“War On Terror”
Policy Without Naming It So
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Countercurrents.org 27 February, 2009
President Barrack Obama has virtually embraced his predecessor George Bush's “War on Terror” policy without naming it so.
Asked in a CNN interview why he hasn't used the oft-repeated "war on terror" phrase coined by the Bush administration, Obama said he believes the U.S. can win over moderate Muslims if he chooses his words carefully. "Words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds," Obama said.
The “war on terror” catchphrase burned into the American lexicon soon after the 9/11 attacks is deliberately being replaced by the Obama administration in a bid to repair America 's negative image in the Muslim world.
President Obama's executive orders – on the first day of his office on January 22 - closing the infamous Guantánamo military prison and outlawing torture were interpreted in some circles as closing the door on the Bush's so called global “war on terror.”
The same day President Obama also appointed war-monger Richard Holbrooke as a special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan . To borrow Scott Ritter, after 9/11, Richard Holbrook championed the military action against Afghanistan , ruled out any role of diplomacy to deal with Taliban, labeled all Taliban as extremists, viewed Taliban and al-Qaida as one.
Not surprisingly, a day later on January 23, President Obama gave a green light to missile attacks from Pakistani-based CIA-operated unmanned drone aircraft at targets in Pakistan 's tribal areas. About 20 civilians were killed in the two missile attacks. Tellingly, the new White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, declined to answer questions about the first air strikes, saying "I'm not going to get into these matters."
Again on February 14, at least 28 people were killed in two drone attacks in Waziristan region. And two days later, on February 16, a US drone fired three missiles at a target in Kurruam Agency killing 30 people. (The attacks were as usual said to be against the Taliban targets but not a single body of local or foreign militant, as claimed by the Pakistani or American officials, was produced. To hide the truth, it is always claimed that the militants cordoned off the area after the attack and took away their dead and wounded.)
Ironically, the two US missile attacks within three days came as the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan , Richard Holbrooke was visiting the region.
America and Afghanistan both blame Pakistan 's FATA region for constant surge in the Afghan Taliban operations in different parts of Afghanistan , including the capital, Kabul .
In an interview on CNN's GPS program on February 13, the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose writ doesn't extend beyond his presidential palace, claimed that Taliban have no hiding place in Afghan villages. He asserted that “the war on terrorism is not in Afghan villages, that the Al Qaeda will not have and does not have a hiding place in Afghanistan any more, since the Taliban were driven out in 2001.”
However, the latest report by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), a European think tank, refutes Karzai's assertion. The Taliban now hold a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan , up from 54% a year ago, said the ICOS report released on December 8, 2008 .
According to ICOS, Taliban forces have advanced from their southern heartlands, where they are now the de facto governing power in a number of towns and villages, to Afghanistan 's western and north-western provinces, as well as provinces north of Kabul . Within a year, the Taliban's permanent presence in the country has increased by a startling 18%, according to ICOS research on the ground in Afghanistan .
The new ICOS report also documented the advance of the Taliban on Kabul , where three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity. The capital city has plummeted to minimum levels of control, with the Taliban and other criminal elements infiltrating the city at will.
In short, “The Taliban are now controlling the political and military dynamic in Afghanistan ,” said Norine MacDonald QC , President and Lead Field Researcher of ICOS.
Tellingly, just a day ahead of Richard Holbrooke's visit to Kabul , the Taliban made their presence felt in the Afghan capital on February 11 with a daring attack that claimed the lives of at least 26 people and injured dozens more. The insurgents stormed heavily guarded government ministries near the presidential palace. The targets included the Ministry of Justice building in a crowded downtown area, the Education Ministry and a Prison Affairs office.
