There Is "No War on Terror"
by Edward S. Herman and David
One of the most telling signs of the political
naiveté of liberals and the Left in the United States has
been their steadfast faith in much of the worldview that blankets
the imperial state they call home. Nowhere has this critical
failure been more evident than in their acceptance of the premise
that there really is something called a "war on terror"
or "terrorism"-however poorly managed its critics
make it out to be-and that righting the course of this war ought
to be this country's (and the world's) top foreign policy priority.
In this perspective, Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than Iraq
ought to have been the war on terror's proper foci; most accept
that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan from October 2001 on was a
legitimate and necessary stage in the war. The tragic error of
the Bush Administration, in this view, was that it lost sight
of this priority, and diverted U.S. military action to Iraq and
other theaters, reducing the commitment where it was needed. __Of
course we expect to find this line of criticism expressed by the
many former supporters who have fled from the sinking regime in
Washington. But it is striking that commentators as durably
hostile to Bush policies as the New York Times's Frank
Rich should accept so many of the fundamentals of this worldview,
and repeat them without embarrassment. Rich asserts that the
question "Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more
damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?" A
repeated theme of Rich's work has been that the Cheney - Bush
presidency is causing "as much damage to fighting the war
on terrorism as it does to civil liberties." Even in late
2007, Rich still lamented the "really bad news" that,
"Much as Iraq distracted America from the war against Al
Qaeda, so a strike on Iran could ignite Pakistan, Al Qaeda's thriving
base and the actual central front of the war on terror."
Other expressions of faith in something called the "war on
terror" abound. Thus in a long review of several books in
which she urged "[r]evamping our approach to terrorism"
and "recapturing hearts and minds" around the world,
Harvard's Samantha Power, a top lieutenant in the humanitarian
brigade, wrote that "most Americans still rightly believe
that the United States must confront Islamic terrorism-and must
be relentless in preventing terrorist networks from getting weapons
of mass destruction. But Bush's premises have proved flawed."
Most striking was Power's expression of disappointment that
"millions-if not billions-of people around the world do not
see the difference between a suicide bomber's attack on a pizzeria
and an American attack on what turns out to be a wedding party"-the
broken moral compass residing within these masses, of course,
who fail to understand that only the American attacks are legitimate
and that the numerous resultant casualties are but "tragic
errors" and "collateral damage."
Like Samantha Power, the What We're Fighting For statement
issued in February 2002 by the Institute for American Values and
signed by 60 U.S. intellectuals, including Jean Bethke Elshtain,
Francis Fukuyama, Mary Ann Glendon, Samuel Huntington, Harvey
C. Mansfield, Will Marshall, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Michael
Novak, Michael Walzer, George Weigel, and James Q. Wilson, declared
the war on terror a "just war." "Organized killers
with global reach now threaten all of us," it is asserted
in one revealing passage. "In the name of universal human
morality, and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements
of a just war, we support our government's, and our society's,
decision to use force of arms against them." The idea
that "killers with global reach" who are far more deadly
and effective than Al Qaeda could be found at home doesn't seem
to occur to these intellectuals. And like Power, they also make
what they believe a telling distinction between the deliberate
killing of civilians, as in a suicide bombing, and "collateral
damage"-type casualties even in cases where civilian casualties
are vastly larger and entirely predictable, though not specifically
intended. Throughout these reflections, the purpose is to
distinguish our murderous acts from theirs. It
is the latter that constitute a "world-threatening evil...that
clearly requires the use of force to remove it."
In the same mode, Princeton University international law professor
Richard Falk's early contributions to The Nation after
9/11 found a "visionary program of international, apocalyptic
terrorism" behind the events. "It is truly a declaration
of war from the lower depths," Falk wrote, a "transformative
shift in the nature of the terrorist challenge both conceptually
and tactically.There is no indication that the forces behind the
attack were acting on any basis beyond their extraordinary destructive
intent.We are poised on the brink of a global, intercivilizational
war without battlefields and borders." Some weeks later,
in a nod to "just war" doctrine, Falk argued that the
"destruction of both the Taliban regime and the Al Qaeda
networkare appropriate goals.[T]he case [against the Taliban]
is strengthened," he added, "to the degree that its
governing policies are so oppressive as to give the international
community the strongest possible grounds for humanitarian intervention."
Peter Beinart, a liberal-leaning former editor of the New Republic
and the author of the 2006 book The Good Fight: Why Liberals--and
Only Liberals-Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great
Again, wrote in the aftermath of Cheney - Bush's 2004 re-election:
"Today, the war on terrorism is partially obscured by the
war in Iraq, which has made liberals cynical about the purposes
of U.S. power. But, even if Iraq is Vietnam, it no more obviates
the war on terrorism than Vietnam obviated the battle against
communism. Global jihad will be with us long after American troops
stop dying in Falluja and Mosul. And thus, liberalism will rise
or fall on whether it can become, again, what [Arthur] Schlesinger
called 'a fighting faith'."
Even David Cole and Jules Lobel, authors of a highly-regarded
critique of Cheney - Bush policies on "Why America Is Losing
the War on Terror," take the existence of its "counterterrorism
strategy" at face value; this strategy has been a "colossal
failure," they argue, because it has "compromised our
spirit, strengthened our enemies and left us less free and less
safe." The U.S. war in Iraq "permitted the Administration
to turn its focus from Al Qaeda, the organization that attacked
us on 9/11, to Iraq, a nation that did not. The Iraq war has
by virtually all accounts made the United States, the Iraqi people,
many of our allies and for that matter much of the world more
vulnerable to terrorists. By targeting Iraq, the Bush Administration
not only siphoned off much-needed resources from the struggle
against Al Qaeda but also created a golden opportunity for Al
Qaeda to inspire and recruit others to attack US and allied targets.
And our invasion of Iraq has turned it into the world's premier
terrorist training ground."
