Presidential orders to kill Americans will soon be routine

President Obama’s decision to put the U.S.-citizen/militant Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awalki on the target list for killing has received much attention and discussion. Some think it appalling that a U.S. citizen can be hunted down and killed by U.S. forces without receiving due process. Others believe al-Awalki is a foe of America who has incited violence against his fellow citizens and so deserves summary execution.

Because facts are facts, both sides of the argument have merit: al-Awlaki is an U.S. citizen and he is a self-declared and self-evidently potent enemy of America who is based overseas and inciting and perhaps managing violence here. Obama’s decision to try to kill him is both objectionable and understandable, but the debate over it should not be allowed to blur the reality that al-Awalki is not the whole problem, but rather is the harbinger of the war that is coming to the United States. Before much longer, the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies will be killing U.S. citizens in a war occurring inside the United States. (NB: I would support killing al-Awalki overseas; capturing him in the United States.)

Al-Awalki was active in the United States for a number of years and appears to have been connected to at least four terrorist plots in the United States, only one of which — the shootings by Major Hassan at Fort Hood — came to fruition. It is perhaps better to say al-Awalki has been involved in four plots that we know of; there may well be other plots in the works which he inspired or helped plan before moving to Yemen. Again, though, al-Awalki is not the whole of the problem.

The United States today is playing host to other U.S. citizens who are Islamist clerics like al-Awlaki and who hold views identical to his. In addition, we have many Islamist clerics trained at universities on the Arab Peninsula — especially at Saudi schools — working at Muslim mosques and schools in the United States who are likely to be more militant than al-Awalki. Many of these men have been here for years, and U.S. authorities have no handle on the dimensions of the problem because the clerics — native-born and foreign — are trained to take advantage of the First Amendment’s protections to shield their activities. (It is worth noting that this is a North-American problem as there every reason to believe the situation in Canada is the same.)

In addition, U.S. authorities have no fix whatsoever on how many Islamist clerics or non-cleric firebrands have entered the United States using student or professional visas — which are particularly easy for Saudi citizens to acquire — or who have illegally crossed over our uncontrolled borders. Those entering illegally from Canada or Mexico are especially concerning. If al-Awalki was involved in four plots that we know of, and, as we now know, U.S. authorities were following him but had not caught on to what he was up to, what might a number of illegal-alien Islamist clerics or firebrands — unknown to any U.S. police agency — be involved in today in the United States? Just to reflect on this potential threat for a moment ought to be enough to demolish the idea that controlling U.S. borders springs from racism rather than from legitimate national-security concerns.

Thus, America is beset with a significant number of U.S.-citizen and foreign-born Islamist clerics intent on inciting violence in the United States. This is a major concern, but the more important point is that these men obviously are working with a portion of the U.S. Muslim community that is susceptible to their incitement, a conclusion at least partially proven by the successful career of Anwar al-Awalki. And it is in this pool of Muslim Americans susceptible to instigation to attack their own country that disaster lies for all of us in the form of IEDs, ambushes, assassinations, and suicide bombs to be used on our highways, against our infrastructure, and in our towns and cities. It is therefore of surpassing importance to ask and then understand what gives the Islamist clerics’ incitement traction among some — usually young and male — Muslim Americans.

The answer is clear: Their incitement works because of the impact on the Muslim world of the overseas interventionism of our governing elite and its media supporters. But this truth will never be told to Americans by their leaders; indeed, they will keep lying to Americans even after Islamist attacks in the United States become routine.