Apparently, three decades of war has hardened the Afghan militant groups, putting them in a better position than the US-led foreign occupying forces. With organic social links in society the insurgents are seen by the Afghan masses as a real power and fighting for a cause: liberation of their country, once again, from foreign occupation in the so-called Second Great Game where US has replaced Britain for the control of oil resources in Central Asia . This belief is strengthened by the presence of torture cells and massive civilian casualties inflicted by the US and other foreign forces. According to the latest UN report, a record 2,118 civilians were killed last year. More than 500 deaths were blamed on air strikes.
To borrow Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, the Taliban is not a terrorist organization, but a movement attempting to unify Afghanistan and the “war on terror” is a hoax that fronts for American control of oil pipelines, the profits of the military-security complex, the assault on civil liberty by fomenters of a police state, and Israel's territorial expansion.
So the war in Afghanistan led by the United State is more than just a war against ‘terrorism.' Beneath the rhetoric of US officials to smash the so-called Al Quida network led by Osama bin Laden in the name of ‘freedom and civilization' lies a deeper and far-reaching reason: Central Asia 's oil and gas reserves and other natural resources.
Afghanistan , which virtually has no oil reserves, has long had a key place in US plans to secure control of the vast but landlocked oil and gas reserves of Central Asia that has the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world. The US has been endeavoring to fill the power vacuum in Central Asia created by the Soviet Union 's dissolution in order to assert Washington 's domination over the region.
As the Afghan war continues for the last seven years without much success, the US Army is asking 30,000 more troops but Obama last Tuesday authorized sending 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan . The proposed surge in U.S. troops will bring the total to 60,000, while the combined forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), including troops from Germany , Canada , Britain and the Netherlands , amount to over 32,000. When in full strength, U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan could reach close to 100,000 by the end of this year.
The US is currently building eight new major bases in southern Afghanistan for the prolonged war which has already been dubbed by the embedded experts of the semi-official think tank, Rand Corporation, as a long war.
So Obama's change will not bring any positive change for the people of Afghanistan or the neighboring Pakistan where US drone missile attacks on targets in FATA region continue to kill people causing more anti-American sentiments and weakening the civilian government in Islamabad .
Hamas and Hezbollah
Similarly in the Middle East , the US brands Hamas and Hezbollah “terrorist organizations” for no other reason than the US is on Israel 's side of the conflict. Hezbollah represents the Shi'ites of southern Lebanon , another area in the Middle East that Israel seeks for its territorial expansion.
Hamas is the democratically elected government of Gaza . In an effort to bring Hamas under Israeli hegemony, Israel employs terror bombing and assassinations against Palestinians. The December/January US-backed 22-day Israeli carnage in Gaza massacred about 1400 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children and a hundred were women. More than 5,000 were injured, 1,855 of whom were children and 795 were women, according to UN sources.
Hamas replies to the Israeli terror with homemade and ineffectual rockets. The homemade rockets are little more than a sign of defiance. If Hamas were armed by Iran as Israel claims, its assault on Gaza would have cost Israel its helicopter gunships, its tanks, and hundreds of lives of its soldiers. Hamas is a small organization armed with small caliber rifles incapable of penetrating body armor. Hamas is unable to stop small bands of Israeli settlers from descending on West Bank Palestinian villages, driving out the Palestinians, and appropriating their land. Tellingly, after 60 years, Palestinians remained unarmed with the complicity of US client Arab governments.
As Paul Craig said, the unsupported assertion that Iran supplies sophisticated arms to the Palestinians is like the unsupported assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “These assertions are propagandistic justifications for killing Arab civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in order to secure US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East .”
Hence, the United States law and justice will continue to be seen through the Bush-era lens of the so-called "War on Terror," long after Bush's departure. In fact, according to the Attorney General Eric Holder, not only are we at war now, we were at war before September 2001 (as evidenced by the attacks on the USS Cole and on American embassies abroad) -- we just "did not realize we were at war." (Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of January 15, 2009 )
Justice Department embraces Bush policy on detainees in Afghanistan
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended on February 20 that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights. In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention.
