The War on Terror: Real Winners And Real Losers
For decades, the United States of America has been engaged in conflicts with “terrorism,” but on the morning of September 11, 2001, the threat hit American soil in a manner that shocked the nation in ways never before imagined. The attacks catalyzed a heightened crusade against global terrorism, with Al Qaeda being the main target. On September 20th 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Congress stated that America was attacked by cowardice thugs and that those responsible would feel the wrath of American Justice. Thus began the “War on Terror.”
This is common knowledge for most Americans because all of us have been affected in some way by the deaths of the passengers aboard flights AA11, UA175, AA77, and UA93. We were all terrified of the destruction of World Trade Center Towers 1, 2, 7, the Pentagon, and a parcel of land in Pennsylvania. Of course, what most Americans’ fail to realize is the depth of that hurt and the true damage of that destruction. Most American’s refuse to see what was really stolen from us after the attacks. Many still accept the losses we continue to suffer.
Who is Al Qaeda?
Al Qaeda is the terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for the September 11th attacks. Once again, this is common knowledge. What is less commonly known is Al Qaeda’s origins.
Al Qaeda was forged during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the late ‘70s through the late ‘80s. In this conflict, the Russians met opposition from the Mujahideen (“those who engage in Jihad”). The Mujahideen’s successes led to a Russian retreat, ultimately ending the occupation. This success can be attributed to the armaments and funding secretly given by the United States and Saudi Arabia via Pakistani channels.
It is from this conflict that Osama Bin Laden, the son of a wealthy Saudi construction magnate, initially entered the picture. Instead of disbanding (the Mujahideen) like the U.S. and Saudi governments anticipated, Osama decided he wanted to not only continue, but amplify the Jihad. To do so, he created a new organization during the Afghanistan occupation that operated under the name Al Qa’edah (The Base) A decade later, this organization claims responsibility for the September 11th attacks.
What are the objective of the Al Qaeda organization?
Al Qaeda has openly stated that their goal is to “prompt the US out of its hole.” The main idea behind this provocation is to lure U.S. forces directly into the Islamic world and by doing so, “awaken the Islamic nation out of its slumber.” The second purpose of prompting the U.S. into direct conflict in the Islamic world is to “bleed and bankrupt the United States.” These desired goals are based on the results of the successful Mujahideen against the Russian’s occupation of Afghanistan. The major difference is that Al Qaeda has become the aggressor, as opposed to the Mujahideen, which was a defensive force.
What are the objectives of the United States?
First and foremost, the goal of the war on terrorism is justice. The effort has been focused on dismantling Al Qaeda and neutralizing their leadership. The United States government has always felt that the American people deserved justice for the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and had sought to achieve that goal. On May 2, 2011 they accomplished this goal by killing Osama Bin Laden.
America has done well at dismantling the leadership of Al Qaeda, but the second objective, to stunt global terrorism throughout the globe, has had less success.
What is terrorism?
The word “terrorism” is both malleable and exceedingly vague. As defined by Marriam-Webster, it’s “The systematic use of violent acts to frighten people of an area in a way of achieving a political goal.” In 2009, the Department of Defense stated on a Level 1 Anti-Terrorism Awareness training course that lawful protest is considered “Low Level terrorist activity.” Keep in mind that every American has the right to peaceful protest and assembly for political motives, as granted in the First Amendment. Despite this Constitutional right, the Department of Defense, has classified protests as low level acts of terrorism. As if to reinforce the absurd severity of this declaration, American citizens are considered “low-level terrorists” for utilizing one of the principle rights guaranteed to us by this nation’s founders. Paradoxically, this means that protesting the edict issued by the Department of Defense constitutes “low-level terrorism.” Unfortunately, this is just one of many casualties suffered by the American people in the promise to keep us “safe.”
The Sacrifices for "Safety"
So what the Department of Defense refers to as “Low Level Terrorist Activity” the rest of us refer to as the First Amendment. But this violation of our rights is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 342 pages of legislation that were passed just 6 weeks after 9/11 by a scared congress with scared constituents and massive amounts of speculative fault bullying from the Bush administration. The bill, titled “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act (USA PATRIOT Act), is disinformative, effectively eliminating the system of checks and balances that protect Americans from law enforcement abuse.
