War on terror not endless? A pan-Africa view
Horace G. Campbell
2012-12-06, Issue 609
cc S PThe planned winding down of the global war on terror has major implications for the peace movement internationally and cannot be carried out without vigorous engagement from all.
After September 11, 2001, the President of the United States was authorized to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks, or who harboured said persons or groups. This Authoriation for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was passed in a joint resolution of the United States Congress on September 14, 2001. Four days later, the AUMF was signed by President George W. Bush on September 18, 2001. It was under this authority that the United States gave itself the legal cover to fight the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Soon after on October 26, the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) was signed by the same Bush. Throughout the war that encompassed all continents, there has been debates on what is the nature of a war against ‘terror’ and how society would know that the war was at an end. Farsighted commentators questioned whether there could be a war on a ‘tactic,’ terror, but the realists who dominated the Pentagon and the Security establishment prevailed at that moment. The peace movement mobilized massive rallies and demonstrations but the media used various techniques to create fear and confusion among the population. The forces of the Republican Party lost the elections in 2008 and again in 2012. What they have lost through democratic elections, they seek to regain through military and intelligence manipulation.
On November 30, Jeh C. Johnson, the General Counsel for the Department of Defense of the United States gave a speech to the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom entitled, “The War on Al Queda and its affiliates: and how it will end?” Jeh Johnson said, “The war on terror is not an endless conflict and the US is approaching a ``tipping point'' after which the military fight against al-Qaida will be replaced by a law enforcement operation.” This was a significant statement from an official of the Obama administration after the election victory. But the next day there was a report in the Washington Post entitled, “DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas.” In this long and detailed article, the reader is alerted to the planning of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for a ten year war against terrorists (viz, up to 2022). This news item stated that, “The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size.” This report from the Washington Post under the banner of “The Permanent War” (http://tinyurl.com/d46ymmp ) exposed deep rifts within the upper echelons of the US military and political establishment on the future paths of militarism. If there was any doubt about the depth of the disagreements inside the US government about the end of the war on terror and the future of intelligence agencies, the New York Times hosted a debate on the future of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) entitled, “A New Director or a New Direction?” It was this debate that laid bare the extent to which the legacies of Donald Rumsfeld and David Petraeus were still roiling the policy environment of the war planners.
This week we will note that the planned winding down of the War on Terror has major implications for the peace movement internationally and cannot be carried out without vigorous engagement from all. In the context of the planned cuts in the federal budget or (sequestration) the military planners are countering to ensure that there are no large cuts in the military and intelligence budgets. On Tuesday December 4, 2012, the Senate passed a $631 billion defense bill that outlines funding for DOD operations for the current fiscal year. This massive expenditure in the midst of the depression has been opposed by the people who have been called upon to make sacrifices. This debate on the future of war and intelligence is not a legal issue but one directly linked to the balance of political forces inside the US and the world. The peace movement and the oppressed made their voices heard in the elections. The struggles after the elections are as important as the electoral struggles.
OBAMA OFFICIAL SPELLS OUT STEPS TOWARDS ENDING WAR ON TERROR
From the inauguration of Obama in January 2009, there had been disquiet about the continued use of the formulation war on terror. This uneasiness did not prevent the Obama administration from using all of the tactics of the previous Bush administration, including the escalation of targeted killings using pilotless drones. Newspaper reports estimate that US drone strikes have killed more than 2,500 people. One scholarly study entitled "Living Under Drones : Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan by researchers at the NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School (http://tinyurl.com/8rtqlf7) spelt out the false narratives of the Obama administration about the ability of drones to distinguish between al Qaeda terrorists and innocent civilians. In my hometown, Syracuse, the peace movement has made a permanent campaign out of its opposition to the use of the local airport to launch drone attacks. The Syracuse Peace Council has been unrelenting in its opposition to the war on terror and has been holding monthly vigils protesting the use of the Hancock Air National Guard Base as a housing and testing facility for military aircrafts, known as Reaper Drones.
