“Global War on Terrorism”: Illegitimate under Bush, Illegitimate under Obama


The “War on Terror” is a War OF Terror

By Kenneth J. Theisen
The government of the United States has been involved in the so-called “global war on terrorism” (GWOT) for over seven years now. The leaders of your government and its apologists have justified this war as a legitimate response to attacks allegedly launched by Islamic extremists on September 11, 2001.
Many have been critical of how the Bush regime has conducted this war, but relatively few Americans have really challenged the underlying assumption that there is legitimacy to the GWOT itself. Even fewer have delved into the real reasons behind the GWOT, which have nothing to do with the U.S. actually rejecting terrorism. Bush and other political leaders of the U.S. use the words “terror,” “terrorism,” “terrorist” to defame essentially any and all who oppose them, and to create the justification for their own use of overwhelming military power. But if the word “terrorism” has any meaning, it is the use of military force against civilians to serve political ends – and the United States stands second to none in that sordid competition.

For instance, Barack Obama has criticized tactics of the Bush regime in the GWOT, particularly the invasion of Iraq. But at the same time, Obama upholds the general premise that the U.S. must be engaged in the GWOT, or he at least uses it as a cover for achieving U.S. interests. This is why Obama is behind escalating one aspect of that war in Afghanistan. This is why Obama will not take military options off the table in dealing with Iran. (Obama chose Clinton as his Secretary of State only months after she threatened to “annihilate” Iran.) This is why he wants to increase the size of the U.S. military. This why Obama may close down the U.S. torture chamber known as Guantanamo, but allow the other hell holes run by the Pentagon to go on torturing and killing prisoners in the GWOT.

