How Come the U.S. Trains All the Terrorists?

I’ve just been read­ing today’s New York Times arti­cle about the con­vic­tion of the New York City World Trade Cen­ter bombers. With it is a com­pan­ion piece about the plot leader, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who hoped to kill 250,000 peo­ple when the tow­ers col­lapsed onto the city below. Born in Kuwait to a Pak­istani moth­er and Pales­tin­ian father, his life began as an alle­go­ry for the social dis­place­ments of the Mid­dle East, and he grew up with anger towards the Israelis-and by exten­sions the Americans-who had forced his father from his home­land. Even so, Yousef came to school in the West, to Wales, where he stud­ied engi­neer­ing. But in 1989 he left it for anoth­er edu­ca­tion, fueled by his anger and lead­ing to the death of six in the heat and smoke of the mas­sive under­ground explo­sion in down­town Man­hat­tan.

Yousef trav­eled to Afghanistan to join the Muja­hedeen rebels in their fight against Sovi­et occu­piers, and there learned the guer­ril­la tech­niques he would lat­er employ in New York. Who sup­port­ed the Muja­hedeen and paid for Yousef’s train­ing in ter­ror­ism? The Unit­ed States Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, who fun­neled the Afghan rebels mil­lions of U.S. tax­pay­ers dol­lars.

It would seem a sim­ple case of U.S. mil­i­tarism com­ing home to roost, but it is not so sim­ple and it is not uncom­mon. Fol­low most trails of ter­ror­ism and you’ll find Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment fund­ing some­where in the recent past.

Tim­o­thy McVeigh was anoth­er angry young man, one who had to drop out of col­lege, couldn’t find a steady job, and moved from trail­er park to trail­er park as an adult, won­der­ing if the Amer­i­can Dream includ­ed him. He did what a lot of economically-disadvantaged young kids do, and enlist­ed in the U.S. Army (this has been described by some as “the pover­ty draft”).

In 1988, he met Michael Forti­er and Ter­ry Nichols at the U.S. Army base at Ft. Ben­ning, Geor­gia (coin­ci­den­tal­ly home of the infa­mous School of the Amer­i­c­as). There he was taught how to turn his anger into killing and was quick­ly pro­mot­ed, get­ting good reviews and being award­ed with the Bronze Star and Com­bat Infantry Badge for his ser­vice in the Gulf War.

Lat­er he came back to the U.S. with his Ft. Ben­ning friends and turned his anger against the U.S. gov­ern­ment. He used his mil­i­tary skills to build a bomb (alleged­ly with Nichols, now at tri­al, with the knowl­edge of Forti­er, who turned state’s wit­ness). On a spring day in 1995, he drove the bomb to Okla­homa City’s fed­er­al build­ing and set it off, killing 168 peo­ple. McVeigh’s moth­er said, “It was like he trad­ed one Army for anoth­er one.” (Wash­ing­ton Post, 7/2/95)

Anoth­er ter­ror­ist trained by the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment.

But it doesn’t end there either. This same dynam­ic hap­pens on the nation-state lev­el as well. Today’s head­lines also include sto­ries about the stand­off between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Unit­ed Nations arms inspec­tors, a sit­u­a­tion which threat­ens to renew mil­i­tary fight­ing in the region. Who fund­ed Hus­sein and gave him mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons to fight the Ira­ni­ans dur­ing the 80s? Why, it’s the U.S. gov­ern­ment again​.How come the Unit­ed States is direct­ly involved in train­ing some of the biggest ter­ror­ists of the decade? Haven’t we learned that mil­i­tarism only leads to more mil­i­tarism? Would Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Tim­o­thy McVeigh just be polit­i­cal unknowns if the Unit­ed States hadn’t taught them to kill with their anger? Would Sad­dam Hus­sein be just anoth­er ex-dictator if the U.S. hadn’t fund­ed his mil­i­tary dur­ing the 1980s?

We can nev­er know these answers. But we can stop train­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ists. Let’s stop fund­ing war, let’s stop solv­ing prob­lems with guns and explo­sives. Let today’s angry twen­ty year olds cut peo­ple off in traf­fic and do no more. Let’s stop these unde­clared wars.