The dominant narrative about the use of drones celebrate the deployment of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. Within the peace movement the use of drones has been opposed. All over the country the peace forces have stated that drones terrorize innocent persons. It was because of the protests of peace groups that led the Obama administration (prior to the elections) to seek a more systematic and regular program of using unmanned drones to kill people. It was reported that Obama was seeking so establish clear standards and procedures so that any incoming President would have strict guidelines. See “Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy.” http://tinyurl.com/d93d5yh
Numerous organs inside the peace movement, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International, have denounced the assassination program as illegal under international law. These pressures have been unrelenting from the same constituencies that were the massive force behind the defeat of the Republican Party in the November 6, elections.
After the first elections, the Obama administration had signalled that it wanted to close the Guantanamo prison. However, this attempt was presented as a legal matter instead of as a political matter. When the conservatives pushed back against the closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility, the Administration retreated. This same legal approach has now been put forward by the top lawyer for the Department of Defense who has launched a trial balloon to state that the Obama administration wants to declare that the war on terror has ended. Early in the administration, the spokespersons for the President had retreated from using the formulation war on terror and instead called the US military operations, ‘Overseas Contingency Operations.’ After the elections, the Administration has now sent an explicit signal that it wants to declare an end to this open ended war.
In a speech to the Oxford Union at the end of November, Jeh Johnson the Chief Counsel for the Department of Defense stated (http://www.commondreams.org/node/89097) that,
“On the present course, there will come a tipping point, 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, such that al-Qaida as we know it, the organization that our Congress authorized the military to pursue in 2001, has been effectively destroyed.” At that point, our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.”
In this speech far from the Pentagon, Johnson stated that once that tipping point is reached, then the primary responsibility for mopping up scattered remnants of the group and unaffiliated terrorists will fall to United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and pressing questions will arise about what to do with any military detainees who are still being held without trial as wartime prisoners. Johnson continued in his speech to note that in the face of the defeat of the principal leaders of al Queda, there will only be the “individuals who are the scattered remnants.”
“The law enforcement and intelligence resources of our government are principally responsible” for dealing with them.
In this way the US will no longer have large military and intelligence deployments to fight these ‘scattered remnants’ so that the US can keep “military assets in reserve” for an imminent threat.”
Despite the coded and legal language of the speech, what Jeh Johnson was saying was that once al-Qaida’s ability to launch a strategic attack is gone, so too is the war. What will remain is a “counterterrorism effort.” This was the clearest indication that the Obama administration wanted to declare an end to the war on terror.
The second and clear implication is that the United States will have to close Guantanamo Bay and release those who have not been charged with war crimes. Any remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees would have to be dealt with according to ``conventional legal principles'' _which appears to suggest that if they have not been charged or convicted, they must be released.
Jeh Johnson harked back to his education at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. He said, “I did not go to Oxford. I am a graduate of a small, all-male historically black college in the southern part of the United States, Morehouse College. The guiding light for every Morehouse man is our most famous alumnus, Martin Luther King, who preached the inherent insanity of all wars. I am therefore a student and disciple of Dr. King.”
War “must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. War permits one man – if he is a “privileged belligerent,” consistent with the laws of war — to kill another. War violates the natural order of things, in which children bury their parents; in war parents bury their children. In its 12th year, 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 continually strives.”
FOR NEO-CONSERVATIVES WAR IS THE NEW NORMAL
This invocation of the peace legacies of Martin Luther King Jr is the same place where the Obama administration seeks to go while supporting the militaristic policies that will allocate more than a trillion dollars to the military and various intelligence organs. As such, the speech of the General Counsel and the positions of Obama on the US military raise more questions than answers. The peace movement will have to openly discuss the implications of this trial balloon of this administration. The peace movement will have the need to insert itself in this debate on whether the war on terror is over. Even though Johnson does not offer an opinion about when the US will reach his tipping point for ending the war, there are commentators who will argue that the war has already ended and that the United States must more rapidly withdraw from Afghanistan. That is, the United States should leave Afghanistan even sooner than he planned drawdown of 2014.