Elsewhere, appearing at a forum in New York City sponsored by
the Open Society Institute to discuss his work, David Cole made
the remarkable assertion that "no one argued" the post-9/11
U.S. attack on Afghanistan was "not a legitimate act of self-defense."
No less remarkable was Cole's statement shortly thereafter that
the United States' "holding [of prisoners] at Guantanamo
would not have been controversial practice had we given them hearings
at the outset," because, as Cole explained it, such hearings
"would have identified those people as to whom we had no
evidence that they were involved with Al Qaeda and then they would
Cole's first remark ignores the UN Charter, which allows an attack
on another state in self-defense only when an imminent attack
is threatened, and then only until such time as the Security Council
acts on behalf of the threatened state. But given the absence
of such urgency and the absence of a UN authorization, and given
that the hijacker bombers of 9/11 were independent terrorists
and not agents of a state, the October 2001 U.S. war on Afghanistan
was a violation of the UN Charter and a "supreme international
crime," in the language of the Judgment at Nuremberg.
Would Cole have defended Cuban or Nicaraguan or Iraqi bombing
attacks on Washington D.C. as legitimate acts of self-defense
at any juncture in the past when the United States was attacking
or sponsoring an attack on these countries? We doubt it. Cole
also seems unaware that the United States attacked after refusing
the Afghan government's offer to give up bin Laden upon the presentation
of evidence of his involvement in the crime. Furthermore,
the war began long after bin Laden and his forces had been given
time to exit, and was fought mainly against the Taliban government
and Afghan people, thousands of whom were killed under targeting
rules that assured and resulted in numerous "tragic errors"
and can reasonably be called war crimes.
Given the illegality and immorality of this war-now already well
into its seventh year-the killing of people in Afghanistan cannot
be regarded as "legitimate"-and neither can the taking
of prisoners there under any conditions. Cole's second remark
also ignores the modes of seizure of prisoners, some turned over
in exchange for cash bounties; or their treatment in Afghanistan,
en route to Guantanamo, and in rendition facilities, apart from
delays in or absence of "hearings at the outset."
Last, Cole is wrong even on the alleged general agreement on the
legitimacy of this act of "self-defense" in Afghanistan.
Despite the domestic hysteria in the United States at the time,
a number of lawyers here contested its legitimacy . Furthermore,
a series of opinion polls in 37 different countries by Gallup
International in late September 2001 found that in no less than
34 of these countries, majorities opposed a U.S. military attack
on Afghanistan, preferring instead to see the events of September
11 treated as crimes (i.e., non-militarily), with extradition
and trial for the alleged culprits. The three countries where
opinion ran against the majority in the other 34 were the United
States (54%), India (72%), and Israel (77%). Otherwise, it appears
that significant and sometimes overwhelming majorities of the
world's population were opposed to the U.S. resort to war.
_What War on Terror?
But talk of the "failure" of the war on terror rests
on the false premise that there really is such a war.
This we reject on a number of grounds. First, in all serious
definitions of the term, terror is a means of pursuing
political ends, an instrument of struggle, and it makes
little sense to talk about war against a means and instrument.
Furthermore, if the means consists of modes of political intimidation
and publicity-seeking that use or threaten force against civilians,
a major problem with the alleged "war" is that the United
States and Israel also clearly use terror and support allies and
agents who do the same. The "shock and awe" strategy
that opened the 2002 invasion-occupation of Iraq was openly and
explicitly designed to terrorize the Iraq population and armed
forces. Much of the bombing and torture, and the attack that destroyed
Falluja, have been designed to instill fear and intimidate the
general population and resistance. Israel's repeated bombing
attacks, ground assaults, and targeted assassinations of Palestinians
are also designed to create fear and apathy, that is, terrorize.
As longtime Labour Party official Abba Eban admitted years ago,
Israel's bombing of Lebanon civilians was based on "the
rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations
[i.e., civilians deliberately targeted] would exert pressure for
the cessation of hostilities." This was a precise admission
of the use of terrorism, and surely fits Israeli policy in the
years of the alleged "war on terror." Former Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon has also acknowledged an intent to attack
civilians, declaring in March 2002 that "The Palestinians
must be hit and it must be very painful: we must cause them losses,
victims, so that they feel the heavy price."
The United States and Israel actually engage in big-time terror,
like strategic bombing, helicopter attacks, torture on a continuing
basis, and large-scale invasions and invasion threats, not lower-casualty-inflicting
actions like occasional plane hijackings and suicide bombings.
This has long been characterized as the difference between
wholesale and retail terror, the former carried
out by states and on a large scale, the latter implemented by
individuals and small groups, much smaller in scale, and causing
fewer civilian victims than its wholesale counterpart. Retail
terrorists don't maintain multiple detention centers in which
they employ torture (at the height of its state terror activities
in the 1970s the Argentinian military maintained an estimated
60 such centers, according to Amnesty International; the United
States today, on land bases and naval vessels and in client state
operated facilities, uses dozens of such centers).
Furthermore, retail terror is often sponsored by the wholesale
terrorists-notoriously, the Cuban refugee network operating out
of the United States for decades, the U.S.-supported Nicaraguan
contras, Savimbi's UNITA in Angola in the 1980s, backed by both
South Africa and the United States, the South Lebanon Army supported
by Israel for years, and the Colombian rightwing death squads
still in operation, with U.S. support. Thus, a meaningful war
on terror would surely involve attacks on the United States
and Israel as premier wholesale terrorists and sponsors, a notion
we have yet to find expounded by a single one of the current war-on-terror
In short, one secret of the widespread belief that the United
States and Israel are fighting-not carrying out-terror is the
remarkable capacity of the Western media and intellectual class
to ignore the standard definitions of terror and the reality of
who does the most terrorizing, and thus to allow the Western political
establishments to use the invidious word to apply to their targets.
We only retaliate and engage in "counter-terror"-our
targets started it and their lesser violence is terrorism.
