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Side Effects of the War on Terror

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After the September 11 attack, most Americans realized that the biggest threat to the nation is the global network of Al-Qaeda. Some expanded the scope of the threat, saying the threat is from Islamic Extremism. The Bush administration further widened the concept to "global terrorism," and America's response became the "War on Terror," while the core objective of the response remained containing Al-Qaeda and its network.

The Bush Administration's approach was tactical, in the sense that the USA wanted to muster the support of several world nations which were facing similar threats of violence from non state players. The Bush administration hoped that this approach might help America build a global alliance to fight the Al-Qaeda network.

Seven years after 9/11, Mr David Miliband, Foreign Secretary of the UK, a key US ally in the war on terror, wrote in The Guardian last week:

It is clear that we need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent extremism…The idea of a "war on terror" gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate. Lashkar-e-Taiba has roots in Pakistan and says its cause is Kashmir. Hezbollah says it stands for resistance to occupation of the Golan Heights. The Shia and Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq have myriad demands. They are as diverse as the 1970s European movements of the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, and Eta. All used terrorism and sometimes they supported each other, but their causes were not unified and their cooperation was opportunistic. So it is today.

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common.

As the generalized approach towards terrorism saw the efforts to eliminate Al-Qaida being diluted, it also paved the way for oppressive governments around the globe to legitimize state sponsored terrorism as war on terror, and contain legitimate insurgencies.

During August of 2004, Maldives, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean south of India, witnessed unprecedented mass demonstrations at the capital against the arbitrary rule of Mr. Gayoom and demanding democratic reforms. The demonstrators were dispersed by force by the national police and a large number of pro democracy activists were taken into custody. True to his style, Mr Gayoom declared an emergency the very next day. Dr. S Chandrasekharan reports how the Maldivian leader, Mr Gayoom used Anti Terrorism laws to suppress opposition.

Governments worldwide have been seen lobbying Washington to get insurgency groups in their countries listed as terrorists, allowing these governments to stop funding of these organizations from their diaspora communities living in the western world.

Sri Lanka, another Island nation in the Indian ocean, was successful in getting Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State. LTTE is a rebel group fighting for the rights of the Tamil minorities of Sri Lanka which complains of years of discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese. The organization has the overwhelming support of Tamils around the globe, and the ban cut its revenue source. Encouraged by the ban of LTTE by the USA and other western nations, Sri Lanka unilaterally pulled out of a two-year-old ceasefire brokered earlier by Norway, and turned to pursuing a military approach. After two years of fighting, Sri Lanka is on the verge of crushing the Tamil resistance, amidst accusations of serious human rights violations, as well as the flouting of other democratic values.

With respect to the Sep 11 attacks, the enemies were clearly identified: Al-Qaida.  However, America spent millions of dollars assisting several third world nations which were facing internal insurgencies from Islamic and Non Islamic insurgency groups, several of which had nothing in common with Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda's idealogies. Instead of declaring a focused campaign against Al-Qaeda, the USA listed all resistance organizations as terrorists, thereby lumping all insurgencies together as terrorists. The US Department of State lists 42 organizations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. This not only weakened the war on Al-Qaida, but tarnished America's image as a champion of liberty and freedom, and projected it as a representative of corrupt and oppressive governments in several oppressed communities.

A more focused approach to eliminating Al-Qaeda by approaching the war as "War on Al-Qaeda" not only would have contained Al Qaeda more effectively, if not possibly eliminating it altogether, but also would have avoided the foul play and misuse of the US policies by oppressive governments around the globe.

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About kalugu

  • “War on al-Qaeda”?

    Aye, but there’s the rub. Trying to take them down by military force is…well, al-Qaeda’s an amorphous organization, more akin to a criminal gang than a country with an army. What was needed was essential police work (with CIA help, of course).

    But I do agree that your idea would have been better than the ‘War on Terrorism’, which has been every bit as successful as the ‘War on Drugs’, the ‘War on Poverty’, or the Bush administration’s centerpiece, the ‘War on Education’.

  • Kalugu,

    I don’t know whether you’ve come across this one, but Inside Al Qaeda is an excellent book on the subject.


  • bliffle

    You gotta be kidding: “After the September 11 attack, most Americans realized that the biggest threat to the nation is the global network of Al-Qaeda.”

    Nonsense. Al Queda is a gang of 20-30 criminal maniacs.

    The biggest threat to the nation is…ourselves!

    Only WE are big enough and violent enough to destroy US.

    And we’re busily trying to do it with our misbegotten policies.

  • Gotta agree with bliffle. As Obama said, it’s a false choice to choose between our ideals and our safety…for though we lose some of our safety, American history is clear that we shall still prevail. If we lose our ideals, though…we are no longer America.

    From a poem that I wrote: “Empires thrive so long as they uphold the ideals that made them great….”

  • Brunelleschi

    Very good article.

    Another good book is “Imperil Hubris.” It argues that Al Queda is an international insurrection, and Bush just didn’t “get in.” It was written by a career CIA guy that spent like 15 years on the problem.

  • Glenn/Bliffle,

    It’s a great misconception that bin Laden is a monster. Very far from it. The very history of his radicalization has basis in the corrupt government of the Saudis, who of course have to play it both ways – catering to Western interests (for oil) and fomenting unrest at home – just to hold on to their tyrannical rule (with the help of U.S. diplomacy, of course). Bin Laden felt betrayed by the House of Saad, when it reneged on earlier promise to have U.S. troops to leave once Sadam was driven back to Iraq during First Gulf War. Bin Laden even offered to bring 5,000 mujahidins (mispelled) from Afghanistan to repel the Iraqui invader, just so that the Americans wouldn’t gain a foothold. In many people’s eyes, he was a true patriot. I made reference a few comments ago to a book; it’s a great read and will open many eyes.

