Why Do Progressive Liberals Fall for “Humanitarian War”?


Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com.

“Humanitarian” War Contradicts 200 Years of Liberal Thought

The Founding Fathers – the basis for American values – warned against standing armies and foreign entanglements, saying that overgrown military establishments destroy our liberty.

Liberal economists – such as Nobel prize winner Joe Stiglitz and James Galbraith – have demonstrated that large military budgets and war destroy our economy, and help the rich at the expense of everyone else.

Progressive University of Chicago professor Robert A. Pape – who specializes in international security affairs – points out:

Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.


Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined.


New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research [co-authored by James K. Feldman – former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies] that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.

Some have disputed the causal link between foreign occupation and suicide terrorism, pointing out that some occupations by foreign powers have not resulted in suicide bombings — for example, critics often cite post-World War II Japan and Germany. Our research provides sufficient evidence to address these criticisms by outlining the two factors that determine the likelihood of suicide terrorism being employed against an occupying force.

The first factor is social distance between the occupier and occupied. The wider the social distance, the more the occupied community may fear losing its way of life. Although other differences may matter, research shows that resistance to occupations is especially likely to escalate to suicide terrorism when there is a difference between the predominant religion of the occupier and the predominant religion of the occupied.

Religious difference matters not because some religions are predisposed to suicide attacks. Indeed, there are religious differences even in purely secular suicide attack campaigns, such as the LTTE (Hindu) against the Sinhalese (Buddhists).

Rather, religious difference matters because it enables terrorist leaders to claim that the occupier is motivated by a religious agenda that can scare both secular and religious members of a local community — this is why Osama bin Laden never misses an opportunity to describe U.S. occupiers as “crusaders” motivated by a Christian agenda to convert Muslims, steal their resources, and change the local population’s way of life.

The second factor is prior rebellion. Suicide terrorism is typically a strategy of last resort, often used by weak actors when other, non-suicidal methods of resistance to occupation fail. This is why we see suicide attack campaigns so often evolve from ordinary terrorist or guerrilla campaigns, as in the cases of Israel and Palestine, the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey, or the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

One of the most important findings from our research is that empowering local groups can reduce suicide terrorism. In Iraq, the surge’s success was not the result of increased U.S. military control of Anbar province, but the empowerment of Sunni tribes, commonly called the Anbar Awakening, which enabled Iraqis to provide for their own security. On the other hand, taking power away from local groups can escalate suicide terrorism. In Afghanistan, U.S. and Western forces began to exert more control over the country’s Pashtun regions starting in early 2006, and suicide attacks dramatically escalated from this point on.


The first step is recognizing that occupations in the Muslim world don’t make Americans any safer — in fact, they are at the heart of the problem.

Security experts – including many liberal doves – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Killing innocent civilians is one of the main things which increases terrorism. And see this.   As one of the top counter-terrorism experts (the former number 2 counter-terrorism expert at the State Department) told me, starting wars against states which do not pose an imminent threat to America’s national security increases the threat of terrorism because:

One of the principal causes of terrorism is injuries to people and families.

(Indeed, Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.)

Liberal icon Noam Chomsky agrees that 9/11 happened because of American imperial policies in the Middle East.

Regime Change: A Decades-Long Neocon Project

Liberals – justifiably – despised Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other neoconservatives’ warmongering.

The U.S. government – and especially the neocon element – has been consistently planning regime change in Syria and Libya for 20 years, and dreamed of regime change for 50 years.

Why are progressives are falling for a continuance of this decades-old neocon effort?

Why Are We Fighting on the Same Side as Al Qaeda?

The Syrian opposition is largely comprised of Al Qaeda terrorists.  See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Terrorist rebels have been responsible for much of the violence inside Syria. And outside monitors have confirmed that the situation on the ground is much different than it is being portrayed in the Western media. (And according to the large German newspaper FAZ, those recently massacred in Hama were on the same side as Syrian leader Assad).

The United States is actually fighting on the same side as 3 terrorist groups in Syria.  And see this.

