Obama dumping Bush's bellicose and self-serving concept of the 'Global War on Terror'

Gelukkig heeft de regering-Obama snel afstand genomen van Bush’s fataal-fout concept van ‘de wereldwijde oorlog tegen het terrorisme’. Maar ondertussen blijft zij wel opgescheept met de desastreuze gevolgen van dit concept waarin de tegenstanders niet werden gedefinieerd en hun (vaak verschillende) doelstellingen, niet zijn geanalyseerd.
Irak, AfPak, Iran, het Midden-Oosten en een vijandschap van de moslim-wereld in het algemeen – het is een erfenis die Obama het liefst aan zich voorbij had laten gaan.
Ik vrees dat, ondanks alle nobele intenties van Obama:
Irak te instabiel is om aan zijn lot te worden overgelaten;
AfPak Obama’s ‘Vietnam’ kan worden vanwege het desintegratie-proces in Pakistan dat zal leiden tot steeds verder ingrijpen van de VS;
Het Midden-Oosten en Iran een explosief mengsel vormen waarin Obama, onder druk van Israel en de zionistische (Pro-Groot)Israellobby in de VS, niet het juiste bluswerk zal verrichten

President Barack Obama has come under some criticism for slowing his promised withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for beefing up U.S. forces in Afghanistan, but his 70-day-old administration at least has dumped one part of George W. Bush’s bellicose foreign policy: the phrase “global war on terror.”

Burying the “GWOT,” as it was known in Washington jargon, also is not just a semantic shift or a meaningless word game. Bush’s post-9/11 concept of eliminating “every terrorist group of global reach” created the framework for an endless war covering the entire planet, including U.S. territory. The GWOT was to be everywhere and never ending.

It became the justification in 2002 for Bush administration lawyers to craft legal opinions that asserted that the President, as Commander in Chief, possessed “plenary” or total power, thus transforming the American Republic into a new-age national security state with all constitutional and legal rights left to the discretion of George W. Bush.

Justice Department lawyers like John Yoo tossed away U.S. constitutional rights almost casually. The “global war on terror” meant scrapping habeas corpus, the ancient right to challenge arbitrary arrests. Out, too, went the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth and the Eighth Amendments.

The GWOT overrode U.S. treaty and other commitments, opening the door to the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. It permitted the President to dispatch military units and CIA operatives to kidnap or kill suspected terrorists around the world.

Most Americans might have associated the GWOT with the fight against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But the “war” actually was much broader, covering any irregular fighting force “with global reach,” which apparently was defined as any group that could pool its resources to buy an airplane ticket, whether they were holed up on an island in the Philippines, in the mountains of Central Asia, in a desert in the Middle East or in the jungles of Colombia.

Beyond intervening in guerrilla conflicts around the world, Bush’s GWOT could seek “regime change” against established national governments – in Iraq, Iran and North Korea – the nations he famously labeled the "axis of evil." They were part of the GWOT, though they were not implicated in the 9/11 attacks.

Initially, Iran even joined the coalition against the Taliban as Bush moved to oust the Afghan government which had provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, Iran was still lumped into the GWOT. Some Bush administration officials, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, also raised 9/11 suspicions about Iran, though the allegations turned out to be false.

Muslim Resentments

Bush’s GWOT became especially unpopular in the Muslim world, which saw the U.S.-led campaign as directed primarily against Islamic militants.

A Gallup poll in early 2002 found strong anti-American sentiment in U.S. allies and adversaries alike. The countries surveyed included Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The lowest scores came from Pakistan, a principal U.S. ally in the Afghan war. In nuclear-armed Pakistan, only five percent of the respondents had a favorable opinion of the United States, making any counterinsurgency cooperation with Washington problematic for Islamabad politicians.

Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said Muslims described the United States as "ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked, biased." Newport added that "the people of Islamic countries have significant grievances with the West in general and with the United States in particular."

How Bush framed the terrorism issue also bred resentment and confusion inside the United States. In answering “why do they hate us?” Bush offered the sophomoric notion that Islamic extremists “hated our freedoms” and wanted to destroy the American Way of Life.

"They hate what we see right here in this chamber — a democratically elected government," Bush said in his Sept. 20, 2001, address to Congress. "They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."

Though playing well domestically, this self-serving explanation fell flat with many Middle East experts who recognized that bin Laden’s goals were focused much more on Middle East politics and had little to do with American freedoms.

Bin Laden’s principal grievance was with the government of his native land, Saudi Arabia, which he viewed as corrupt. Toward this end, he sought to drive U.S. military forces from the Persian Gulf and especially from Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest sites in Islam.

Many Middle Easterners also considered Bush’s “hate our freedom” comments ignorant and insulting because it failed to recognize their legitimate concerns about U.S. policies.

In the seven years since Bush launched the GWOT, Muslims have found many more reasons to resent the United States – the bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, Washington’s neglect of the Palestinian problem, and Bush’s hypocritical rhetoric about democracy and freedom while favoring many Middle Eastern despots and locking prisoners up indefinitely at Guantanamo.