Let us be clear from the start. The U.S. government is not adverse to using terrorism as a tactic to achieve its ends. From the genocide that killed millions of Native Americans, to the enslavement of African Americans, to the massacres conducted in the Philippines between 1899 and 1915, to the fire bombings of civilians in Germany and Japan, to the dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese, to the atrocities committed in Vietnam the U.S. has committed terrorist acts as a matter of official government policy. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of such acts could be listed, from the beginning of the U.S. government. And official U.S. government terrorism continues to this day in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, all conducted under the guise of the GWOT.
We need to recognize that there are enemies of the U.S. government that use terrorist tactics. Many of these are reactionaries that fight under the guise of religion, including Islam. Like the U.S. government, they kill innocents in their war against the U.S. We also need to realize that many of these “terrorists” were created as the result of blowback from previous U.S. policies, such as the support of Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan when they were fighting the Soviet Union. (See current Secretary of War, Robert Gates’ memoir to see how he and others in the U.S. government supported the jihadists. With the active encouragement of the CIA, some 35,000 Muslim fundamentalists from 40 Islamic countries joined in the fight to oppose the Soviet Union. Gates will remain in Obama’s cabinet for the foreseeable future.) Osama bin Laden is just one of these jihadists that fought in Afghanistan on behalf of the U.S. in the 80s. The people of the world have no interest in supporting these reactionaries, just as we have no interest in supporting the reactionaries running the U.S. government. Neither side represents the interests of the vast majority of people of the world.
So if the U.S. government is really not against terrorism, since it is an active and long-term practitioner of using terrorism, why is it engaged in the GWOT?
The War Machine
The U.S. is the dominant imperialist power in the world. It has a war machine that spends more money than all the other governments of the world combined on military expenditures. It has over 700 military bases and sites in more than 130 countries. No previous imperialist power ever had such a global reach.
The U.S. is actively engaged in two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is waging undeclared and covert warfare in other countries such as Pakistan and Syria. It is actively engaged in military operations aimed at Iran, along with diplomatic attacks, intelligence operations, and economic sanctions, with the goal of removing the Iranian regime. Iran is continuously presented as a threat to world peace.
The U.S. government is bent on achieving total domination of the region known as the Middle East and control over certain areas in Central Asia, which includes Afghanistan. Not only does this area contain some 70 percent of the world’s oil and gas resources, but it is in a strategic geographical area as well. It is necessary for the U.S. to control this area in order to achieve hegemony over the rest of the world. Reading any of the national security documents, studies, and reports from the Pentagon or imperialist think tanks will confirm this.
But standing in the way of this domination are Islamic fundamentalists ranging from those in al-Queda to those running the theocratic government in Tehran. Also the people of the various countries in this region are an obstacle to the U.S. as they fight the occupations led by the U.S., or of the U.S. ally, Israel. U.S. leaders have been aware of the need to dominate this area for decades. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the present, the rise of fundamentalist Islamic forces posed certain obstacles to U.S. hegemony. When these forces first began to compete for power in the Middle East, the U.S. supported many of them, especially when they were counteracting Arab nationalism, or leftist movements in the area. The U.S. also used them to counter Soviet influence as we have seen in Afghanistan. But as the Soviet empire dissolved and leftist and nationalist forces receded, the Islamic extremists began to challenge the U.S. on certain levels. When these forces came to power in Iran they toppled one of the U.S. puppets, the Shah of Iran. This was and still is a serious challenge to U.S. hegemony.
The attacks on 9/11 in many ways became a gift to the U.S. imperialists. Suddenly, many in the world and a majority in the U.S. at that time perceived the U.S. as the victim of the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists. (It was considered virtual treason to even think about who was behind the attacks or why they were allowed to occur. We were to accept the Bush regime version and keep our mouths shut.) Just like Hitler capitalized on the burning of the Reichstag to pursue the Nazi agenda, the Bush regime did so with the 9/11 attacks.
The Deceit Machine
The U.S. government unleashed its propaganda machine and before the year was out, it had invaded Afghanistan and had begun preparations to invade Iraq, which it did in 2003. But we were told that these invasions were not the acts of an imperialist power invading sovereign nations, but rather were now the acts of a victim nation responding in self-defense against a world-wide terrorist network. Good Americans were expected to symbolically enlist in this war and cheer for the good old home team of America. And like the good Germans, millions did as they were instructed and backed these imperialist wars. Yes, the Bush regime manufactured lies to justify the attacks, but the regime was aided by Congress and the mainstream media who went along with the justification. Democrats as well as Republicans rallied around the flag. The Bush regime was just making us safe from terrorism and deserved our support -- or so we were told.
So what if tens of thousands and then later a million died as collateral damage in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq? After all, they are not Americans. We all know how “they” do not value life as much as “we” do. And somehow “they” must have helped the terrorists launch those attacks on 9/11 and “they” also threatened to attack “us” again. George W., Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and even Colin Powell told us so. As Condi Rice told us repeatedly on news shows, we had to attack the enemy now, before the mushroom clouds proved our leaders right.
But now, seven years later, only a fool would believe all the lies told to justify the war on terror by the Bush regime. Bush has been totally discredited. So given that the war on terror has been falsely justified with lies, why are we supposed to go along with a new pied piper named Barack Obama? Obama tells us we need to fight the “good war” in Afghanistan. We need to pour in more troops there in order to make America safe. We need to use our military might to also go after terrorists in nearby Pakistan … because Obama says it is so. We need to do “everything, everything” to keep Iran from acquiring nukes--so sayeth our incoming Commander-in-Chief. Why do we believe a new imperialist leader any more than the outgoing one? 
Is it because we believe that the U.S. is not really imperialist despite its domination of the world? Will those 700 military bases and sites in 130 countries turn into child care or food distribution centers on January 20th when Barack takes the oath of office? Will the victims of U.S. attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria suddenly stop becoming collateral damage on January 21st? Will the tens of thousands of prisoners of the GWOT currently held in hell holes run by the U.S. or its allies stop being tortured, abused, or killed, and be freed after Obama takes office? Will the arsenal of the most destructive military in the world be turned into plowshares? Will thousands of nukes used to threaten the world and maintain U.S. domination over the last 50 plus years be dismantled? Of course not! The GWOT will continue under a new leader. He may be more articulate or smoother when he lies to us, but the death and destruction will continue. Thousands will die to “protect” us. We will be told that this is necessary. We will be convinced that others must die to make us “safe.” We will be convinced that this is right and just. Others must die that we may live. We must be better than “they” are because we are AMERICANS.
Afghani child victim of War on Teror
Our Responsibilities
But what if we are not? What if the life of an Iraqi is just as important as the life of an American? Does a child in Afghanistan have just as much right to life as my children do? What if a farmer in Pakistan wants to be free from predator missile strikes even though he lives across the border from Afghanistan? Shouldn’t a man walking the streets of Italy be free from being kidnapped by the CIA and then rendered to Egypt for “outsourced” torture because he is an alleged terrorist? Do not all these people have the right to be safe? 
And what if you know your government does torture, kill, maim, and generally commit all kinds of crimes in your name under the guise of the GWOT? What duty do you have to prevent this from continuing?
Should you be allowed to say, “Well, yes, I know this has gone on for years, but now we have a new guy in charge and I want to give him time to change things. Yes, I know he says he wants to escalate in Afghanistan. Yes, I know he does not mind violating Pakistani territory to win the war on terror. Yes, he refuses to commit to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013. Yes, I know he has appointed people to his cabinet that are either from the old regime, or maybe supported the war, or threatened to annihilate an entire nation. But hey, let’s give him a chance.”
No! Such a response is not acceptable. The GWOT has never been legitimate. It was initiated and continues to be justified by a pack of lies to serve U.S. imperialist interests. American lives are no more valuable than the lives of others. The GWOT is American imperialism dressed up in a new guise. The invasion of other nations, violations of international law, inhumane treatment of prisoners, death, torture, rendition, media disinformation, etc. are all justified to prosecute the GWOT. Here at home the massive spying, the violations of human and civil rights, the attacks against immigrants, and all the other violations of the Constitution are said to be necessary to the GWOT. None of these were legitimate under Bush and they will not be any more legitimate under Obama. The “global war against terrorism” is nothing more than a war of terrorism against the people of the world. It must be resisted and defeated regardless of whom is the Commander-in-Chief directing it. 


Main Iraq “Global War on Terrorism”: Illegitimate under Bush, Illegitimate under Obama


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.