A second and closely related secret of the swallowing of war-on-terror
propaganda is the ability of the swallowers to ignore the U.S.
purposes and program. They never ask: Is the United States simply
responding to the 9/11 attack or do its leaders have a larger
agenda for which they can use 9/11 terrorism as a cover? But
this obvious question almost answers itself: Documents of the
prior decade show clearly that the Bush team was openly hoping
for another "Pearl Harbor" that would allow them to
go on the offensive and project power in the Middle East and across
the globe. In the rightfully infamous words of the Project for
the New American Century (2000), "the process of transformation,
even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long
one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new
Pearl Harbor." The huge military forces that have been
built up in this country conveniently permit this power-projection
by threat and use of force, and their buildup and use has had
bipartisan support, reflecting in large measure the power and
objectives of the military establishment, military contractors,
and transnational corporations. The military buildup was not for
defensive purposes in any meaningful sense; it was for power-projection,
which is to say, for offense.
In this connection we should point out that at the time of 9/11
in the year 2001, Al Qaeda was considered by most experts to be
a small non-state operation, possibly centered in Afghanistan
and/or Pakistan, but loosely sprawled across the globe, and with
at most only a few thousand operatives. It is clear that
such a small and diffuse operation called for an anti-crime and
intelligence response, not a war. Of course a war could be carried
out against the country which was their principal home, but given
the lags involved and the threat that a war, with its civilian
casualties and imperialist overtones, would possibly strengthen
Al Qaeda, the quick resort to war in the post-9/11 period suggests
covert motives, including vengeance and taking advantage of 9/11
for power-projection. And while a war could be launched against
Afghanistan and an attack made on Al Qaeda headquarters, this
was hardly a war on terror. Nor could the huge military
buildup that ensued have been based on a fight in Afghanistan
or against tiny Al Qaeda.
It is also notable that there has been no attempt by the organizers
of the war on terror to try to stop terrorism at its source by
addressing the problems that have produced the terrorists and
provided their recruiting base. In fact, for the organizers and
their supporters in the "war on terror," raising the
question of "why" is regarded as a form of apologetics
for terror, and they are uninterested in the question, satisfied
with clichés about the terrorists envy, hatred of freedom,
and genetic or religious proclivities. This is consistent with
the view that getting rid of terror is not their aim, and that
in fact they need the steady flow of resisters-terrorists which
their actions produce to justify their real purpose of power
projection virtually without limit. Failure to end terrorism
is not a failure of the "war on terror," it is a necessary
part of its machinery of operation.
In short, the war on terror is an intellectual and propaganda
cover, analogous-and in many ways a successor-to the departed
"Cold War," which in its time also served as a cover
for imperial expansion. Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Indonesia,
Zaire (and many others) were regularly subverted or attacked on
the ground of an alleged Soviet menace that had to be combated.
That menace was rarely applicable to the actual cases, and the
strained connection was often laughable. With that cover gone,
pursuing terrorists is proving to be an admirable substitute,
as once again a gullible media will accept that any targeted rebels
are actual or potential terrorists and may even have links to
Al Qaeda. The FARC rebels in Colombia are terrorists, but the
government-supported rightwing paramilitaries who kill many more
civilians than FARC are not and are the beneficiaries of U.S.
"counter-terrorism" aid. Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, on
the other hand, which does not kill civilians, is accused of
lack of cooperation in the U.S. "counter-terrorism"
program, and is alleged to have "links" to U.S. targets
such as Iran and Cuba, which allegedly support terrorists.
Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and other torture-prone states
are "with us" in the war on terror; states like Venezuela,
Iran and Cuba are not with us and are easily situated as terrorist
or "linked" to terrorist states.
If Al Qaeda didn't exist the United States would have had to create
it, and of course it did create it back in the 1980s, as a means
of destabilizing the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda's more recent role
is a classic case of "blowback." It is also a case
of resistance to power-projection, as Al Qaeda's terrorist activities
switched from combating a Soviet occupation, to combating U.S.
intervention in Saudi Arabia, Palestine and elsewhere. It was
also spurred by lagged resentment at being used by the United
States for its Soviet destabilization purposes and then abandoned.
While U.S. interventionism gave Al Qaeda a strong start, and while
it continues today to facilitate Al Qaeda recruitment, it has
also provoked resistance far beyond Al Qaeda, as in Iraq, where
most of the resistance has nothing to do with Al Qaeda and in
fact has widely turned against it. If as the United States projects
power across the globe this produces resistance, and if this resistance
can be labeled "terrorists," then U.S. aggression and
wholesale terror are home-free! Any country that is willing to
align with the United States can get its dissidents and resistance
condemned as "terrorists," with or without links to
Al Qaeda, and get U.S. military aid. The war on terror is a war
of superpower power-projection, which is to say, an imperialist
war on a global scale.
The issue of who terrorizes whom is hardly new. Back in
1979, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's The Washington Connection
and Third World Fascism featured the U.S. terror gulag in
great detail, and even had a frontispiece showing the flow of
economic and military aid from the United States to 26 of the
35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in that
era. Herman's The Real Terror Network of 1982 also traced
out a U.S.-sponsored terror gulag and showed its logical connection
to the growth of the transnational corporation and desire for
friendly state-terrorists who would produce favorable climates
of investment (recall Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos's statement
to U.S. oil companies back at the time of his 1972 accession to
power: "We'll pass laws you need-just tell us what you want.").
But these works were ignored in the mainstream and could hardly
compete with Claire Sterling's The Terror Network, which
traced selected retail terrorisms-falsely-to the Soviet Union.
This fit the Reagan-era "war on terror" claims, which
coincided with the Reagan era support of Israel's attack on Lebanon
and subsequent "iron fist" terrorism there, Reagan's
support of the Argentine military regime, Suharto, Marcos, South
Africa, the Guatemalan and Salvadoran terror regimes, Savimbi,
the Cuban terror network, and the Nicaraguan contras.
