- Criticism of the War on Terror
Criticism of the War on Terror addresses the issues, morals, ethics, efficiency, economics, and other questions surrounding the War on Terror. Arguments are also made against the phrase itself, calling it a misnomer.
The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that it has been exploited by participating governments to pursue long-standing policy objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. Some argue that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in War on Drugs), since they believe there is no identifiable enemy, and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means. Other critics, such as Francis Fukuyama, note that "terrorism" is not an enemy, but a tactic; calling it a "war on terror", obscures differences between conflicts. For example, anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 "War on Terror" seen as pretext
- 3 Methods
- 4 Decreasing international support
- 5 Role of U.S. media
- 6 British objections to the "war on terror"
- 7 Pejorative terms
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
The billionaire activist investor George Soros has called "War on Terror" a "false metaphor." Linguist George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute has argued that there cannot literally be a war on terror, since terror is an abstract noun. "Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end."
There are multiple ways of defining terrorism, and all are subjective. Most define terrorism as 'the use or threat of serious violence' to advance some kind of 'cause'. Some state clearly the kinds of group ('sub-national', 'non-state') or cause (political, ideological, religious) to which they refer. Others merely rely on the instinct of most people when confronted with an act that involves innocent civilians being killed or maimed by men armed with explosives, firearms or other weapons. None is satisfactory, and grave problems with the use of the term persist.
Terrorism is after all, a tactic. The term 'war on terrorism' is thus effectively nonsensical. As there is no space here to explore this involved and difficult debate, my preference is, on the whole, for the less loaded term 'militancy'. This is not an attempt to condone such actions, merely to analyse them in a clearer way.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush articulated the goals of the "war on terror" in a September 20, 2001 speech, in which he said it "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."  In that same speech, he called the war "a task that does not end", and was used by President Bush in his 2006 State of The Union address.
The justification given for the invasion of Iraq (prior to its happening) was to prevent terrorist or other attacks by Iraq on the United States or other nations. This can be viewed as a conventional warfare realization of the war on terror.
A major criticism leveled at this justification is that, according to war opponents, it does not fulfill one of the requirements of a just war and that in waging a war preventively, the United States has undermined international law and the authority of the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Security Council. On this ground it has been advocated that by invading a country that does not pose an imminent threat and without UN support, the U.S. has violated international law, including the UN Charter and the Nuremberg principles and is guilty of committing a war of aggression, which is considered to be a war crime. Additional criticism has been raised that the United States has set a precedent, under the premise of which any nation could justify the invasion of other states.
"War on Terror" seen as pretext
Some[who?] have argued that part of the "War on Terror" has little to do with its stated purpose, since Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and the invasion was carried out on the basis of faulty or doctored intelligence. Excerpts from an April 2006 report compiled from sixteen U.S. government intelligence agencies has strengthened the claim that engaging in Iraq has increased terrorism in the region.
Domestic civil liberties
The "War on terror" has been seen as a pretext for reducing civil liberties. Within the United States, critics argue that the Bush Administration and lower governments have restricted civil liberties and created a "culture of fear". Bush introduced the USA PATRIOT Act legislation to the United States Congress shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, which significantly expanded U.S. law enforcement's power. It has been criticized as being too broad and having been abused for purposes unrelated to counter-terrorism. President Bush had also proposed Total Information Awareness, a federal program to collect and process massive amounts of data to identify behaviors consistent with terrorist threats. It was heavily criticized as being an "Orwellian" case of mass surveillance.
In the United Kingdom, critics have claimed that the Blair government has used the War on Terror as a pretext to radically curtail civil liberties, some enshrined in law since Magna Carta. For example, the detention-without-trial in Belmarsh prison; controls on free speech through laws against protests near Parliament and laws banning the "glorification" of terrorism; and reductions in checks on police power, as in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes and Mohammed Abdul Kahar.
Former Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Menzies Campbell has also condemned Blair's inaction over the controversial U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition, arguing that the human rights conventions to which the UK is a signatory (e.g. European Convention on Human Rights) impose on the government a "legal obligation" to investigate and prevent potential torture and human rights violations.
