There Is No End In Sight For The Self-Perpetuating 'War On Terror'

from the we-have-always-been-at-war-with-terrorism dept

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.
~Alexis de Tocqueville

War generally used to refer to a finite state, but as with the endless “War on Drugs,” the War on Terror has scattered the US military around the globe to battle terrorists with no endgame. Hillary Clinton speculated back in 2009 that we would be in Afghanistan (in one form or another) for another “50 or 60 years.” Greg Miller’s article for the Washington Post quotes unnamed senior administration officials as stating these operations are “likely to be extended for at least another decade.” [As this story was being prepped, the administration announced plans to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Seeing as this completely contradicts the Pentagon’s claim that a large fighting force will need to be maintained seemingly indefinitely, we’re probably better off believing this when we see it.] Eleven years and counting from the 9/11 attacks and the “action” only seems to be heating up. Glenn Greenwald, writing for The Guardian, points out the current administration’s escalation of this undeclared war.

The policies adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.

Much of this has to do with the very nature of government itself: surviving a round of budget cuts is a larger victory than actually achieving stated goals. We’ve seen evidence of this perverted incentive in the TSA, which has done everything it can to protect its turf in order to remain “essential” enough to receive funding year in and year out.

Another bonus for those in power is that long-lasting wars create an atmosphere conducive to the expansion of government control. Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture quotes James Madison’s warning about the corruption of executive power by the act of war:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied: and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

We have a government (and various industries) that has no interest in ending the War on Terror. In order to maintain the new, post-9/11 status quo, the “war” must continue. There is simply no incentive to end it, at least nothing that outweighs the side benefits.

If you were a US leader, or an official of the National Security State, or a beneficiary of the private military and surveillance industries, why would you possibly want the war on terror to end? That would be the worst thing that could happen. It’s that war that generates limitless power, impenetrable secrecy, an unquestioning citizenry, and massive profit.

Limitless power and impenetrable secrecy. That’s what we’ve got and that’s what’s in store for us in the future. The FISA Amendments Act, which was recently extended for another half-decade with scarcely an objection, sanctions warrantless wiretapping on American citizens thanks to a “secret” interpretation of the law’s language by a secret court. A so-called “National Counterterrorism Center” is collecting a giant database of information on innocent Americans, an action so breathtakingly wrong that it raised objections from the DHS. Law enforcement officials, with assistance from the FBI and CIA, have spent years violating the rights of US citizens who happen to be Muslim in hopes of uncovering terrorist plots. To date, they’ve found nothing. If certain “security” legislation fails to make its way through the proper channels, executive orders are issued to make it a reality.

The politicians and private companies benefiting from our ongoing battle will be pleased to learn that our “anti-terrorist” actions are going a long way towards making the War on Terror self-perpetuating.

There’s a good reason US officials are assuming the “War on Terror” will persist indefinitely: namely, their actions ensure that this occurs. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg examines what the US government seems to regard as the strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking US troops with increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality: people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:

“Such insider attacks, by Afghan security forces on their Western allies, became “the signature violence of 2012”, in the words of one former American official. The surge in attacks has provided the clearest sign yet that Afghan resentment of foreigners is becoming unmanageable, and American officials have expressed worries about its disruptive effects on the training mission that is the core of the American withdrawal plan for 2014. . . .

“But behind it all, many senior coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding that after nearly 12 years of war, the view of foreigners held by many Afghans has come to mirror that of the Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred, and some will find a reason to act on those feelings.

Our government has, over the past decade, ordained murder (targeted killing), torture (enhanced interrogation techniques) and kidnapping (extraordinary rendition) under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” The administration has granted itself the power to authorize war/warlike tactics anywhere in the world without requiring congressional authorization. The conscription of local law enforcement into the War on Terror has availed them of the same questionable procedures and tactics, further eroding our rights as citizens.

Rather than make the world safer, our actions have created more enemies. And it’s only going to get worse. Laws, especially far-reaching legislation that grants unprecedented powers, rarely, if ever, come back “off the books.” The feeling that this is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better is particularly disheartening because the “better” half of that sentence looks like its chances are moving from “slim” to “none.”

