(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Following the attacks in Brussels and Paris, calls have grown louder for increased military force against ISIS. At the same time, draconian infringements on civil liberties have been introduced across the U.S. and Europe in attempts to combat Islamic radicalism and terrorism. What is largely absent from the discussion, particularly across the corporate media, is state terror and the responsibility it has for some of the brutalisation and rage directly fuelling terrorist attacks.
Studies have suggested the war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan has resulted in two million victims. Taking it a step further, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed says this number is only a fraction of the total lives Western warfare has claimed over the last two decades. In a piece for the Middle East Eye published in April of 2015, Ahmed suggests the combination of direct killings, devastation of civilian infrastructure, and the longer-term impact of war-imposed deprivation is more likely to constitute around four million deaths. Yet, thanks to the media’s silence, most people have little idea of the impact of U.S. and U.K. militarism being carried out in their name.
A terrorist-producing factory
In Days of Revolt -Why the Brutalized Become Brutal, journalist and author Chris Hedges insists that to understand attacks like the one in Brussels, we need to identify the root of the problem. He points to the indiscriminate lethal power of the American military, claiming the brutality of their presence — 15 years in Afghanistan and 13 years in Iraq — has created the conditions for terror that fuel attacks in the West.
The rarely acknowledged reality of U.S. atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan is highlighted in a discussion between Hedges and two combat veterans, Michael Hanes and Rory Fanning. Both men admit their military training conditioned them to see people as sub-human, recalling that during their service, it was not unusual to hear labels like sand nigger, barbarian and terrorist thrown around.
Michael Hanes served in the U.S. Marine Corps for ten years and engaged in direct action raids in Baghdad in 2003. “I was in the Iraq invasion and we pushed up into Baghdad. Things became very real for me when we began to kick in doors and rush into homes and terrorise these people,” he said. “I would say that probably 50% or more of the intel we got was just dead wrong.”
“Bursting in these doors you come into a family’s house and there are elderly women and little girls three or four years old just screaming and terrified to where they literally pee their pants. And then your [sic] taking grandma and throwing her up against the wall and interrogating her.”
Hanes said the amount of “collateral damage” in Iraq was enormous and no different from today’s drone attacks. The activist, who now works for Veterans for Peace, continued:
“Quite frankly it’s a terrorist-producing factory. If you lose your child, your mother or any of your family members to this, I mean, put yourself in that position. If I lost my child, I would be desperate, what would you do? It’s easy to understand why someone would strap a bomb to themselves and go blow themselves up.”
We wanted blood, we wanted a head count
Rory Fanning served two deployments in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004. Now a war-resister — and Donald Trump resister — he recently helped shut down the presidential candidate’s Chicago rally. The author of Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America walked across the U.S. for the Pat Tillman Foundation.
Also a member of Veterans for Peace, Fanning described his deployment shortly after the occupation of Afghanistan in late 2002:
“What I didn’t know as I entered the country was that the Taliban had essentially surrendered after the initial assault by the Air Force and the Special Forces. Our job was essentially to draw the Taliban back into the fight.”
In a chilling explanation of why this was the strategy, he continued: “Because surrender wasn’t good enough for our politicians after 9/11. We wanted blood. We wanted a head count and it didn’t matter who it was.”
Claiming that with tons of money at their disposal troops would pay desperate Afghanis to point out Taliban members, Fanning said in poverty-stricken Afghanistan, most people would do anything to put food on the table. “We were bringing people with absolutely no stake in the fight into the war. We were creating enemies,” he said.
Describing what happened next, Fanning said:
“Then we would go next door and land in his neighbours front yard. We would put a bag over every military-aged persons head, whether they were a member of the Taliban or not. We would give the person who identified them money and that person would also get their neighbour’s property.”
Fanning claimed he signed up for military service after 9/11 because he hoped to prevent another attack. Soon after entering Afghanistan, however, he realised he was creating ripe conditions for more terrorism against the United States. He said this realization was a hard pill to swallow.
“We would have a rocket land in our camp, we wouldn’t know necessarily where it came from. All we knew is it came from a general direction over there, so we would call in a 500lb bomb and it would land on a village,” Fanning said.
Pointing to the relentless attacks on countries the U.S. is not even at war with, the activist was fiercely critical of all U.S. electoral candidates. He added:
“We spend 10 times the amount of money we spend on education on our military. We have 700 military bases around the world. We have had military operations in 49 out of the 54 African countries since 2011. Why isn’t anybody talking about this stuff?”
Returning from deployment, many veterans are coping with significant trauma. In addition, many face isolation, anger, and the difficulty of trying to reconcile the reality of what they have done with the nationalistic rhetoric that accompanies military service. Fanning says evidence of this can be seen in numerous studies, some of which report that 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or depression. 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
Chris Hedges, himself a PTSD sufferer, added:
“The worst PTSD is not caused so much by what you saw but what you did.”
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