War on Terror
The United States's War on Terror (2001-), also known as The War on Terrorism, is an example of an endless crisis. It is also a misnomer or at least a misleading use of the word "war", as it can lead to confusion over the appropriate response. "War" suggests retaliation using techniques effective in standard (symmetric) warfare but which are not effective (and even counterproductive) when used in asymmetric warfare.
The United States experienced one morning of coordinated attacks by perhaps a few dozen individuals on September 11, 2001; there have been no further attacks since, although several attempts have apparently been thwarted. There certainly has been no presence of enemy troops on or near US soil for many decades, probably not since Pearl Harbor.
- George W. Bush: "When terrorists murder at the World Trade Center, or car bombers strike in Baghdad, or hijackers plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic, or terrorist militias shoot rockets at Israeli towns, they are all pursuing the same objective - to turn back the advance of freedom, and impose a dark vision of tyranny and terror across the world."1
There's something profoundly illogical about talking about a war on terrorism. It's like a war on weather. You know, terrorism is a method, methodology, it's an approach, it's killing civilians to achieve a political objective. It's a means. It's not a discrete thing. It's not like Burma, you can have a war on Burma, you can have a war on fruit trees, because that's something physical. Terrorism is not tangible, and, as one might have guessed given this President, this administration, their orientations, this was a sort of portmanteau term which was used to group together those targets that they already had decided they were going to go after - so-called "rogue regimes", including governments that had and have had absolutely nothing to do with the people who attacked the United States, were a target before 9/11...
In fact, the Iraqi government was an opponent of al-Qaeda. The Iranian government has always been an opponent of al-Qaeda. Hezbollah, which is another target of the war on the terror, has always been an opponent of al-Qaeda, so we are not talking about the people who attacked the United States. We are not talking about the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans.
To lump every form of radical Islam together, to lump for example Hamas - which is a movement that's never attacked the United States, which has not got attacking the United States or the West or opposing Western values as central to its program - with al-Qaeda is a huge, huge error. It's a terrible, terrible, terrible mistake. Hamas is... whatever the heinousness of the means they may have used, it's a resistance movement.
Hezbollah similarly is essentially a Lebanese resistance movement. To lump them together with al-Qaeda, which is a world-wide anarchistic, anti-Western millenarian movement which has no roots anywhere - it's a global movement - there's a fundamental falsehood there. A fundamental falsehood, and it has led the United States to do something which is extremely dangerous, which is to turn itself into the opponent of movements which, throughout the Islamic world, because they are seen as legitimate resistance movements, and are very popular, in a way, that is driving people towards the more radical, towards the much more dangerous movements like al-Qaeda.
The phrases "war on terror" and "crimes against humanity" use different words to frame the same issue and, in doing so, evoke different ideas and guide us toward different actions. The phrase "war on terror" frames the issue as an open-ended military action against a vague, indeterminate enemy, with open-ended war powers given to the President for an indefinite period. "Crimes against humanity" frames our response to 9/11 as a police action where international law enforcement agencies are directed to root out groups and individual criminals using many of the same methods effective against crime syndicates. Further, these phrases trigger related moral and political principle frames deep in our unconscious minds, shaping how we experience our relationships to our political leaders and to people in other countries.
"War" triggers fundamental moral and political principle frames that evoke an evil world in which we must look to an authoritarian President as commander-in-chief, whose orders we obey in order to protect our entire society from destruction by foreign enemies. With these frames dominating our thinking, we are more likely to tolerate giving up some of our civil liberties and dropping bombs that kill innocent civilians. By contrast, "crimes against humanity," as both a word and issue frame, triggers deep moral and political principle frames of an interdependent world where dangers occur, but they are not debilitating. With this frame foremost in our minds, we are more likely to protect society by enlisting the police, while also reaching out to our neighbors, who are suffering in other countries where poverty, disease, and oppression make it more likely that people will become terrorists.
The persistent repetition of the "war on terror" word and issue frame triggers and reinforces deep moral and political principle frames. So, even when someone opposes the Iraq policy, they often do it by invoking the frame they wish to negate. This is why Americans who want to shift the ideas underlying American political debate â€” towards a greater emphasis on the values of empathy, social responsibility, fairness, honesty, integrity, and community â€” must do so by changing the deep moral and political principle frames that we use in thinking. We do this in large part by stating these frames openly and often. In other words, it is nearly impossible to persuasively articulate a law enforcement policy on Iraq when one is continually using the phrase "war on terror."
 Note 1
- Four Corners - 2006-09-11 - Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- 2006-09 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (US)
- 2001-09-14 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMFAT)
- 2002-10-16 Iraq Resolution, formally "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002"
- 2013-01-14 C113 HR 198 Repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force: a bill to repeal the AUMFAT
 Filed Links
 version 2
- 2008-01-22 [Talk|Index] Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told § “The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.” In the words of Randy Newman, "Let's drop the big one, and see what happens"? Authors of the paper:
- General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe
- General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff
- Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff
- Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK
- Perspectives in the"War on Terrorism" at newhumanist.com
- War Without End forum: "Talk online about September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror in an uncensored British forum covering the issues that the media avoid."
- TruthMapping: The phrase "war on terrorism" is a misnomer
- 2007-09-27 The Mega-Lie Called the "War on Terror": A Masterpiece of Propaganda by Richard W. Behan, AlterNet: considers the War on Terror as an example of the Big Lie propaganda technique
- 2006-10-29 The Only Issue This Election Day: Orson Scott Card, apparently a lifelong Democrat, urges voting Republican on the grounds of the latter's support for the War on Terror – almost exactly a mirror-image of David Brin's position urging Republicans to abandon their party due to the need for Democratic opposition to the corruption in the Bush administration
- 2006-10-01 The 'war on terror' that ruined Rome by Robert Harris, The New York Times: "In the autumn of 68 B.C. the world's only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. ... in the panicky aftermath of the attack, the Roman people made decisions that set them on the path to the destruction of their Constitution, their democracy and their liberty." Another lesson from history.
- 2007-11-03 Pakistan declares martial law, suspending the constitution and "detaining" leaders of legal organizations in the name of the "War on Terrorism". (Is this what Bush is looking forward to doing?)
- 2006-09-29 President Applauds Congress for Passing War on Terror Legislation: this probably refers to the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006
- 2005-12-30 Ex-envoy to Uzbekistan goes public on torture: "Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has defied the Foreign Office by publishing on the internet documents providing evidence that the British Government knowingly received information extracted by torture in the "war on terror"."
- 2003-03-08 War on Terror: President's Radio Address
- 2006-09-11 The Phony War: "President Bush not only created a fake 'War on Terror' to scare voters into supporting his policies – he is failing to address the real threat facing America" by Robert Dreyfuss, Rolling Stone: "According to nearly a dozen former high-ranking officials who have been on the front lines of the administration's counterterrorism effort, the president is not only fighting the wrong war – he is fighting it in a way that has actually made the threat worse. The war on terrorism, they say, has been mismanaged and misdirected almost from the start, in no small part because the president simply does not understand the nature of the enemy he is fighting."
- 2006-05-11 video Cafferty-Dictatorship: Jack Cafferty discusses Bush's warrantless wiretapping