So, in inheriting Bush’s many messes, President Obama doesn’t only face the problem of two ongoing wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan – but he also must cope with political instability in Pakistan, a strategic challenge from Iran, simmering anger among Arabs over Israel’s recent war in Gaza, and a rise in regional militancy.

In that sense, a small but not insignificant step was taken by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday when she announced that “the administration has stopped using the [‘war on terror’] phrase, and I think that speaks for itself.”

But an RIP for the GWOT is not just a nod to the sensibilities of the Muslim world. Scrapping the phrase further indicates that Obama is abandoning Bush’s rationale for an imperial presidency, even if the new President hasn’t dropped all his predecessor’s policies.

To Bush’s GWOT, RIP (By Robert Parry in Consortium News)

‘Global War On Terror’ Is Given New Name (Washington Post, 25.03.09)

The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase "global war on terror," a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor.

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ "

The memo said the direction came from the Office of Management and Budget, the executive-branch agency that reviews the public testimony of administration officials before it is delivered.

Not so, said Kenneth Baer, an OMB spokesman.

"There was no memo, no guidance," Baer said yesterday. "This is the opinion of a career civil servant."

Coincidentally or not, senior administration officials had been publicly using the phrase "overseas contingency operations" in a war context for roughly a month before the e-mail was sent.

Peter Orszag, the OMB director, turned to it Feb. 26 when discussing Obama’s budget proposal at a news conference: "The budget shows the combined cost of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other overseas contingency operations that may be necessary."

And in congressional testimony last week, Craig W. Duehring, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, said, "Key battlefield monetary incentives has allowed the Air Force to meet the demands of overseas contingency operations even as requirements continue to grow."

Monday’s Pentagon e-mail was prompted by congressional testimony that Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, head of the Marine Forces Reserve, intends to give today. The memo advised Pentagon personnel to "please pass this onto your speechwriters and try to catch this change before statements make it to OMB."

Baer said, "I have no reason to believe that [‘global war on terror’] would be stricken" from future congressional testimony.

The Bush administration adopted the phrase soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to capture the scope of the threat it perceived and the military operations that would be required to confront it.

In an address to Congress nine days after the attacks, President George W. Bush said, "Our war on terror will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

But critics abroad and at home, including some within the U.S. military, said the terminology mischaracterized the nature of the enemy and its abilities. Some military officers said, for example, that classifying al-Qaeda and other anti-American militant groups as part of a single movement overstated their strength.

Early in Bush’s second term, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld promoted a change in wording to "global struggle against violent extremism," or GSAVE. Bush rejected the shift and never softened his position that "global war" accurately describes the conflict that the United States is fighting.

Last month, the International Commission of Jurists urged the Obama administration to drop the phrase "war on terror." The commission said the term had given the Bush administration "spurious justification to a range of human rights and humanitarian law violations," including detention practices and interrogation methods that the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as torture.

John A. Nagl, the former Army officer who helped write the military’s latest counterinsurgency field manual, said the phrase "was enormously unfortunate because I think it pulled together disparate organizations and insurgencies."

"Our strategy should be to divide and conquer rather than make of enemies more than they are," said Nagl, now president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense policy think tank in Washington. "We are facing a number of different insurgencies around the globe — some have local causes, some of them are transnational. Viewing them all through one lens distorts the picture and magnifies the enemy."


WPost Sees Neocon Hope in Obama (By Robert Parry in Consortiumnews.com)

When reading Washington Post editorials, one often is reminded of the famous question from “Shawshank Redemption”: “How can you be so obtuse?”

Of course, in the movie, the warden wasn’t being “obtuse” as much as he was obfuscating and obstructing. And similarly, one has to wonder if the Post’s apparent obtuseness is really something willful, that there is a method to the maddening stupidity.

Such was the case with the Post’s lead editorial on April 4, “New Words of War,” in which the newspaper’s neoconservative editorial writers equate ex-President George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” with President Barack Obama’s more targeted strategy against al-Qaeda.

The Post apparently still won’t accept that Bush’s blunderbuss GWOT against “every terrorist group of global reach” was a geopolitical and constitutional disaster. Instead, by cherry-picking a few words here and there, the Post argues there’s no real difference between Bush’s conflict against all “terrorists” everywhere and Obama’s targeted assault on al-Qaeda and its allies along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In criticizing the Obama administration for allegedly playing word games by dropping the GWOT phrasing, the Post was itself playing word games.

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently confirmed that the Obama administration has dropped the phrase ‘global war on terror,’” the Post wrote, adding:

“She didn’t say why. ‘I think that speaks for itself. Obviously,’ was her elaboration. That raised a few obvious questions: Does the new administration believe the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups doesn’t amount to war? Is the threat to the U.S. homeland less, in President Obama’s estimation, than that perceived by President George W. Bush? And does the United States still expect its NATO military allies to join in this newly unnamed, speaks-for-itself endeavor? “

But is the Post really that obtuse? What the change in wording means is that the Obama administration doesn’t buy into Bush’s apocalyptic vision that terrorism represents some new global phenomenon that requires waging endless war and obliterating the U.S. Constitution.

