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Kerry’s Moral Inversion on Terrorism

Speaking yesterday at the Vatican, Secretary of State John Kerry let slip a comment so ludicrous that one has to wonder how much wider the gap between reality and Kerry’s worldview can yet grow. Following his meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in which the two discussed the violence in Syria and prospects for Middle East peace, Kerry delivered a public statement in which he remarked, “And so we have a huge common interest in dealing with this issue of poverty, which in many cases is the root cause of terrorism or even the root cause of the disenfranchisement of millions of people on this planet.”

In making such a claim, America’s Secretary of State commits a terrible moral inversion, one in which the terrorists are cast as the victims, driven to such desperate acts by poverty, while the people they murder, particularly when Westerners, are really the ones who are guilty–guilty of having allowed the great injustice of poverty in the first place.

Had a comment of similar thoughtlessness come from a Republican politician it would have instantly been set upon as a credibility-terminating gaffe. Yet, in this instance Kerry’s thinking is entirely in step with the line pushed by much of the liberal media. Kerry’s assertion here is, of course, completely untrue. But as Jeryl Bier at the Weekly Standard has already pointed out, this isn’t the first time Kerry has peddled such beliefs. Speaking last October at the Global Counterterrorism Forum the Secretary of State proclaimed, “Getting this right isn’t just about taking terrorists off the street. It’s about providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment.”

To be clear, terrorism does not have its “root cause” in poverty. For one thing it is paid for by “rich people.” If we look to Islamic terrorism specifically, Sunni terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and al-Nusra get much of their funding from wealthy benefactors in the oil producing Gulf states, while Shia groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Mahdi Army-related groups in Iraq have received their funding from Iran’s state sponsored terror network.

Nor are the terrorists themselves primarily from particularly disadvantaged backgrounds. Research has consistently shown that terrorists predominantly come from not only middle class backgrounds, but also highly educated ones. It can’t be that none of these findings have found their way onto the secretary of state’s desk. But presumably they don’t fit Kerry’s worldview and so he chooses not to recall them. Yet, the reality of the privileged terrorist is certainly not in doubt if we look to the Middle East where no shortage of studies have found Palestinian terrorists, for example, to often be more affluent and better educated than the surrounding population. And similarly when it came to the 9/11 hijackers, their Egyptian leader Mohammed Atta had graduated from the University of Cairo before going on to become a graduate student in Hamburg, Germany.

When it comes to homegrown terrorism from the West, the point becomes even more stark. Britain’s MI5 intelligence service has said that more than 60 percent of terror suspects there are from educated and well-to-do backgrounds, with one of the 2005 London bombers possessing assets worth over $150,000. And the suspects of the Boston bombings can hardly be ruled to be particularly disadvantaged; one of them majored in marine biology with plans to enter dentistry.

The nonsense of claiming poverty as the underlying cause of terrorism becomes apparent just as soon as one considers the millions and millions of people all over the world, who live amidst the most terrible conditions and hardships, without ever coming remotely close to turning to terrorism, that preferred route out of the poverty trap. 

It is of course concerning that Secretary Kerry would so readily make a claim of such self-evident inaccuracy. But what is really troubling here is the shameful moral inversion that he gives voice to by making such statements. Terrorists are not the victims, not of poverty or anything else. They are the adherents of hate-fueled and nihilistic ideologies. This is the root cause of terrorism.    


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