For years the United States has held to the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” narrative. However this is, according to Vice, “arrogant, hypocritical, and favors some prisoners more than others.”
Noah Feldman, with Bloomberg L.P., notes, “In theory, it’s great to say that the U.S. government doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. In practice, we negotiate with terrorists all the time.” He continues,
“Thus, to give just one recent example, the Obama administration may wish that it never traded for captive U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl. But it did. The government may try to make a distinction by saying that Bergdahl was held in Afghanistan by the Taliban, with whom we are at war, so this wasn’t negotiating with terrorists, just an ordinary trade of prisoners. But the U.S. has also designated the Taliban a terrorist organization.”
This mantra, this “draconian statute” emphasizes the United States’ position that “makes it a crime to knowingly provide material support to a terrorist organization.”
Concerning the above statement, the United States has provided and continues to provide financial and material aid to countries partaking in and funding terrorist organizations.
In Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113B, § 2339A of the U.S. Code,
“Whoever provides material support or resources or conceals or disguises the nature, location, source, or ownership of material support or resources, knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, a violation of…or in preparation for, or in carrying out, the concealment of an escape from the commission of any such violation, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life. A violation of this section may be prosecuted in any Federal judicial district in which the underlying offense was committed, or in any other Federal judicial district as provided by law.”
With the advent of technological advancements tantamount to the world-changing revelation of the atomic bomb, terrorists have been adamant about their destruction of Western civilization. Their recruiting efforts only strengthen with anti-Islamic rhetoric reverberating within the stadiums, houses, and ears of millions of Americans. Islamic extremists capitalize on the emotional instability of young people. Even well-seasoned soldiers, generals, and policymakers aren’t immune to the devastating effects that threaten their children and surrounding communities.
“After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States Department of the Treasury initiated the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) to identify, track, and pursue terrorists – such as Al-Qaida – and their networks. The U.S. Treasury Department is uniquely positioned to track terrorist money flows and assist in broader U.S. Government efforts to uncover terrorist cells and map terrorist networks here at home and around the world.”
This is taken from TFTP’s official website, explaining its primary purpose. However, in delving into the technological and cyber nexus of financial transactions and illegal activities, the United States has taken hypocrisy to a whole new level.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, Iran, Sudan, and Syria qualify as “state sponsors of terrorism.” Furthermore, according to a 2001 report from the CATO Institute, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and China were all state sponsors of terrorism. In a recently released portion of the originally redacted 9/11 Commission Report, this declassified intelligence document revealed that higher ups within the Saudi government not only knew of but were directly funding terrorist activities related to al-Qaeda. In some cases, some within the Saudi royal family had direct communication with the hijackers, 15 of the 19 of whom were Saudi. Yet, as of mid-2016, the federal government revealed it had conceded to a $400 million delayed payment to Iran, coincidentally after “three American prisoners were released the same day.” However, while conservative opponents and the always neutral Fox News (I’m being facetious) cried out against this ransom payment, media outlets and the Obama administration, to ease the American public’s worries, assured that the United States does not make ransom payments. This way actually a deferment for a long overdue payment going back to the late 1970s. Nevertheless, the purpose of this blog is not to elucidate the manners of this particular action, but to draw notice that the American government was instead indirectly funding terrorist activities.
In an interactive map provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal government overtly explicates we currently send $9.412 million to Sudan, $10k to Saudi Arabia (not including military equipment and air support in their war against Yemen), $238.47 million to Syria, $742.2 million to Pakistan, $20.5 million to Libya, $6.8 million to China (not including our workforce), $15 million to Communist Cuba, $131.912 million to Communist Vietnam, $196.27 million to Somalia, $233.51 million to Hezbollah-funding Lebanon, and so on.
The fact that the “U.S. Gives Financial Aid to 96% of All Countries” is mind-boggling. Since the United States has enough cash to throw around to fund military programs in foreign nations, many which include nefarious and dubious connections, why can’t the United States forthrightly pay ransoms? After all, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain have conceded to pay ransoms to terrorists. Israel, “With its unrelenting approach, the state will strike deals and offer concessions for the release of its citizens, and even for the remains of soldiers killed in battle.”
A study conducted by Christopher Mellon, Peter Bergen, and David Sterman with New America, entitled, “To Pay Ransom or Not to Pay Ransom? An Examination of Western Hostage Policies,” made a compelling argument for paying ransoms. The study reads, “Hostages from European countries known to pay ransoms are more likely to be released,”and “Citizens of countries that make concessions such as ransom payments do not appear to be kidnapped at disproportionately high rates.” In other words, not only are Europeans released at higher rates than Brits and Americans, but though seemingly counterintuitive, they are less likely to be abducted. This is, in my belief, because terrorism isn’t solely about money. It’s about fear.
Hearkening back to my previous blog post “Who won the War on Terror?”, this puts us in a bit of a pickle. Terrorism, by definition, is psychological warfare. By changing our national security policy we would be in effect giving into terrorist demands. However we have already succumbed to these fears in past years (e.g. NSA mass-surveillance, PATRIOT Act, Department of Homeland Security, full-body scanners, wiretapping foreign ally leaders, etc.). Either way, we would be giving into the demands of the terrorists.
Yet these actions do not explain the United States’ continual indirect sponsorship of terrorism.
In Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 55, § 1202 of the U.S. Code,
“(a) Whoever receives, possesses, or disposes of any money or other property, or any portion thereof, which has at any time been delivered as ransom or reward in connection with a violation of section 1201 of this title, knowing the same to be money or property which has been at any time delivered as such ransom or reward, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
(b) A person who transports, transmits, or transfers in interstate or foreign commerce any proceeds of a kidnapping punishable under State law by imprisonment for more than 1 year, or receives, possesses, conceals, or disposes of any such proceeds after they have crossed a State or United States boundary, knowing the proceeds to have been unlawfully obtained, shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined under this title, or both.”
With the kidnappings of multiple Americans, President Obama in 2015, during his tenure, unveiled plans to pave the way for private ransom payments by families. Currently, under U.S. law, families can be prosecuted for attempting to buy their child’s, their brother’s, their sister’s, their friend’s freedom.
On June 24, 2015, President Obama stated,
“Today, I’m formally issuing a new presidential policy directive to improve how we work to bring home American hostages and how we support their families. I’ve signed a new executive order to ensure our government is organized to do so.”
Not only has he signed an executive order circumventing bureaucracy’s stalwart approach to ransoms, but he has, in effect, created an interagency hostage task force to solve these issues militarily as well as diplomatically, providing a better alternative for American families.
Overall, it would behoove the federal government to abstain from allocating funds to countries that we have or may be invading in the coming years. Furthermore, politicians have played off of the emotions of the American public for too long. Rather than inciting violence and inflicting war upon third world nations and various countries who simply do not wish to conduct business deals with the imperialistic United States, we should look at the proofs for hostage negotiation reform as well as our foreign and environmental policies.