By Dan Sanchez
Fourteen years in, and the Terror War is raging on, mass-producing exactly what it was supposed to eliminate: terrorism and chaos. Western intervention has racked up at least six jihadi-overrun failed states throughout the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. The scope and scale of the imposed civilizational meltdown have become so great that the West itself has been increasingly inundated by its wreckage (in the form of refugees) and stung by its shrapnel (in the form of terrorist attacks).
To paraphrase Yeats, is the empire merely staggering toward Har Megiddo (Armageddon)? Or is there a Machiavellian method to the mass-murderous madness? If so, how could such a perpetually widening and intensifying catastrophe possibly serve anybody’s interest? What could possibly be the end game?
We know what the jihadis’ end game is. They plainly tell us in their official publication. ISIS, in the tradition of its forefathers Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wants to use terrorist provocation to polarize the entire world into two irreconcilable enemy camps. By eliminating any “gray zone” between “the crusader camp” and “the camp of [Salafist] Islam,” the terrorists seek to precipitate an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations,” out of which they will arise victorious.
The US-led imperium has been so prompt and thorough in falling into this trap (to the point of exceeding the jihadis’ wildest dreams), that one must wonder if its leaders, like Br’er Rabbit, see the “snare” as a briar patch. Maybe this is exactly what they want too. In a sense the crusader and jihadi enemies are allies: like shoulder-to-shoulder linebackers pushing the rest of humanity back toward an end zone with no gray zone.
Indeed, the loudest proponents of the Terror War (aka the Long War) are quite forthright in their calls to accept the inevitability of a Manichean Ragnarök. “Clash of civilizations,” after all, was coined by a neocon theoretician. And it has recently been promulgated by the neocon Manchurian candidate Marco Rubio.
And every single phase of the Terror War has seemed specially formulated to wipe all gray zones off the Middle Eastern map.
The secular Arab nationalist regimes of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, for all their evil deeds, were denizens of the gray zone. They were co-existers. They protected religious minorities, including Christians, even lifting some to public office. They even strove to co-exist with the American empire that actively sought to destroy them.
Yet one by one, they were targeted for regime change. And one by one, the countries they ruled faded to black, from gray zone to utter darkness, as the green flags of the Arab nationalists were supplanted by the stark black and white flags of the jihadis.
In Iraq, the US invasion and regime change unleashed Zarqawi, who had been hiding from Saddam’s security forces. The Sunni terrorist ringleader celebrated his freedom with a long string of bloody attacks, in part against the occupiers, but chiefly against Iraqi Shia and their holy sites. These sectarian attacks elicited violent Shiite reprisals against the general Sunni population.
The US further polarized Iraq by “de-Baathifying” it, driving countless secular Sunnis into unemployed desperation, and also by one-sidedly backing the most ruthlessly sectarian, Iran-backed Shiite factions. The US orchestrated an election that gave the Shia a monopoly of power and handed Iran-backed militias control over the new US-armed Iraqi military. These forces soon began “cleansing” Baghdad and other towns of Sunnis, and an all-out sectarian civil war broke out. The US armed forces brutally fought and won that war alongside and on behalf of the sectarian Shiite forces.
In the process, scores of Baathist “dead-enders” and myriad other Sunni “military aged males” were rounded up and warehoused in prisons like Camp Bucca, where they were placed in close quarters with Zarqawiite zealots. The contacts made there between such strange bunk-fellows led to a later alliance in ISIS (which evolved out of Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq). The military and bureaucratic expertise of Baathist ex-officers (as well as their smoldering resentment) and the fiery fanaticism of the head-chopping, suicide-bombing Salafis were combined to deadly effect. This “Islamo-fascist” alliance soon thereafter began infiltrating neighboring Syria.
Western air power overthrew Gaddafi in Libya on behalf of Sunni jihadist rebels, precipitating a civil war there too. The CIA then began running guns from Benghazi to Syrian jihadis, until the Americans were betrayed by their Libyan jihadist allies who sacked the embassy and killed the US ambassador.