The main target of this law is the Fourth Amendment, which protects all citizens from unreasonable search and seizure - meaning law enforcement must have and present probable cause to the judicial system before they can take any surveillance or search actions against an American citizen. To that end, the Patriot Act now makes it far easier for authorities to search your records and background without obtaining a warrant. Also, surveillance orders can be placed on targets simply because of the books they read or the websites they visit. (For more information on how the USA PATRIOT Act hurts our civil liberties, please review the ACLU’s Article.)
The NDAA 2012
The National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2012 was another step toward dismantling our liberty. The ACLU puts it best:
On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.
“Far from any battlefield” includes American soil and the citizens that reside on it. Via the NDAA, if one is thought to be a threat to national security, that person can be held without the protection of Habeas corpus (Latin for ‘produce the body’), meaning the government is no longer required to produce evidence for their acquisition and can hold the “suspect” indefinitely.
The National Security Agency
Recently, the NSA was caught utilizing mass surveillance against the citizens of the United States, and the details regarding the scope of this practice are still not fully known. This was exposed to the public by Edward Snowden a former contract employee of the NSA. According to Snowden, and now government officials, the NSA monitors email transmissions, contact lists, phone records, social media outlets, and any other digital signals Americans produce. The agency has even gone as far as hacking foreign government networks, email accounts, and personal cellular phones. For instance, earlier this year, the mass media alerted the American public of an incident in which China was hacking our government networks. The truth behind the media scare is that China hacked our networks as retaliation directly related to a prior breach on their networks by the NSA. The NSA has defended their actions as being within the confines of the US PATRIOT Act. These operations will be judged? by a classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA).
If you analyze the evidence with an open mind, the clear winner of the War on Terror is the United States Government. The terrorist have been severely crippled and have surely lost their Jihad. (Wait. Aren’t you the one who believes that guerilla forces cannot be defeated because of their idealism?) Sadly, they aren’t the only losers in this conflict. The American citizens have paid a steep price for their fear-turned-slumber.
The battle cry of government propaganda was once “Terrorists hate us ‘cuz we’re free.”. So given the events of the last ten years, isn’t it fair to wonder if the “terrorists” still hate Americans now that we are no longer free?
The War on Terror is over according to President Obama, but the war on our freedoms will continue on. As we’ve learned from history, once government gains power they never relinquish it. They just find new proxy enemies in order to gain and assert more power on the homefront.
As stated earlier, this whole debacle stemmed from terrorism. The main issue is the manner in which government can haphazardly interpret terrorism. Can a word such as violence be adapted, repurposed, and construed to create a “terrorist” out of anyone? Can abusing another person’s or entity’s reputation be considered an act of violence? Sure it’s not physical violence, but it can have strong negative effects on the person or entities well-being. What if this violence is politically motivated? Can cyber-bullying be considered terrorism if it has political goals? Can running my mouth off on social media about a political candidate get me on a government watch list?
We’ve made a huge mistake as a result of our fear. We’ve allowed ourselves to sacrifice what makes us Americans in the first place. Liberty was our mantra, and now it’s more evidently “protection via policing and control”. We’ve lost something great, and we will continue to lose much more before we even realize we’ve been robbed of our birthrights.
The only beneficiary in this mess is our own government. The watchdog in the backyard, the one attached to our retirement, healthcare, transportation, and income, is gaining more power over our actions. Shouldn’t this be more alarming than some violent activist group more than 8,000 miles away?
Mujahideen and Russian Invasion
Al Qaida History
Osama Bin Laden
Al Qaeda Goals
Global War on Terror
DoD Lawful Protests equal to Low Level Terrorism
The USA PATRIOT Act
Photo Credits (In Order)
Julio Martinez @ Flicker (Cover)
Erwin Franzen @ Flickr
The U.S. Army @ Flickr
Daniel Stone @ Flickr
Eamonn Lawlor @ Flickr
Justin Norman @ Flickr
David B. Gleason @ Flickr
City of Boston Archives @ Flickr