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Complex and Fundamental Contradictions of the GWOT

When it was first disclosed, I did not believe that our government had given into the political correctness espoused by CAIR and other pro-Muslim groups to eliminate certain “offensive” words from the "policy vocabulary." The passage of a couple of days, however, confirmed it.

It was not until I returned from my border trip on Friday that I read my colleague, Marvin Hutchens’ post, To Name An Enemy which gave me insight that helped me to understand the situation a bit better.

The guidance is provided for speaking with Muslims and the media and not for official policy papers, with the theory being that the use of terms such as jihad, jihadists, and mujahideen unintentionally portrays “terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims”.

Investor’s Business Daily called it caving to Muslim pressure groups. Steve Emerson’s memo to terrorist groups whose names include the banned words easily serves as an example of the tragic irony of the decision. But it is something that Marvin wrote, that is the basis of my concerns - “When an enemy isn’t recognizable until he takes an action against us, the pressure remains entirely on us as that enemy plans and operates with the comfort of anonymity.”

Let us look at the practical matters relating to this War on Terrorism. As we examine the current state of our counterterrorism efforts, and look at the progress or lack thereof that we’ve reached since September 11th, this statement raises serious issues and underscores the problem. My concern begins, at least, with the disclosure that NYPD cops armed with submachine guns, body armor, and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling the subways. Against whom are we protecting New York City straphangers? NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly referred to them as Operation Torch teams.

"They want to hit the transit system, no question about it," Kelly said, ticking off transit attacks across the globe: Moscow and Madrid in 2004, London in 2005 and Mumbai in 2006. Locally, Shahawar Matin Siraj was convicted in May 2006 of conspiring to place an explosive device in the Herald Square subway station in 2004. His accomplice also pleaded guilty.

Well, we are in a war, are we not? But the enemy is not recognizable, and the enemy’s tactics are unpredictable. And yet, we have machine gun toting guards patrolling the subways in Manhattan. In the past, I’ve also seen armed military units surrounding the Russell Senate Office Building.

Earlier, my colleague Michael Tanji wrote about the troubles surrounding the implementation of the US-Visit Program. Aside from the issues raised by Michael of DHS wanting to divert responsibility for checking exiting passengers to the airlines, the program has had other problems. A test released in early 2007 revealed poor read rates. The US-Visit program is only one of the components of our battleplan that is problematic.

Clearly, we cannot reach consensus on the issue of border security (including the “wall”) and immigration reform. And yet, illegal immigrants flow across our border. When my friend and I returned from the Border Security Contracting Conference on Friday, I was surprised when, about 10 miles north, we approached a road block and diverted to a checkpoint. I simply didn't expect it. There were drug-sniffing dogs and armed military walking around each vehicle. One by one, drivers lowered their windows and were asked, “American citizen?” Without any hesitation or distraction we both said yes, and were passed through. I wonder though, are there “good actors” among our enemies who might just as easily acknowledge U.S. citizenship and pass through?

Our enemies are many. Their plans are pretty similar. What we call them changes little if anything, at least in my opinion. I’ll admit to being a bit confused. I do hope that the term, Global War on Terrorism” isn’t banned. I saw the smoke rising in the sky to my west, just 30 miles, that Tuesday morning. And we know who did it. Yes, we know their name.

3 Comments

While we are involved in battles of influences, moralities, and, amongst others, national coherence, and finding ourselves confronted with organized subnational and at the same time transnational 'entities' , whose goal may be to erode a certain authority upheld by our nations, if not to challenge their very basis and structure, we may find certain pointers as to explain our lack of understanding in the field of identification, the most notable being the inability to use nationality as a general boundary, nor religion, nor race. Must we label several different groups who use similar methodology under the same heading ? It may be convenient, but at the same time self defeating , if for no other reason than that of installing a simple, invented, identity amongst some vast and varied societies, though I would agree that it changes little with regards to the 'terrorists' themselves . These societies may have no bases to bomb, no infrastructure to loose, no political hierarchy from which to be erased (as we are told). Could it be that there is simply not the space left in the world for each group to be satisfied with, that to be able to rally behind a national identity should be considered a priviledge, and to find oneself unable to, a setback, to the point of initiating conflict ? If this is the case, and with world reserves (and in some cases rapidly) diminishing, and population increasing, the manageability of the various groupings and societies (that exist in every country worldwide)now living under the 'status' of nationality, may only become increasingly difficult. That this is already being observed amongst the 'weaker' or coincidentaly 'poorer' countries, often at the behest of external powers for their own benefits , does not bode well, inasmuch as it demonstrates the true lack of international organization with regards to global management, and demonstrates aproaches, which if imposed on their own countries due to a change of fortune, may ultimately lead to ruin or disintegration. Some battles unite , some divide, and , as is sometimes said, it is not getting to the top which is the hardest, but staying there.

Renshaw, that we do not understand our enemy is one of the core issues, in my opinion. If we do not, and by "we" I mean the federal government, recognize what you raised in your other comment to Marvin's "To Name an Enemy" post, that we face a Bedouin people whose history was not bound by arbitrary national boundaries, then we also cannot rationalize a label by which to call them. Beyond that, I do not believe we've yet understood the deeply ingrained social hatred that our enemies hold of us.

However, now that I've been struck by the reality of the fact that we've given into various Muslim interest groups, simply referring to our al Qaeda enemy as "violent extremists" does not differentiate those who attacked the U.S. on September 11th, from the pre-al Qaeda FARC in Columbia, the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, the Chiapas and Matamoros rebels in Mexico or Aum Shinrikyo in Japan. Were all of these groups not "violent extremists?" Yet, the scale and scope of al Qaeda's objective makes them so much more. No, in my opinion, bin Laden and his al Qaeda cohorts (along with the Taliban) and those who follow them in their "quest" (aka jihad) are "fundamentalists" and they are adherents to Islam. While they are certainly violent, I have difficulty referring to our enemy simply as "violent extremists."

Yes, their hatred is utmost, and I would not even dare question its origins.That they are fundamentalist is reflected in their very name,though we are not obliged to call them so.The concepts of their actions and their aproach has no western parallel, and hence no proper nomenclature that can be understood by the average person. To use the word crusade (apart from containing the word 'cross') would insult all involved for various reasons, and we tend to prefer to include the word 'anti' somewhere, in that the negative initiative is theirs , as in we were just strolling along one day when.... Their proper naming might revolve around their claims to the existence of a wider Arab state (within which I would now be sitting, in Al Andaluz), their justifications for purging such a state, and the means by which they have set about doing so. To my mind they would be more closely described as self proclaimed fundamentalist guardian destroyers and warmakers, though neither of the two quite conjures the impression we would have of them here, to put it mildly.I would personaly like to have a chat with Bin Laden about this point, but would probably be shot on the way, or decapitated on arrival (not least for having comunicated with you lot).