In Syria, the US (CIA, State Department, Pentagon) and its western (Britain, France, etc) and regional (Saudis, Turks, Qataris, etc) allies were sponsoring (with training, coordination, recruitment, arms, and money) a Sunni jihadi-led insurgency against Assad and his multi-sect “gray zone” constituency.
It was amid that foreign-backed Syrian insurgency against Assad that ISIS, as predicted by Pentagon intelligence, thrived and rose to conquest. ISIS burst back into Iraq, seizing the northwest of the country, and reigniting the Iraqi civil war.
Even after declaring war on ISIS’s new “Caliphate” extending from Syria to Iraq, the US has continued to back the Syrian jihad, along with its regional allies who back the worst elements even more directly. The allies (especially Turkey) are so dead-set on “Assad must go” that they are even willing to militarily come to blows with Russia over that imperative.
In Yemen, the civilian-slaughtering US drone wars and the US-backed Saudi war on the Shiite Houthis has led to the rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) amid failed state chaos and near famine.
In Somalia, US drones and a US-backed Ethiopian invasion has led to the radicalization and rise of the Islamist group Al Shabaab amid failed state chaos and full famine.
In Afghanistan, the US is driving the Pashtuns into the arms of the Taliban and ISIS with its drone wars, hospital bombings, and support for death squads and child-rapist warlords.
Even in Egypt, the formerly mild Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood there are increasingly being driven into the arms of ISIS (which shot down a Russian airliner over the Sinai peninsula) by the brutal repression of a US- and Saudi-backed counter-revolutionary junta.
And now from Paris to San Bernardino, the terroristic blowback from these wars against Middle Eastern gray zones has dwindled Western gray zones as well, as outrage over attacks has replaced war weariness and regret with indiscriminate anti-Muslim animus and bloodlust.
So the Western war mongers are advancing steadily (with the help of the jihadis) toward the end zone with no gray zone. But what then? What happens when they get there? What do they do with all the terror and hate they have cultivated?
Two words: complete colonialism. We’re talking razed cities, massive invasions, and military occupations. Only this time, the occupations will be permanent.
That is what the war party cannot accomplish so long as any gray zone remains. They cannot convince the American public to disgorge the blood and treasure necessary to permanently occupy basically moderate Muslim countries ruled by co-existers, because they simply are not threatening enough.
But it’s a different story once you erase the gray zones. Once you rip those countries apart into warring fragments, turning them into jihadi-infested, terrorism-emanating, refugee-spewing hellholes. And once the terrorists, Western governments, and terror-amplifying media together whip the Western public into a frenzy over what is still (in spite of all our governments’ terrorism-cultivating efforts) a vastly overblown menace.
Then, “we have no choice.” Suddenly the exigencies of the situation demand total war. Suddenly we need American tanks and American boys and girls stationed throughout the Muslim world and patrolling its streets and raiding its homes forever. Suddenly we need a Western occupation of the Greater Middle East as permanent, pervasive, and ruthless as the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Of course the military budget will have to skyrocket and remain stratospheric forever in order to pay for all of this. So much the better for the military industrial complex.
And of course the colonial governments and their connected corporations will have to commandeer the natural resources of the occupied lands. Wouldn’t want them falling into terrorist hands after all. And it’s only right that the benighted locals pay us back for our “benevolent global hegemony.”
And with our very survival on the line, we cannot domestically have the seditious dissent of disgusting “terrorist-lovers” imperiling the all-important war effort. So an all-encompassing police state will be the order of the day: speech codes, restrictions on assembly, an even greater militarization of the police, more checkpoints, regular city-wide lockdowns, a cyber-ministry of truth, and a global cyber-panopticon. Remember, “we have no choice.”
To hell with that. We do have a choice. We can choose right now to stand athwart this march toward total war and totalitarianism and bellow “Stop!” We can choose not to give in to despair. We can choose to use the relatively free internet, while we still have it, to wake up as many people up as we can. Even as the terrorists and hate-mongers on both sides eat away at civilization — even as the gray zones give way to encroaching darkness — no matter how bleak things seem, we can always choose hope, human decency, and action.
This article was originally published at Antiwar.com.