The Terror of our Cognizance Pt. 1

In this essay, I want to be courageous and talk about a forbidden conversation topic: terrorism.  Terrorism is a different kind of forbidden conversation topic compared to the common, “politics or religion at the dinner table.” Terrorism is a topic often talked about, yet only allowed to be discussed in a certain way.  The fear that many U.S. citizens have of terrorism confines them to talk about one facet of the subject.  This facet is the belief that terrorism is evil and that the only way to eradicate it is by exercising military dominance.  I am not arguing that terrorism is good.  It is an ailment that plagues humanity’s journey to social progress and universal peace.  What I am arguing is that the belief that “we need to stop terrorism with military prowess” is only one perspective on this social phenomenon.  The purpose of this essay is to introduce other ways of looking at terrorism and to provide insight to how it arises in the first place.

The common GOP rhetoric about terrorism is outright irritating and misinformed.  The popular understanding of terrorism is that the terrorists are religious radicals who strategically plan to burn the world until it is a pile of ashes.  They are considered pests that eat away at everything good and beautiful on this earth.  Those who perceive terrorists in this manner believe that the only way to exterminate them is by incinerating them with the highest grade military technology.  To further support my statements, a study done by The Pew Research Center states that 72% of the Republicans that they surveyed believed military force is the best way to defeat terrorism. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/15/5-facts-about-republicans-and-national-security/)

The common conversations about terrorism and the use of military force is a dualistic view of the terrorists and those who oppose them.  The mentality is that these people are evil and they need to be destroyed.  When asked, “why are they like this?” the only answers that are provided is, because ‘they believe Allah said so’ or ‘they hate America.’  There is no deeper questioning of the terrorists’ motives.

Terrorism arises because of something more than just religious beliefs.  ISIS is one example of this.  In 2003, President George W. Bush of the United States ordered the U.S. military to invade the country of Iraq.  Bush and his cabinet said that they had strong evidence that the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).  These WMD’s were never found and the motivation for Bush sending the troops was questionable.  Nevertheless, the U.S. invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam’s regime.

The aftermath of the fall of Saddam was catastrophic.  Chaos erupted and the social relationships between Iraqi Sunni and Shia Muslims were further polarized.  The U.S. didn’t want Iraq to crumble into a pile of rubble and as a result, they remained in Iraq to help the government get back on its feet.  They then appointed Nouri al Maliki to be the Prime Minister of Iraq in 2006.  Maliki was a Shia Muslim who had seen terrible oppression of his people under the boot of Hussein’s Sunni government.  Out of fear of Sunnis, Maliki made efforts to weed out any Sunni influence in his new government.  He fired many Sunni government personnel and soldiers from the Iraqi military.

Maliki’s actions caused many Sunni soldiers to be infuriated because they had no job and had no representation in the Iraqi government.  They, in response, revolted.  Maliki, out of his ignorance, quelled the Sunni revolt with military force.  This only made the Sunni’s angrier.  Due to their frustration and their desire to solve the problem, they sought out other violent Sunni revolutionaries for help.  The two main groups they approached were hidden Al Qaeda cells in Iraq and also, the rebel Sunni forces in Syria who were fighting Bashar al Assad.  This, of course, gave rise to the Islamic State of Iraq and Shams (Arabic name for Damascus).

To read Pt. 2: The Terror of our Cognizance Pt. 2

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