10 ways to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks on Americans

drone
Pakistani tribesmen show a poster of drone strike victims. (Photo: Getty Images via CNN)
  1. Declare a moratorium on drone strikes: The head of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is calling on jihadists to retaliate for US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. The Yemeni group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), where the US says the threats are emanating from, is also calling for retaliation for drones strikes (there have been four strikes in Yemen since July 28). Drone strikes have become the number one recruiting tool for extremists. By grounding the drones, we will stop creating new enemies faster than we can kill them.

  1. Close the US drone base in Saudi Arabia: One of the reasons Osama bin Laden said he hated the United States was that the US had military bases in the Holy Lands in Saudi Arabia. President Bush quietly closed those bases in 2003 but in 2010 President Obama secretly reopened a base there for launching drones into Yemen. It’s a national security threat ripe for blowback. So are many of the over 800 US bases peppered all over the world. We can save billions of taxpayer dollars, and make ourselves safer, by closing them.

  1. Free the 86 Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release: The US treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, holding people indefinitely without charges or trials and brutally force-feeding the hunger strikers, is an affront to people throughout the Muslim world and a blatant hypocrisy of our American values. Of the 166 prisoners left in Guantanamo, 86 have been cleared for release, meaning the US government has determined they represent no threat to our nation. President Obama can use the waiver system, certifying to Congress that it is in the US national interest to release them. He just did this, for the first time, for two Algerian prisoners. He should do this for all 86 cleared prisoners, then bring the remaining prisoners to the US for trials.

  1. Apologize and compensate innocent victims: There is a perception in the Muslim world that the US government does not value their lives. Airstrikes have killed many innocent people and only in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq has there been a way, albeit woefully inadequate, for aggrieved families to seek redress. The US should agree to apologize and compensate the families of innocent people who have been killed or maimed by the US armed forces or CIA.

  1. Go for the “zero option” in Afghanistan: withdraw all US troops: The 11-year US occupation of Afghanistan has provided fodder for the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, while propping up an unpopular and corrupt regime in Kabul. And if the US troops were not in Afghanistan, the Taliban would not be trying to cross the Pakistani border to kill US soldiers. President Obama promised to end the US occupation by the end of 2014, but is now weighing options for keeping thousands of troops  and military contractors behind. Bad idea.

  1. Sit down and talk: The Taliban opened an office in Qatar in June to finally start long-delayed talks with the US. But due to President Karzai’s objections, the talks were nixed. It’s long past the time to talk to the Taliban, and then move on to talk to those elements in Al Qaeda who are more rational and open to negotiations. If you look at the Rand Corporation’s study of the demise of 268 terrorist groups, 43% dissolved by joining the political process, 40% from  better policing, and only 7% through military action. We’ve been using military action for over a decade; it’s time for another approach.

  1. Stop supporting dictatorships and repressive militaries: The US recently signed the largest arms deal in history with the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the same government that rolled its tanks into neighboring Bahrain to crush the democratic uprising there. In Egypt, US weapons and tear gas were used for decades against peaceful demonstrators, and continue to be used against peaceful protesters supporting ousted Muslim Brotherhood. While weapons sales to undemocratic and/or unstable regimes might be good for US weapons manufacturers, they are bad for the reputation and security of the American people.

  1. Support non-violent democracy movements: Terrorists thrive best where there is chaos and instability. Nurturing democratic institutions and non-violent civil society are key to thwarting the growth of extremist movements. The US needs to do more than support these efforts; it also needs to listen to them. In Yemen, the US is helping to fund the 6-month experiment in democracy called the National Dialogue Conference, where 565 extremely diverse members of society are meeting daily to map out the nation’s future. The Conference recently passed, by overwhelming vote, a resolution declaring drones strikes and all extrajudicial killing illegal. Unfortunately, the US has refused to abide by the popular will thus far.

  1. Adhere to the international rule of law: In its war on terror, the US has been killing terror suspects with blatant disregard for international law and national sovereignty. A July 18 Pew poll of 39 nations found fierce global opposition to US drone strikes, particularly in the Muslim world. If the US wants help and sympathy in rooting out would-be attackers, it has to show the world it will stop using extrajudicial assassinations and start adhering to international law.  

  1. Spend foreign aid money on education, healthcare and lifting people out of poverty: For a fraction of the money we keep wasting each month on the failed war in Afghanistan or supporting the already wealthy Israeli military, we could be building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, helping Yemenis find a solution to their water shortages, and providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. We’ll make a lot more friends building clinics, wells, electrical grids and schools than vaporizing people with Hellfire missiles.