The remark, "You're either with us or you are with the terrorists," by U.S. President Bush in November 2001, has been a source of criticism. A similar line of reason was utilized by U.S. President Obama's administration as Bob Woodward wrote that the United States would have bombed 150 camps inside Pakistan if there was another attack inside the United States. Thomas A. Keaney of Johns Hopkins University's Foreign Policy Institute said "it made diplomacy with a number of different countries far more difficult because obviously there are different problems throughout the world."
Some think that the United States intends "to establish a new political framework within which [it] will exert hegemonic control". Many people[who?] say the United States seeks to do this by controlling access to oil or oil pipelines.
As a war against Islam
Some critics claim that the war on terror is truly a war on Islam itself. After his release from Guantanamo in 2005, ex-detainee Moazzam Begg appeared in the Islamist propaganda video 21st Century CrUSAders and claimed the U.S. is engaging in a new crusade:
I think that history is definitely repeating itself and for the Muslim world, and I think even a great part of the non-Muslim world now, are beginning to recognize that there are ambitions that the United States has on the lands and wealth of nations of Islam.
Critics believe that interrogation methods employed by U.S. forces in places such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu Ghraib, Iraq. They believe that if U.S. forces act immorally or unethically then those forces are no better than the insurgents they are trying to find. The war on terrorism has been effectively called an act of terrorism in itself. Critics point to incidents such as the Bagram torture and prisoner abuse scandal, the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, the alleged use of chemical weapons against terrorists in Fallujah, and the use of military force to disperse anti-American demonstrations in Iraq.
University of Chicago professor and political scientist, Robert Pape has written extensive work on suicide terrorism and states that it is triggered by military occupations, not extremist ideologies. In works such as Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism and Cutting the Fuse, he uses data from an extensive terrorism database and argues that by increasing military occupations, the US government is increasing terrorism. Pape is also the director and founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), a database of every known suicide terrorist attack from 1980 to 2008.
In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate stated that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism. The estimate was put together by 16 intelligence agencies and was the first assessment of global terrorism since the start of the Iraq war.
British Liberal Democrat politician Shirley Williams writes that the American and United Kingdom governments "must stop to think whether it is sowing the kind of resentment which is the seedbed of future terrorism." The United Kingdom ambassador to Italy, Ivor Roberts, said that U.S. President Bush is "the best recruiting sergeant ever for al Qaeda." The United States granted "protected persons" status under the Geneva Convention to the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, an Iranian group classified by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist organization, sparking criticism. Other critics have noted that the American government has granted political asylum to several terrorists and terrorist organizations that attack Cuba to try and overthrow Fidel Castro, while the American government claims to be anti-terrorist.
Political double-standards of the Bush Administration
The alleged mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks was part of the Mujahedin who were sponsored, armed, trained and aided by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan.
Venezuela has accused the U.S. government of having a double standard on terrorism for giving safe haven to Luis Posada Carriles. The use of state terrorism by the U.S. and the inherent hypocrisy of the selective use term "War on Terrorism" have been commented upon by some Americans as well, including 3 star general William Odom, formerly President Reagan's NSA Director, who wrote:
"As many critics have pointed, out, terrorism is not an enemy. It is a tactic. Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today's war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world. A prudent American president would end the present policy of "sustained hysteria" over potential terrorist attacks..treat terrorism as a serious but not a strategic problem, encourage Americans to regain their confidence, and refuse to let al Qaeda keep us in a state of fright"
Some critics[who?] argue that some politicians supporting the "war on terror" are motivated by reasons other than those they publicly state, and critics accuse those politicians of cynically misleading the public to achieve their own ends. For instance, in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and members of his administration indicated that they possessed information which demonstrated a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Published reports of the links began in late December, 1998. In January 1999, Newsweek magazine published a story about Saddam and al-Qaeda joining forces to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf Region. ABC News broadcast a story of the link between the two soon after. Polls suggested that a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was linked to the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, despite popular belief, the Bush Administration believed that there was the possibility of a potential collaboration between al-Queda and Saddam Hussein's Bath regime following the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. Amnesty International Irene Khan criticized the use of pro-humanitarian arguments by Coalition countries prior to its 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing in an open letter: "This selective attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists. Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War."
