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Gottinger writes: "The Brussels attack is tragic, but it shouldn't be a surprise. To say the West's 'War on Terror' has been an extraordinary failure is inaccurate. In actuality, it is accelerating terrorism."

A woman attends a street memorial service in Brussels following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23. (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters)
A woman attends a street memorial service in Brussels following Tuesday's bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23. (photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Brussels: Just the Latest Failure of the 'War on Terror'

By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News

25 March 16


nce again the West has been stirred to outrage. Two bombs were set off in a bustling airport and one in crowded subway car in Brussels. Now we #PrayForBelgium.

The West has long turned a blind eye to the violence it wages around the world, but this is different. Once again, ‘they’ are attacking ‘us’ here at home.

The attack is tragic, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. To say the West’s ‘War on Terror’ has been an extraordinary failure is inaccurate. In actuality, it is accelerating terrorism.

In fact, during the 14 years of the ‘War on Terror,’ the West has failed to eliminate even one terror organization, yet groups like ISIS have risen from the ashes of the West’s counterterror policy.

My analysis of US State Department data shows that terror attacks have increased by a staggering 65 percent since 9/11. This massive escalation in terror really skyrocketed during the US War in Iraq. British Intelligence has dubbed this the ‘Iraq Effect.’

According the US State Department, in 2003 there were 208 terror attacks around the world, but that number had jumped to 11,000 attacks just two years later. In the years since, the number of attacks has generally been above 10,000.

It’s tragically fitting that the attack in Brussels occurred just 2 days after the 13th anniversary of the War in Iraq. That war, the centerpiece of the US ‘War on Terror,’ gave rise to ISIS, the very terror organization that claimed responsibility for the attack in Brussels.

Many of the US’s counterterror failures have their roots in the colossal disaster that was the Iraq War. ISIS exploited the destruction and instability of war to attract foreign jihadists, gain local support, and create a deeply rooted organizational structure.

Anger over the Iraq War is a common motivation cited for why individuals join ISIS, according to interviews with captured militants.

Most of the leadership of ISIS is Iraqi, and the group’s rise reflects the political failures in Iraq and Syria. The discrimination and violent repression of the Sunni community by the Iraqi government and the Assad regime in Syria created a situation where many Sunnis see ISIS as a preferable option to the state structures ISIS has replaced.

In response to the rise of ISIS, the West has taken its preferred form of action, violence. The US-led coalition has launched almost 11,000 strikes, which have killed 10,000 ISIS fighters in an ISIS military force that the CIA officially estimates to be 30,000, though this is likely a large underestimate.

This enormous use of force has predictably been largely unsuccessful. In fact, it actually fuels resentment by the local populations by leaving communities caught between ISIS’s harsh rule and the West’s indiscriminate violence. Military destruction without a political solution has only deepened the crisis and aided ISIS recruitment.

The US-Russia/Iran rivalry is another serious problem. It only sows division in the effort to fight terrorism in Iraq and Syria. The effect is that the US is turning its back on some of the most effective partners in the fight against ISIS.

Anyone hoping for a change of course in the West’s reaction to terror was quickly disappointed this week.

The US Secretary of Defense quickly announced that the Pentagon will increase funding for the US air strikes on ISIS, and Obama is even concerned a major terror attack in the US may force the US into a “large and costly war in the Middle East.”

But more violence abroad wasn’t the only response to Brussels the US offered. We also saw Donald Trump renewing his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the US, and Ted Cruz calling for police patrols in ‘Muslims neighborhoods.’

Not to be outdone by politicians, ordinary citizens exhibited some of that famous ‘Western civilization’ with the hateful hashtag #StopIslam, which was trending worldwide on Twitter.

Hillary Clinton also got in on the action. She called for censoring the Internet and for Muslims to rat on their friends and family if someone they know catches the ‘extremism’ bug.

Based on these responses, it seems the West will be unable to stem the tide of terror in the West, and worse yet, there doesn’t seem to even be an understanding of what drives individuals towards ‘jihadism.’

The two major aspects of the West’s ‘War on Terror,’ an enormous amount of violence and the demonization of Muslims, are only recipes for increased terrorism.