This historical record of U.S. terrorism and support of terrorism
occasionally surfaces in the mainstream, but is brushed aside
on the ground that the United States has taken a new course, so
that long record can be ignored. In a classic of this genre,
Michael Ignatieff, writing in the New York Times Magazine,
claimed that this was so because President George Bush said so!
"The democratic turn in American foreign policy has been
recent," he wrote, adding that at long last, the current
George Bush has "actually risked his presidency on the premise
that Jefferson might be right." This capacity to ignore
history, and the institutional underpinning of that history, complements
the mainstream media and intellectuals' ability to take as a premise
that the United States is virtuous and in its foreign dealings
is trying to do good or is just defending itself against bad people
and movements who for no good reason hate us. As noted, the amazing
definitional systems in use are de facto Alice-in-Wonderland:
Terrorism is anything I choose to target and so designate.
Two novelties of the Bush era projection of power and wholesale
terrorism are their brazenness and scope. Past U.S. employment
of torture, and of gulags in which to hold and work-over alleged
or possible terrorists or resisters, were more or less sub
rosa, the cruelties and violations of international law and
U.S. involvement kept more or less plausibly deniable. The Bush
team is open about them, calling for legalization of torture and
their other violations of international law, which they rationalize
by heavy-handed redefinitions of "torture" and claims
of the inapplicability of international law to their new category
of "enemy combatants." Bush also brags in public
about the extension of the U.S. killing machine to distant places
and the extent to which declared enemies have been removed, implicitly
by killing, obviously without hearing or trial. On September
17, 2001, Bush signed a "classified Presidential Finding
that authorized an unprecedented range of covert operations,"
the Washington Post later reported, including "lethal
measures against terrorists and the expenditure of vast funds
to coax foreign intelligence services into a new era of cooperation
with the CIA." And in his State of the Union speech of
2003, Bush asserted that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists"
had been arrested across the globe "and many others have
met a different fate-Let's put it this way: They are no longer
a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."
As Chris Floyd has pointed out, this represents the work of a
"universal death squad," the authorization and accomplishments
of which were barely acknowledged in the mainstream media.
U.S. state-terrorism has also been broadened in scope and is a
facet of globalization. In accord with the principles of globalization,
there has been a major increase in the privatization of terrorism.
Blackwater Worldwide is only the best known of mercenary armies
in Iraq that now outnumber regular armed force members, and who
are free from some of the legal constraints of the armed forces
in how they treat the local population. The global American gulag
of secret prisons and torture centers to which an unknown number
of people have been sent, held without trial, worked over and
sometimes killed as well as tortured, is located in many countries:
The "spider's web" first described by a Council of Europe
investigation identified landings and takeoffs at no fewer than
30 airports on four different continents; and earlier research
by Human Rights First estimated that the United States was operating
dozens of major and lesser known detention centers as part of
its "war on terror": These included the obvious cases
of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq, the U.S.
Air Force base at Bagram in Afghanistan, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo,
and other suspected centers in Pakistan, Jordan, Diego Garcia
in the Indian Ocean, and on U.S. Navy ships at sea. Still
others are operated by client and other states at the torture-producing
end of the "extraordinary rendition" chain (Egypt, Syria,
Jordan, Morocco). Given the vastness of this U.S. enterprise,
surely we are talking about tens-of-thousands of prisoners, a
great many picked-up and tortured based on rumor, the inducement
of bonus payments, denunciations in vendettas, and accidents of
name or location. We know that a great majority of those imprisoned
in sweeps in Iraq were taken without the slightest information
on wrong-doing even on aggressor-occupier terms. There is
strong anecdotal evidence that suggests that the same is true
Another notable feature of the "war on terror" is the
extent to which this mythical war has been advanced via the UN
and the "international community," the UN's work in
particular serving as an extension of U.S. policy. This has been
in marked contrast to their treatment of open aggression and violations
of the UN Charter's prohibition of aggressive war. Time and again
the United States and Israel have violated this fundamental international
law during the past decade, and they are clearly the global leaders
in state-terrorism that many observers believe to be the main
force inspiring a global resistance and spurring on various forms
of Islamic terrorism, including Al Qaeda. But instead of focusing
on the causal wars and state-terrorism, following the U.S. lead
the UN and international community have focused on the lesser
and derivative terrorism, and taken the "war on terror"
at face value. In other words, they have once again assumed the
role of servants of U.S. policy, in this instance helping the
aggressor states and wholesale terrorists struggle against the
retail terror they inspire.
We can trace this pattern at least as far back as October 1999
(almost two years before 9/11), when the Security Council adopted
Resolution 1267 "on the situation in Afghanistan."
This Resolution deplored that the "Taliban continues to provide
safe haven to Usama bin Laden," and it demanded that the
"Taliban turn over Usama bin Laden without further delay
to appropriate authorities in a country where he has been indicted."
1267 also created the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee
to manage this effort to squeeze the Taliban and anyone linkable
to either of them. At the time, bin Laden had been indicted
by a U.S. Federal Court for his alleged involvement in the August
1998 suicide bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,
killing some 250 people; Al Qaeda had also been designated a terrorist
organization by the U.S. Department of State. "The international
community has sent a clear message," President Bill Clinton
announced. "The choice between co-operation and isolation
lies with the Taliban." But the Taliban complained that
"This unfair action was taken under the pressure of the United
States.So far, there has not been any evidence of Osama's involvement
in terrorism by any one"-essentially the same retort that
the Taliban made to Bush White House demands after 9/11 that the
Taliban surrender bin Laden. 1267 thus extended key components
of the 1996 U.S. Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's
category of states designated "not cooperating with U.S.
anti-terrorism efforts" beyond U.S. borders to the level
of internationally-enforceable law.
Only four days after 1267, the Council adopted companion Resolution
1269 "on the responsibility of the Security Council in the
maintenance of international peace and security." 1269 condemned
the "practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable,
regardless of their motivation," and stressed the "vital
role" of the UN "in combating terrorism."