Decreasing international support
In 2002, strong majorities supported the U.S.-led War on Terror in Britain, France, Germany, Japan, India, and Russia, according to a sample survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. By 2006, supporters of the effort were in the minority in Britain (49%), France (43%), Germany (47%), and Japan (26%). Although a majority of Russians still supported the War on Terror, that majority had decreased by 21%. Whereas 63% of the Spanish population supported the War on Terror in 2003, only 19% of the population indicated support in 2006. 19% of the Chinese population supports the War on Terror, and less than a fifth of the populations of Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan support the effort. The report also indicates that Indian public support for the War on Terror has been stable. Andrew Kohut, speaking to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, noted that, and according to the Pew Research Center polls conducted in 2004, "the ongoing conflict in Iraq continues to fuel anti-American sentiments. America’s global popularity plummeted at the start of military action in Iraq, and the U.S. presence there remains widely unpopular."
Role of U.S. media
Researchers in the area of communication studies and political science have found that American understanding of the war on terror is directly shaped by how the mainstream news media reports events associated with the war on terror. In Bush's War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age political communication researcher Jim A. Kuypers illustrated "how the press failed America in its coverage on the War on Terror." In each comparison, Kuypers "detected massive bias on the part of the press." This researcher called the mainstream news media an "anti-democratic institution" in his conclusion. "What has essentially happened since 9/11 has been that Bush has repeated the same themes, and framed those themes the same whenever discussing the War on Terror," said Kuypers. "Immediately following 9/11, the mainstream news media (represented by CBS, ABC, NBC, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post) did echo Bush, but within eight weeks it began to intentionally ignore certain information the president was sharing, and instead reframed the president's themes or intentionally introduced new material to shift the focus."
This goes beyond reporting alternate points of view, which is an important function of the press. "In short," Kuypers explained, "if someone were relying only on the mainstream media for information, they would have no idea what the president actually said. It was as if the press were reporting on a different speech." The study is essentially a "comparative framing analysis." Overall, Kuypers examined themes about 9-11 and the War on Terror that the President used, and compared them to the themes that the press used when reporting on what the president said.
"Framing is a process whereby communicators, consciously or unconsciously, act to construct a point of view that encourages the facts of a given situation to be interpreted by others in a particular manner," wrote Kuypers. These findings suggest that the public is misinformed about government justification and plans concerning the war on terror.
Others have also suggested that press coverage has contributed to a public confused and misinformed on both the nature and level of the threat to the U.S. posed by terrorism. In his book, Trapped in the War on Terror political scientist Ian S. Lustick, claimed, "The media have given constant attention to possible terrorist-initiated catastrophes and to the failures and weaknesses of the government's response." Lustick alleged that the War on Terror is disconnected from the real but remote threat terrorism poses, and that the generalized War on Terror began as part of the justification for invading Iraq, but then took on a life of its own, fueled by media coverage.Scott Atran writes that "publicity is the oxygen of terrorism" and the rapid growth of international communicative networks renders publicity even more potent, with the result that "perhaps never in the history of human conflict have so few people with so few actual means and capabilities frightened so many."
Media researcher Stephen D. Cooper's analysis of media criticism Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers As the Fifth Estate contains many examples of controversies concerning mainstream reporting of the War on Terror. Cooper found that bloggers' criticisms of factual inaccuracies in news stories or bloggers' discovery of the mainstream press's failure to adequately check facts before publication caused many news organizations to retrack or change news stories.
Cooper found that bloggers specializing in criticism of media coverage advanced four key points:
- Mainstream reporting of the war on terror has frequently contained factual inaccuracies. In some cases, the errors go uncorrected; moreover, when corrections are issued they usually are given far less prominence than the initial coverage containing the errors.
- The mainstream press has sometimes failed to check the provenance of information or visual images supplied by Iraqi "stringers" (local Iraqis hired to relay local news).
- Story framing is often problematic; in particular, "man-in-the-street" interviews have often been used as a representation of public sentiment in Iraq, in place of methodologically sound survey data.
- Mainstream reporting has tended to concentrate on the more violent areas of Iraq, with little or no reporting of the calm areas.
David Barstow won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting by connecting the Department of Defense to over 75 retired generals supporting the Iraq War on TV and radio networks. The Department of Defense recruited the retired generals to sell the war to the American public. Barstow also discovered undisclosed links between some retired generals and defense contractors. Barstow reported that "the Bush administration used its control over access of information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse".
