Attacks in Boston and London -- and the failure of the West in the war on terror

By Peter Baofu

The recent incidents like the killing of a British soldier in London on May 22, 2013 and the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 reveal an inconvenient truth that the West has failed in the war on terror, and this is something that neither the Western mainstream media nor many Western leaders would like to admit or tell their own people, with tragic consequences to the world that we all live in.

Instead, the mainstream (popular) analysis of the incidents in the Western world (as in CNN and BBC) portrays the U.S. and the U.K. as "innocent" victims of "barbaric" or "savage" terrorism by "sickening" individuals who "hate our freedom," but "we have always beaten them back," so they "will never win."

For instance, the British Prime Minister David Cameron said on May 22, 2013: "[T]here is absolutely no justification for these acts and the fault for them lies solely and purely with the sickening individuals who carried out this appalling attack," and "the terrorists will never win because they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, western values. They are never going to defeat those."

And Cameron then proposed that "Britain works with our international partners to make the world safe from terrorism." And the U.S. President Barack Obama supported the U.K. by condemning the killing "in the strongest terms" and added on May 23, 2013 that "we have now been at war [against terrorism] for well over a decade....In sum, we are safer because of our efforts," in spite of these incidents.

If one puts aside these euphemistic rhetorical speeches by Cameron and Obama, the reality on the ground shows an entirely different story, which can be shown on two fronts: (a) at home and (b) abroad.


At home, in Western societies, the official discourse on "freedom" and "equality" is applied, in practice, mostly for those who are "whites" and/or mostly for those who follow the dominant mindset in regard to the "Others" (e.g., different racial, ethnic, religious, political, and other marginalized minorities). The term "unspoken rules" can be used here to reveal what is hidden behind the "official" discourse in a culture and thus reflect the dark side of that society which perpetuates discrimination and oppression against the "Others," and this is true in all societies, both Western and non-Western. More specifically in the Western context, the dominant groups look down on, and discriminate against, the "Others" on a daily basis, while the official discourse is all about "freedom" and "equality" for all.

In America, there is no lack of derogatory terms to humiliate or degrade the "Others," like "nigger" or "monkey" or "fried chicken" (for blacks), "gook" or "banana" (for Asians), "raghead" or "Haji" (for Arabs and Muslims), "Bohunk" (for Eastern-Central Europeans), "Beaner" or "Beaney" (for Mexicans), "ABCD" (for South Asians)," "commie" or "Red" (for Communists), "skinhead" (for far right extremists), and "Nazi" (for National Socialists) - while in other Western societies, there are different terms to degrade them, like "wog" (for dark-skinned natives of the Middle East, Africa, or Southeast Asia) in the U.K., "chink" (for Asians), "black cunt" (for blacks), and "sand monkey" (for Arabs). In Israel, an Arab is put down as "Arabush," and the Palestinian militants are regarded as "subhuman," as the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly put it on April 15, 2013.

In America, racism and ethnocentrism against the "Others" have long plagued its existence in the last few centuries, and the recent book titled "Racism in Contemporary America" by Meyer Weinberg, for example, had listed "almost 15,000 entries to books, articles, dissertations, and other materials...organized under 87 subject-headings" to document the everlasting problem.

This problem is a relevant context to understand the Boston bombing suspects from Russia, especially in regard to their new life in America; for example, when Tamerlan Tzarnaev, one of the two Boston bombing suspects, wrote in a photo essay online before the attacks that "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them," the American mainstream media dismissed this as a loser who failed to "assimilate," even though he married a local girl, but her best friends refused to attend her wedding. Many individuals from the U.S.S.R. or now Russia are not well accepted in American society, just as many Russian and Eastern European girls are regarded as "whores" in major American urban cities, partly because of the historical legacy of the Cold War between the Western bloc and the Eastern bloc, partly because of the political fault line of modern Russian history outside the Western world, and of course partly because of the lucrative (exploitative) sex (slave) trade for American men. 

In the U.K., racism and ethnocentrism have also long "inflicted...various groups at various times in its history"; even nowadays, "police forces...have been accused of institutionalised racism since the late 20th century. A stand which many believe is the catalyst for the 2011 summer riot. During the riot, a Metropolitan Police officer, PC Alex MacFarlane, arrested and attempted strangling an African origin male and used racial words like 'nigger' and 'black cunt' on him," as well described in a Wikipedia article titled "Racism in the United Kingdom."