This 10-point plan would significantly reduce terrorist threats, save taxpayers billions of dollars and make Americans more loved and admired in the world. After a decade of wielding the military stick, it’s time for some carrots.

About Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin), cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
Posted in US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics, War on Terror

{ 30 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. OlegR says:

    /This 10-point plan would significantly reduce terrorist threats, save taxpayers billions of dollars and make Americans more loved and admired in the world. After a decade of wielding the military stick, it’s time for some carrots./

    Or it might not work at all…

    • Donald says:

      “Or it might not work at all…”

      What if it didn’t? Then should we continue to kill innocent civilians?

      The only (very slight) problem I have with Medea’s formulation is that it inadvertently panders to the notion that the only thing that really matters is us. She doesn’t mean it that way, but there will be people who read this and think “Well, it might not work, so maybe we should continue the drone strikes and hey, if a lot of innocent Muslims get killed, who cares?” Or they will deny that innocents get killed, or claim it was the fault of the terrorists, etc… Western narcissism and hypocrisy on basic moral issues is a huge part of the problem.

      • OlegR says:

        /What if it didn’t?/
        It might make matters worse for the US.
        The logic behind these 10 point is on a kindergarten level.
        I f you play nice other kids won’t pick on you , it ain’t necessarily so.

        • Donald says:

          “I f you play nice other kids won’t pick on you , it ain’t necessarily so.”

          You’re repeating my point–apparently for you, the only reason to play nice (i.e., not kill innocent civilians or otherwise behave badly) is that it might decrease terrorism. If it won’t, then there’s no incentive to “play nice”. Now that’s kindergarten logic.

          But as for Medea’s points, the most extreme terrorists probably won’t change if we “play nice”, but they will receive less support from people who are less extreme, who might support terrorism as a way of striking back at us, but wouldn’t otherwise.

  2. seanmcbride says:

    One can easily think of dozens of issues that are of much greater importance for Americans than terrorism:

    1. Alzheimer’s disease
    2. attacks on civil liberties
    3. autism
    4. cancer
    5. collapse of the US industrial base
    6. collapse of the US middle class
    7. crumbling infrastructure
    8. diabetes
    9. drought
    10. extreme weather
    11. fast food
    12. foreign economic competition
    13. genetically modified foods
    14. global warming and climate change
    15. health care
    16. heart disease
    17. obesity
    18. ocean acidification
    19. outsourcing of American jobs
    20. pandemics
    21. pollution
    22. poverty
    23. radical wealth inequality
    24. street crime
    25. total surveillance state
    26. traffic accidents
    27. US debt
    28. Wall Street financial crime

    The neocons, and the mainstream media which they substantially control, have inflicted severe damage on the American interest by over-hyping the terrorism issue to a degree that is insane.

  3. American says:

    Ditto
    Good Advice.

  4. It’s sad that the US could actually be a light unto nations in leading by example.

    Maybe one day.

  5. gingershot says:

    You tell’em, Medea!

    I would only add #!!:

    ‘Stop using the US Veto at the UN Sec Council to dysfunctionally support Israeli Apartheid’

  6. Walker says:

    This is a good list. It would be excellent if it included cessation of our diplomatic protection of Israel’s colonization of occupied territory. I wonder if Ms Benjamin might explain why she left that out.

    • Citizen says:

      @ Walker
      Yep, I thought the same thing.

    • Donald says:

      I wonder if it was totally subconscious or deliberate? Either way, some part of her brain is probably thinking her chances of receiving favorable news coverage (or maybe an invitation to speak on Maddow’s show, for instance) will be higher if she leaves Israeli human rights violations out as a factor. It doesn’t make sense to leave it out except for some crass political or PR reason, since everyone knows resentment of US support for Israel is pretty widespread.

  7. Mndwss says:

    “After a decade of wielding the military stick, it’s time for some carrots.”

    No. After a decade of wielding the military stick it is time for America to pay war reparations to Irak and Afganistan ++…

    America should pay for ALL the carrots that Afghans need to make Kabuli pulao for the rest of time…

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  8. Elliot says:

    Medea – Straightforward common sense. You are a national treasure!

    • ckg says:

      She is indeed a national treasure. But she misses the elephant in the room. See gingershot and Walker above.

  9. MHughes976 says:

    If you ever think of visiting/lecturing in the UK, Medea, I am sure you would gather an audience.

  10. newsens says:

    The truth is there are no terrorist attacks on America – and that includes 9/11 which was a “false flag” attack.

    The so-called Global War on Terrorism is a pretext and a means for the US/Israel to destroy Islam.