The neocons did not wait for the speech to gain traction before they counterattacked. Johnson gave his speech in Oxford on November 30. It was reported in most US media on December 1. That very day, as if the journalists in the Washington Post were waiting to counter this argument that the war on terror was not endless, there was the very long article on the need to strengthen ‘counterterrorism’ efforts to supplement the work of the CIA. This article stated that the CIA was overstretched as it carried out its war on terror and that in order to launch more spies in the field, the Pentagon has to take on the task.
“The CIA is increasingly overstretched. Obama administration officials have said they expect the agency’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda to continue for at least a decade more, even as the agency faces pressure to stay abreast of issues including turmoil across the Middle East. Meanwhile, the CIA hasn’t met ambitious goals set by former president George W. Bush to expand its own clandestine service.”
Decoded: The CIA was fighting this war on terror in too many places and there needs to be more intelligence operatives from the Pentagon itself to supplement the secret wars and counterterrorism efforts of the CIA.
This article identified Michael Vickers of the DIA as the one spearheading this project. Vickers is also identified as a top intelligence official at the Pentagon and a veteran of the CIA. We are also informed that agreements on coordination for this project were being worked out with former CIA director, and retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who resigned abruptly. Some readers will have followed the recent revelation that when Petraeus was approached by the Neo-conservative forces to run in the 2012 presidential elections, but he retreated arguing that he wanted to build up the capabilities to continue the COIN strategy from the CIA. Now that Petraeus has resigned, his conception of covert wars and expanded spies are being promoted inside the administration by Michael Vickers. For good measure, the nominee for the replacement for Carter Ham at AFRICOM is General David Rodriquez. We are told in the book by Paula Broadwell that Rodriquez has been mentored by David Petraeus and other crusaders.
From the pan-African viewpoint, these deliberations are of particular interest because there was the implicit idea that as the war on terror winds down in Afghanistan, the United States will want to intensify its war on terror in Africa. According to Wired Magazine, “Leon Panetta wants to effectively wrap up the US’ major involvement in Afghanistan by 2014, while retaining a residual force to stop al-Qaida from coming back. He wants to keep the drone-and-commando operations going in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; and then he wants to expand the targeting to the newer, expanding al-Qaida offshoots in northern Africa, working through regional security forces when possible. In Mali, for instance, he talked about using “partners in Western Africa,” rather than direct US military action.
From numerous reports, the word is that once the Pentagon and the private military contractors are demobilized from Afghanistan, they will be deployed to fight terrorism in Africa. In the analysis of this writer, this will entail an intensification of the fabrication of terrorism in Africa.
MILITARISM AND HEGEMONY
These debates on the future of US militarism need to be understood in the context of the current economic crisis and the deligitimization of the military management of the international system. In the face of the debt crisis and the devaluation of the dollar, the US military can no longer be the guarantor for the US oligarchy. For the past 11 years military means had been deployed for the competitiveness of the United States in the international economy.
After September 2011, there had been tremendous goodwill towards the United States but the Bush administration squandered this goodwill by launching the global war on terror. The Bush administration had justified its militaristic position on the grounds that the US military was indispensable for the peace and security of the entire planet. More importantly, the Bush administration had promoted neo-liberal capitalism and that the US military would protect capitalists everywhere. This justification was articulated in the National Security Strategy of September 17, 2002. That document had been informed by the ideas of the neo-conservatives from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). These neo-cons had pushed that the United States should not only attain and maintain military dominance but should also project it with a worldwide network of forward operating bases over and above already extensive overseas deployments. Individuals such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz stated clearly that maintaining the dominance of the US armed forces was necessary to preventing the emergence of any rival power.