ISIS may lose territory, but if the underlying sectarian polarization and political crisis is unresolved, the conditions that allow ISIS to exist will remain in place in Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, if the vast majority of the West’s resources continue to go to escalating the risks of terror and the West continues to ignore the Persian Gulf’s funding for extremism, then all the police and intelligence integration imaginable will fail to stop terrorism. The fundamental goal of counterterror should be to prevent the conditions that draw people to become terrorists, rather than just attempting to prevent attacks from being carried out.

A seismic shift is needed in the West’s counterterrorism policy, or the attacks in Belgium are sure to be but a small taste of what is to come for Europe and the US.

Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+21 # Radscal 2016-03-25 13:46
And once again (like the named 9/11 hijackers who loved them some cocaine, alcohol, prostitutes and lap dances), we now learn that Salah Abdeslam (the Paris Friday the 13th terrorist who escaped and was arrested just before this Brussels attack) loved him some pot.

He smoked 4 joints with his gangsta buddies on his harrowing automobile escape from France to Brussels. And they were stopped by cops and border police, at least one of whom identified them as being loaded, but just let them drive away.

It's fascinating how completely un-Islamic these Islamic Extremists are.
+17 # m s 57 2016-03-25 18:25
Your comment is factual and astute from beginning to end. The 911 attackers did spend their last night on earth drinking at a strip club and watching porn in their hotel room. And these Islamic extremists are profoundly un-Islamic in every way, most of all in their claim that to murder innocents is, in reality, to work for the glory of Allah.
+20 # dipierro4 2016-03-25 18:50
No great surprise here. If it were group of violent Christian right-wingers I would expect the same behavior. I don't think that what we are seeing is a purely religious or ideological phenomenon.

To me it looks more like part of an eternal and universal story: We are seeing a generation of young people, especially males, angry and alienated, for any number of reasons: Their world is different from their fathers' world, and they don't comprehend where they fit into it; they aren't valued or don't feel valued; economic and social conditions that gave them a feeling of a place in the world are pulled out from under them (including some belief systems in which we are not sympathetic, as to the place of women, but I doubt that this is the whole story). I will go to my grave believing that the capitalist system -- so strong among the establishment in the Arab world! -- is part of it, because it teaches a young person that his value in the world exists in proportion to his earning ability, necessarily divides people into winners and losers everywhere, and makes a person feel that he can become without value with any stroke of bad fortune. But I don't claim to understand all the factors, and I am not an expert in Arab culture.
+11 # dipierro4 2016-03-25 18:51
Part 2:
It surely appears that these young males are doing just what young males do when they see injustice, or when they don't see their lives as part of something larger that is essentially positive. They are rebelling and seeking a place that values and welcomes them, a landing place, so to speak. And of course the young men will behave inconsistently, doing things like seeking sexual excitement, drug thrills, etc. Duh!

A smart recruiter will figure out how to attract them and harness their energy, and apparently ISIL and its fellows have become quite good at this.They have even served as a "landing place" in the minds of some very unlikely people -- for example, a few deeply alienated and maladjusted American women.

Although this has its roots before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, surely we have made conditions even more alienating for many young Arabs since then.

I don't propose a formula for resolving all the conflicts, but I think we gain from viewing them in these terms, and not abstractly as a religious conflict. And gloating about the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the conduct gains us little, true as those observations may be.
+5 # MidwestTom 2016-03-25 20:34
There is indeed a huge supply of young males in the Middle East. If you check the average ages of the population in various countries you will find that most of the youngest are in the middle East. Several countries there have average population ages of less than 23. A few are below 20 Rapid reproduction in countries that cannot sustain their population is the major problem.
+4 # Radscal 2016-03-25 23:00
"A smart recruiter will figure out how to attract them and harness their energy..."

Yep. Just like FBI has done in essentially every "terrorist threat" they've uncovered.
+2 # revhen 2016-03-25 17:22
So, what's the answer?
+12 # Radscal 2016-03-25 17:53
What's the question?
+41 # m s 57 2016-03-25 18:21
The answer is to renounce once and for all the folly, the neo-con dream of transforming the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan into western-style democracies that we could exert pressures on, once they fall within our orbit, to do our bidding regarding their oil, gas and other natural resources.