    So yes, there is a way of diffusing al Qaeda; but these tyrannical Middle Eastern regimes which we support only add fuel to the fire: it is in their interest to spread ignorance and hatred for U.S., so as to divert all attention from their own tyrannical rule. The divide and conquer policy!


  • Clavos

    An excellent and authoritative book on Al-Qaeda (which won the Pulitzer) is The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright.

  • Roger –

    I thoroughly agree with you about bin Laden. Yes, if we catch him we must put him through a kangaroo court and execute him. That is our duty as a country.

    However, Bush and company forgot Sun Tzu’s maxim about knowing the enemy. They neither understood him nor saw the need to…but the general that knows his enemy is dangerous indeed – that’s what made Yamamoto such a dangerous admiral, even though he knew America well, and knew he was fighting a lost cause.

    I once read that in the years prior to 9/11, bin Laden had stated four goals: to wreck our economy, to engage us in a drawn-out war, to tear down our morale by keeping us engaged for so long and so far from home, and to knock us off our position of world leadership. These aren’t the exact goals stated, but they’re not far off…and frankly, bin Laden’s strike on 9/11 is one of the most cost-effective attacks in human history. AND he manipulated Bush to take out Saddam, whom bin Laden hated.

    I do not admire bin Laden, but from a purely military standpoint I DO admire what he was able to achieve with relatively little investment.

    I am quite certain that Obama is a far better strategist and will not be so quick to underestimate his enemy, for bin Laden will certainly not underestimate him.

  • Glenn,

    I am glad to saw my comment. It got kind of buried. I suppose we must do what you say to save face. But really, we create our enemies and then force them to become monsters. There’s got to be a way of diffusing all this hatred and spread true-blue, good old-fashioned American will. That would be the beginning. That’s what US was known for and admired 50 years ago. Today, very few think of us in those terms. We’ve got to rebuild this image, with both words and deeds. The world is looking for a leader; and China and Russia ain’t gonna be it. So we still have a shot, but we had better not squander the opportunity. The time is running out.

  • Clavos

    I am quite certain that Obama is a far better strategist and will not be so quick to underestimate his enemy, for bin Laden will certainly not underestimate him.

    How so? Obama has virtually no experience (not that Georgie-porgie had any).

    It’s nice that you have so much faith in his strategic skills, but at this point, that’s all it is, faith; there’s virtually no evidence of Barack’s military strategy skills.

    I think I’ll wait to see…

  • I agree – time is running out, but we do have a shot, because we still have great face before the world regardless of what Bush has done. Russia can’t lead the world as we have. China’s trying mightily, but they’ve too much endemic corruption which bleeds through everything they do. If we fall, China might succeed…

    …but I remember the old saying that people follow a bully because they have to, and that people follow a leader because they want to. Most of the world wants us to be the world leader because they know we can do so honorably. If China took our place, however, the other nations would follow…but only because they have to.

    Honor – can’t see it or feel it…but how very valuable it is….

  • I’m in perfect agreement with you, Glenn. The world is ready for America. It is a golden opportunity. Maybe our last chance.


    Imagine that a mafia type moves into your neighborhood, subtly sets himself up as a kind of authority and pseudo friend to those who bow to him. He becomes in time a protector to his followers and an oppressor to those who refuse his orders. Ultimately, as this mafia figure has the backing of the ‘organization’ , all persons in the neighborhood realize that the best course to maintain peace in the home is to subscribe to the mafia’s doctrine and at the same time pretend that all is for the greater good. Many are then rewarded for their loyalty to the mafia lord.

    Now, this is the scenario today on the world stage with the fbi/cia/pentagon (and their minions, stooges,shills, thugs,punks,assassins,operatives, agents,informants,and police/national guard Gen d’armes, all acting as mafia type figures.

    For purposes of this report the main focus is on the dual disciples of satan, the fbi/cia, as mafia, and on their demand that all the world accept the new world order as defined and as enforced by their organization (i.e.: the war machine). Those who surrender their persons and countries unto the authority of the fbi/cia mafia are rewarded (first by not being killed or imprisoned, followed by some temporary economic benefits to the country’s ruling elite. Those who resist or fight the terrorists of the fbi/cia mafia are hunted down like dogs and are killed. Thus, the real war on terror takes on a very special meaning to all who are affected by the aggression of the most dangerous and bold group of blood thirsty killers ever to live on the planet earth: the fbi/cia mafia and their associates and facilitators throughout society.

    Today the people of the world recognize that the fbi/cia gang represents the failed leadership of the United States of America, and that this nation is thereby a homicidal menace to Humanity because the fbi/cia’s war machine continues the assault on the world’s population with threats, armed invasions, and ultra high tech weaponry (including mind control and brain entrainment gadgetry) and by whatever other methods be available in their arsenal.

    Now a clear and present danger to the peace and stability of all peoples is apparent; unless stopped now the future of mankind is in great peril with regard to human and civil rights, individual liberty issues and freedom from oppression.
    The sentiment grows around the globe to stop the invaders of the fbi/cia gang . The mantra of the freedom fighters may be summarized in a simple but universal expression of rage as follows and the war on terror has hardly just begun:

    Invade My Country, I Invade Yours;
    Attack My Brain, All Bets Are Off.

    [personal contact info deleted]