In between September 11, 2001 and September 2012, there has been the rise of the BRICS forces along with the crisis of capitalism inside the United States. Military management of the international system reinforced decline and economic retrogression manifest in the continued crisis. The challenge for the peace movement internationally is that in this crisis the militaristic posture will increase repression instead of curbing the economic and military power of the top one per cent. More importantly, that section of the top one per cent that has invested in the financial military complex cannot afford to see a diminution of the role of the US military.
The Conservative forces do not want an end to the war on terror. In reality, the military activities were not really about terrorism. From the period of the first war in Afghanistan, it was the US military and intelligence that created the conditions for anti-social and extremist activities. From the period of the 1980s it was the United States that supported Osama Bin Laden and his extremist allies to fight against the Soviet Union. Once the Soviet Union was driven out of Afghanistan, the US intelligence services turned against its former allies.
From the historical record we also know that from the moment of September 11, 2001, the United States wanted to invade Iraq. The planning for this war has been now documented by Douglas Feith in the book, War and Decision inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. Feith was one of the top intellectuals of the PNAC and he exposed the intellectual shallowness of the neo-cons who have been promoting the global war on terror. Reviews of this book have pointed to the fabrications and falsifications of the Bush administration, especially in relation to the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Bush administration intervened to create chaos and overthrow a secular regime that was a bitter enemy of the Islamist terrorists. History will judge if the United States under the neo-conservatives wanted to create the conditions for a long term war in Iraq. This has been shown quite clearly now that the regime that was imposed in Iraq is supporting the Assad regime in Syria while the US intelligence is supporting the Al Queda forces who are opposing the Assad regime.
LESSONS FROM LIBYA
The fabrication of terrorism in Africa, especially in Somalia and the Maghreb, has been well documented. This documentation is now reinforced by the recent history of the support of the United States for the Islamist extremists in Libya. After mobilizing these ‘extremists’ to remove the Libyan government, the same CIA has been mobilizing these so-called allies of al Queda to fight against the Assad regime. It is now known that the blowback from this large CIA operation in Benghazi resulted in the death of the US ambassador and three others. The fallout from this CIA support for the ‘terrorists’ created the conditions for the change of the leadership of the US Africa Command. David Petraeus was allowed to fall on his sword while another admiral was redeployed.
The US media has been complicit in keeping the information of the CIA support for the extremists out of the news. However, the strident debate about the future of the CIA is bringing out new information as one section of the rulers want to curb the powers of the CIA calling on the intelligence organization to go back to collecting intelligence instead of fighting covert wars. Today, the New York Times piled on this exposure of the linkages between the CIA and Al Queda forces by writing that, “U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadis’ Hands. http://tinyurl.com/avac24o
Readers are informed that Qatar has been supplying weapons to al Queda supporters: “The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government. The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries.”
If one follows the logic of this division in the upper echelons of the United States, there is now clarity that the United states is supporting forces in Syria that will come back to haunt them. But if this discussion was based on clear analysis, then the CIA and the US intelligence services should not be looking for extremists in Africa but in Qatar. The information is known that it is Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the conservative forces in Saudi Arabia who have been financing the extremists.
This debate inside the United States on whether the society has reached a tipping point must not be carried on behind the backs of the peace and justice forces. Some sections of the peace movement bought into the idea that the NATO intervention in Libya had been a success because there were no ‘US boots on the ground.’ The Petraeus resignation and the events of Benghazi of September 11, 2012 have reopened the question of what happened in Libya and called for urgent examination of what the United States has been doing. This call for an evaluation of the NATO intervention needs to go beyond the intelligence committees in Senate and Congress.