And the beginning, middle and end is to end the occupations.
+2 # MidwestTom 2016-03-25 20:38
The answer is to divide the world up into areas where people of similar interests can rule themselves. This Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Simply let them have their own country. If the people in eastern Ukraine want to be part of Russia, let them go. If the voters of California want to join Mexico, let them go. The world would be a lot more peaceful.

Japan, may be doing it right, keeping out almost everyone who is not Japanese.
-5 # bmiluski 2016-03-26 11:06
Isolationism is not the answer. As for letting people have their own country well, dear Tom, what do you do with people who want other people's country.
A large part of the Ukranian population DID NOT want to be part of Russia.
+7 # Billsy 2016-03-26 12:40
A significant number do not wish to be part of the EU either. Neocons Victoria Nuland and Clinton at State brought in CIA backed agitators in collusion with neo-nazis to bring down the democratically elected president after he decided to resist joining the EU. The Ukraine is now enduring civil war. Tell us again how our meddling helped?
+13 # wantrealdemocracy 2016-03-25 21:05
The answer is to stop bombing the shit out of the middle east---and we call THEM the terrorists? The people making 11,00 air strikes are the terrorists. And now our Secretary of Defense is requesting more money to do more bombings. Does that make any sense?

All these attacks on the nations of the Middle East are based on lies!! The Muslims did not bring down the world trade center. The Muslims are not preparing to attack us with 'weapons of mass destruction". We, the United States are using those weapons of mass destruction on them!! Who are the Terrorists? We are! The U.S.of A. are the terrorists. Get the hell out of their nations and take care of our problems at home.
+3 # Nominae 2016-03-27 04:20
Quoting revhen:
So, what's the answer?

If the question is "How does the U.S. stop terrorism, the answer has long ago been provided by Noam Chomsky, whom I will paraphrase as follows : If the U.S. wants to *prevent* Global Terrorism, the U.S. must stop *practicing* Global Terrorism.

And, yes, it really IS just as simple as Chomsky suggests.

Don't buy into the MIC propaganda to the contrary.
0 # jsluka 2016-04-06 03:29
As stated above, "to say the West’s ‘War on Terror’ has been an extraordinary failure is inaccurate. In actuality, it is accelerating terrorism."

The so-called 'global war on terror' is a self-fulfilling prophecy that does not combat or reduce terrorism but rather creates and ensures it and an endless war. See Joseba Zulaika's book "Terrorism: The Self-fulfilling Prophecy."
+11 # tedrey 2016-03-25 18:12
208 attacks a year to over 10,000 attacks is not an 65% increase but a 5000% increase. If it makes you feel different in some way.
+5 # economagic 2016-03-25 18:33
It was 65%, but clearly there is something wrong. The numbers in the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland ( do not support either the percentage or the absolute numbers, with (for example) a total of only about 12,000 terror attacks worldwide in 2013 (the last year in most of the charts), more than double the number in 2011 and all prior years. This data is elusive, and different sources may have different figures, but the figures in the article are internally inconsistent with no obvious error (such as an added or dropped digit).
0 # jsluka 2016-04-06 03:36
State generated statistics on terrorism are utterly untrustworthy. This includes statistics generated in support of governments by the "terrorism industry" which includes some academics. There can be as much or little terrorism as you like, if you control the definition. Governments now control this definition. If you consider deaths caused by terrorism outside of war zones and places with ongoing insurgencies, there are significantly less than 1,000 deaths globally per year. If you count deaths in war zones, like those caused by ISIS in Syria, then you get numbers in the tens of thousands. "Terrorism" is the greatest propaganda myth of all time. That is not to say there isn't any terrorism at all, but in reality what there is of it is very small and basically inconsequential relative to the real problems we face. The art of propaganda is to combine a small amount of truth or facts with a large amount of fantasy. That is the case with the terrorism 'scam' today. As in, 'they found a new scam to replace the Cold War - its called the Global War on Terror.'
+28 # m s 57 2016-03-25 18:15
This seems like definitive proof to me of what the causes are of attacks like we’ve seen in Paris and Brussels, a qualitative statistical study (easier to read than I suggest) of suicide bombings from 1980 by an expert from the University of Chicago, published in Foreign Policy. This is well worth reading.


