The War That Never Ends
Americans need to combat the threat of terrorism, and protect its people from those who wish to kill innocent civilians. This is not in doubt.
What is in worth debating, however, is the means in which to do this, and whether maintaining an ambiguous, continuous war with unclear goals is in the best interest of our country and the world.
Americans are now having this debate, in discussing the War in Iraq, and most Americans now believe that the war has made us less safe from terrorism.
But the war on terror as a concept is largely safe from critical dialogue from American’s politicians on both parties. In fact, Democrats who challenge the legitimacy or effectiveness of the Iraq War, argue that it is merely a “distraction” from the war on terror and will limit our options invade other countries, such as Iran. In other words, pre-emptive wars of aggression are fine, a constant state of warfare is fine, but Iraq was executed ineptly.
This may be a smart election-year move as it allows Democrats to look tough on terror while appeasing anti-war voters. However, if Democrats gain any power this November, they should quickly work to redefine and rename the war on terror so it is not blank check for the executive branch to use force at his own discresion.
This debate ought to be expanded past Iraq, and discussed more broadly. The reason for this is simple: It is President Bush’s global war on terror, not Iraq, which has been used to justify all the administration’s war policies, including the invasion of Iraq.
Consider some examples:
*The USA PATRIOT Act was signed two years before we invaded in Iraq. When it was up for renewal Bush justified the measures by saying “In a war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.”
* The National Security Agency’s unconstitutional wiretappings that take place with no real oversight, likewise, began years before we invaded Iraq. The justification, according to the Bush Administration, was that "they attacked us before, they'll attack us again if they can.”
*Institutionalized torture, and the discarding of the Geneva Conventions, gained visibility in Iraq – but these ideas were implemented at least as far back as 2002, when, according to The Washington Post, the Justice Department advised the White House that torturing al Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad "may be justified," and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in the war on terrorism.
The main difference between Iraq and the war on terror is that the former will eventually end (leaving the issue of permanent military bases for another day). Whether it is in two years or twenty, the war as we know it will end.
In contrast, the war on terror, according to President Bush’s Sept. 20, 2001 speech, “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
The war on terrorism is fought everywhere and anywhere. It is a war not against a nation state or an entity within a state (such as al Qaeda in Afghanistan )but rather, against a tactic. A tactic, it is worth noting, that has no concrete definition. To date the United Nations has not agreed on a definition of "terrorism."
Such ambiguities enable the US government to simply decide what terrorism is on a case-by-case basis. The mere existence of the war on terror already serves as a justification for future wars, further torture and more assaults on our privacy and personal liberties.
1n 1984, George Orwell warned us why governments engage in continuous warfare.
"It does not matter if the war is not real, or when it is, victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.... waged by the ruling group against its subjects, and its object is not victory, but to keep the very structure of society intact."
We can fight terrorism, and protect our homeland without resorting to these tactics. The war on terror has enabled these draconian measures taken by the executive branch, to attack the very foundations of our democracy.
Accordingly, we should oppose all continuous wars, including Bush’s war on terror.
If we fail to do this, we will settle for the only alternative: a state of perpetual warfare.