Saturday, December 23, 2006

Moving the Linguistic Goal Posts in the So-Called "War" Against Terror

I have finally found some one who agrees with me!

A little past the first anniversary of Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI), I wrote, Is there anyone in the universe who agrees with my interpretation of George W. Bush's speech of 20 September 2001?

Remember that speech? I picked out as pivotal the point when Bush said,
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.
And my reaction (in part) was:
There's the phrase, "every terrorist group of global reach". To me it meant focus. We were not going after everyone with a particular vengeance or backyard spat in every corner of the world. We were not declaring war against the IRA in Northern Ireland, We were not going into Russia to fight the Chechens. We were not going into Turkey to fight the Kurds' PKK. We weren't air-dropping into rural Columbia to fight the FARC, flying into Spain to suppress the Basque ETA, or convoying to Sri Lanka to pacify the Black Tigers of Tamil. We weren't about to pave Kashmir. We weren't going to misconstrue our mission of anti-terrorism with intervention in bloody civil wars in Sub-Sahara Africa in Angola, Burundi, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea-Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria-Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania-Zanzibar, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Nor, therefore, was this a war against the various terrorist groups in Palestine (Hamas and Hezbollah); only against "terrorist groups of global reach".
Well, I'm immensely gratified to have found someone who 'gets it'! It's Robert Parry, a pundit-journalist who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. This week Parry takes it further in his Global War on Radicals. (I am condensing):
In other words, Bush’s early goal of defeating “terrorist groups of global reach” was narrow enough to be achievable.

The war, in effect, targeted al-Qaeda and similar organizations that not only embraced terrorism as a tactic but had the capability to reach across international boundaries to inflict civilian casualties, like the 9/11 attacks. Bush also added to his hit list governments, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, that harbored these terrorist groups.

However, after the quick U.S. victory over the Taliban in winter 2001-02, Bush shifted the war’s focus in two important ways:

First, the war against “terrorist groups of global reach” transformed into the “global war on terrorism,” an important distinction.

Suddenly, U.S. Special Forces were not responsible for just defeating al-Qaeda and a few other groups with global ambitions but were instead waging a global war against a variety of terrorist groups that presented threats mostly to local authorities. Some were “home-grown terrorists” with no links to al-Qaeda or other international organizations.

Second, Bush decided to settle some old scores with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was despised by Bush’s neoconservative advisers who dreamt of remaking the Middle East into a land of passive Arabs who would take direction from Washington and accept peace terms from Tel Aviv. So Arabs wouldn't think this was all about them, Bush coined the phrase "axis of evil" that lumped together Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

Since 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion toppled Hussein and an Iraqi insurgency emerged to fight the occupying army, the U.S. news media has lent a hand in blurring the American public’s distinctions between the Iraq War and the “war on terror.”

Iraqi insurgent attacks on U.S. soldiers, especially the deadly roadside bombs, often were described as “terrorist” incidents by the American news media, though the attacks didn’t fit the classic definition of “terrorism.”

Just recently, as I was listening to my car radio, a CNN newscast came on to report that an American soldier had been killed in Iraq by a “terrorist sniper.” By definition, however, the shooting of a soldier occupying a foreign country – though horrible on a human level – is not an act of “terrorism,” since no civilians are involved.

Yet, in the sloppy vernacular of the U.S. press corps, the word “terrorism” came to mean any violent act that officials in Washington didn’t like, a kind of geopolitical curse word.

In other words, the war against “terrorist groups of global reach,” which became the “global war on terrorism,” now has morphed into what might be called the “global war on radicals and extremists,” a dramatic escalation of the war’s ambitions with nary a comment from the U.S. news media.

So, under Bush’s new war framework, the enemy doesn’t necessarily have to commit or plot acts of international terrorism or even local acts of terrorism. It only matters that Bush judges the person to be a “radical” or an “extremist.”

While the word “terrorism” is open to abuse – under the old adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” – the definition of “radical” or “extremist” is even looser. It all depends on your point of view.

Bush’s decision to set wider parameters for this global war also represents a grave threat to the American Republic because Bush has asserted that he, as Commander in Chief, must hold “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as long as the conflict continues.

By stretching the definition of the “war on terror” into something so elastic that it has no discernable shape and no determinable end, Bush and his successors will get to set aside the Constitution indefinitely, essentially creating an American autocratic system for the foreseeable future.

So, this “new kind of war” – as Bush’s supporters call it – will require not only the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers but will deform the U.S. government beyond recognition, ultimately making it an international pariah state disgraced by having forsaken its own ideals of justice and tolerance.

In the end, Bush’s vision of the future also means the United States must turn its back on the Founding Fathers, who were considered “radicals” and “extremists” in their own age because they rejected the “divine right of kings” and insisted that all people are created equal and are endowed with “unalienable rights.”
In other words, by invoking the rights of preemptive and preventive war, Bush's UULUIUOI's has hijacked our American Republic out of its traditions and legacy as a force for freedom and peace in the world.

Now we have become a rogue nation, armed, dangerous and looking for trouble.

9 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Messenger said...

The Ethiopian example fits so well it almost seems pre-aaranged or contrived. Ethiopian spokesmen are using Bushlingusitics:

They speak of losing patience with the Somalis, presumeably because they are impatient to use invasion as 'a last resort'; they also speak of wanting to fight the Islamists in Somaliland so they don't have to fight them in Ethiopia. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) has called for international Islamic assistance in a Jihad to defend against the Ethiopian invasion. That seemingly reinforces American efforts to stigmatize UIC as being of al Qaeda bent. But most of the reading I've done on your site, as well as listening to BBC accounts, leads me to lean towards to the conclusion that this is just a local home-grown jihad of national-liberation. For one thing, the UIC seems to be not of Taliban-type: they are centralized, not monolithic, and govern with not only the consent of the people - but also by their gratification of having the war lords marginalized. This could all be changed, of course, by a few months resumption of bloody conflict.

12/23/2006 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can't get my brain around the idea of a national-liberation when we talk about Somalia. Who's going to liberate whom and what will they be liberated from? Who will define what liberation is and what percentage of the people behind it makes it so?

On a lighter note, I had my best laugh in ages watching the Marines land on the shores of Somalia. This surreal moment, when the brave warriors were running out of their landing crafts and taking cover with guns ready, was wittnessed by hundreds of TV grews waiting them on the shore and filming this exceptionally coragous assault. "The Digital Age war" can't get too much better than that. -:)

12/23/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

This seems like it is a case of naked, cold-blooded international aggression, Pekka. Malfrat and Messenger (M & M !!!) have a case.

I clipped this a few minutes ago:

The Toronto Star met with prominent Somali-Canadians and the leadership of the UIC during a trip into Mogadishu this fall. What was clear on the streets of Mogadishu, considered one of the most anarchic and dangerous cities in the world, was the widespread support for the UIC. Although foreigners are still at risk within Mogadishu, and the Star travelled with an armed convoy and had sought the written permission of the UIC to work in the city, residents of the city enjoyed unprecedented security and order.

Many did express concerns about the UIC's adherence to a strict interpretation of sharia law that curtailed many freedoms once enjoyed in a Muslim country that traditionally had secular rule. But there seemed a general acceptance among a population beaten down by years of fighting from rival warlords that some rights had to be sacrificed for security.

What kind of paper is the Toronto Star, Pekka? Menshevik or Bolshevik?

12/23/2006 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger Indicted Plagiarist said...

Yes, Messenger! Here it is: with a page torn directly from the Bush-Cheney preventive war playbook, Ethiopian Information Minister Berhan Hailu has explained his government's actions:

"The Ethiopian government has taken self-defensive measures and started counter-attacking the aggressive extremist forces of the Islamic Courts and foreign terrorist groups."

12/24/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vigil, Canada can be a strange place and this is true with it's press. There really is no national paper and the most of them are city or regional in their nature. The Toronto Star, with the largest circulation in the country, is basically available in Metro Toronto area. Hehe, the two choices you allowed - Bolshevik or Menshevik, one has to give a nod for Mensheviks. I would call it more New-Democrat which is another name for Social-Democrat. I wish I could buy the paper ocassionally here in Edmonton for it's different emphasis on daily happenings. The Star also has good columnists who's voices would otherwise never be heard outside the small circulation, little town papers. A good paper. At least that's the rumor I hear.

12/24/2006 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other matter, the UIC, is such a tough nut to crack. What their philosophy represent is totally reprehensible to me and I don't even pretend to understand their deep held values which include the platant repression of half the population - women.

That being said, to counter the total anarchy, orchestrated by the various warlords and their armed to the teeth packs of "hyenas", nothing else than the UIC seem to have a capability to offer any solutions. There in lays the crux of the matter by leaving us/them a choice between the homocidal bands of thiefs in one hand or religious fanatics with no tolerance for discord in another. It might also be good to remember, that the ultimate choice is for the Somalis to make.

To see through western eyes what's "progressing" in Somalia, once again illustrates the still existing colonial mindset which we have with these black and brown people whom, in our minds, are still not able to see what's good for them. Our collective answer has consistently been to burn the house down to get rid of the cockroaches. Besides, Mogadishu don't Somalia make.

12/24/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5 terror groups in Ireland linked to al-Qaida

12/26/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf said...

"Terrorism" is universal term for evil now. In the name of fighting terror, Ethiopia has invaded Somalia. In the name of fighting "Terror" Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli complains against Gazprom titrating the supply of natural gas. Everything is terror!

12/27/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf said...

After the Fall of Saddam - Terrorism has appeared everywhere. Better bring him back! and Fast!

12/27/2006 04:28:00 PM  

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