“It’s the Occupation, Stupid: Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn't to blame -- the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.”
+4 # acomfort 2016-03-25 18:34
Quoting m s 57:
This seems like definitive proof to me of what the causes are of attacks like we’ve seen in Paris and Brussels,

Don't rule out false flag for these and other terrorist attacks. Search for
"42 ADMITTED False Flag Attacks"
-1 # bmiluski 2016-03-26 11:09
Funny, but we didn't occupy Afghanistan, Jordan, or any Arab state country and yet, that's who attacked us.
+3 # Billsy 2016-03-26 12:43
Who exactly has attacked "us"? The 9/11 attacks were actually orchestrated and financed by citizens of Saudi Arabia. Their oligarchs continue to finance extremist agitators and yet we do nothing to encourage the Saudis to discontinue this practice. The terrorists in Paris were actually children of immigrants. They were raised in France.
0 # jsluka 2016-04-06 03:40
Afghanistan attacked us? D'uh. First off, Afghanistan is not an "Arab state." Second off, neither Afghanistan or any other "state" (Arab or otherwise) attacked us on 9-11. We were attacked by Al Qaeda, which is a militant organisation not a country or a state. Third off, as Billsy reminds us, most of the actual 9-11 terrorist attackers were from Saudi Arabia - an ally country of the USA. Following your logic, we would have to conclude that we were attacked by Saudi Arabia not Afghanistan. And don't even get me started on invading Iraq, who Bush blamed for the 9-11 attack even though they didn't have anything at all to do with it.
+15 # djnova50 2016-03-25 18:30
If the war on terror is failing as it has been fought, the US should try doing the opposite of what it has been doing.
+11 # economagic 2016-03-25 19:31
I'd vote for a reversal in just about all policies of the U.S. government. Oh, wait, there are some remnants of the New Deal (1930s) and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement (1950s-60s) that have not yet been destroyed by the vandals and thieves!

And I absolutely do NOT mean that in a cynical way. Not only are we fighting to retain a significantly beneficial birthright, some important parts of which have been trampled underfoot by ignorant and malevolent people: A great part of that birthright is still intact for now. I just retired, and Social Security and Medicare are working just fine, or at least as well as they ever have, and so are a pension and supplemental health benefits from 13 years trying to teach economics honestly out of the worst textbook in print because colleagues refused too honestly consider a change.

Even those benefits have been reduced (by a Democratic legislature) for people who started 5 years later. But I was talking just today with a friend in a similar situation who is having a knee replaced next week, and I am having cataracts removed next month. How cool is that?!