Similarly, Resolution 1373, adopted shortly after the 9/11 attacks
and just days before the United States launched its war to remove
the Taliban, greatly expanded the UN's involvement in the U.S.
"war on terror," creating the Counter-Terrorism Committee
to manage the fight against terrorism and criminalizing all forms
of support for individuals and groups engaged in terrorism. Like
1267 and, later, 1540 (April 24, 2004), which created a committee
to prevent "non-State actors" from acquiring "weapons
of mass destruction," the Security Council adopted each
of these resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, on the
basis of which the Council is to supposed to respond to "threats
to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression."
All of this vigilance with respect to "terrorism," and
the notion that "non-State actors" and "terrorists"
of the Al Qaeda variety deserve this intense UN concern, stands
in dramatic contrast with the treatment of literal aggression,
as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and genocidal actions such as the
U.S.-U.K.-UN "sanctions of mass destruction" that killed
possibly a million Iraqi civilians during the years between the
first and second wars against Iraq, ca. 1991-2003.
Yet, in his report In larger freedom (March, 2005), Kofi
Annan argued that "It is time to set aside debates on so-called
'State terrorism'. The use of force by States is already thoroughly
regulated under international law. And the right to resist occupation
must be understood in its true meaning. It cannot include the
right to deliberately kill or maim civilians."
But these comments contain a major falsehood and reflect serious
pro-state-terrorism and anti-resistance bias-there is no "thorough"
regulation of state-terrorism, and in fact there is none at all,
as evidenced by the fact that the United States and its allies
have been able to attack three countries in a single decade (the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq) without
the slightest impediment from Kofi Annan's United Nations,
but also in each case with the UN's ex post facto assent.
Note also Annan's failure to suggest that states should
not have the "right to deliberately kill or maim civilians,"
a concern that he exhibits only as regards resisters to state
violence and occupation. This despite the fact that in their
recent and ongoing wars the United States and its allies have
killed, maimed, starved, and driven from their homes vastly more
civilians than has Al Qaeda or all of the world's retail terrorists
combined. Note also that within the targeted countries, political
leaders have been captured by these aggressors, and subjected
to trial by tribunals-but never the leadership of the great powers.
In pursuing their enemies to the farthest reaches of the earth,
they continue to enjoyed complete impunity.
In sum, the war on terror is a political gambit and myth used
to cover over a U.S. projection of power that needed rhetorical
help with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and Cold War.
It has been successful because U.S. leaders could hide behind
the very real 9/11 terrorist attack and pretend that their own
wars, wholesale terrorist actions, and enlarged support of a
string of countries-many authoritarian and engaged in state terrorism-were
somehow linked to that attack and its Al Qaeda authors. But most
U.S. military actions abroad since 9/11 have had little or no
connection with Al Qaeda; and you cannot war on a method of struggle,
especially when you, your allies and clients use those methods
It is widely argued now that the war on terror has been a failure.
This also is a fallacy, resting on the imputation of purpose
to the war's organizers contrary to their actual aims-they were
looking for and found the new "Pearl Harbor" needed
to justify a surge of U.S. force projection across the globe.
It appears that Al Qaeda is stronger now than it was on September
11, 2001; but Al Qaeda was never the main target of the Bush administration.
If Al Qaeda had been, the Bush administration would have tried
much more seriously to apprehend bin Laden, by military or political
action, and it would not have carried out policies in Iraq, Palestine,
Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere that have played so well into bin
Laden's hand-arguably, policy responses that bin Laden hoped to
provoke. If Washington really had been worried at the post-9/11
terrorist threat it would have followed through on the 9/11 Commission's
recommendations for guarding U.S. territory (ports, chemical plants,
nuclear facilities, airports and other transportation hubs, and
the like). The fact that it hasn't done this, but instead
has adopted a cynical and politicized system of terrorism alerts,
is testimony to the administration's own private understanding
of the contrived character of the war on terror and the alleged
threats that we face.
Admittedly, the surge in power projection that 9/11 and the war
on terror facilitated has not been a complete and unadulterated
success. But the "war on terror" gambit did enable
this surge to come about, and it should be recognized that the
invasion-occupation of Iraq was not a diversion, its conquest
was one of the intended objectives of this war. That conquest
may be in jeopardy, but looked at from the standpoint of its
organizers, the war has achieved some of the real goals for which
it was designed; and in this critical but seldom appreciated sense
it has been a success. It has facilitated two U.S. military invasions
of foreign countries, served to line-up many other states behind
the leader of the war, helped once again to push NATO into new,
out-of-area operations, permitted a further advance in the U.S.
disregard of international law, helped bring about quasi-regime
changes in some major European capitals, and was the basis for
the huge growth in U.S. and foreign military budgets. While its
destabilization of the Middle East has possibly benefited Iran,
it has given Israel a free hand in accelerated ethnic cleansing,
settlements, and more ruthless treatment of the Palestinians,
and the United States and Israel still continue to threaten and
Furthermore, with the cooperation of the Democrats and mass media,
the "war on terror" gave the "decider" and
his clique the political ability to impose an unconstitutional,
rightwing agenda at home, at the expense of the rule of law,
economic equality, environmental and other regulation, and social
solidarity. The increased military budget and militarization
of U.S. society, the explosive growth in corporate "counter-terrorism"
and "homeland security" enterprises, the greater centralization
of power in the executive branch, the enhanced inequality, the
unimpeded growth of the prison-industrial complex, the more rightwing
judiciary, and the failure of the Democrats to do anything to
counter these trends since the 2006 election, suggests that the
shift to the right and to a more militarized society and expansionist
foreign policy may have become permanent features of life in the
United States. Is that not a war on terror success story, given
the aims of its creators?
