May 27, 2013

War Immemorial


Why the "War on Terror" will never end.
 
President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism speech Thursday was predictably and perhaps characteristically, frustrating. In what seems to have become his modus-operandi, President Obama said all the right things, acknowledging that the war on terror cannot and should not, be sustained indefinitely. But, as usual, he was short on specific plans or legislative actions to put his vast promises into concrete action.
That did not stop the Obama Cheering Squad (a.k.a., the corporate media) from salivating in orgasmic ecstasy over the entire speech, though.
A lengthy New York Times editorial lauds the president’s address, calling it a “momentous turning point in post-9/11 America” (“The End of Perpetual War,” 5/24/13). The Times editors conclude the piece, “There have been times when we wished we could hear the right words from Mr. Obama on issues like these, and times we heard the words but wondered about his commitment. This was not either of those moments.”
Well, I’m glad the NYT is apparently so easily satisfied. The rest of us, however, may need a lot more convincing beyond Obama’s rhetoric, lofty as it may be.
Bob Dreyfus of The Nation hails the president’s speech as “important and transformative” (“Global War on Terror, RIP,” 5/24/13). Dreyfus then goes on to defend Obama’s use of unmanned predator drones, or simply “the drone issue,” as he calls it. He writes: “First of all, a drone is just another weapon in the American arsenal, not unlike cruise missiles which President Clinton unloaded on Al Qaeda in 1998, and other lethal power.”
Except that, to my knowledge at least, Clinton never used cruise missiles to illegally and arbitrarily target American citizens. Indeed, it is astounding how blithely Dreyfus minimizes “the drone issue” as though it is an afterthought. Then again, given some 80 percent of liberals approve of drones, I suppose I should not be surprised.
Certainly, there is no doubt the “War on Terror,” or the “Global Struggle Against Extremism,” or whatever made-for-newspaper-headlines label we are supposed use for it now, must end. I just would not hold my breath waiting for Obama to end it. Obama is, in many respects, a greater warmonger than George W. Bush. Upon accepting his absurdly undeserved Nobel Peace Prize shortly after taking office, President Obama disingenuously invoked the peace activism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. only to then attempt to discredit the approach.

“[A]s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [King and Gandhi’s] examples alone,” Obama said.

“I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism—it is a recognition of history… So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”

Yet, how can Obama say for certain that negotiations with al-Qaeda would prove fruitless?
Al-Qaeda leaders have proposed peace negotiations—on the condition the U.S. leave Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel withdraw from the Palestinian Occupied Territories—twice in the last ten years and the Bush and Obama administrations have both promptly dismissed them outright. Once again, the “politically practical”—military aggression, in this case—trumps the “naïve altruism” of peace and nonviolence. Perhaps the real reason peace is not considered a “realistic” foreign policy option is because weapons manufacturers—like tax-dodging NBC owners, General Electric—cannot make any money off it.

The United States has been at war with al-Qaeda and other affiliated organizations for over a decade now. The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history. And while the military combat in Iraq may be technically over, the corporate occupation remains very much in place. According to the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight (POGO), 14,000-16,000 private contractors and U.S. corporations—including such heavyweights as KBR, DynCorp and Blackwater/Academi—maintain a strong presence in Iraq. And those are just the officially declared wars most Americans are cognizant of. We also deliver daily bombings, via unmanned predator drones, to Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
The “war on terror,” like the Cold War of the 1950s, is an open-ended, potentially endless conflict against an ambiguous, ill-defined enemy and a culture—Islam, essentially—which we stubbornly refuse to understand. Rather than educating ourselves about the Islamic religion or the history and culture of the Middle East, we instead hide behind the infantile question, “Why do they hate us?” (The correspondingly infantile answer: “They hate us because of our freedom.”) The actual answer, of course, likely has less to do with how much “freedom” we enjoy, and the degree to which we, through our ongoing efforts of pre-emptive war, militarization and occupation, inflict upon the rest of the world the same sort of barbaric violence we vehemently decry when unleashed upon us.

And therein lays the bitter irony of the war on terror. Our imperialist actions—carried out in the name of fighting terrorism—only serve to create more hostility against America, thus leading to more terrorist attacks. According to Guardian blogger, Glenn Greenwald, this is, in fact, the point. In a piece from earlier this year, Greenwald called the terror war, “a pure and perfect system of self-perpetuation” (“The ‘War on Terror’—by Design—Can Never End,” 01/04/2013).


He writes:
“…what one can say for certain is that there is zero reason for US officials to want an end to the war on terror, and numerous and significant reasons why they would want it to continue. It’s always been the case that the power of political officials is at its greatest, its most unrestrained, in a state of war…
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.”


The war on terror, therefore, can never end. Not, that is, unless We the People force that ending through massive organized resistance, nonviolent civil disobedience and by abandoning the two corporate parties that enable (and benefit from) this war of terror’s continuation.

“The war is not meant to be won,” George Orwell wrote prophetically in 1984, “it is meant to be continuous.”