Reuters notes that the leader of Al Qaeda – Ayman al-Zawahri – is backing the Syrian rebels, and asking his followers to fight the Syrian government.

Some of the main Al Qaeda fighters who overthrew Gadaffi – and now appear to be in control of Libya – are already helping the Syrian rebels.

Even Pat Buchanan asks:

If its good for Al Qaeda, can it be good for us?

The U.S. is arming the Syrian opposition, even though Secretary of State Clinton admits that will help Al Qaeda.

American government officials and corporate media are applauding Al Qaeda attacks in Syria. See this, this and this. Rather than condemning suicide terrorist attacks, they simply say Al Qaeda’s bombings show that the “window is closing” for Assad, and he should give up power.   (Samples here, here and here – the latter tweeted by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice right after an Al Qaeda bomb attack.)

We supported Bin Laden and the other originators of “Al Qaeda” in the 1970s to fight the Soviets.  Are we going to create another 9/11 by backing Al Qaeda in Syria?

The Antithesis of Real Liberal, Progressive Values

Given that U.S. support of Middle Eastern battles increases terrorism, weakens our national security, hurts our economy,  continues a long-held Neocon agenda, supports Al Qaeda, hurts freedom here in America, it is the antithesis of real liberal, progressive values.

Public Relations to Blame?

 War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com.

Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University James Tracy notes:

In April 1917, when Democratic President Woodrow Wilson led America into the war that he promised would “make the world safe for democracy,” he called on some of America’s foremost progressive journalists to “sell” the war to a reluctant American population through the greatest propaganda campaign ever put together. Wilson’s anxiety over securing liberal support for the war effort brought him to recognize how well known “Progressive publicists” exercised credibility in the public mind through their previous work in exposing government and corporate corruption. One such journalist was George Creel, who Wilson tapped to lead the newly formed Committee on Public Information (CPI). New Republic editor Walter Lippmann and “father of public relations” Edward Bernays were also brought on board the elaborate domestic and international campaign to “advertise America.”

Because of Creel’s wide-ranging connections to Progressive writers throughout the US, Wilson was confident that Creel would be successful in getting such intellectual workers on board the war effort, “to establish a visible link between liberal ideals and pursuit of the war,” Stuart Ewen observes. “On the whole, Wilson’s assumption was justified. When the war was declared, an impassioned generation of Progressive publicists fell into line, surrounding the war effort with a veil of much-needed liberal-democratic rhetoric.”

Well known for his derisive critiques of big business interests, such as the Rockefellers and their infamous role in the Ludlow massacre, Creel was the perfect candidate to lead a propaganda apparatus at a time when suspicion toward “a ‘capitalists’ war’” was prevalent. “When the moment to lead the public mind into war arrived, the disorder threatened by antiwar sentiments—particularly among the lower classes—was seen as an occasion that demanded what Lippmann would call the ‘manufacture of consent.’”

The sales effort was unparalleled in its scale and sophistication. The CPI was not only able to officially censor news and information, but to manufacture it. Acting in the role of an advanced and multifaceted advertising agency, Creel’s operation “examined the different ways that information flowed to the population and flooded these channels with pro-war material.”

The Committee’s domestic organ was comprised of 19 subdivisions, each devoted to a specific type of propaganda, one of which was a Division of News that distributed over 6,000 press releases and acted as the chief avenue for war-related information. On an average week, more than 20,000 newspaper columns carried data provided through CPI propaganda. The Division of Syndicated Features enlisted the help of popular novelists, short story writers, and essayists. These mainstream American authors presented the official line in a readily accessible form  reaching twelve million people every month. Similar endeavors existed for cinema, impromptu soapbox oratory (Four Minute Men), and outright advertising.

Creel himself recalls the unparalleled efforts of the thought control apparatus he oversaw to sell the war to a skeptical American public

“It is a matter of pride to the Committee on Public Information, as it should be to America, that the directors of English, French, and Italian propaganda were a unit in agreeing that our literature was remarkable above all others for its brilliant and concentrated effectiveness.”