It’s no surprise that the War on Terror is endless. It is, however, discomfiting to hear administration officials confirm this. What began as merely overreaction to a horrendous attack has become the focal point of two administrations — a vague quest against a poorly-defined “evil” that has been used to excuse criminal activities by national security agencies and as impetus for a swiftly-growing surveillance state.

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Comments on “There Is No End In Sight For The Self-Perpetuating 'War On Terror'”

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weneedhelp (profile) says:

The project for a new American Century

Going along as planned. This is nothing new to me.
in the document:

Neocons and DemocRATS are 2 sides of the same coin.

Funny funny thing. When I was trying to warn the sheeple about this exact thing i just got called a conspiracy theorist.

Been trying to warn everyone for a long time:

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: The project for a new American Century

Sorry but I just don’t really care anymore. Read it, dont read it.

I have already gone through the stages of grief when I realized this country is a far cry from what I was led to believe it was. Was I naive politically? Absolutely. Wish I still was. I would love to be a happy little sheep.

Thanks to the Pentacon releasing what was touted as footage to put to rest conspiracy theorists, and I saw it, then said to myself… “Self, that is the same footage that was already released. Why would they release it again as something to shut someone up?” (When it clearly didnt.)

From there it was all over. There was the Patriot act which was not patriotic at all. And on and on.

So I am not as passionate as I once used to be about it because, well, the fucking sheeple dont care their phone/email is tapped, dont care we torture and kidnap ppl all over the world, kill foreigners with drones, use weapons designed for war here at home, and on and fucking on. I feel like I have to throw up thinking about it.

I am going to go watch some cats and dogs on youtube.

weneedhelp - not signed in says:

Re: Re: The project for a new American Century

“its possible that your just not a nice person” – Yes I have taken into account that no matter what you do there are ppl that just wont like you no matter what. Socially, I have never had issues meeting ppl and making/keeping friends. I always get good reviews from my clients and peers come review time at work, so I dont think that is the issue. That and my friends are as honest as me and would tell me if I was being an asshole. Or the whole of my friends are assholes too. I think the odds are against so many assholes finding each other though. LOL.

“nobody listens to you” The ones that do have a valid point to which I have no answer. So what do we do? What can I do about it?

What do we do AC? Dont tell me write your congressmen or any other bullshit like that because I have hundreds of scanned letters and saved emails from doing that for many many years.

I thought the momentum of SOPA would have opened PPL’s eyes and continued, but instead fizzled out like a bad fart.
Oh well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The project for a new American Century

I agree with the other anonymous poster. To dismiss an opinion because the reader dislikes a single word in a comment speaks much more negatively of the reader than it does the commenter.

The truth is if any American citizen truly believes invading a country thousands of miles from them is an act of self defence – they are insane.

It’s just a shame that the UK, where I’m from, bends over for the US so often. I’d much rather we broke free and stopped supporting the terrorising of foreign nations that have done nothing to us.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

I cannot believe this has been rated as insightful.

Are you seriously comparing the act of chasing down victimless criminals who have done nothing more than either consume substances into their own bodies or the equivalent of borrowing multimedia from a friend with the act of defending nations from fascistic movements that intend to annex their sovereignty and bring people back to the stone age?

Perhaps you are right. Maybe winning a war on “terror”, assuming the word is not a stupid way of describing it, in the final sense is not possible since humanity is overrated and will continue to spawn more fascistic movements… but I shall happily keep on fighting it nonetheless. If fighting against theocratic movements that wish to impose a 1984 scenario on everything they touch is not worth it, what is?

jameshogg says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Reading 1984 was part of the process that got me to change my mind and support the fight against both Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

I cannot help but notice that your rhetoric about always being at war with Eurasia has so far not applied to the wars Al Qaeda want to fight, never mind the wars Saddam Hussein started against Iran and Kuwait (over wanting private control over all oil around him, funnily enough). Osama Bin Laden was not anti-Empire but PRO-Empire, wanting to restore the Caliphate on every non-believer in the world. That was not the mindset of a comrade’s struggle, but a religious theocrat who would happily take the so-called great Capitalistic oppression for himself instead of fighting against it. And that would be the least-strongest of his brutal weapons.

