“War on Terror” Makes No Sense

Terrorism is a technique, not an opponent


By Robert C. Keating, Editor


April 3, 2006, LOS ANGELES -- A March 26 letter to the editor of the L.A. Times from a small town in California provides the kind of common sense and clarity we could use in Washington.  Amid all the din about the “war on terror,” Chris Harget of Campbell makes a point that should be discussed nationally: 


“How can…any reasonable person suppose that there can be a ‘war’ against terror?  There is no strategic objective to win.  There is no specific force to overwhelm.  Terrorism is a technique, not an opponent.


“In our society, terrorism is a crime and would be more efficiently and effectively treated as such.


“However, even a false war can have casualties.  Calling it a “war on terror” has suppressed so much democratic discourse that we need a truth and reconciliation commission to reclaim the vigor of our own democracy.”


How can anyone who remembers how the "War on Terror" started be optimistic that it will ever end?  Hours after 9-11, when all U.S. flights were grounded, President Bush met with Saudi Prince Bandar at the White House and authorized flying Osama Bin Laden’s relatives and other wealthy Arabs out of the U.S. back to Saudi Arabia “for their safety.”  (Imagine the U.S. flying Timothy McVeigh's family out of the country for safekeeping after the Oklahoma City bombing, as Michael Moore pointed out in Fahrenheit 9/11.) Months later, when U.S. forces had Osama Bin Laden "cornered" in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, they delegated the final hunt to Afghan forces, and he promptly escaped...most likely to Pakistan. It's almost as if Bin Laden were more valuable alive than dead. 


Having handled that part of the “War on Terror” really well, the administration turned its guns on Iraq.  Over 3 years later, after 2,400 American deaths and 18,000 injuries, we remain in Iraq—even though no weapons of mass destruction were found and even though Saddam Hussein himself was captured several years ago.  It’s hard to fathom what would constitute victory in Iraq for our leaders who never fought in a war themselves.  They just don’t seem to understand the need to stop fighting and rest.  They scream “cut and run” at anyone who suggests America declare victory and come home.  Has America not been patient enough, considering that three years ago, the President stood on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that said “Mission Accomplished,” and proclaimed “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended”? 


Compare the U.S. role in World War II to its “War on Terror” now.  U.S. fighting started December 7, 1941, and ended August 15, 1945—less than 4 years later.  But America’s been at this “war on terror” almost 5 years since September 11, 2001, and no one can reasonably predict a conclusion.


A book could be written about the differences between the two wars.  But here’s just one difference to ponder…Try to imagine FDR or Truman responding to reporters’ questions about possible attacks on American troops by saying, “Bring ‘em on.” 


We had better leaders then.  They knew that soldiers bleed.  They didn’t visit maimed soldiers in hospitals and then joke about getting cut “doing battle with a cedar” on their ranch.  They didn’t smirk their way through the Presidency.   


Some base their support of this “war president’s” “war on terror” on the fact that there have been no other attacks on American soil since 9-11.  Thank God for that, and the dedication of thousands of people on the job…but it’s a shaky point given Al Qaeda’s commuter attacks in Spain and Britain, and how little Congress and the White House have actually done to protect us.  Box cutters are okay on airlines again.  American ports, chemical plants, nuclear plants, are as vulnerable to attack as ever.  To top off the inconsistencies, a United Arab Emirates company almost ended up managing America’s biggest ports from New York to New Orleans. 


Meanwhile we’re pouring a trillion dollars into Iraq.  We’re building permanent bases there.  Our forces draw fire by just being there.  The “war on terror” is a war of terror for the thousands of civilians who have been killed, injured, raped and tortured in its name.  

And “Osama” remains an all-time popular name for a baby boy in the Middle East. 


It makes one ill to consider how many ordinary Afghans and Iraqis have been picked up, detained and even tortured for information since Bush flew all of Bin Laden’s rich relatives home to Saudi Arabia for safe-keeping, hours after 9/11.    


            Orwellian War


More than anything, Bush’s “war on terror” brings to mind George Orwell’s 1984 and Oceania’s grim, epic struggle with Eurasia that had no end, despite endless encouraging news from the front.  Even thinking that the war was bad brought a visit from the Thought Police and certain torture.  Big Brother was watching.  And the Party’s slogan was everywhere:






But 1984 was fiction.  That couldn’t happen to us.


© 2006 Most


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