The Supreme Court last summer gave al-Qaida and Taliban suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay , Cuba , the right to challenge their detention. With about 600 detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and thousands more held in Iraq , courts are grappling with whether they, too, can sue to be released.
Three months after the Supreme Court's ruling on Guantanamo Bay , four Afghan citizens being detained at Bagram tried to challenge their detentions in U.S. District Court in Washington . Court filings alleged that the U.S. military had held them without charges, repeatedly interrogating them without any means to contact an attorney.
The military has determined that all the detainees at Bagram are "enemy combatants."
Obama administration maintains Bush position on 'extraordinary rendition'
Tellingly, on February 9, the Obama Administration announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration on the lawsuit extraordinary rendition case: Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.
The case involves five men who claim to have been victims of extraordinary rendition -- including current Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, another plaintiff in jail in Egypt, one in jail in Morocco, and two now free. They sued a San Jose Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the flight-planning company of aiding the CIA in flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured.
The case was thrown out last year on the basis of national security, but on February 9, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the appeal, brought by the ACLU.
The ABC News quoted a court source as saying that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The Department of Justice lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.
Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.
The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured. The European Parliament condemned renditions as "an illegal instrument used by the United States ."
An exhaustive investigation by the European Union concluded that the CIA had operated more than 1,200 flights in European airspace after the Sept. 11 attacks. The implication was that most were rendition-related, with some taking suspects to states where they faced torture.
In one of the most notorious instances, a German citizen named Khaled Masri was arrested in Macedonia in 2003 and whisked away by the CIA to a secret prison in Afghanistan . He was quietly released in Albania five months later after the agency determined it had mistaken Masri for an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Masri later described being abducted by "seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks." He said he was stripped of his clothes, placed in a diaper and blindfolded before being taken aboard a plane in shackles -- an account that matches other descriptions of prisoners captured in the rendition program.
In another prominent case, an Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was abducted in Italy in 2003 and secretly flown to an Egyptian jail, where he said he was tortured. The incident became a major source of embarrassment to the CIA when Italian authorities, using cellphone records, identified agency operatives involved in the abduction and sought to prosecute them.
Department of Justice resists disclosing Bush secrets
To the disappointment of civil right groups, the Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists.
According to Associated Press, in half a dozen lawsuits, Justice lawyers have opposed formal motions or spurned out-of-court offers to delay court action until the new administration rewrites Freedom of Information Act guidelines and decides whether the new rules might allow the public to see more.
In only one case has the Justice Department agreed to suspend a FOIA lawsuit until the disputed documents can be re-evaluated under the yet-to-be-written guidelines. That case involves negotiations on an anti-counterfeiting treaty, not the more controversial, secret anti-terrorism tactics that spawned the other lawsuits as well as Obama's promises of greater openness.
Civil right groups that advocate open government, civil liberties and privacy were overjoyed that President Obama on his first day in office reversed the FOIA policy imposed by Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft. Obama pledged "an unprecedented level of openness in government" and ordered new FOIA guidelines written with a "presumption in favor of disclosure." But Justice's actions in courts since then have cast doubt on how far the new administration will go.
According to Jonathan Turley , professor of law at The George Washington University Law School, the Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations. “After Eric Holder allegedly assured a senator that there would be no war crimes investigation and seemed to defend Bush policies, Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Obamas Solicitor General nominee, reportedly told a Republican senator that the Administration agreed with Bush that we are at war and therefore can hold enemy combatants indefinitely. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked Kagan: Do you believe we are at war? I do, Senator, Kagan replied.”
Terrorism will continue for centuries. Will we remain at war with war time powers being exercised? Turley asked and added “since the Solicitor General is required to apply the law with precision, Kagan's reply is extremely alarming.”
Graham then asked if our intelligence agencies should capture someone in the Philippines that is suspected of financing Al Qaeda worldwide, would you consider that person part of the battlefield? Do you agree with that? Kagan replied I do. According to Turley with Kagan's response Obama administration's marriage with the Bush policies was complete.