Considering how George Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War against General Franco, knowing fine well that there was only one side he could have been on, I find it hard to believe how he could have said that the threat of Theocracy should be left alone to rot the world, never mind making a moral equivalence with Baathist fascism and Western democracy. He took a bullet trying to defend Spain from fascism. So that is the mindset you are dealing with whenever you cite Orwell. He of all people said quite clearly that it is common sense to see that pacifism is a lost cause.

And I have given an explanation of what I think about the “war on terror” in another post below.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

But at what cost? Killing civilians in “targeted” unnamed strikes, simply because we can’t be bothered any more to confirm if the target is indeed a terrorist, and treating the bystanders we kill as an “acceptable loss” does NOTHING be breed violent resentment toward us and new conscripts for terrorist organizations.

Yes, the terrorist threat is real. It’s even more real for the people who have to live under their regime of Islamic fundamentalism, but when people are forced to choose between the enemy they know and the enemy they don’t know, which do you think they will choose? If you really want to win the war on terror, the first step would be to NOT yourself become the enemy of populous who should be supporting you.

If we, in the name of self-defense, become terrorist, WE become our worst enemy. No matter the outcome, we still lose.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The fact that defending nations can commit war crimes does not necessarily mean that the war itself is a crime. In fact, can you name one just war where a war crime was not committed? Even in World War 2, atrocious unjust bombings of innocent Germans living in poverty occurred, and killed part of a force that could have helped commit to a great cause. I support the prosecution of these crimes, but that is quite different from saying that the war should not have gone ahead.

Once again, the rhetoric applies the other way. If the U.S. commits imperialist crimes in the world, does that give a movement the right to start inflicting Sharia totalitarian states on innocent people? No. Should both of these things be stopped by force? Yes.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Talk about rhetoric…

The fact that defending nations can commit war crimes does not necessarily mean that the war itself is a crime.

Never implied it was.

If the U.S. commits imperialist crimes in the world, does that give a movement the right to start inflicting Sharia totalitarian states on innocent people?

Never implied it should, but you didn’t even try to get what I said. Those who have been harmed by the Taliban would have easily sided with us, but those who have been harmed by us as well are more likely to side with the Taliban. Our own callous actions is what is driving some of them to believe that a Sharia totalitarian state would be the lesser evil–the devil you know. And if we remain on this course, we WILL loose. How do you not get that this is ultimately self-defeating and against our nation’s security?

Should both of these things be stopped by force?

It depends if the situation actually warrants it, and if so, to what degree. Functional civil societies don’t enforce its laws and norms by absolute force. When possible, the accused are given a trial where guilt must be proven before being punished in accordance and in proportion to the severity of the crime.

What you propose, the persistent use of force, is something else entirely. It’s in itself totalitarianism. Shoot first, ask questions later. And what if those who are supposed to enforce the law breaks it, more of the same? Seriously, look at societies that behave like this. Is that the sort of world you want to live in? If not, then start thinking of actions beyond brute force. Otherwise, consider emigrating.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

There was a slogan on the Left during the 30s that said “fascism means war” which is a good way of describing it. This is why I keep emphasising that calling it a “war on terror” is a huge mistake since it invites silly amateur-psychoanalysis as to the “root causes of terror”, and people end up pointing to things like civilian’s perception of the morality of super state powers – regardless of whether the perception is right or not, it supposedly needs to be “acknowledged as a factor” in what causes people to join Al Qaeda. But what wouldn’t be justified on that basis? Another cause of grievances among them is the unveiling of women in Western societies, the reading of literature, allowing the wrong kind of Muslim to go to Mosques, the fact that people like Salman Rushdie ? gasp ? get to live, allowing illustrated satire of Islam just like any other religion. The U.S. is likewise guilty of “causing terrorism? in these situations. Did Denmark really deserve the attacks it got for showing a few mildly provocative cartoons? If you understand all of this, it becomes easier to see where I am coming from.