Alongside Creel’s recollections, out of their experiences in the CPI the liberal-minded Lippmann and Bernays wrote of their overall contempt for what they understood as a malleable and hopelessly ill-informed public that could not be trusted with serious decision-making. In their view, public opinion had to be created by an “organized intelligence” of technocrats (Lippmann) or “engineered” by “an invisible government” (Bernays), with the average citizen relegated to the role of idle spectator.

Anyone who doubts that the government continues to hire numerous well-known liberal reporters to act as propagandists to sell war should read this, this and the rest of Tracy’s post.

Amediawar War Is Sold Just Like Soda or Toothpaste

Note 1:  I believe that true progressive liberals tend to be against war,  just like true conservatives.  On the other hand, neoliberals and neoconservatives are actually very similar.  The liberals who follow Obama’s justifications for war are being duped just like conservatives who followed Bush’s siren call to war.

Note 2:  We are in no way endorsing the official 9/11 story. A discussion of 9/11 is beyond the scope of this essay.

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  • angryspittle

    There is no such thing as a humanitarian war.

    • jo6pac

      I’m the left and agree 100%, thank you.

  • The notion of “humanitarian war” as the other comments indicate, is a delusion. It may be time to listen to a suggestion of Sigmund Freud who suggested a method of psychoanalyzing large segments of, or groups within society, with similar techniques that are used in diagnosing and treating individuals.

    The glorification of violence through propaganda is a psychotic behavior, and should be diagnosed as such.

  • Wooten Berston

    A little quibble is in order: Chomsky is not a liberal. He’s some sort of anarchist; some sort of a leftist libertarian.

    I’ve had a look at their ideology but I yet can’t understand it. In fact, I don’t see anarchism as a reasoned political understanding at all. It’s actually a sort of religion. It’s metaphysics, with no empirical basis at all. 5000 years of history has never shown a society beyond that of primitive hunter-gatherers that functions anarchistically.

    On a personal level, I will never be able to forgive him for what he said about 911: “who cares”.

    • Noam understands the propaganda techniques which we can call “pigeonholing”, and has avoided it so as not to be silenced. Heed the Paul Simon lyrics about a “one trick pony”.

  • AdVader

    selfdefined progressive liberals (neo-socialists) factual are backwarding morons.

    • You should learn that ad hominem is not a valid form of discourse, rather, it is the abandonment of normal discourse.

  • Eric K.

    The entire essay is invalidated by this single sentence: “New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 …” Have you not been paying attention for the last 11 years? IMO, anybody who still believes the myth of 9/11 is either an idiot or an intellectual coward. In either case they really have nothing meaningful to say. 9/11: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kYsXFhAq1ME Or the very entertaining 5 minute version: The 911 Conspiracy Theory Explained in 5 Minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz0_EWfdEGg

  • Eric K.

    I just noticed the following: “Note 2: We are in no way endorsing the official 9/11 story. A discussion of 9/11 is beyond the scope of this essay.” Sorry, but putting this little note at the bottom does not excuse the implicit acceptance of the official 9/11 story in the rest of the essay. Pathetic. It just makes it worse. “Why oh why do the liberals accept these lies of humanitarian wars”, he writes, while implicitly accepting the biggest lie of the past 100 years. This is classic.

    • Charles Moon

      I don’t understand your objection. Planes did in fact hit the towers whether there were bombs in the builidngs or not. Likely these planes had pilots and those pilots died. It does no damage to the skepticism of th official story to recognize that CIA funded fanatics could have easily signed on for a plan they never even thought of. Just examine some of these “plots” that have been “stopped” by US interlligence. In every case the govt is creating the plot and arming the unbeknownst “plotters”, basically leading them along every step of the way. So to say “suicide terrorism” discredits no one, especially the journalist writing this blog. If you have a blog of similar incite and dedication, I’d be more than happy to read it, but I have found little if anything to object to here on Washington’s Blog. Perhaps you need to relax more.

  • Cap’n Obvious

    Will someone please calculate how many CIVILIANS has US-involved operations killed in the last 50 years?

