How to Prevent Terrorism

By David Swanson

Hi, this is David Swanson, executive director of World BEYOND War, campaign coordinator of RootsAction, and host of Talk World Radio. I was asked by the Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism for a video on foreign intervention and domination as an important factor in the spread of violence and extremism.

I’m not a huge fan of the word “extremism,” both because I think we should be extreme about things that merit it, and because the U.S. government distinguishes bad extremist murderers from good moderate murderers in places like Syria where the distinction is between people trying to violently overthrow a government and people trying to violently overthrow a government. But if extremism means racism and hatred, then it is clearly and currently and historically has been fueled in places where wars are waged and in places that wage wars far from home.

I’m not a huge fan of the word “intervention,” both because it sounds so helpful and because it avoids the term used in the treaties that make it illegal, namely war. The ways in which wars and occupations spread violence, including torture, are inseperable from their spread of lawlessness and impunity. Interventions and enhanced interrogations aren’t crimes, but war and torture are.

Studies have found 95% of suicide attacks to be motivated by ending a foreign occupation. If you don’t want to see any more suicide terrorist attacks in the world, and you’re willing, toward that end, to kill millions of people in wars, to create the biggest refugee crisis ever, to sanction murder and torture, to set up lawless prisons, to spend trillions of dollars desperately needed by humanity and other living things, to give up your civil liberties, to devastate the natural environment, to spread hatred and bigotry, and to erode the rule of law, then you must really have a very strong attachment to foreign occupations of other people’s countries, because all you had to do was give those up.

Studies have also found that nations that sent token numbers of troops to join in the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan generated terrorism against themselves back in their own nations in proportion to the number of troops they sent to participate. Spain had one foreign terrorist attack, took its troops out of Iraq, and had no more. Other Western governments, despite anything they might tell you in other circumstances about believing the science and following the facts, have simply maintained that the only way to counter terrorism is to do what generates more terrorism.

The lawless world in which the U.S. government as top enemy of the International Criminal Court, top violator of the UN Charter, and top holdout on human rights treaties, preaches to others about a “rule-based order” is a world in which criminal impunity spreads, and the possibility of an actual rule of law is made to seem impossible. Efforts by Spain or Belgium or the ICC to investigate U.S. murder or torture are blocked by bullying. Torture is modeled to the world and proliferates accordingly. Then drone murder is modeled to the world. This week we saw a report on the CIA plotting to kidnap or murder Julian Assange. The only reason they hesitated and questioned the legality was their preference not to use a missile. Missiles are now entirely above the rule of law. And the only reason they prefered not to use a missile was Assange’s location in London.

And over 20 years since September 11, 2001, the U.S. public has effectively been made incapable of imagining the crimes of that day being prosecuted as crimes (rather than used as excuses for greater crimes).

The lawlessness and wars have fueled weapons sales, which have fueled wars, as well as base construction which has fueled wars. They have also fueled racism and hatred and violence in the heart of the U.S. empire. At least 36% of mass shooters in the United States have been trained by the U.S. military. Local police departments are armed and trained by the U.S. and Israeli militaries.

I haven’t said much about domination. I think that word was well-chosen and should be mentioned more. Without the drive to dominate, ending wars and occupations — and deadly sanctions — would be significantly easier.

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