Thirteen Years Later -- Here We Go Again!

Here we go again! One can only wonder when we'll ever learn. Wars fought in vengeance can only lead to more war. The impulse to strike back without any comprehension of why we were struck only leads to more strikes. Yes, terrorism is outrageous. But do we ever take the time to analyze the source of that terror?

Back in 2004, after our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld worried out loud if what we were doing there was only succeeding in creating more terrorists. He appointed a special commission that confirmed his worry. So now we have our answer to that worry once again.

Likewise, Secretary of State Colin Powell -- despite his having compromised his credibility in having played his role in the dog and pony show accusing Saddam Hussein of helping the 9/11 attackers -- warned us that if we break something, like Iraq's fragile society, we would be stuck with the job of trying to fix it. So here we are, returning to Iraq yet again.

Nevertheless, we are in danger of repeating the same mistake. We never should have meddled in the Middle East to begin with. Nor can we ever repair or make up for all the damage we have already done. The Middle East is one of the remaining areas of the world where religion is still taken most seriously as summing up and protecting the ultimate meaning and whole purpose of human existence. Even aside from armies and invasions, Western secular culture and its lax moral standards as perceived by Middle Easterners, particularly the Islamicists, is threatening their whole way of life. And like fundamentalism and extreme conservatism everywhere, the more threatened it feels, the more it violently it is apt to react. ISIS/ISIL is simply its latest and deadliest reaction to the history of Western invasions of the Middle East that began with the Crusades, was repeated centuries later by the French and the British, and, as one Egyptian described Israel to me when I was there over thirty years ago, "the latest Western colony in the Middle East."

Some years back, even before 9/11, Osama bin Laden, in an interview with a Western reporter, seems to have gone out of his way to hint at his intentions and strategy when he told the reporter that "If you Christians are punched in the nose, you are supposed to turn the other cheek; but if you punch us Muslims in the nose, we will punch you right back." Daring us to go against our supposed Christian convictions, 9/11 was his "sucker punch" in our nose, designed to draw us back into the Middle East where they could punch us back again and again. Bin Laden's strategy worked beyond his wildest expectations. His latest replacement, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who doesn't bother with being interviewed by reporters but instead beheads them, aims to surpass even bin Laden's success.

No doubt, al Baghdadi will eventually be killed by a drone (recent rumor has it that he has already been killed by an air-strike), an assassin, or a military hit team. But thus eliminated, he will be replaced by any one of a number of would-be "martyrs" eager to punch us again and again.