S would be 10%. And as for ISIS, they promised more attacks like the horrendous ones that took place in Paris.
Somebody please tell the warmongers, the terrorists and the ones who like to create revisionist history that we are tired of the bs. No more bloodshed.