The “Global War on Terror” Has Failed, War Is Not the Answer

Four years ago, the U.S. government launched a “global war on terror” to defeat violent extremists. But the “war on terror” has failed, and in October FCNL appealed to Congress to end it.

The president’s war on terror has not brought justice or restored peace and security. Indeed, because of the president’s policies, the spiral of violence has deepened. Terror and grief have spread across Afghanistan and Iraq, where tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died because of U.S. policies, and where violence remains a daily fact of life.

Terror and grief also have entered the homes of hundreds of thousands of Americans who anxiously await the return of loved ones from war and of the thousands now grieving for the dead and wounded.

The president has handed extremists their victory:

  • They wanted to stand face to face with world leaders; President Bush elevated them from their status as international criminals to the status of equals in war.

  • They wanted to provoke U.S. military intervention and repression in Muslim countries; President Bush gave them wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S.-sponsored torture.

  • They wanted the president to create the conditions for recruiting and building their global network; President Bush obliged.

  • They wanted to weaken the U.S. in a costly war of attrition; President Bush went to war on their battleground on their terms.

  • They wanted to bankrupt the U.S. economy and starve it of oil; President Bush’s energy strategy, which does little to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, helps them to do this.


After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, FCNL warned that “terrorism is not a person, a place, or thing. We cannot blast it out of this world. Violent retaliation by the U.S. will sow more seeds of hatred and reap a new harvest of terror.”

Indeed, the war on terror has planted those very seeds, and we are seeing the harvest in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere where al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden, and other violent extremists strike.

Top Pentagon officials acknowledge that the Iraq war has become a magnet, attracting an undetermined, but not insignificant, number of foreign fighters bent of expelling U.S. and allied forces whom they regard as occupiers and violators of Islam’s holy sites. At a hearing in October, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the large military presence in Iraq “feeds the notion of occupation.” The State Department’s latest annual report on terrorism stated that Iraq has become a “melting pot of jihadists from around the world.”

“The public has been led into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information... The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows... We are today not far from a disaster.”
– T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) The Sunday Times of London, Aug. 22, 1920

In its October 6 letter, FCNL urged Congress to “end the war on terror, and the cycle of violence. Bring the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks to justice under the rule of international laws and institutions to protect civilians from violence. Stop supporting oppressive regimes.”

We urged Congress to “redirect U.S. policies to address the deep social, economic and political inequalities that fester throughout the developing world. Demonstrate our country’s enduring commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in ways that we pursue and respond to violent extremism.”

War is not the answer to violent extremism.
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