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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cowardly Wars

-- By Tom Phillips

The Boston bombings may turn out to be not so mysterious.  Following days of speculation about international plots and connections, U-S officials who interviewed the surviving suspect say he was a "self-radicalized" young Muslim who apparently killed innocent people on his own, because he was angered by the U-S wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   

This kind of terrorist attack is routinely denounced as “cowardly” by U-S presidents.   (Even the 9/11 suicide bombers were called cowards by President Bush.)  It is cowardly to drop off a bomb in a backpack and walk away from the scene.  The brothers probably thought they could just slip away and go home, as terrorist bombers used to do in London and Paris.   21st-century surveillance and security has made terrorism much more problematic, and that’s a good thing.   

But the U-S is in no position to denounce cowardly warfare, because we are its leading practitioners.   At undisclosed locations in America, undercover CIA agents sit at consoles and guide drones to targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, wherever the agency decides someone might have the means and intention to attack the U-S.  The explosions naturally kill and maim whoever is in the vicinity, women and children, innocent bystanders.   The agent who carries out the attack slips away at the end of the day, home to the family in the suburbs, undetectable, not in harm’s way.    

This is the most worrisome thing about the CIA’s taking over offensive operations from the military in the “war on terror.”   In the military, soldiers sign up to risk their lives, facing an enemy in battle.  Military commanders are often slow to take the offensive, because they know that to attack means to  invite retaliation.  “The enemy has a vote, too,” is a piece of humble wisdom that everyone who’s been in a war zone knows and keeps in mind.   

The CIA has a different mentality.  Spies operate in darkness and disguise, covertly.  They prefer to kill from a distance and slip away.   But the enemy still has a vote.   If they can’t kill the perpetrators, they can kill innocents, like those in Boston.  

President Obama has made repairing U-S relations with the Muslim world a foreign policy priority.  At the same time he has undermined his efforts by launching a cowardly drone war that has inflamed Muslim public opinion.   Congressmen are now arguing over how best to “prevent the next attack.”  How about thinking more before we launch our next provocation?   

-- Copyright 2013 by Tom Phillips