    • Charles Moon

      The number is between 5 million and 8 million depending upon the extent to which you lay deaths in Central America or Indonesia at the feet of the USA. Often there are victims that are killed by proxy forces or right-wing puppet governments, even though the training of the death squads is usually done by the US. Numbers included in this specific estimate are 4 million in SE Asia(Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos: 1965-1975), 500,000 in Indonesia in 1965(communists “purged”), 250,000 in Central America, 50,000 in South America, 1.5-2 million in Iraq(1991-2011), 3-5,000 in Panama(1989), and roughly 200,000 combined from Haiti, Grenada, Philipines, Somalia, Yemen, and Cuba.

  • James J

    If you voted for Bush and are now complaining that liberals are supporting “humanitarian wars.” Please just STFU. You rightwingers put in motion all of this garbage by voting for Bush. Now we are in a position where the genie seemingly cannot be put back in the bottle. Please just STFU.

  • Daniel

    Good work 😀

  • Nietzschean Stalinist

    Dear friends, many people claim that the ruling capitalist class is evil and it wages wars because it loves murdering people (but that is not the real reason of why ruling classes of imperialist nations declare wars against other nations. I’ve learned in the books “The Republic” by Plato and “History of Rome” by Indro Montanelli, that wars are not decided by the ruling class of pro-war nations because the ruling class is evil and loves murdering people (that’s a simplistic moralist dumb view). The real answer of why nations wage wars is because of expanding economies of un-regulated capitalist systems. And we have had about 5000 years of un-regulated capitalism. And the real cause of wars is really expanding economies in un-regulated capitalist nations

  • Nietzschean Stalinist

    BOURGEOISE-LIBERALS ARE NOT MARXISTS, LENINISTS, MAOISTS, STALINISTS, TROTSKISTS, ANARCHISTS AND MARXIST-LENINISTS. BOURGEOISE-LIBERALS ARE CAPITALISTS-REFORMISTS. The bourgeoise liberal woman of Code Pink told the bourgeoise-liberal commentator Thom Hartmann, on his show “The Big Picture” that the USA is such a great and freedom country, because in this country people can talk. But talking all you want is not real freedom, real freedom is 100% universal health care coverage, opportunity to join a university to study a profession like law, medical science, business, etc. shelter, basic needs and a secure income. And many other basic needs that are needed according to the standards of UN http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzW8P7PYdeQ

  • duckworth

    Nietzschean Stalinist – where do your thoughts originate? ARE NOT MARXISTS, LENINISTS, MAOISTS, STALINISTS, TROTSKISTS, ANARCHISTS AND MARXIST-LENINISTS also leftists? The left leads to socialism and the ultimate goal of socialism is communism. No country survives communism, especially one such as the USA. The USSR collapsed on itself because they went bankrupt. They did no real world commerce so they imploded. What is the incentive to do better when your efforts go to the collective rather than yourself? Communism is all about the collective and a nanny government to see to one’s every need. This country doesn’t work that way and never will.

  • duckworth

    Something that really grabbed me was this comment –
    “Real freedom is 100% universal health care coverage, opportunity to join
    a university to study a profession like law, medical science, business,
    etc. shelter, basic needs and a secure income. And many other basic
    needs that are needed according to the standards of UN”.

    I take it you mean for merely being alive… Who pays for it? The collective? What happens when there are no longer any resources to sustain your utopia?
    Answer…the USA goes to war to claim the spoils so it can continue to operate for another decade. It’s easier than manufacturing and commerce the old fasioned way which also involves capitalism, the root of all evil. Too bad it is the only manner in which to do business these days. Explain your cellphone, laptop, car or any other item you own/possess. It is the result of capitalism and it works pretty well when the left isn’t trying to upset the apple cart.
    Obama wants to fudamentally transform the nation and is well on his way through the tactics he learned very well from the left extremists who groomed him and paid his way through school. You obviously buy into it. You exhibit no respect fo the USA – you run on and on about how great the left is. Step back and look at what the left does politically in every country it has destroyed. Do so unobjectively and realize the truth.