We still have a lot to fight FOR, not just a fight to avert total destruction. That's the reason I will not vote for another Clinton. It's not that Hillary has done only evil, but that despite her good works, she has been in the thick of the evils discussed in this article.
+16 # jdd 2016-03-25 18:33
Although failing to include Obama's drone attacks as a factor, the author correctly identifies some of the bases for the appeal of ISIS and other Wahabist terror gangs. However, he falsely assumes that the US and the west are fundamentally opposed to Wahabist terror. That is simply not the case. Since at least the creation of Al-Queda back in the 70's, Western intelligence agencies have used against Russia or other targeted "enemy." To wit Afghanistan, the bloody "Sunni Awakening" in Iraq, Qadaffi, Assad, and so on. From former DIA Chief Gen. Michael Flynn, we know that Obama consciously "looked the other way" at the growth of the "JV Team" as the recruits, money and support poured in through the Saudi/Turkish pipeline, and were it not for Putin's intervention(s) ISIS might now be in Damascus. The comments of Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zhakarova, when speaking of Brussels, nailed it, stating, "As more and more time and lives are lost, people are beginning to understand that this policy of double standards in evaluating terrorist activities is a dead-end policy. They can't support support terrorists in one part of the globe and not expect them to appear in others." As made clear in the classified "28 pages" of the 911 Joint inquiry Report detailing the Saudi hand behind that atrocity, we paid a heavy price on 9/11 for our role in enabling the head-chopping monarchy's sponsorship of evil .
+4 # tclose 2016-03-26 08:19
I agree that ending our cozy relationship and military support of Saudi Arabia would be a good starting point. Their massive sponsorship of the teaching of Wahhabism throughout the Muslim world has been a major factor in the rise of religious extremism - not just the West's incursions into its territory. Ending uncritical support to Israel's policies in Palestinian territories would help too.
+21 # m s 57 2016-03-25 19:00
Imagine the sum total of human suffering – the literally millions of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghanis, Yemenis and others who have been killed, wounded and displaced by the US military adventures in those parts of the world… Imagine: none of that would occurred, absolutely none of it, if the 200 or so signatories of the Project for the New American Century – those great sages of foreign policy – had been on a plane together that crashed in the middle of the Atlantic.
+4 # elkingo 2016-03-25 19:11
How 'bout that! Both the terrorists and we ourselves are capitalists. Tell you something?
+7 # oakes721 2016-03-25 19:17
"A seismic shift is needed in the West’s counterterroris m policy"
A war crimes tribunal. When politicians vying for world leadership casually refer to planned genocides, present, past and future, whose blatant lies go unchallenged in the main-scream press, there is a limit to such drunken sprees and sobriety awakens even the dead (or "collaterally damaged" innocent bystanders)
# Guest 2016-03-25 19:27
This comment has been deleted by Administrator
+7 # Charles3000 2016-03-25 20:28
We, the USA, should stop killing and destroying them and start helping them instead. Even let them choose which oil companies
pump their oil...and what money they accept for payment for their oil....
+12 # lewagner 2016-03-25 22:03
Let's not forget, there is one country that DOES benefit, and ONLY benefits, from the War on Terror.
We send them money and military weapons for their "defense", we veto any international condemnation of their egregious violations of international law, and we let them use OUR military, too, in their bid to expand their power in the Middle East.
+2 # SenorN 2016-03-25 22:05
The stated increase from 208 terrorist attacks in 2003 to over 11,000 just two years later is WAY more than the supposed 65% increase in attacks since 9/11 cited in the preceding paragraph. (5288%?) Unless I'm reading wrong, something is written wrong...
+3 # Dale 2016-03-26 08:17
The Warmongers doublespeak--“T ruly War is the only Roadmap to Peace.”
The Directorate of National Insecurity knows that a “War on Terror”
Is a never-ending cycle of creating terrorists,
Medieval and Evil as they are.
Evil begets Evil to better serve the Devil of Empire.
With the manufactured intelligence of NSA
The boogeymen abroad are missiled and droned,
Only to create a thousand more.
NSA does not stand alone, secret Security Agencies proliferate and privatize their spying,
The better to avoid oversight and reward business friends.
Special Ops secretly assassinate suspects and the drones guide their deadly missiles
Because The War on Jihadist Ghosts keeps the money flowing,
And the Culture of Fear deepened.
And creates for every martyr a hundred militants, the more to feed the Death Machine.
The Blowback from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine…
Is intended consequence, how else to cycle Perpetual War?

The lust for revenge among Muslims explodes.
Americans are only allowed TV views of the violent forms that revenge takes,
Being conditioned to mistake effect for cause.
A sense of history driven from consciousness.
As retaliatory tactics the violence of Jijad is counterproductive,
Serving to fire the Imperial Beast
And yielding power to the most retrograde elements of Muslim society.
But no one can deny the right of victims to justice.
There is no greater justice than ending Perpetual War,
The sacred duty of decent Americans.
+1 # freefall 2016-03-27 20:26
Let's take a look at one of the stats in this article, "The U.S. led coalition has launched almost 11,000 airstrikes which have killed 10,000 ISIS fighters." Which gives us a kill rate of less than 1 fighter per airstrike! That my friends is pathetic. Better than NORAD on 9/11 but not good enough to be called effective. How much is it costing to kill each fighter? How can anyone believe this kind of dribble? In fact the whole terrorist meme does not pass the smell test. Ask anyone around the world who is knowledgeable, the #1 terrorist organization is the C.I.A. They are behind the vast percentage of covert action. Bin Laden was on their pay roll, need I say more? The next point is how many people are killed? Given the outrageous amounts of money taxpayers pay, and the 24/7 hype put out in the media,they would have you believe that it is the leading cause of death. You are much more likely to die of snakebite and our soldiers are more likely to die of suicide. That is the scale of misinformation and propaganda being fed to the public. Wake up people, let's get together and do something about it.
0 # corals33 2016-03-31 23:27
I predict that the rich in the west and the rich in the east will profit vastly in the rebuilding of the planned destruction of the "middle-east" and all this will soon be forgotten when it trickles down to the "raised quality of life " for their respective populations.

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