 We will use the phrases 'war on terror'
and 'war on terrorism' interchangeably. Nor are we aware of any
nuance in meaning to be gained by distinguishing one phrase from
the other. This caveat also holds for the similar phrase 'global
war on terror'. (Etc.)
 See, e.g., Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads:
Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University
Press, 2006). Along with 24 others that included Dick Cheney,
Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby,
Paula Dobriansky, and Norman Podhoretz, Fukuyama was a founding
member of the Project for the New American Century, whose efforts
to "rally support for the cause of American global leadership"
and a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity"
the world continues to suffer beneath.-See the Project's "Statement
of Principles," June 3, 1997.
 Frank Rich, "Where Were You That Summer of 2001?"
New York Times, February 25, 2007; "The Wiretappers
That Couldn't Shoot Straight," January 8, 2006; and "Noun
+ Verb + 9/11 + Iran = Democrats' Defeat?" New York Times,
November 4, 2007.
 Samantha Power, "Our War on Terror," New York
Times Book Review, July 29, 2007.-Power also used this review
to lavish praise on the recently updated The U.S. Army/Marine
Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (University of Chicago Press,
2007), assembled by U.S. Army General David Petraeus et al.,
the current commander of the U.S.-led Multinational Force in occupied
Iraq, along with critical input from members of the humanitarian
brigades, including Sarah Sewall, a colleague of Power's at Harvard's
Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
 Note that Samantha Power implies that an "American [bombing]
attack on what turns out to be a wedding party" is a unique
and excusable "error." This is false. It was not even
the only wedding party bombed in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S.
forces, and the notable feature of both U.S. wars in these countries
is the lavish use of devastatingly powerful explosives in places
where civilian casualties are certain. In Afghanistan, the United
States has bombed every kind of civilian infrastructure-dams,
telephone exchanges, schools, power stations, bridges, trucks
on roads, mosques, Al Jazeera radio, and even the well-marked
Red Cross facilities in Kabul. It has also used cluster bombs
on a massive scale. In his exhaustive analysis of civilian casualties,
Marc W. Herold states that the 3,000-3,400 civilian deaths resulting
from U.S. bombing in the period October 7, 2001 - March 2002 can
be explained best by "the low value put upon Afghan civilian
lives by U.S. military planners and the political elite, as clearly
revealed by their willingness to bomb heavily populated areas."
He concludes that "the U.S. bombing campaign which began
on the evening of October 7th, has been a war upon the people,
the homes, the farms and the villages of Afghanistan, as well
as upon the Taliban and Al Qaeda." (Marc W. Herold, "A
Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of
Afghanistan," Revised Edition, March 2002.) This bombing
war relied heavily on people like Samantha Power and the media
to keep the ruthlessly anti-civilian character of this war out
of public sight. (Also see Tom Engelhardt, "'Accidents'
of War: The Time Has Come for an Honest Discussion of Air Power,"
TomDispatch, July 9, 2007.)
 What We're Fighting For: A Letter from America, Institute
for American Values, February, 2002. This document is also reproduced
in David Blankenhorn et al., The Islam/West Debate:
Documents from a Global Debate on Terrorism, U.S. Policy, and
the Middle East (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), pp. 21-40.
 For a critique of this notion of civilian deaths as "collateral
damage," a legal ploy by which Americans distinguish the
"unintended" deaths caused by their "far more terrifying
violence" from the "premeditated" deaths caused
by enemies, see Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With
Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity
(Pluto Press, 2004), pp. 46-56.
 In their discussion "A Just War?" the Institute
for American Values asserted: "Although in some circumstances,
and within strict limits, it can be morally justifiable to undertake
military actions that may result in the unintended but foreseeable
death or injury of some noncombatants, it is not morally acceptable
to make the killing of noncombatants the operational objective
of a military action." They continued: "On September
11, 2001, a group of individuals deliberately attacked the United
States.Those who died on the morning of September 11 were killed
unlawfully, wantonly, and with premeditated malice - a kind of
killing that, in the name of precision, can only be described
as murder.Those who slaughtered more than 3,000 persons on September
11 and who, by their own admission, want nothing more than to
do it again, constitute a clear and present danger to all people
of good will everywhere in the world, not just the United States.
Such acts are a pure example of naked aggression against innocent
human life, a world-threatening evil that clearly requires the
use of force to remove it." (What We're Fighting For: A
Letter from America, Institute for American Values, February,
 Richard Falk, "A Just Response," The Nation,
October 8, 2001; and "Defining a Just War," The Nation,
October 29, 2001.-To his credit, Falk was under no illusions that
the Cheney - Bush regime would heed any limits on the use of force.
 Peter Beinart, "A Fighting Faith," New Republic,
December 13, 2004 (as posted to the Free Republic website). Also
see his The Good Fight: Why Liberals--and Only Liberals-Can
Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (HarperCollins,
 David Cole and Jules Lobel, "Why We're Losing the War
on Terror," The Nation, September 24, 2007. Also
see their Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War
on Terror (The New Press, 2007), esp. Ch. 5, "The Costs
of Overreaching," pp. 129-146.
 "OSI Forum-Less Safe, Less Free," Open Society
Institute, November 14, 2007. -David Cole's own words were: "I
just don't see anybody around the world who has questioned the
notion that the United States has the right to respond to the
attacks that we suffered [on September 11, 2001] by going to Afghanistan.
There are people who say it wasn't the best policy. But no one
argued it was not a legitimate act of self-defense." And:
"If you have the right to go to war-you have the right to
kill the people you're fighting against-surely you have the right
to hold them for the duration of that conflict. So that's not
a controversial issue. And holding them at Guantanamo would not
have been controversial practice had we given them hearings at
the outset. Which, for one, would have identified those people
as to whom we had no evidence that they were involved with Al
Qaeda and then they would be released-and then we wouldn't have
the problem of innocent people being held at Guantanamo."
(Our transcription picks-up Cole's remarks beginning at approximately
the 49:35 minute mark of the full-length audio clip.)