There are situations where military intervention is not warranted and that proportional force is required, such as withholding aid or imposing sanctions. Anti-humanitarianism on its own won’t do, support for international criminals on its own won’t do, etc. That is obvious enough, and limits can be set quite well without creating a ?shoot first? slippery slope that you claim. In the current cases, Afghan society is under attack itself by a movement that gives Al Qaeda a safe haven and unless both the United States and Afghanistan are not entitled to defend themselves from attacks the country cannot be left to rot under Taliban rule (Afghanistan likewise had a right to defend itself from aggressive invasion from a super-power in the form of the Soviet Union). As I have said below, allowing that to happen could also be considered an act of unjust brute force in the passive sense.

And Saddam Hussein committed just about every international crime we have a law for. We are in the middle of an age where international justice is becoming more prevalent, and where actions involving temporary breaches of a nation?s sovereignty are necessary in order to preserve their sovereignty of the future. A big indicator that a regime needs taken out is if it commits genocidal acts. Saddam Hussein lost all sovereignty the moment he carried out the al-Anfal campaign during the 80s, and anything that happened to his regime from that point on he had coming. It was a huge disgrace that the U.S. did not take him out in the First Gulf War let alone support him in the 80s, and the fact that it was put off for so long is the only thing you can really consider when looking at the bad state of Iraq as it is now. It is a country that did not deserve Saddam, and was entitled to be emancipated from him. Indeed, there are many people who quite rightly say that Hitler would have not gained so much power had fascism not been allowed to spread in Europe along with Mussolini and Franco. The general rule of thumb is the longer you leave it, the worse it is going to get.

Fascism does not necessarily need the components of poverty and war in order to breed (you could possibly point to Bosnia and Kosovo as examples), and when it does, it causes these components to be imposed on others. If the United State?s use of force in preventing the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims somehow causes further murders of those Muslims, which is hard to acknowledge since things began to clear up the moment force was mobilised, that logic at least has to apply to those actually committing the genocide. And if you know anything about psychopaths/religious nutcases, they cannot be reasoned with or negotiated diplomatically… otherwise there would be no psychopaths or religious nutcases.

Humanity is overrated, as the great Dr House said. We tend to fail in understanding how some people can be so evil since their brains operate without the concept of altruism ? something that is biologically incomprehensible to decent people. Indeed, if you put psychopaths under MRI machines, parts of the brain that are supposed to light up in response to thoughts of kindness just do not do so. This ultimately means less room for Psychological explanation and more room for biological explanation.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem with a system like that is that it would work, and the government and all governments would not be able to use silly excuses to go to war with themselves or others. Seriously i think if it was not for governments people around the world would get on just fine as they are. Governments create wars not it’s citizens.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except there will still be people who try to take advantage of the system and bend it to their will. People aren’t content unless they feel they’re living better lives than other people. And there will still be a need for leaders, experts, and representatives.

It might start out as a grand utopian idea, but after a short while it will probably change to what we have now.

Anonymous Coward says:

The war on terror has worked better than John McCain or anyone in the military industrial complex would’ve hoped for. John McCain said in 2008 that the US should be in Iraq for 70 years, in a virtually eternal war.

But this is WAY better. Because with the “war on terror”, they can pretty much declare “war” against any country you want, and keep this up forever.

jameshogg says:

The slippery slope of big power applies both ways.

I know I am going to whip up a storm by posting this and I feel like it is probably futile to change minds on the matter, but TechDirt is due for some disagreement from me and so I shall deliver it here.

First, let me point out that “War on Terror” is indeed a stupid phrase to give to what is going on in the world right now. I prefer to call it a “War against Islamic Theocracy” or at the very least a “War against fascism”. It is very typical of memes to either greatly overstate a threat such as “War against all Communism” as well as greatly understate a threat such as “War on Terror”.

