by Steve Dasbach
Here's a question worth asking before we get involved in a decades-long war against terrorism: Why doesn't the U.S. government stop arming and training foreign terrorists and the dictators who support them?
That's an essential question in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, because -- once again -- our nation is about to go into battle against an enemy equipped with American guns, money, and advanced military training.
That's right: Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the terrorists who commandeered four jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was trained and equipped by the United States.
So are many of his fanatical mujahedeen troops.
And so is his protector -- the tyrannical Taliban government of Afghanistan.
That embarrassing fact is being ignored now that President George Bush has declared an all-out war on terrorism. But it's a fact that is crucial to understanding why America faces such a cunning, skillful enemy.
Let's start with the Taliban regime. Just five months ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave $43 million to Afghanistan in exchange for declaring that growing opium is "against the will of God."
That was just part of $125 million in foreign aid the U.S. gave the Taliban this year, which makes us the biggest sponsor of that virulently pro-terrorist regime.
How many of those American dollars will be used to feed and equip the Afghan warriors who will try to slaughter American soldiers once the War Against Terrorism officially begins?
U.S. aid to bin Laden goes back even further. In the 1980s, bin Laden was part of the mujahedeen -- a group of Islamic rebels fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The result: Two of the terrorists convicted for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center had received weapons and explosives training from those CIA-backed Afghans, according to the New York-based World Policy Institute.
These same Islamic fundamentalists later assisted in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
But the "boomerang effect" of U.S. aid goes beyond terrorism.
The last four times the United States sent substantial numbers of troops into conflict -- in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti -- they faced an enemy who had received U.S. weapons, training, or military technology. For example:
* Panama: Before our 1989 invasion to oust strongman Manuel Noriega, the United States provided Panama with $33.5 million worth of weapons, and spent $8.2 million to train Panamanian military personnel at the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training program.
* Iraq: In the years leading up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Reagan and Bush administrations supplied "critical military technologies" that were then used to build the Iraqi war machine.
* Somalia: Before dispatching our ill-fated 1991 peace-keeping mission, the U.S. furnished $1 billion in aid to Somalia's oppressive government -- including $154 million in weapons. When U.S. troops arrived to quell the civil war, they were confronted by American-made M-16 rifles, machine guns, howitzers, armored personnel carriers, and anti-tank missiles.
* Haiti: Prior to U.S troops landing on the shores of that impoverished Caribbean nation in 1994, the American government delivered $2.6 million in weapons to dictator Jean Bertrand Aristide.
In all, between the end of World War II and the early 1990s, the U.S. government distributed more than $950 billion in foreign or military aid to more than 100 nations, according to the Cato Institute.
Given that 101 armed conflicts flared somewhere on the planet between 1989 and 1996, it's likely that our government was involved -- whether with money, arms, or military personnel -- in a majority of those clashes. And every time we got involved in another nation's war, we made more enemies.
What's the solution?
It should be obvious: A non-interventionist foreign policy, which will keep America safer by reducing the number of nations and terrorist organizations with reason to hate us.
Such a policy would also deprive potential enemies of U.S. guns, money, and military training -- which they could later use to kill Americans.
Of course, such a policy can't guarantee that some terrorists won't still hate our nation. We'll always have enemies who loathe our culture, secular beliefs, trade policies, or democratic ideals.
But a non-interventionist foreign policy would dramatically reduce that likelihood. It would diminish the fear Americans have about the danger of biological and chemical attacks, exploding airliners, and more suicidal attacks.
And it would increase the prospect that our nation could, once again, live in peace.
October 5, 2001