I just read the news on Reuters/Yahoo that the USA entered Somalia with an AC 130 plane and bombed the village of Hayo because there was “at least one Al Qaeda suspect”. The result? Reuters sources says: “I understand there are many dead bodies and animals in the village”.
Now while most of us strongly prefer a world without Al Qaeda, an organization that has killed a lot of innocent people, from a moral and tactical point of view I think that flying into a foreign country chasing “at least one Al Qaeda suspect”, bombing a village and killing many civilians, is wrong.
An air attack of this kind makes USA lose not only from a moral point of view, but also from a tactical point of view. Terrorism is an industry fueled by angry young men (occasionally young women as well) who are looking for a reason to fight. The USA tactics in the Middle East, in my view, just make it more likely for Al Qaeda, an organization which operates in a region where birth rates and unemployment rates are among the highest in the world, to recruit angry young men.
In Spain, where I live, we also have a lot of problems with terrorism. A few days ago ETA attacked in Barajas Airport. We also had a terrorist attack by an islamic terrorist organization on March 11th 2004 that left as many dead per capita as 9/11 did in the States. Still I can´t possibly imagine Spanish police demolishing the homes of relatives of suspected terrorists as Israel does or simply bombing suspected targets from the air as USA does. If the Spanish government did that it would turn thousands of Basque citizens and well adapted Muslim immigrants into ETA and Al Qaeda supporters.
I think it´s time that USA realize that Al Qaeda has many more sympathizers now than before 9/11 as a result of its flawed policies. Most of the world supported the USA led invasion of Afghanistan. That act in itself was rational and probably understood by most muslims as well. The Taliban government working jointly with Al Qaeda had attacked the USA and USA responded invading the country and replacing the government. But things started going wrong with the invasion of Iraq, a country that basically had no terrorism until the USA´s actions unfortunately produced it.
USA in Iraq managed to create the enemy it did not have before the invasion. This was achieved in part by the unreasonable use of force, including air bombings of cities like Fallujah. How can you explain to a rational person that air bombings on civilian populations are justifiable, but placing car bombs or human bombs is not? Same with Israel. Hezbollah now has many more supporters than before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, because that invasion included bombings among civilians, heavy civilian casualties and enormous destruction of Lebanese infrastructure.
As a result many Lebanese who were not Hezbollah sympathizers now are.
Democracies do not need to resort to an eye for an eye tactics to win against terrorism as those tend to backfire. The Somalia attack will now again increase the fear of Muslims that the US just wants to kill Muslims anywhere they are.
The best way to defeat terrorism in Israel or USA is great police work (as USA and Israel have been doing internally), superb intelligence (as Israel has had for decades), a fair and well functioning judicial system, in short all possible strategies short of bombing civilian populations and violating human rights. Imagine bombing Scarsdale because there´s at least one Al Qaeda operative believed to be there and killing “many civilians and animals”. How would you feel if they bombed you because you happened to have a terrorist in your town? Well that´s what USA is doing in Somalia. More comments in Spanish on this post are here.
Posted on January 9, 2007