Around the same time of the killing of a British soldier on May 22, 2013, there have been riots for more than a week (starting on May 17, 2013) in Stockholm, Sweden by some minorities who were angry by the shooting of one of their own kind by the Swedish police, and the shooting sparked outrage, because these minorities were fed up with "police brutality and racism" against them, and "one of the rioters in Husby told Swedish Radio that racism was rampant where he lived, and that violence was his only way of being noticed" - contrary to the official discourse on Sweden as "an oasis of peace and harmony" in the Western world, as reported by Pia Ohlin for AFP on May 24, 2013.

Surely, not every (especially white) Westerner is discriminative against the "Others," as some of them even campaign for their rights and well-being -- just as in statistics, every "average" or "central tendency" has "standard deviations" to allow exceptional cases or those observations which stand outside a generalization, but they do not invalidate the norm or the "central tendency" in question, because they are "exceptions to the rules."

This pattern of "unspoken rules" against the "Others" in mainstream Western societies constitutes a fertile breeding ground for "alienation" and "anger," which, when combined with the second front of the war on terror (abroad), produces tragic consequences so as to perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence between the Western dominant groups and the "Others."

The "lone wolves" (or the "enemies from within") are thus inextricably linked with this troubling pattern of "unspoken rules" against the "Others" in mainstream Western societies. David Cameron is ignorant enough to say that these "sickening" individuals "hate our freedom." No, not at all, they "love" our freedom, but they do not have enough freedom and equality in Western societies, because they are not accepted as "equal" and "free" as the privileged (mostly white) dominant groups.

This vicious cycle of violence at home strikes at the very heart of contemporary Western culture and society, that is, the very conflict between the "official" discourse (in mainstream media) and the "unspoken rules" (in everyday life). The Western world has failed to eliminate the "lone wolves," because the "unspoken rules" against the "Others" remain pervasive in everyday life. 


Abroad, there is the "second" front of the Western war on terror against the "militants," "insurgents," etc., -- just as there is the "first" front of the Western war on terror at home against the "lone wolves." But the two fronts are artificially (mistakenly) separated, because they are in fact inextricably linked.

In the killing of a British soldier in London on May 22, 2013, the black man with "hands covered in blood, brandishing a bloodied meat cleaver and a knife" bluntly said in front of a camera: "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day" abroad due to Western military strikes, and "this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth....I apologize that women had to witness that, but in our lands our women have to see the same thing. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don't care about you," as reported by Maria Golovnina and Guy Faulconbridge for Reuters on May 22, 2013.

One is tempted to blame the 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush for his initiation of the war on terror abroad more than a decade ago. However, in a most recent "Pew Research Center survey," although Bush is still " the Muslim world" -- to the surprise of many, "the US generated higher approval ratings (19 percent)" under Bush "than it does now (12 percent), under Obama," as reported by Husna Haq for the Christian Science Monitor on May 22, 2013.

But how is this possible? How is Obama even more unpopular now than Bush in the Muslim world? After all, it was Obama who promised the Muslim world a new beginning based on "mutual interest and mutual respect," as he thus said on January 27, 2009 in his interview by Al-Arabiya host Hisham Melhem. The reason is that the Western war on terror abroad has gone astray in the last few years (on Obama's watch), for 3 major reasons.

The first reason is that, although Osama bin Laden and many of his major Al Qaeda leaders had been killed in the past years, the global terrorist network becomes "decentralized," with many new "local" cells operating on their own terms, while sharing the violent crusade against the U.S. and its allies. The recent two incidents in Boston and London fit in these new "local" cells, with little or no guidance at all from the top hierarchy of the global terrorist network. These new "local" cells are more dangerous, because they spread everywhere, hard to detect, and often act alone.

The second reason is that the "drone strikes" by the U.S. in the past decades have killed many innocent civilians around the world and therefore have made many new enemies in the process, especially under the leadership of Obama, who now becomes "known as the 'drone president,'" because "his drone campaign started three days into the first term of his presidency. His national security policy has been defined, at least in part, by a penchant for targeted killings. And he has already authorized more than six times the number of strikes in Pakistan that President George W. Bush did in his entire presidency," as reported by Husna Haq for the Christian Science Monitor on May 22, 2013. And it is therefore "no surprise" that "Obama's drone program has alienated allies abroad, largely because of the number of civilian casualties incurred as a result of the strikes. Nowhere is that more true than in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiments are already high due to US actions such as the SEAL team operation to kill Osama bin Laden [which blatantly violated the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan]....'Globally these operations are hated,' Micah Zenko, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times. 'It's the face of American foreign policy, and it's an ugly face.'"