Religion breeds fascists by its very nature of a dictatorial God in its midsts. In Bosnia, many Muslims were slaughtered and put into concentration camps due to some Christian monsters from Serbia and Croatia. For a long, long while nobody was doing anything about it and journalists were struggling to get into the hot spots in Bosnia to see what was going on. Nobody in the U.S. was initially concerned, never mind the U.N.’s and NATO’s denial of what needed to be done in order to correct the situation. No, it was not a possible “quagmire like Vietnam” situation – in Vietnam the aggressors were the United States and Vietnam was not in a position to harm anyone. Here, Bosnia was the victim and was also not in a position to harm anyone. The answer was morally simple, and putting heads in the sand cost many unnecessary lives.

I have to conclude here that if nothing were ever done to help Bosnia by the superpowers, I would have seen the inaction as a form of imperialism. It has to be the case that you cannot trust a super-power government if it allows these kinds of genocidal actions to happen while it stands by idly. Indeed, I don’t think any reasonable person can say that nothing should be done to help Rwanda or Darfur. Yet, nobody is willing to apply this moral principle to a country that may have all the military might in the world. If you have the chance to stop people from getting killed, you have to take it in order to have any moral credibility.

In Psychology, this principle is called the “bystander effect” – when people on the street come across somebody who is bleeding to death or is under attack by a thug, you would be surprised that there are circumstances that cause these bystanders to differ responsibility to someone else to “call the police”. When everybody thinks like this, nobody calls the police. And indeed sometimes they won’t do anything to help at all. But the moral answer here is so simple that everybody sees this Psychological phenomenon as a horrible stain on humanity, and it must be overcome.

In regards to 9/11 – an attack on everything that religion does not possess: secluarism, freedom of women and gays and racial minorities and other religious minorities, freedom of speech, science, scepticism, liberty, everything that defines our dignity – one has to say that it cannot be a “response” to the crimes of the U.S. Especially when Al Qaeda are more than happy to support the U.S. when it arms Indonesia to commit genocide against East Timor, among others. If these deluded thugs really were fighting for the “rights of the oppressed”, why are they attacking innocent civilians using innocent civilians? Why are they willing to ally with the Taliban who do nothing BUT oppress the vulnerable and try to repress humanity into a dangerous dark age? What did Denmark do to deserve to have its economy temporarily wrecked in 2005/06? Have its press publish a few cartoons? This is Denmark we are talking about – not in a position to harm anyone, very honourably gives some of its budget to help the Palestinians, did not invade Vietnam… Don’t make me laugh. I am not an idiot. This Al Qaeda movement needs to be called by its rightful name: theocratic fascism.

And yes, we have a duty to fight it.

We have no disagreements about how the Patriot Act invades privacy. Neither about James Madison’s warning about concentrating too much power in few spaces: the Cold War atrocities committed by the United States, ranging from Vietnam to Chile to East Timor to Cyprus to Nicaragua to many more (indeed including the U.S.’s collusion with Saddam Hussein) is proof that he was right. I also have no disagreement as to how the Military Industrial Complex can provide those higher-ups with great profit as a result of the need for bullets and guns… but what you cannot say is that their profiteering is a good enough excuse to let totalitarian fascists commit human rights abuses in the world.

There is such a thing as calling a super-power an imperialist power if it fails to use its power for moral ends by sitting around and letting it happen. If you see that, you see that the slope of power is much more slippery than you think.

anonymouse says:

War what war?

The Terrorists around the world could stop right now. They could pack there bags and go home. If you look at the state of Americas so cherished freedoms they are lost or being lost, what with spying and unlawful detention of its citizens , America is destroying itself from the inside out, no terrorist has to do anything any more the path has been taken and the freedom that is supposedly being fought for is gone, well unless you just ignore it, then nothing has changed in America over the last 200 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

In this way, sadly, the terrorist could possibly achieve the goal of 9/11: they actually will destroy the USA as we knew it. The same USA that lots of countries looked up to as an example. The slow process that will achieve it is fear and those profiting of the fear of US citizens…not the physical destruction as we witenessed in the attacks.

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