America’s endless war on terror

Book: Sitting on BAYONETS: America’s endless war on terror and the paths to peace
Author: Keith Spicer
Paes: 392 pages.
Price: $16.99.
Publishers: Createspace (available from Amazon Books).
M. Azhar Ali Khan

This book argues that the U.S. is hurting itself and the world by its militaristic foreign policy, particularly its war on terror. The author, a brilliant Canadian intellectual, has produced a masterly analysis that diagnoses what’s wrong with the American approach and suggests ways about how the U.S. can help build a safer, and better, world for itself and others.  

Spicer has done extensive research and thinking, and shown courage, in analyzing today’s challenges. He spares none in lashing at policies that have only produced conflicts, misery and suffering for millions of human beings. He suggests practical ways to make the world better and fairer for all.

Spicer’s main barbs are directed at the U.S. -- “in recent decades militarism has become an unchallengeable, bankrupting orthodoxy of America’s public discourse. Today it virtually defines U.S. foreign policy.” But he does not shy away from lashing at the damaging policies of other countries also.

Spicer recalls, for example, that “in every field of the arts, literature, science, technology and even agriculture, Muslims fed and led Western thinkers for centuries ... While many Europeans were running around in animals skins, a Muslim elite in Spain -- and in Baghdad -- was inventing the modern world, their Arabic works translated into several languages, including Latin and Hebrew.”

Compare that with the situation today: “In too many Muslim-majority countries, corruption is rampant, free speech denied, torture common, poverty endemic, education stunted.”

Spicer says that Americans learn about the world from journalists, teachers, preachers, entertainers, intellectuals and politicians who try to convince Americans that their country is right even when it’s plainly wrong.

Spicer criticizes the “intellectual terrorism” that skews Americans’ thinking about the world. It is close to “suicidal in U.S. journalism to report that most of the world, Muslim or not, sees the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine as an aggravating cause of Islamic terrorism throughout the world.” He notes that the U.S.-Israeli relationship includes a huge component of U.S. taxpayers’ military aid: at least half of the $106 billion of U.S. aid to Israel has gone to military use. “And American military aid for 2013-2018 will amount to an average of $3.15 billion per year.”

He asserts that U.S. generals have started to recognize that Americans are dying in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, at least partly because of Israeli behavior in Palestine. But he does not think that the U.S. media will have the courage soon to report more fairly on Israel and Palestine.

Spicer argues that the US. would have to forcefully promote a just peace in the Middle East because the only alternative would be war without end. Hundreds of millions of Muslims “see America as an accomplice of brutal colonialism, because it finances and arms the Israelis unconditionally. Jihadists everywhere -- including in the cities of Europe and North America -- vow vengeance not just on Israel, not just on America, but on the entire West.” He hopes that the Arab Spring would make serious negotiations with the Palestinians more attractive to Israelis.

The Kashmir dispute is another threat to world peace, Spicer argues, in urging the U.S. to seek to bring about a peaceful settlement that takes into consideration the interests of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. He recognizes that, like the Middle East, this is a complex, festering dispute. But, as in the Middle East, the only alternative to not finding a solution would be a tense peace, perhaps a disastrous war by nuclear-armed countries and, in the meantime, people in both countries will suffer and precious resources will go to oiling war machines. In 2009, the world spent over $1.5 trillion on “defence” while education, health, jobs and basic needs of millions of people everywhere were neglected. He called this situation “not just immoral” but “self-defeating.”

The U.S. is being forced to reconsider its policies, Spicer argues. China holds over $900-billion in U.S. Treasury Bills and has begun to replace America as the world’s economic master. The U.S. not only faces a recession but also annual over-trillion-dollar deficits at least as far as the next decade.

Spicer does not see an easy way out. But he argues that the status quo is not sustainable. He pleads for the U.S. to push for a just settlement in the Middle East, where its huge aid to Israel gives it considerable clout, in Kashmir and in Afghanistan by seeking a settlement with the participation of all parties that are involved, including neighboring countries.

The U.S. should base its foreign policy on respecting other countries’ independence, just aspirations, and culture and assist them by promoting education, human rights, including and particularly for women, freer trade that permits developing countries to export their finished products, economic development and a just social order. This will be a radical departure from the present U.S. militarism. But this is the only way, Spicer argues, to save the U.S. and the world from disaster. It is hard to disagree. Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge