By Dr. Arshad M. Khan
President Obama’s final foreign policy speech at MacDill air force base in Tampa, betrayed its purpose through the venue. The Tampa, Florida, base is home to Special Operations Command and Central Command — Special Operations playing an ever increasing role in counter terrorism.
The gist of the speech seemed to assert that the US is and should stay true to its values when fighting terrorism. An assertion when at the same time Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, has written a letter to Secretary John Kerry warning him the US could be charged with war crimes in aiding Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen. The US helps through in-air refueling of planes. The Congressman claims there are 70 documented incidents targeting civilians including women and children. Yemen itself never had a refugee crisis through years of civil conflict, that is until the merciless Saudi air onslaught.
What did Libya do to incur US wrath? It was fighting a civil war where the casualties were in the hundreds and the rebels themselves not without foreign instigators. Look at Libya now. From leading Africa on the Human Development Index scale to being bombed into a shambles without an effective government. By the way, what was the strategic (or for that matter even tactical) value of bombing a precious and expensive water system bringing water from the south to Tripoli? And how did it help the civilian population of Tripoli? Now, of course, those who can, in Libya, are fleeing to Europe. In fact, sub-Saharan Africans who would come to Libya seeking work now try also to get to Europe.
Ask the Libyans who they blame for their problems and the answer comes back without equivocation, the US. It was the leading cause of the country’s destruction. Ask the Yemenis … ditto. It is the country supplying the planes, the bombs, the air-refueling. Without it there would be no air campaign. Ask the Syrians as a National Public Radio reporter did this week. They certainly do not blame President Bashar Assad, who they feel is doing well at keeping the country together. No, they blame the Saudis, the Gulf States and their arms supplier-in-chief, the US.
Ask the Somalis. It was a U.S. sponsored invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia that destroyed the last chance of Somali stability, continuing the killing. The Islamic Courts regime could not have chosen a worse name, which sent danger signals rippling through the US administration, bringing fears of a Taliban and al-Qaeda replay. And it was a quiet, studious Somali student who went on a rampage at Ohio State University just over a week ago. Mr. Trump has been there this week to express his condolences and to repeat his anti-Muslim immigration and “extreme vetting” creed.
Ask the Iraqis and the Afghans. A vast swathe from North Africa through Yemen into Afghanistan and Pakistan are embroiled in conflict. Estimates of deaths in Iraq vary from 200,000 ascribed to violence to a million from the ravages of war. The war casualties in Afghanistan according to the Watson Institute at Brown University stand at around 111,000 with at least as many wounded, and continue to increase after a US presence for 15 years. Deaths from the effects of war among the population are not easily determined but as in Iraq are likely to be even higher.
The question to ask is whether 19 persons, primarily from Saudi Arabia, responsible for the 9/11 attacks warrant this wholesale killing. And for what? If anything, the situation and the fear factor in the US are worse and one of the reasons for Donald Trump’s win.
Is this heavy-handed policy actually fighting terrorism successfully, or is it alienating populations enough to be a proximate cause?
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor has for several decades also written for the press, his articles have appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others.