U.S. defence department general counsel,
says responsibility for tackling al-Qaida should pass
to law enforcement agencies
when the 'tipping point' in pursuit of
group is reached.
Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Last month, outgoing pentagon general
counsel Jeh Johnson
gave a speech at the Oxford Union and said that
the War on Terror
must, at some point, come to an end:
"Now that efforts by the U.S. military
against al-Qaida are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves:
How will this conflict end?...
'War' must be regarded as a finite,
extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the
current conflict, and all that it entails, as the 'new normal.'
Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race
"There will come a tipping point at
which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its
affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer
able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United
States, that al-Qaida will be effectively destroyed."
On Thursday night, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow
interviewed Johnson, and before doing so, she opined as follows:
"When does this thing we are in now end?
And if it does not have an end - and I'm
not speaking as a lawyer here, I am just speaking as a citizen who
feels morally accountable for my country's actions - if it does not
have an end, then morally speaking it does not seem like it is a
our country is
killing people and locking them up outside the traditional judicial
system in a way I think we maybe cannot be forgiven for."
It is precisely the intrinsic
endlessness of this so-called "war" that is its most corrupting and
menacing attribute, for the reasons Maddow explained.
But despite the happy talk from Johnson, it
is not ending soon. By its very terms, it cannot. And all one has to do
is look at the words and actions of the Obama administration to know
In October, the Washington Post's Greg
reported that the administration was instituting a "disposition
matrix" to determine how terrorism suspects will be disposed of, all
based on this fact:
"among senior Obama administration
officials, there is broad consensus that
are likely to be extended at least another decade."
As Miller puts it:
"That timeline suggests that the United
States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the
global war on terrorism."
The polices adopted by the Obama
administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that
they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been
relentlessly strengthened over the last decade.
In the name of the War on Terror, the 'current
diluted decades-old Miranda warnings
codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on U.S. soil
plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois
release-restrictions at the camp
minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers
even for U.S. citizens
renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework
for another five years,
as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform
signed into law all new restrictions on the release of
indefinitely held detainees
Does that sound to you like a government
anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it
sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified
powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent?
About all of this, the ACLU's Executive
Director, Anthony Romero,
provided the answer on Thursday:
There's a good reason U.S. officials are
assuming the "War on Terror" will persist indefinitely: namely, their
actions ensure that this occurs.
The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg
this morning examines what the U.S. government seems to regard as the
strange phenomenon of Afghan soldiers attacking U.S. troops with
increasing frequency, and in doing so, discovers a shocking reality:
people end up disliking those who occupy and bomb their country:
"Such insider attacks, by Afghan
security forces on their Western allies, became 'the signature
violence of 2012', in the words of one former American official.
The surge in attacks has provided the
clearest sign yet that
resentment of foreigners is becoming unmanageable, and
American officials have expressed worries about its disruptive
effects on the training mission that is the core of the American
withdrawal plan for 2014...
"But behind it all, many senior
coalition and Afghan officials are now concluding that after nearly
12 years of war, the view of
foreigners held by many Afghans has come to mirror that of the
Taliban. Hope has turned into hatred, and some
will find a reason to act on those feelings.
"'A great percentage of the insider
attacks have the enemy narrative - the narrative that the infidels
have to be driven out - somewhere inside of them, but they aren't
directed by the enemy,' said a senior coalition officer, who asked
not to be identified because of Afghan and American sensitivities
about the attacks."
In other words, more than a decade of
occupying and brutalizing that country has turned large swaths of the
population into the "Taliban", to the extent that the "Taliban" means:
Afghans willing to use violence to force
the U.S. and its allies out of their country.
As always, the U.S. - through the very
policies of aggression and militarism justified in the name of terrorism
- is creating the very "terrorists" those polices are supposedly
designed to combat. It's a pure and perfect system of self-perpetuation.
Exactly the same thing is happening in
nothing is more effective at
driving Yemenis into the arms of al-Qaida than the rapidly escalated
drone attacks under Obama.
the Times reported that U.S. air strikes in Yemen are carried out in
close cooperation with the air force of Saudi Arabia, which will only
exacerbate that problem. Indeed, virtually every person accused of
plotting to target the U.S. with terrorist attacks in last several years
cited increasing U.S. violence, aggression and militarism in the
Muslim world as the cause.
There's no question that this "war" will
continue indefinitely. There is no question that U.S. actions are the
cause of that, the gasoline that fuels the fire. The only question - and
it's becoming less of a question for me all the time - is whether this
endless war is the intended result of U.S. actions or just an unwanted
It's increasingly hard to make the case that
it's the latter. The U.S. has long known, and its
own studies have
emphatically concluded, that "terrorism" is motivated not by a
"hatred of our freedoms" but by U.S. policy and aggression in the Muslim
This causal connection is not news to the
Despite this - or, more accurately, because of it - they
continue with these policies.
One of the most difficult endeavors is to
divine the motives of other people (divining our own motives is
difficult enough). That becomes even more difficult when attempting to
discern the motives not of a single actor but a collection of
individuals with different motives and interests ("the U.S. government").
But what one can say for certain is that
there is zero reason for U.S. 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.
Cicero, two thousand years ago, warned that "In times of
war, the law falls silent" (Inter arma enim silent leges).
John Jay, in
No. 4, warned that as a result of that truth,
"nations in general will make war
whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it... for the
purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military
glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts
to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans."
If you were a U.S. 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.
Just this week, a
federal judge ruled that the
Obama administration need not respond
to the New York Times and the ACLU's mere request to disclose the
government's legal rationale for why the President believes he can
target U.S. citizens for assassination without due process.
Even while recognizing how perverse her own
ruling was - "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is
not lost on me" and it imposes "a veritable Catch-22" - the federal
judge nonetheless explained that federal courts have constructed such a
protective shield around the U.S. government in the name of terrorism that
it amounts to an unfettered license to violate even the most basic
"I can find no way around the thicket of
laws and precedents that effectively
executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful
certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our
Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion
Why would anyone in the U.S. government or its
owners have any interest in putting an end to this sham bonanza of power
and profit called "the war on terror"?
Johnson is right that there must be an end
to this war imminently, and Maddow is right that the failure to do so
will render all the due-process-free and lawless killing and imprisoning
and invading and bombing morally indefensible and historically
But the notion that the U.S. government is
even entertaining putting an end to any of this is a pipe dream, and the
belief that they even want to is fantasy. They're preparing for more
endless war; their actions are fueling that war; and they continue to
reap untold benefits from its continuation.
Only outside compulsion, from citizens, can
make an end to all of this possible.