British objections to the "war on terror"
The Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, Ken McDonald, Britain's most senior criminal prosecutor, has stated that those responsible for acts of terrorism such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings are not "soldiers" in a war, but "inadequates" who should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. He added that a "culture of legislative restraint" was needed in passing anti-terrorism laws, and that a "primary purpose" of the violent attacks was to tempt countries such as Britain to "abandon our values." He stated that in the eyes of the UK criminal justice system, the response to terrorism had to be "proportionate, and grounded in due process and the rule of law":
London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered...were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London there is no such thing as a war on terror. The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws, and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.
Stella Rimington, former head of the British intelligence service MI5 has criticised the war on terror as a "huge overreaction", and had decried the militarization and politicization of the U.S. efforts to be the wrong approach to terrorism. David Miliband, former UK foreign secretary, has similarly called the strategy a "mistake". Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has called for Britain to end its involvement in the War in Afghanistan, describing the mission as "wholly unsuccessful and indeed counter-productive."
Critics have replaced "war on terror" or related phrases with pejorative terms:
- "So-called War on Terror", due to the perceived disingenuous nature of the phrase many non-U.S. media publications have taken to referring to it as the "so-called War on Terror".
- "War on Terra", an ad hominem attack on the accent of U.S. President Bush and an allusion to a concept of Pax Americana as worldwide U.S. dominance advocated by the Project for the New American Century ("Terra" being Latin for "Earth" this implies war against the entire world).
- "TWAT" (The War Against Terrorism - an offensive word in some dialects of English used satirically by some web sites
- "War against tourism" as parodied by Justin Butcher, partly in reference to the accent of President Bush.
- "War of Terror", a term used by Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat in the rodeo scene of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
- "Operation Iraqi Liberation" or "O.I.L," is often used to criticise both the euphemistic terminology used by the government for the Iraqi invasion (officially named Operation Iraqi Freedom) and the impoundment of Iraq's oil resources which is considered by some to be the real purpose of the invasion. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer actually used this term in press briefings on March 24, 2003 and April 1, 2003.
- The War on Errorism is an album by NOFX, whose cover art also depicts President Bush as a clown.
- "War Against Some Terrorists" was suggested by the late Robert Anton Wilson, with the comment: "Just as the War Against Drugs would make some kind of sense if they honestly called it a War Against Some Drugs, I regard Dubya's current Kampf as a War Against Some Terrorists. I may remain wed to that horrid heresy until he bombs CIA headquarters in Langtry."
- The Chaser's War on Everything is a satirical television series broadcast on ABC TV in Australia.
- Stephen Colbert referred to it as "The Never Ending War on Everything"
- 2003 Invasion of Iraq
- Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
- Bagram torture and prisoner abuse
- Black sites
- Canadian Afghan detainee abuse scandal
- Comparison of Iraq War to the Algerian War
- Extraordinary rendition by the United States
- Guantanamo Bay detainment camp
- International public opinion on the war in Afghanistan
- NSA warrantless surveillance controversy
- Opposition to the Iraq War
- Opposition to the War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- Protests against the invasion of Afghanistan
- Standard Operating Procedure
- Unlawful combatant
- War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
- War on Terror
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- Chernus, Ira, Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2006.
- "Myths of the War on Terrorism and Iraq". Wilson's Almanac, accessed 26 February 2005.
- "State Department Lie About Terrorism Levels Bolstered Bush Claims of Success". Capitol Hill Blue, 11 June 2004.
- Fisk, Robert. "Folly taken to a scale we haven't seen since WWII". The Independent, 11 September 2003.
- Gonzales, Patrisia and Rodriguez, Roberto. "The Fallacy of the War on Terror". Universal Press Syndicate, 12 December 2003.
- Igmade (Stephan Trüby et al., eds.), 5 Codes: Architecture, Paranoia and Risk in Times of Terror, Birkhäuser; 2006, ISBN 3-7643-7598-1
- Record, Jeffrey. Bounding the Global War on Terrorism (PDF). Strategic Studies Institute, December 2003.
- Khan, L. Ali. A Theory of International Terrorism (Brill, 2006).
- Edward S. Herman, "There Is No “War on Terror”", January 18, 2008.
- Human Rights First; Getting to Ground Truth: Investigating U.S. Abuses in the “War on Terror.” (2004)
Anti-war topics Opposition to wars
or aspects of war
Agents of opposition Related ideologies Media
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