From the pan-African and peace movements, it was always clear that the war on terror was a fraud. From September 11, 2001, the ruling class used the events to put into motion repressive legislation that had been mooted under the Hart- Rudman Commission. We have already noted the legislative context of the Authority to use military force and the Patriot act. On September 26, 2001, President George Bush had signed the USA Patriot Act. President Bush at that time received wide support for drastic authoritarian measures that blurred the distinctions between intelligence gathering and law enforcement. The Patriot Act gave the government unlimited capacity for state surveillance of those suspected of terrorism, including bringing to bear all of the modern technology available for intrusion into privacy, especially a technology called biometrics. This technology allowed the government to bring racial profiling into the biotechnology era. In this way biotechnological resources were brought into service along with the older and cruder methods of surveillance and coercion. President Bush had asserted that the Patriot Act would offer intelligence agencies "new tools to fight a present danger." These tools included wiretapping without a search warrant, e-mail surveillance programs, house searches without a court order and/or without announcing the searches, arrests based on association with alleged terrorists, etc.
The definition of a terrorist under Homeland Security and the Patriot ct has been so ambiguous that under this act union leaders, political activists, student activists, progressive academics, and people loosely associated with ‘terrorists’ could be arrested and prosecuted without probable cause. In every community the FBI and covert operators worked to entrap young persons and in our community a doctor from Iraq was incarcerated for supporting terrorists. He had been sending medical supplies to Iraq.
The forces of imperialism want to expand militarism inside the United States, expand the tensions into the South China Sea, and stoke the fires of war in Syria with triggers for war with Iran and beyond. Mitt Romney and the Republicans had made it clear that the expansion of the military would be their priority.
The people did not defeat the Republicans so that the Obama administration can implement this militaristic trajectory. The issues of the tipping point raised by Jeh Johnson are not legal questions but political questions that must be engaged by the peace movement. Thus far, sections of the peace movement have been compromised by its low level of knowledge of the conditions in Africa. The CIA and DIA have already undermined the integrity of the study of Africa within the US academy by its multifaceted approach to ensnare scholars in the US military and intelligence activities in Africa. In the absence of popular knowledge about Africa, the disinformation agencies have been willing and able to mobilize young people to call for increased military intervention in Africa.
First, it was the US military using the youth in the massive Save Darfur campaign. Then, the US military disinformation mobilized 100 million youths to call for US military intervention in Central Africa using the video KONY 2012. Third, the US and oil companies have been working to support extremists in Libya while claiming to protect Africans. Fourth, the United States Africa Command has been building up its capabilities for launching drone strikes from Djibouti and secret bases in Ethiopia.
Fifth, there is the extended war against the people of Somalia. This war has spilled into Kenya, with skirmishes in Ethiopia and a deployment of Ugandans to fight al Queda in East Africa. Sixth, is the massive war in the Eastern Congo where allies of the Pentagon, (Rwanda and Uganda) have been plundering the resources. Both the State Department and the US representative to the UN have been sheltering Rwanda and Uganda from reprimand by the Security Council. Last, is the clamour by the militarists for military intervention in Mali.
The peace movement inside the United States cannot continue to yield to the neo-conservatives on the question of demilitarization. Thus far, the Obama administration has sought to cloak its struggle with the neo-con forces within the confines of the bureaucracy. The corporate media has used scare tactics to frighten the population about dire economic consequences if the top 2 per cent were taxed. In the midst of the debates on ‘fiscal cliff’ Forbes magazine brought out the list of the top 400 billionaires in the United States pointing out that their average wealth was $4.2b. In the top one hundred were many of the neoconservatives who had spent billions on the elections for both political parties.
The struggle against the neo-cons cannot be fought with the tools created by the neo-cons. The Obama administration has signalled that there should be an end to the massive deployment of military forces in the war on terror but the peace forces must also press legislators to repeal the Patriot Act. From the moment of November 2008, the Obama administration was stating that the society had reached an inflection point. Now in the struggles against the Petraeus/Vickers faction of military and intelligence, we are being told that the United States has reached a tipping point. For the 99 per cent, there must be new energies to organize to dismantle the institutions of coercion that fed billions of dollars to the military while there have been cuts in social services and basic needs such as education, delivery of health, police and fire services.
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* Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is also a Special invited Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Global NATO and the catastrophic failure in Libya’.
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