Is honesty the best policy?

When individuals turn violent against the West, as they did last Thursday in London, it’s not because they hate our freedom or brilliance or rugged individualism. These are delightful tales we may tell ourselves to feel better, but they’re lies, and we should know better.

When people turn violent against the West, it’s because they hate what we do to them. For 60 years the U.S. has “pursued stability at the expense of democracy” in the Middle East, as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, says. That’s why they hate us.

As we realize this, there’s a chance we’ll ask our government to change its policies. For those in power, however, a change in policy is not an option. Such change would require fundamental change in the way our society works.

U.S. leaders can continue to lie and risk this change or they could just tell the truth: they want power and control over others. After World War II the U.S. was the supreme superpower and ruled economically and militarily. Over the past three decades U.S. economic control has declined but military dominance has increased. To ensure U.S. dominance, leaders rely on the use of force.

This doesn’t really benefit Americans so much, but it may not matter. Americans who strongly identify with America the abstraction, with the flag and mythology, get erect at the thought of this projection of power even though they have little say in its use.

To ensure U.S. dominance, the president should exploit this. He should be honest. The U.S. is the most powerful state in the world. He should cease his democratic, freedom-loving prattle. Instead he should speak of a nationalist projection of power that is much more in line with reality.

The liberals – that is, the liberal intellectuals – would go right along as they always do. The president would regain their support in for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else he decided to go.

Today, the intellectuals’ minds are stuck, confused. They hear the National Counterterrorism Center’s figures that international terrorist attacks tripled last year to 650, up from the previous year’s 20-year high of 175. They think, how can this be?

Then they hear that if we include attacks that “deliberately hit civilians or non-combatants” – that is, if we include global terrorist attacks in our global terrorist attack count – the NCTC actually found 3,192 last year resulting in “deaths, injury or kidnapping of almost 28,500 people.” Huh-wha? But the War on -? How could -?

Rather than keep them puzzled, the president should state the obvious: of course global terror attacks increased during the “War on Terror.” Every U.S. action taken has helped the terrorists’ cause, exactly as predicted.

Two months before the invasion, the National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community’s center for strategic thinking, sent the Bush administration a classified report. It said a U.S. invasion would increase support for political Islam and sympathy for the terrorists’ cause, resulting in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict. The NIC also warned that Iraq could provide a training ground for a new class of professionalized terrorists. For them, political violence would be an end in itself.

Despite the violent conditions and in direct opposition to U.S. designs, Iraqis forced Bush to allow elections in January. For U.S. power interests, this limited form of democracy has had disastrous results.

To have any legitimacy at all, Iraqi politicians have had to mention a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. They’ve had to express dissatisfaction for the planned permanent U.S. presence. On the same day as the attacks in London, they signed a military pact with Iran agreeing to accept Iranian military training and other cooperation.

This is the opposite of what U.S. leaders want. They want a stable Iraq with a permanent U.S. presence and a quasi-democratic fa�ade working in the U.S. interest. Bush may have to suspend democracy for a bit to maintain control, but if the U.S. maintains control, terror will increase. Americans may come to understand that U.S. policies cause terrorism and not the reverse.

The president should speak honestly and enough Americans might follow along. Deception may no longer work but if the reliance on nationalist pride and power is successful, it won’t matter and U.S. leaders won’t have to stop at Iraq. For them, honesty may be the way to go.

Contact Khalid Adad at [email protected]