U.S. made bad assumptions about terrorists

It is becoming clear that White House officials either did incredibly negligent research or simply lied to everyone.

After the bombing in Spain on March 11, I couldn’t help thinking about the many fallacies reguarding terrorism this horrible act made bare.

The first fallacy is that invading Iraq made the United States and the world safer. By invading Iraq, the U.S. government actually helped to legitimize terrorist organizations. In 2003’s State of the Union address, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from the African nation Niger, as part of his argument for a pre-emptive war with Iraq to keep the country from developing weapons of mass destruction. By July, White House officials admitted that the evidence on which that claim was based was erroneous.

In the year since Iraq was invaded, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and U.S. soldiers come under almost weekly attacks in the country that was supposed to become a breeding ground for democracy under U.S. leadership. Admissions in a similar vein to the weapons of mass destruction mistake have been uncovered by Congress’ investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is becoming clear that White House officials either did incredibly negligent research or simply lied to everyone. The rest of the world believes the U.S. government knew the data on which it was making its claims was questionable, yet continued to blindly push for invading Iraq. In Spain, the populace felt it was attacked because the Spanish government participated in an unjust invasion of Iraq, so it voted to change the government. Because the invasion of Iraq was viewed as unjust, the attack on Spain’s people was viewed as punishment brought on by the now-defeated Spanish government’s support of the U.S. bully.

The second fallacy is that there is only one terrorist group the United States needs to worry about – al-Qaida. In reality, there are thousands of terrorist groups in the world, and they are not all connected. The Spanish bombing was originally blamed on a Basque terrorist group. The worst bombing in U.S. history prior to the Sept. 11 attacks was in Oklahoma City by a U.S. citizen. Focusing on only one terrorist group ignores all the other potentially dangerous groups out there.

The third fallacy is that Osama bin Laden is personally involved in every attack carried out by al-Qaida. Al-Qaida has cells in almost every country in the world. Each cell is run by a local leader who might never have communicated with bin Laden. I would very much like bin Laden to be captured, but I know his capture will not mean the end of al-Qaida. Any of his lieutenants could take over. Saddam Hussein’s capture was supposed to reduce the number of attacks on U.S. soldiers, but this has not happened. Approximately 550 U.S. soldiers have already been killed in the war on terror, and the number continues to grow. The toppling of Saddam has shown that terrorism will continue even after the big names are captured.

If the United States and the world are to become safer, these fallacies need to be acknowledged. To keep the “war on terror” truly global, the U.S. government desperately needs to develop a terrorism policy that does not alienate what few allies we have left.

R.R.S. Stewart welcomes comments at [email protected]