BELGRADE – A former CIA counterterrorism agent has said it is time to talk about why terrorism really happens, and to address the “misguided narratives” that lead to oversimplification of the situation and continued war.
Amaryllis Fox worked on counterterrorism and intelligence in the CIA’s clandestine service for ten years. She told AJ+ that the beliefs surrounding terrorism are “stories manufactured by a really small number of people on both sides, who amass a great deal of power and wealth by convincing the rest of use to keep killing each other.”
Fox says the current conversation about Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the US “is more oversimplified than ever.”
“Ask most Americans whether ISIS poses an existential threat to this country and they’ll say yes. That’s where the conversation stops,” she said.
Fox compared the attitudes of people in the US and in Iraq and Syria, with inhabitants of both regions believing each side is waging war upon the other. The West believes the narrative that terrorist attacks happen because they “hate our freedoms,” while people in countries that the US has attacked think the United States is “waging war on Islam.”
Fox used a conversation with an al-Qaeda fighter to highlight the point: “He said all these movies that America makes ‒ like ‘Independence Day’, and ‘The Hunger Games’, and ‘Star Wars’ ‒ they’re all about a small scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel an outside, technological advanced invader. ‘And what you don’t realize,’ he said, ‘is that to us, to the rest of the world, you are the empire, and we are Luke and Han. You are the aliens and we are Will Smith.’”
Fox believes Americans should ask themselves: “Are we pouring kerosene on a candle?” when it comes to foreign policy.
“The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them,” she said. “If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not, you might have made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.”
“As long as your enemy is a sub-human psychopath that’s going to kill you no matter what, this never ends,” she added.