When the violence begins, it will not be motivated by the hatred of young American Muslims for liberty, freedom, gender equality, or elections — the things U.S. leaders claim are the main motivations for al-Qaeda and other Islamists overseas. The attackers will instead be motivated by what the U.S. government does in the Islamic world. America’s mistake, al-Awalki explained in mid-July 2010, was that it

“thought it could threaten the lives of others, kill and invade, occupy and plunder, and conspire without bearing the consequences of its actions. 9/11 was the answer of millions of people who suffer from American aggression, and since then, America has not been safe. And nine years after 9/11, and nine years of spending, and nine years of beefing up security, you are still unsafe…. We are not against Americans for just being American. We are against evil, and America as a whole has turned into a nation of evil. What we see from America is the invasion of two Muslim countries; we see Abu Ghuraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo Bay. We see cruise missiles and cluster bombs…. We cannot stand idly in the face of such aggression, and we will fight back and incite others to do the same.”

“I for one was born in the U.S. I lived in the U.S. for twenty-one years. America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam, involved in non-violent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq, and continued U.S. aggression against Muslims, I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim, and I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding on myself, just as it is binding on every other Muslim.”

In other words, the young Muslim Americans who will wage war in America are motivated by the relentless interventionist policies imposed on the Muslim world by the U.S. bipartisan governing. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly and patiently explained this reality to Americans since August, 1996, and yet U.S. leaders and the media have ignored his words and replaced them with their own wished-for reality, which claims Muslims are attacking us because we vote, drink beer, and watch R-rated movies.

But the explanations of U.S. leaders are incorrect and show they are either liars or stupid people — there is no third option. The growth of anti-U.S. Islamist militancy and violence at home and abroad has occurred as a direct response to the manner in which U.S. leaders have maintained and expanded U.S. intervention in the Muslim world. “[The Fort Hood shooter Major] Nidal Hassan was not recruited by al-Qaeda,” al-Awalki has told Americans.

“Nidal Hassan was recruited by American crimes, and this is what America refuses to admit. American refuses to admit that its foreign policies are the reason behind a man like Nidal Hassan, born and raised in the U.S., turning his guns against American soldiers. And the more crimes America commits, the more mujahideen will be recruited to fight against it.”

Now no one need accept al-Awalki’s definition of U.S. foreign policies as “crimes;” the policies were clearly not created by mad men and women who lusted for a war at home and abroad with the Muslim world. Still, the beginning of wisdom is to recognize the hard but irrefutable truth in the words of al-Awalki, bin Laden, and dozens of other Islamist leaders: America is at war with Islam because of what its government does abroad and not for what Americans think or how they live at home.

We are at war because our Obamas, Bushes, Clintons, Cheneys, Bloombergs, McCains, Pelosis, Bidens, Schumers, McConnells, and Liebermans are rank interventionists, bent on supporting Israel without question, protecting Arab tyrannies, supporting India, China, and Russia against their domestic Muslim populations, and insisting that secular democracy be imposed on Muslims. When the killing and destruction starts in America the interventionist policies of these men and women will be the motivators of the Islamist attackers who kill Americans.

At day’s end, then, targeting U.S.-citizen Anwar al-Awalki is an important but subsidiary issue. Al-Awalki is a small part of a much greater problem that is now gathering momentum and heading toward a level of violence in America that has not been seen since our Civil War. For this reason it is time to reconsider which of our foreign policies toward the Muslim world are necessary for genuine U.S. security requirements, and which are in place only because of the influence bought through corrupt practices by the Israel-First lobby — which wants Islamist attacks in America to prove we are in the same boat as Israel — and the lobbies of the oil and arms-making industries who do the biding of the Saudis and other Arab tyrants. The Islamists’ center-of-gravity and glue of unity both depend on a status quo in U.S. foreign polices, and so both can be undermined by defeating the three lobbies who most support Washington’s interventionism.

And time is of the essence on this matter. While U.S. interventionism in the 20th century involved Americans in multiple unnecessary wars abroad, the interventionism of U.S. leaders in the first decade of the 21st century has brought us multiple wars abroad and has lit the fuse for a war here at home. To paraphrase John Quincy Adams, our governing elite went overseas to find Islamist dragons to slay, and by doing so gave birth to an Islamist dragon here at home which, before it is eliminated, will force the U.S. government to kill many Americans and see the country’s civil liberties’ environment changed forever.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.