SHELDON RICHMAN Its a perilous world, as our so-called leaders love to remind us. And for a change theyre right. It is a perilous world. But guess who is most responsible for the peril to Americans? Those very same leaders and a long line of predecessors. Moreover, they - along with anyone else who takes time to examine the matter - know that they create the greatest dangers Americans face. They just dont care. They have bigger fish to fry than keeping Americans safe, namely, geopolitical dominance. Besides, the dangers they create provide excuses for more power, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping and other surveillance, no-due-process kill lists, and secret CIA prisons. And lets not forget the big military appropriations that have put a good part of the US economy in the Pentagons service while driving the American people deeper into debt. (The resulting economic distress then justifies the exercise of even more government power.) Lets just say what many people already know: the war on terrorism produces terrorists. No half-intelligent person could think that US abuse of the Muslim world - the bombings, the indefinite detentions and torture, the kicking in of doors, the shootings at checkpoints, the propping up of corrupt rulers - could have any effect other than to produce violent, vengeful anti-Americanism. Even in the government-friendly mainstream media you will find the facts, though youll have to connect the dots yourself. When you treat people as if they are animals, or help others to treat them that way, some of those people will get angry and vow to get even. If desperate enough they will even be willing to give their lives to the cause - yes, even to fly airplanes into tall buildings. Isnt this already obvious? For more than 50 years US administrations, for the sake of geopolitical hegemony and preferential access to resources, have treated much of the Muslim world like personal property. Theyve backed brutal dictators, subverted governments, and invaded and occupied countries as it suited their agenda of world leadership. The programme included defying the will of the Iranian people and imposing a brutal monarch (1953), backing the Egyptian and Iraqi dictatorships, financing Israels periodic wars against Lebanon and oppression of the Palestinians, and so much more. It was bad enough that England and France had betrayed the trust of the Arabs after World War I and turned the Middle East into a colonial playground, with all the humiliation and repression that implies. The US government then compounded the crime by picking up the mantle of empire after World War II. Power and oil were the reasons. Were the brutalised and mortified people supposed to be grateful to the West? We kid ourselves when we pretend that history began on September 11, 2001. Can anyone say with a straight face that before that date America was minding its own business according to the non-interventionist guidelines set out by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Read some history. Or does American exceptionalism mean not having to know anything before dropping bombs on people and torturing detainees? Osama bin Ladens fatwa against the US, Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, is online. Read it for yourself. US troops had been stationed in Saudi Arabia in 1990, after then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Long after the brief Gulf War ended, US planes based in Saudi Arabia bombed southern Iraq to enforce US-declared no-fly zones, often killing civilians. Meanwhile, the US enforced an embargo on Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of children and others by denying, among other things, equipment Iraqis needed to rebuild sanitation and water facilities. Osamas fatwa was issued in 1996, soon after US-financed Israel conducted one of its regular onslaughts against the Lebanese. What were his specific grievances? American troops stationed near Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia. The US embargo on Iraq. US sponsorship of Israels domination of the Palestinians and its neighbours. Terrorising you, while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty, he wrote. Osama is not the only one with such grievances. According to the 9/11 Commission report, By his own account, [mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds] animus towards the US stemmed ... from his violent disagreement with US foreign policy favouring Israel. Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 suicide hijackers, committed himself to martyrdom on April 11, 1996, the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath. Ramzi Yousef lashed out at US foreign policy during his sentencing: Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it as long as it is against the US government and against Israel, because you are more than terrorists; you are the one who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars, and hypocrites. Richard Reid, who tried to ignite a shoe bomb aboard an airliner, told his sentencing judge, With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed two million children in Iraq.... Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. And Faisal Shahzad, who allegedly tried to ignite a car bomb in Times Square, said in court, I want to plead guilty, and Im going to plead guilty 100 times over because, until the hour the US pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking US, and I plead guilty to that. Incredibly, when such statements are cited by Americans who oppose US foreign policy, they are accused of condoning terrorism. It is disconcerting to learn that one must spell out the difference between comprehending and excusing an action. Terrorism (which, oddly, is a term never applied to any US government actions, no matter how violent or how harmful to civilians), by definition, is a political act. So it seems sensible to inquire into the motives of terrorists, if for no other reason than to determine whether such crimes might be avoided in the future. Bush administration officials acknowledged that US policy creates more terrorists than it kills. Bush strategist Paul Wolfowitz himself said that occupying Iraq permitted US troops to leave Saudi Arabia, where they had created so much hostility to America. In other words: American policy manufactures terrorism. With impunity the US government fires missiles from pilotless drones into Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, killing innocents. Its occupation forces leave death and misery in their wake. (Building a few schools hardly compensates.) Gen Stanley McChrystal, who until recently ran the counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan, conceded, Weve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force. And recently Israel killed nine aid volunteers (including an American citizen) on the high seas while enforcing a cruel blockade of Gaza, the latest mistreatment of Palestinians. How can this not come back to haunt us, Israels enablers? As if these actions were not enough, the US government since 9/11 has held many Muslims without charge or other due process in prisons where they have been abused and tortured in violation of US law and international conventions. Others have been sent to the custody of brutal foreign governments known to torture prisoners. Does anyone have trouble understanding why such prisoners would wish to harm Americans and attempt to do so as soon as they are freed? It is really unseemly for Americans to act like victims. Citing this shameful record and connecting it to terrorism is sure to bring charges of anti-Americanism from some quarters. But who has acted against the best interests of the American people: those who carry out these savage policies or those who identify them for what they are and demand cessation? US policy - no matter whos in power - couldnt be better tailored to recruit terrorists. We can keep pretending we are innocent victims. Or we can finally put the responsibility where it belongs: in Washington, DC. Then we must demand that the barbarism stop. Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.