The new words mean that Obama is defining the threat from al-Qaeda in a much more limited way, thus offering a better prospect of victory without the sacrifices of blood, treasure and liberties that Bush’s grandiose concept required in pursuit of some phantom security.

However, the Post editorialists drew other conclusions, citing Obama’s comments April 3 at a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France.

"I think it’s important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now President and George Bush is no longer President, al-Qaeda is still a threat," Obama said. "We believe that we cannot just win militarily [in Afghanistan and Pakistan]. But there will be a military component to it, and Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone."

To the Post’s neocons, this statement was Obama channeling their hero, Bush, though they complained of the unjust result – that Obama won praise while Bush would have only encountered disdain.

“George W. Bush might have spoken those words, but Mr. Obama, in contrast to how his predecessor might have been received, was greeted with applause by his European audience,” the editorial said.

No Change?

The Post then summed up its case for believing that the anti-terrorist strategies of Obama and Bush were the same, except for the terminology.

The Post said officials of the Obama administration have acknowledged that there is a threat from al-Qaeda, that it has a “global” component, and that it “requires a military response, with NATO’s participation.” Thus, the Post concluded, “It seems the ‘global war on terrorism" will continue – only without the name.”

But that is a sophomoric – and obtuse – analysis. The Post ignores crucial elements of Bush’s GWOT that looked far beyond the threat from al-Qaeda to seeing endless threats from militants, revolutionaries and “rogue states” around the world.

The core problem of Bush’s GWOT wasn’t that it sought to neutralize al-Qaeda’s murderers but that it used Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda as an excuse to implement murderous strategies against people who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, for instance, the bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Beyond forcing “regime change” in Iraq and seeking it in other “axis of evil” countries, Bush’s GWOT envisioned an endless “war” against insurgents from Colombia to the Philippines to Central Asia that would involve sending U.S. Special Forces and CIA hit teams to capture or kill troublesome foreign leaders and militants. Bush even vowed to continue this fight until he had eliminated “evil” itself.

The GWOT also was the rationale for imposing long-held right-wing theories about an imperial Presidency that could override federal laws and the U.S. Constitution, essentially establishing a “permanent Republican majority” that would snuff out the American Republic.

Indeed, by 2002, Bush’s GWOT had become the justification for administration lawyers to craft legal opinions that asserted that the President, as Commander in Chief, possessed “plenary” or total power for the duration of the never-ending “war on terror.”

Justice Department lawyers like John Yoo tossed away U.S. constitutional rights almost casually. The GWOT meant scrapping habeas corpus, the ancient right to challenge arbitrary arrests. Out, too, went the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth and the Eighth Amendments. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “How Close the Bush Bullet.”]

The needs of the GWOT took precedence over U.S. treaties and other legal commitments, opening the door to the torture of detainees in U.S. custody and to Bush’s assertion that he could wage war without congressional consent.

New Direction

So, Obama’s narrower strategy of defeating al-Qaeda and its allies in a regional conflict is not just semantics. It represents a significant repudiation of Bush’s grandiose GWOT, albeit not a totally new direction.

There are residual components from Bush’s approach that have carried over into the Obama administration, such as excessive claims of state secrets and long-term detentions in Afghanistan as well as the year-long phase-out of the Guantanamo prison and the three-year pull-out from Iraq.

The Post’s neocons also find themselves sharing common ground with some American leftists in treating Obama’s approach as essentially the same as Bush’s. Their reasons, however, differ.,br>
The Post wants to pretend that Obama is vindicating the Bush/neocon position by keeping its substance although changing its name. Leftists are pushing the line that Obama is no different from Bush, that Obama is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

But neither position recognizes that Obama has abandoned key components of Bush’s GWOT, particularly its infinite nature, both in time and space. Obama has transformed the GWOT into a much more focused and conventional conflict, targeting a specific terrorist group and its allies.

By narrowing the scope of the conflict, Obama also has implicitly rejected Bush’s corollary, that the GWOT requires a suspension of American liberties. Neither of these shifts is insignificant – and to ignore them is obtuse.

WPost Sees Neocon Hope in Obama (By Robert Parry in Consortiumnews.com)

‘Aanpak Afghanistan moet ouderwets vastberaden zijn’ (Commentaar de Volkskrant van 30 maart ’09)

Nederland laat zich meeslepen in onnodige en niet te winnen wereldstrijd tegen ‘islamofascisme’


One thought on “Obama dumping Bush's bellicose and self-serving concept of the 'Global War on Terror'

  1. En dan te bedenken dat de geheime ZioNazi groep de aanslag heeft gepleegd op het WT op 9/11. Vraag me af hoeveel jaar het gaat duren voordat we in Nederland een parlementaire enquete zullen hebben over de oorlog in Afghanistan. Ik denk dat dat zeker wel 5 jaar zal duren vanaf nu, niet eerder. We moeten niet te intelligent worden als parlement en tweedekamer

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