It has been 14 years since the “War on Terror” was launched to “avenge” the attacks of September 11 and “punish those responsible.” It is still raging. This war declared against the entire Islamic world on the pretext of “fighting terrorism” keeps growing, engulfing an expanding list of Muslim countries in death and destruction.
This ugly war, which was allegedly launched to neutralize a handful of terrorists, has led to millions of innocent Muslim civilians being killed, injured, crippled, or forced from their homes and lands. One of the most insidious weapons in this war is the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, which was first used in Afghanistan in 2001. When their utility was discovered, their use was extended to Yemen in 2002 and in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Pakistan (2004) and Somalia (2007) were soon added to the list of countries that were subjected to drone strikes.
Today, drones have become the most effective instrument of spreading war into Islamic territories and in the execution without trial of Muslims. What is interesting is that the Nobel Peace Prize recipient for 2009, the dovish-looking Barack Obama has launched more drone attacks than his hawkish predecessor George W. Bush. The number of attacks by the Obama regime is continuing to increase.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the drones is the fact that the majority of these attacks are launched against Muslim countries that have not been designated war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The American intelligence agency, the CIA, and American Special Forces regard every adult Muslim male living in these regions as a potential terrorist, and targets them with Hellfire missiles fired from drones, without any charge, questioning, or trial. These attacks, which are carried out by the CIA, and are nothing short of “war crimes,” have become an important tool of undeclared US foreign policy.
The drones are used for intelligence gathering and to carry out attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia where the US is not involved in a direct war. There is no accountability or reaction from officials of the targeted countries. The question is, why is there official silence about such illegal strikes?
The answer to this question is troubling. Officials of Muslim countries either approve of the US drones strikes on their lands and people, or ignore them and remain silent while the US murders their citizens. Although thousands of women, children, and innocent civilians have been slaughtered, these rulers’ attitude remains unchanged. Others responsible for these attacks include the rulers of Muslim countries themselves, although they do not want to publicly acknowledge it.
It is clear that these attacks going on since 2001 have largely failed to eliminate their supposed targets like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other terrorist organization. Instead, the blowing to pieces or burning to death of large numbers of civilians, including women and children, and the way people rushing to help are struck by secondary Hellfire missiles, has resulted in more recruits for radical organizations, ready to kill and take revenge. Moreover, they have led to the emergence of more terrorist outfits like ISIS/ISIL. It is quite likely that other radical organizations will emerge if such policies continue. It is simplistic to assume that these terrorists will not strike the US or Europe.
First and foremost, Muslim leaders must put an immediate end to their explicit and/or implicit approval of US drone attacks in their countries. It is also essential that they act together with the leaders of neighboring Muslim countries to end the killings, destruction and suffering caused to civilians by this vile war.
They must stand up to radicalism and extremism that is the direct result of a gross misinterpretation of Islam instead of following the teachings of the noble Qur’an based on fairness and justice. When they act in unison and show firm resolve against radicalism these extremist elements will find no shelter in their countries. This will automatically consign them to the trash heap of history, where they rightly belong.
If that does not happen and if the rulers of Muslim countries insist on acting alone rather than as a united front, they will continue to be used by the intelligence agencies of Western powers. This will make the Muslim rulers responsible for the blood of innocent people. It must be borne in mind that the European states, which until 70 years ago were fighting to annihilate each other, are now more-or-less acting in solidarity.
The basic reason behind such unity is the desire to avoid any repetition of the deaths, starvation, poverty and suffering caused by the two world wars. This desire is set above the interests of individual countries. The Europeans now assign much greater importance to human life, human rights, the right to life, and democracy at least in so far as their own citizens are concerned.
Such unity is possible and desirable, indeed urgent for Muslim countries. They should be the leading proponents of peace and justice, in line with the teachings of the Qur’an, the real source of these noble values, and as exemplified by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
It is a fact that no radical ideology has been or can be destroyed by using guns and bombs alone. Errors can only be exposed when people are provided the truth. If Muslim countries unite, radicalism can be effectively countered with the support of opinion leaders and religious figures that are known for their moderate views. Radical elements will thus be deprived of support and space to operate in, thereby ceasing to be a threat.
The fighting and conflicts in Muslim lands in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria can be brought to an end. For this to happen, the leaders of Muslim countries must speak with one voice. They must be guided by the compassionate, loving and peaceful teachings of the noble Qur’an. They must not regard the idea as out of reach or impossible to achieve.