 "The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned
and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War
is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined
to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To
initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international
crime; it is the supreme international crime differing
only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the
accumulated evil of the whole." See Final Judgment of the
International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major
War Criminals (September 30, 1946), specifically "The Common
Plan or Conspiracy and Aggressive War," from which this passage
 According to Radio Voice of Shari'ah in Mazar-e Sharif, the
capital of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, "senior
officials" of the Taliban released a statement as early as
September 13, 2001 in which they "honestly asked America
to give clear and substantial evidence for what it considers Usamah
to be responsible for, and the [Taliban] will hand him over to
one of the Islamic courts of the world in order to be tried. The
stance of the [Taliban] is clear in this regard. Otherwise, nobody
can accuse others by bringing false and groundless allegations."
In the same statement, the Taliban "condemn" the events
of 9/11, calling them "against the welfare and interests
of the world." The Taliban also "expresses its sympathy
for the American people," adding that it "expects the
USA not to resort to irreparable measures before discovering the
facts." ("Afghan Taleban ready to hand Bin-Ladin to
Islamic court if USA provides evidence - radio," BBC Monitoring
Central Asia, September 13, 2001.) News of this and subsequent
offers communicated by Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban's foreign
minister, and by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to
Pakistan, were reported by Reuters, The Herald (Glasgow),
the New York Times, the Washington Post, the International
Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, and The Independent
(London). But as the record makes clear, no one will ever know
how genuine these offers really were-the Bush White House categorically
rejected them, and the offers died there.
 Among the professors of law at U.S. universities who contested
the legality of the U.S. war on Afghanistan are Marjorie Cohn,
currently president of the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Ratner,
now president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Francis
Boyle, Brian Foley, Jordan Paust, and John Quigley.
 See "Gallup International poll on terrorism in the U.S.
(figures)," Gallup International, late September, 2001.
Also see Abid Aslam, "Polls Question Global Support for Military
Campaign," Inter-Press Service, October 8, 2001; and David
Miller, "World Opinion Opposed the Attack on Afghanistan,"
Sterling Media Research Center, Scotland, November 21, 2001 (as
posted to the Religion-online website). Miller noted that "When
polling companies do ask about alternatives [to the war-option],
support for war falls away." Hence, he added, this was the
reason why so much news media coverage systematically distorts
the facts away from informing people about real alternatives and
the real impact of the war on Afghanistan. In Pakistan, a case
with great resonance today, a Gallup International poll sponsored
by Newsweek in the early days after the start of the U.S.
war found that "Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis surveyed
say they side with the Taliban, with a mere 3 percent expressing
support for the United States." ("Shifting Sympathies,"
Newsweek Web Exclusive, October 18, 2001.)
 Here we are content to cite two definitions of terrorism.
(1) "[V]violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that
are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of
any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed
within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;"
and that "appear to be intended - (i) to intimidate or coerce
a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government
by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of
a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."
(United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 113B, Section 2331,
1984.) And (2) "Any actionthat is intended to cause death
or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the
purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate
a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization
to do or to abstain from doing any act." (A more secure
world: Our shared responsibility. Report of the Secretary-General's
High-level Panel on Threats (New York: United Nations, 2004),
 Abba Eban, "Morality and Warfare," Jerusalem
Post, August 16, 1981.
 In Matt Rees, "Streets Red With Blood," Time
Magazine, March 10, 2002.
 See, e.g., Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network:
Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda (South End Press, 1982),
esp. Ch. 2, "The Semantics and Role of Terrorism," pp.
21-45; and with Gerry O'Sullivan, The "Terrorism"
Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of
Terror (Pantheon Books, 1989), esp. Ch. 3, "The Western
Model and Semantics of Terrorism," pp. 37-51.
 Oscar Alfredo González and Horacio Cid de la Paz,
Testimony on Secret Detention Camps in Argentina (Amnesty
 Thomas Donnelly et al., Rebuilding America's Defenses:
Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, Project for
the New American Century, September, 2000, p. 51, col. 1.-Also
see n. 2, above.
 The last major "terrorism" report by the U.S. Department
of State prior to 9/11 was Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000
(April 30, 2001). Within its Appendix B, "Background
Information on Terrorist Groups," the entry for "al-Qaida"
stated that the group "May have several hundred to several
thousand members," adding that "Bin Ladinis said to
have inherited approximately $300 million that he uses to finance
the group." In the Congressional Research Services' last
major assessment of "Near Eastern Terrorism" published
the day before 9/11, the CRS reported that "Bin Ladin is
estimated to have about $300 million in personal financial assets
with which he funds his network of as many as 3,000 Islamic militants."
(Kenneth Katzman, Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors,
2001, Congressional Research Service, September 10, 2001, p. 13.)
 According to conservative estimates on global military trends
in the annual Yearbook published by the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute, whereas the last Clinton budget for
fiscal year 2001 devoted $345 billion to military account, by
fiscal year 2006, Bush's fifth, this had increased to at least
$529 billion (i.e., both in constant 1985 dollars). The SIPRI
Yearbook 2007 reports that "U.S. outlaysincreased by
53 percentbetween 2001 and 2006, primarily as a result of allocations
of $381 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq,
and elsewhere." World military expenditure in 2001 was $839
billion, but by 2006 was "estimated to have reached $1204
billion in current U.S. dollars," an increase of "37
percent between 1997 and 2006." The primary driver of these
huge increases: The mythical Global War on Terror which, in reality,
has witnessed the most aggressive U.S. and allied military expansion
in history. (See SIPRI Yearbook 2002 Summary, pp. 12-13; and
SIPRI Yearbook 2007 Summary, pp. 12-13.)
 See, e.g., Larry Birns and Michael Lettieri, "Washington
May Soon Try to Pin the Venezuelan Uranium Tail on the Iranian
Nuclear Donkey," Council on Hemispheric Affairs, May 9, 2006;
and Larry Birns and Tiffany Isaacs, "Chávez Could
Fuel U.S. Propaganda Campaign with Upcoming Bilateral talks with
Kim Jong Il, If Misguided Strategy Is Adopted," Council on
Hemispheric Affairs, July 16, 2006.
