THREE weeks ago the US-led coalition bombing of Mosul in Iraq killed an estimated 300 civilians, many of whom were buried alive under the rubble. Five days later Khalid Masood killed four people in London as he ploughed through the crowds on Westminster bridge.
A comparison of the mainstream media’s coverage of these two events exposed the hypocrisy of the Western media, which provided constant analysis and coverage of the London attack, compared to fleeting coverage of the carnage in Mosul.
What does that say about the universal value of human life?
As much as we should condemn the terrorism of ideologically extremist groups and individuals, it is also important to recognise the role of Western governments in exacting death and destruction on innocent civilians in countries of the Middle East and North Africa. This in turn has the unintended consequence of fuelling the terrorism of extremist groups.
US congressman Ted Lieu wrote to the former US secretary of state John Kerry under the Obama administration, warning him that the US could be charged with war crimes by aiding the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. The congressmen had claimed that there were 70 documented incidents targeting civilians, including women and children.
One of the ways the US assists the bombing campaign is through in-air refuelling of planes. In addition, many of the remnants of bombs that civilians find on the ground in Yemen are marked “made in the US”.
The perception of many Yemenis is that the US (in addition to the Gulf States) is the leading cause of their country’s destruction - a country that is at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index.
The Libyans have much the same to say: The US is the leading cause of their country’s destruction.
Prior to the US-led coalition’s bombardment of Libya in 2011, the country had led Africa on the UN’s Human Development Index, but following the bombing campaign much of its essential infrastructure lay in ruins.
Today the government cannot claim it controls the whole country. For many on the ground in these countries, the war on terror has morphed into terrorism, which is implemented through jets and missiles.
A vast swathe of territory from North Africa through to Yemen, and into Afghanistan and Pakistan is embroiled in conflict. Ask the Somalis, the Syrians, the Iraqis and the Afghans who they blame for this endless conflict, and many will say the West, or the US specifically. Others will say al-Shabaab, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Islamic State or the Taliban. But wherever the truth lies, the involvement of the West in the continual bombardment of these countries has at times begun to look like the wilful killing of civilians, the definition of which is terrorism.
Ironically, the country touted in the western media as the greatest threat to the West is Iran, but the last time Iran invaded another nation was in 1793.
By way of comparison, since 1776, the US has engaged in more than 53 military invasions and expeditions. The director of the US National Security Agency under president Ronald Reagan, General Williamson, had said: “By any measure the US has long used terrorism.”
From 1978 to 1979 the US senate had tried to pass a law against international terrorism, but in every version lawyers said the US would be in violation of that law.
It is no secret that the CIA groomed Osama bin Laden and funded his organisation during the 1980s. Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook told the British House of Commons that al-Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies.
Al-Qaeda is an abbreviation of “the database” in Arabic.
The name refers to the early computer database of thousands of Islamist extremists trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan.
The West may purport to be fighting Islamic State, but it has also used the group as a tool of US foreign policy. Islamic State has conveniently attacked the enemies of the US in the Middle East. It has worked to undermine the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - long considered by the US as part of the Axis of Evil.
Islamic State has served as a pretext for US military intervention abroad, and it has manufactured a domestic threat to justify the expansion of invasive domestic surveillance on US citizens. Seven consecutive US presidents have told Americans they are at war with terrorists. Trillions of dollars have been spent on this war, thousands of US troops killed and thousands wounded.
Perhaps more significantly, the death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East of the West’s “war on terror” has been estimated at well over 4million.
One cannot point to any kind of stability, good governance or prosperity in the countries attacked by the US in the Middle East and North Africa. The outcome has been more chaos. This suggests that violence begets violence and ultimately becomes one of the root causes of terrorism.
The words of author John Wright seem more relevant now than ever. He wrote: “The idea one can set fire to countries in the Middle East, collapse their societies and traumatise entire populations, sowing carnage on a biblical scale, and not expect any reaction in the form of blowback is utterly insane.”