Glenn Greenwald Spars With Former CIA Officer On MSNBC Over Whether American Violence Abroad Fuels Jihad


Outspoken civil libertarian and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald made a rare cable news appearance this afternoon to debate with TheBlaze host and former CIA officer Buck Sexton over the role American foreign policy has played in fueling Islamic extremists to execute terrorist attacks against the United States. The MSNBC segment was lamentably much shorter than it needed to be, with the two guests getting into a fascinating debate over the nature of jihad.

Greenwald had recently written a column in which he noted that the committers of terrorism in the name Islam “emphatically all say the same thing: that they were motivated by the continuous horrific violence brought by the United States and its allies to the Muslim world — violence which routinely kills and oppresses innocent men, women and children.”

“Were those words intended to inflame or provoke discussion?” host Craig Melvin asked.

“Neither,” Greenwald responded. “It was to make very clear that there is a consistent trend on the part of people who attack the United States, which is that they all cite essentially the same thing: That the United States has continued to drone, bomb, invade, occupy, imprison and torture countless people in the Muslim world, and that people in that part of the world and Muslims who identify with it have concluded that the only way to make that stop, the only way to fulfill their notions of justice is to bring violence to the United States so that Americans can see the effects of that which they’re causing in other parts of the world.”

He added that the United States government needs to “face up” to its own policy blunders that have “inflamed” the problem and the anti-American sentiments that he believes cause terrorism in the first place.

Sexton shot back that it is “deeply disingenuous to suggest that fighting against terrorism is, in fact, the cause of terrorism.” He accused the jihadist community of having a “selective historical memory” in that they cite the recent U.S. wars in the Middle East but fail to acknowledge that the grievances have existed long before American military intervention abroad. “There is no justification for these acts and they will always find another grievance for this kind of terror,” he said.

“I am pretty sure that anybody who has ever worked the for the CIA probably knows that United States violence and interference and aggression in the Muslim world didn’t begin after 9/11,” Greenwald responded. “The centerpiece of American policy has been to dominate that region, dictate how it runs in order to secure our access and protect Israeli interests.”

Greenwald added that the United Nations estimates that a U.S. sanction on Iraq in the 1990s killed several hundred thousand Iraql children. In addition, he noted, “we prop up dictators, overturn their democratic elections, and you have to ask: Why are there dozen and dozens of countries in the world that aren’t being attacked? The answer is because these countries aren’t bringing violence to that part of the world.”

He leveled another criticism at Sexton: “It’s very self-flattering to say, ‘Oh, well, it’s not our fault. We just go around the world minding our own business and bringing peace, and freedom, and love to everybody. But all you have to do is look at the reality of American conduct around the world, and the only thing that’s surprising is that there haven’t been more of these attacks over the last decade.”

Sexton shot back that this thinking is “warmed-over Noam Chomsky,” adding that “even if we were to give Glenn what he wishes — no U.S. involvement in the rest of the world, we didn’t do any meddling — do we think this would stop? Do we really think the grievances would end? No, there would be headscarf bans in France to contend with; making fun of the prophet Mohammed in cartoons.

“The people that do things like we saw in Boston will never stop their violence, because they believe that it comes from above,” Sexton concluded.

Of course, as cable news programs are wont to do, the segment was cut off just as the conversation began to pick up steam, leaving Greenwald without a chance to respond to Sexton’s conclusions.

The Guardian columnist himself was dissatisfied with the brevity of the discussion, and immediately took to Twitter to express frustration with the “joys of cable news”:

Watch the segment below, via MSNBC:

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