    • fnlevit says:

      Finally! Finally Israel is brought in! I was searchig and searching and could not find its name untill you, honorable gingershot mentioned it. Good. Very good. Such a nontrivial point. Others completely missed it. 9/11, 100 000 killed in Syria, car bombing of civilians in Iraq, Paki/Afgani -stans – all this would not have ahppened if only not for US supporting this Israel Apartheid. By the way – if an Aran judge sentenced former Israeli president to 7 years in prison for sex misconduct does this still counts as Apartheid? Or me teaching high school Arab teachers advanced physics in a special proram funded by Rotschild foundation?

  11. just says:

    Thanks Medea– great advice!

    I would also add that an end to our hypocrisy would be a huge giant step. We could also end the odious sanctions against Iran and Cuba………….and end the Islamophobi screed that is promulgated by our “leaders” and the media……….

    We need to work for justice and peace. You are an amazing role model for us all.

  12. Sumud says:

    Sound advice Medea, but you need to step back and tackle the larger problem first. The goal of the power elite is NOT to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks on Americans, if anything it is the opposite.

    The power elite’s goal is to syphon taxpayer’s money into their pockets using the ruse of terrorism to do so. Think about Cheney leaving Halliburton to become VP: within a year or two they are getting multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts. Do you think this is a coincidence…?!

  13. dbroncos says:

    What leaps off the page for me is the conspicuous absence of “support for Israel” on this list. Well before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , before Guantanimo, drone attacks, US troops and operations based in Saudi Arabia, American citizens were being targeted in lethal attacks on the part of Arabs and Muslims who correctly see us as partners in crime with the Zionist crusade. What I’ve listed above should be understood as some of the compounding results, if indirectly, for our support for Israel. Arab complaints about our allegance to Israel have topped their list for decades. Surely Media Benjamin understands this.

    Benjamin’s list makes sense in terms of providing a tactical approach to improving our relations with the Arab world but it lacks the big picture context of the tragedy of Zionism and the ongoing havoc it’s wrecking on Palestinian lives and US foreign policy.

    • Citizen says:

      @ dbroncos
      Benjamin’s great! But maybe if she put more light on Zionism/AIPAC she wouldn’t, for example, be able to weasel her way into a congressional meeting and get to shout at the President on public tv, before she’s led away?

      • dbroncos says:

        I agee that Benjamin’s been a great critic and advocate for a more serious, sober US foreign policy. However, critiques of our ME policy that don’t more clearly take on our iron clad support for Israel miss a central and defining theme that has animated the lethal hatred of Americans for decades. Discussing the ongoing threat of terrorism or blowback based on our more recent, post 9-11 history misses the larger point that 9-11 and the follow on disasters are part of an escalating continum of violence that stretches back to Israel’s founding. That violence made it’s first appearance on American soil 45 years ago with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and it’s escalated ever since.

    • fnlevit says:

      She is a hidden Zionist! Zionist in the closet!!! Get out, you Zionist Apartheid. BUT! Finally! Finally Israel is brought in by you! I was searchig and searching and could not find Israel name untill you, honorable what’s your nmae mentioned it. Good. Very good. Such a nontrivial point. Others completely missed it. 9/11, 100 000 killed in Syria, car bombing of civilians in Iraq, Paki/Afgani -stans – all this would not have happened if only not for US supporting this Israel Apartheid. By the way – if an Arab judge sentenced former Israeli president to 7 years in prison for sex misconduct does this still counts as Apartheid? Or me teaching high school Arab teachers advanced physics in a special proram funded by Rotschild foundation?

  14. mijj says:

    how many genuine terrorist threats have there been that aren’t home made (theater or worse) designed to keep the dear citizens in a state of reason-scrambling, security-demanding, revenge-seeking fear?

  15. kayq says:

    Thank you Ms. Benjamin! I highly agree, and this is why the left should be in power. Not the faux-liberal left.

    Also she may have not mentioned Israel, because she specifically chose to focus on the countries of Aghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Even though, Somalia gets drone striked too.

    • just says:

      What we’ve done to the Afghans for 30+ years is beyond shameful– we must stop!

      Can anyone imagine living with war since 1979 or 1948?

  16. dianab says:

    “We’ve been using military action for over a decade; it’s time for another approach.”

    This country and the colonies that preceded it have actually been using military action for ALMOST FOUR CENTURIES, resulting in widespread destruction of nations, human beings, cultures and economies, including our own. What’s stupendously incomprehensible is that alternative approaches have never been deemed acceptable by the U.S. “leadership”. Plus ça change . . .