This is expectable, if one remembers how the "Others" are treated in Western societies (as explained earlier). By the same logical extension, Western powers show no moral scruples in killing countless innocent civilians around the world in all these military strikes against the "Others" over the years, whose lives are not deemed as worthy enough as those of "whites" (or "Europeans"). Each time, these deaths are simply dismissed as "collateral damages."  When one single British life (a "white") was lost in the attack on May 22, 2013, Obama immediately showed outrage and sent his "thoughts and prayers" to "the family of the victim...." But when all these countless innocent civilians (non-whites) were killed by drone strikes (on Obama's watch), he never bothered to send his "thoughts and prayers" to the families of the victims. In reality, the West does not care about the human lives of the "Others" abroad, who are often looked down upon as "uncivilized," "backward," "subhuman," "trashy," or "inferior" - but the official Western rhetoric is always about "freedom," "equality," "human rights," etc. for all, as part of its psychological warfare for the imperial project (as there is no year without a war initiated by the West, with all the subsequent killings and the tragic flows of war refugees around the world, as "collateral damages").  

And the third reason is that these ruthless killings of countless innocent civilians and the endless flows of war refugees around the world by the "drone strikes" (and other military actions) have become a highly successful tool of "recruitment propaganda" for enemies abroad, because "wildly unpopular in the Muslim world, the strikes are leveraged by Al Qaeda to make a case that the US is at war with Islam and to drum up sympathy for its cause. The drone program has also been mentioned by convicted terrorists as motivation for their crimes, as the Times points out, including 'underwear bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who tried to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009, as well as Faisal Shahzad, whose attempted Times Square car bombing was foiled in 2010. In other words, drone strikes may be creating as many would-be terrorists as it seeks to eliminate," as reported by Husna Haq for the Christian Science Monitor on May 22, 2013.

In fact, the Boston bombing suspects on April 15, 2013 and the attackers of a British soldier on May 22, 2013 had both stressed that their attacks were a response to the Western war on terror abroad, which had killed and maltreated too many Muslims.

It is no secret that the majorities of those in American and British societies are Christians, not Muslims; and the relationships between Christians and Muslims in these societies have been quite rocky for years. But the Obama administration, like his Bush predecessor, does not make things better by treating the Muslims badly in the notorious prison at Guantánamo Bay, and this is even more shocking when one remembers that Obama, again, promised more than 4 years ago to close it but still has not.

Even the mainstream British magazine The Economist recently (on May 4, 2013) called "the [Guantánamo] prison...a deeply un-American disgrace," because many of the prisoners there "have been there as long as 11 years, without ever even having been charged," and about "100 of the 166 detainees still in Guantánamo are now on hunger strike, and extra doctors were brought in this week to help with what the administration refuses to call force-feeding. No matter what they have done, this is wrong. This newspaper has condemned Guantánamo as unjust, unwise and un-American for a decade. The spectre of prisoners denied either a fair trial or the possibility of release is Orwellian. Nothing has done more to sully America's image in the modern world. They should be tried or set free, just as terrorist suspects are in every other civilised country."

And the horror of "force-feeding" is graphic enough, because "prisoners [there] have a choice. They can eat or, if they refuse to, they will have a greased tube stuffed up their noses, down their throats and into their stomachs, through which they will be fed. This can cause gagging and bleeding in a compliant patient, and is a lot nastier when done against his will. It takes up to two hours, during which time an unco-operative prisoner must be restrained to stop him pulling out the tube. Lawyers for the 23 or so men who are being subjected to this treatment report that it is deliberately being done roughly, with unsterilised tubes that are too large: those claims are denied. But even if they are false, the business clearly violates an individual's rights; according to the president of the American Medical Association, it also breaches the 'core ethical values of the medical profession,'" as The Economist rightly pointed out.

When Western powers kill and treat Muslims like this abroad, they lose so many hearts and minds of the "Others" around the world - just as when the "Others" suffer from the "unspoken rules" in Western societies at home, this has contributed to more "alienation" and "anger."

So, when the "two" fronts of the war on terror are combined together, they reinforce each other to perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence in the world. The West cannot win on one side of the war on terror by being unable to get rid of the "Others" -- and the "Others" cannot lose on the other side of the war on terror by continuing its attacks, for reasons as explained above.

The more we deny this, the more all of us shall continue to suffer together in this world in the years to come - regardless of the euphemistic speech by Cameron (that "we have always beaten them") or by Obama (that "we are safer" now).  

Peter Baofu

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov