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Global War on Terror

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The Bush Administration global war on terror and the legality of measures adopted to wage it are revealed in memos written by legal advisors after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. On January 28, 2009 ProPublica reported, "The Bush administration’s "war on terror" - including its controversial policies on detentions, interrogations and warrantless wiretapping - were all underpinned by legal memoranda. While some of those memos have been released (primarily as a result of ACLU lawsuits), the former administration chose to keep many others secret, citing security and confidentiality concerns. The decision to release them now lies with President Barack Obama. To help inform the debate—and inject an extra dose of accountability—we’re posting a list of the relevant memos, both public and secret. (The ACLU first compiled a list of still-secret memoranda, which ProPublica verified.)" [1]

Memo authors include John C. Yoo, Steven G. Bradbury, Jay Bybee, James B. Comey, Robert J. Delahunty, Jack Goldsmith, James Ho, Daniel Levin, Patrick Philbin and and other legal architects (and some critics) of the Bush Administration's use of torture and detention policies now being reversed by the Obama Administration.

Background on Bush's Global War on Terror

Global War on Terror, used repeatedly in the internal text of the October 16, 2003, memo written by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, entitled Global War on Terrorism, seems to be a new rhetorical device justifying expansion of the "war" and perhaps new agencies. Citing the memo:

"Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

In this view, which is relatively new even for the Bush administration, the goal is not to end the threat posed by terrorist groups of global reach, the previously stated objective, but the eradication of all militant Islamic groups that cross the line from militancy into attacks on the USA and its allies, wherever they are, whether they have a right to be there or not. It is the eradication of a mind-set that is the objective, not specific groups.

The dangers of this view will be obvious to those who recall the Vietnam War. In that war, there was a similar focus on metrics and eradicating the mind-set of Communist insurgents in former South Vietnam. This of course was impossible, because in at least some ways, there was a strong case to be made that Communists were quite right about the inequities in the client state which the USA set up in South Vietnam, and actively "managed" (by various means including, some say, the outright assassination of its President at one point). In this kind of environment, it is not possible to wipe out insurgency, because it continues to be motivated by the overt injustice of the US-backed regime of the client state(s).

But what is quite new about this Global war, is his proposal for "a 21st century information agency in the gov't to help wage a battle of the minds."

This can be taken a number of ways. The most innocent of which is the following: "Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?"

This option would be more reconciliatory to Islam in general, probably encourage democratic Islam to some degree, and avoid labelling Islam as a political movement in general as simply a front for so-called "terror", as for instance Jerry Boykin has done in public repeatedly. The New York Times reports that Rumsfeld "is a canny player who knows exactly what he is doing when he drafts internal memos and makes them public." This suggestion may be real, or a red herring designed to offset bad publicity regarding Boykin. Note that a "private" foundation wouldn't be actually funded or run by government - but could front many other activities.

What those other activities might be, and what the actual government funding might be devoted to, is hinted at also in the memo: "How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?"

The implication by extension with the Vietnam situation, invoked by mention of metrics and this goal, seems to be that assassination or other covert action is now acceptable as a way to do this. Note that "financing" of "schools" is seen to be the problem by Mr. Rumsfeld. Not the conditions that make the schools popular, or perhaps making a radical approach to Islam necessary in a few states where it is the only force for change.

The most fundamental evaluation criteria are revealed here: " The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions." This reveals the MBA mind-set behind the memo, perhaps crafted in this fashion in order to persuade George W. Bush and Colin L. Powell, both MBAs, to trust Rumseld's possibly-already-designed "solution".

Also appealing to a commercial mind-set is the following: "Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?"

This suggests a conceptual metaphor of the United States as a service provider, specifically a security service provider, to all of its friends worldwide.

In other words, the "world cop" role that successive Republican Presidents have rejected.

Important questions about this GWOT:

  • Is it appropriate that a state take on, and try to "defeat", a mind-set?
  • Is this the end of any suggestion of a War on Islam, or does targetting the schools indicate an obsession with Islam as the organizing rhetoric of opposition?
  • Does accepting this rhetoric imply "capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading" not just terrorists but their teachers?
  • What strategy might this "private foundation" take? Who would fund it? Who would actually supervise it? Would it have special status to break some laws? Why must it be sponsored or even mentioned in a US DoD internal memo? Why would such a memo leak to the press?

"The Global War on Terrorism: The First 100 Days"

"The White House's Coalition Information Center, the office charged with drumming up support for the War on Terror both at home and abroad," released the "official report card on the administration's efforts to date" -- "The Global War on Terrorism: The First 100 Days" -- on December 20, 2001.

Department of State: "GWOT"

The global war on terrorism (GWOT), according to the U.S. Department of State, is "being fought by many means--through diplomatic, military, financial, intelligence, investigative, and law enforcement actions--at home and abroad," with the Department of State in the "lead role on the diplomatic front abroad to advance the cause of the coalition against terrorism. The Department also works closely with other agencies and organizations to shut down terrorist financial networks, provide humanitarian aid, and to investigate terrorist organizations and activities and bring terrorists to justice." [2]

  • "The attack took place on American soil, but it was an attack on the heart and soul of the civilized world. And the world has come together to fight a new and different war, the first, and we hope the only one, of the 21st century. A war against all those who seek to export terror, and a war against those governments that support or shelter them."—President George W. Bush, October 11, 2001.

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