Why Are They Killing Us?

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Who carried out the London massacre, we do not know. But, as to why they did it, we are already quarreling.

President Bush says that the terrorists are attacking our civilization. At Fort Bragg, N.C., he explained again why we are fighting in Iraq, two years after we overthrew Saddam Hussein. “Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war,” he said, in “a global war on terror.”

“Many terrorists who kill … on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of citizens in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.”

Bush was echoed by Sen. John McCain. Those terrorists in Iraq, McCain told Larry King, “are the same guys who would be in New York if we don’t win.” We fight the terrorists over there so we do not have to fight them over here.

But is this true?

Few Americans have given more thought to the motivation of suicide-bombers than Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. His book is drawn from an immense database on every suicide-bomb attack from 1980 to early 2004. Conclusion: The claim that 9-11 and the suicide-bombings in Iraq are done to advance some jihad by “Islamofascists” against the West is not only unsubstantiated, it is hollow.

“Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think,” Pape tells The American Conservative in its July 18 issue. Indeed, the world’s leader in suicide terror was the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. This secular Marxist group “invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the vest from the Tamil Tigers.”

But if the aim of suicide bombers is not to advance Islamism in a war of civilizations, what is its purpose? Pape’s conclusion:

“(S)uicide-terrorist attacks are not so much driven by religion as by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide terrorist campaign — over 95 percent of all incidents — has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.”

The 9-11 terrorists were over here because we were over there. They are not trying to convert us. They are killing us to drive us out of their countries.

Before the U.S. invasion, says Pape, “Iraq never had a suicide attack in its history. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly, with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004 and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year since the U.S. invasion, suicide terrorism has doubled. … Far from making us safer against terrorism, the operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorists and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.”

Pape is saying that President Bush has got it backward: The Iraq war is not eradicating terrorism, it is creating terrorists.

The good news? “The history of the last 20 years” shows that once the troops of the occupying democracies “withdraw from the homeland of the terrorists, they often stop — and stop on a dime.”

Between 1982 and 1986, there were 41 suicide-bomb attacks on U.S., French, and Israeli targets in Lebanon. When U.S. and French troops withdrew and Israel pulled back to a six-mile buffer zone, suicide-bombings virtually ceased. When the Israelis left Lebanon, the Lebanese suicide-bombers did not follow them to Tel Aviv.

“Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism,” says Pape, “the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies … is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.”

What Pape is saying is that the neocons’ “World War IV” — our invading Islamic countries to overthrow regimes and convert them into democracies — is suicidal, like stomping on an anthill so as not to be bitten by ants. It is the presence of U.S. troops in Islamic lands that is the progenitor of suicide terrorism.

Bush’s cure for terrorism is a cause of the epidemic. The doctor is spreading the disease. The longer we stay in Iraq, the greater the number of suicide attacks we can expect. The sooner we get our troops out, the sooner terrorism over there and over here will end. So Pape says the data proves. This is the precise opposite of what George Bush argues and believes.

Patrick J. Buchanan [send him mail] is co-founder and editor of The American Conservative. He is also the author of seven books, including Where the Right Went Wrong, and A Republic Not An Empire.

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