 See Chalmers Johnson, "Abolish the CIA!," TomDispatch,
November 5, 2004. Also see Johnson's Blowback: The Costs and
Consequences of American Empire, 2nd. Ed. (Metropolitan Books,
 "Philippines: A government that needs U.S. business,"
Business Week, November 4, 1972.
 Michael Ignatieff, "Who Are Americans to Think That
Freedom Is Theirs to Spread?" New York Times Magazine,
June 26, 2005 (as posted to the Harvard University website).
 See, e.g., Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the
Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (PoliPoint Press, 2007).
 Dana Priest, "Foreign Network at Front of CIA's Terror
Fight," Washington Post, November 18, 2005.
 George W. Bush, "President Delivers 'State of the Union',"
White House Office of the Press Secretary, January 28, 2003.
 Chris Floyd, "Sacred Terror," Moscow Times,
December 8, 2005 (as posted by the Information Clearing House).
 Dick Marty et al., Alleged secret detentions and unlawful
inter-state transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe
member states (Doc. 10957), Council of Europe, June 12, 2006,.
Annex, "The global 'spider's web'." Also see Christos
Pourgourides et al., Enforced Disappearances (Doc. 10679),
Council of Europe, September 19, 2005; and Dick Marty et al.,
Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving
Council of Europe member states: Second report (AS/Jur/2007/36),
Council of Europe, June 7, 2007.
 Deborah Pearlstein et al., Ending Secret Detentions,
Human Right First, June, 2004.
 Also see Deborah Pearlstein and Priti Patel, Behind the
Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions, Human Rights
First, March, 2005; and Guantanamo and beyond: The continuing
pursuit of unchecked executive power, Amnesty International, May
 Based on interviews that it conducted in late 2003 and early
2004 with U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq, a confidential
report that the International Committee of the Red Cross used
to highlight prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and other prisons run
by the occupying forces is reputed to have estimated that "70
percent to 90 percent of prisoners had been wrongly arrested"-and,
we might add, this is assuming that the occupying forces had any
right to arrest anybody. See Peter Slevin, "System Failures
Cited for Delayed Action on Abuses," Washington Post,
May 20, 2004; and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Army Report Warned in
November About Prison Problems," Washington Post,
May 30, 2004.
 Resolution 1267 (S/RES/1267), October 15, 1999.
 Anthony Goodman, "UN sanctions on Taliban to surrender
Bin Laden force," The Independent, October 16, 1999;
"Taleban slams U.N. sanctions over Osama bin Laden,"
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, October 16, 1999.-Among the body of statements
attributed to bin Laden over many years are several that identify
the United Nations with the United States precisely because, in
his view, various agencies of the UN have aligned themselves with
the U.S. "war on terror."
 Resolution 1269 (S/RES/1269), October 19, 1999. Barbara
Crossette, "U.N. Council in Rare Accord: Fight Terrorism,"
New York Times, October 20, 1999.
 Resolution 1373 (S/RES/1373), September 28, 2001; Resolution
1540 (S/RES/1540), April 28, 2004.
 John Mueller and Karl Mueller, "Sanctions of Mass Destruction,"
Foreign Affairs, May/June, 1999.-These authors noted that
economic sanctions (i.e., warfare) have been "deployed frequently,
by large states rather than small ones, and may have contributed
to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of
mass destruction throughout history.The destructive potential
of economic sanctions can be seen most clearly, albeit in an extreme
form, in Iraq.No one knows with any precision how many Iraqi civilians
have died as a result, but various agencies of the United Nations,
which oversees the sanctions, have estimated that they have contributed
to hundreds of thousands of deaths.If the U.N. estimates of the
human damage in Iraq are even roughly correct,it would appear
thateconomic sanctions may well have been a necessary cause of
the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all
so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history."
 Kofi Annan, In larger freedom: towards development, security
and human rights for all (A/59/2005), United Nations, March 21,
2005, par. 91.
 In the case of Operation Allied Force, the U.S.-led NATO
bloc's 1999 aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
Kofi Annan had quietly advocated on behalf of war for as many
as nine months in advance of it.-See, e.g., Kofi Annan, "Secretary-General
Reflects on Intervention" (SG/SM/6613), Ditchley Foundation
Lecture, United Kingdom, June 26, 1998; and Kofi Annan, "Secretary-General
Calls for Unconditional Respect for Human Rights of Kosovo Citizens"
(SG/SM/6878), NATO Headquarters, Belgium, January 28, 1999. As
Annan delivered these lectures in the context of NATO's threats
of war, we hardly believe that they can be taken as calls for
NATO to stand down.
 In the Legality of Use of Force cases (1999 - 2004), brought
by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against ten of the members
of NATO that attacked it in 1999, the International Court of Justice
ruled that as the defendant-powers refused to recognize the ICJ's
jurisdiction in the cases brought before it by the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia, the ICJ "manifestly lacks jurisdiction to
entertain Yugoslavia's Application" and "cannot therefore
indicate any provisional measure whatsoever"-that is, lacking
jurisdiction, it cannot issue an injunction or rule on the legality
of NATO's use of force. (See, e.g., Yugoslavia v. United States
of America, June 2, 1999. Each of the other nine cases wound
up the same.)
 The 9/11 Commission Report, National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks Upon the United States, July 22, 2004, esp. Ch. 12, "What
To Do? A Global Strategy," and Ch. 13, " How To Do It?
A Different Way of Organizing the Government." As recently
as the first week of January 2008, former Commission co-chairs
Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton complained about the CIA's
withholding of evidence and obstruction of the Commission's inquiry.
See "Stonewalled by the C.I.A.," New York Times,
January 2, 2008.
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