January 8, 2013

Crisis: On the endless 'war on terror'

1. On the endless 'war on terror'
About ME/CFS


This considers the "
war on terror" that I do not and never did believe in, and uses a recent article by Glenn Greenwald and some from the Wikipedia and from Barbara Tuchman. It also can be seen as a follow-up of my last three entries in the crisis series: Hypotheses on the surveillance state, with a P.S.,  and Why are so many so apathetic?

1. On the endless 'war on terror'

Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian in a series called "On security and liberty". On January 4 of this year, he published an article with the title
This starts with a quotation from a recent speech by Jeh Johnson, described as the "outgoing pentagon general counsel":

"Now that efforts by the US military against al-Qaida are in their 12th year, we must also ask ourselves: How will this conflict end? . . . . 'War' must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the 'new normal.' Peace must be regarded as the norm toward which the human race continually strives. . . .

"There will come a tipping point at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al-Qaida and its affiliates have been killed or captured, and the group is no longer able to attempt or launch a strategic attack against the United States, that al-Qaida will be effectively destroyed."

Whether war really is "a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs" for human beings may be and has been doubted, but that will depend on how one defines war.. Wikipedia defines it thus (minus links and numbers for notes)
War is an organized and often prolonged conflict that is carried out by states or other types of parties wishing to form or control states or other types of territories. It is characterised by extreme aggression, economic disintegration and irrationality,  social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities, and therefore is defined as a form of political violence or intervention.
Wikipedia also quotes Von Clausewitz, the Prussian general and writer of  a wellknown book "On war":
"War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."
and then Wikipedia continues:
While some scholars see warfare as an inescapable and integral aspect of human culture, others argue that it is only inevitable under certain socio-cultural or ecological circumstances. Some scholars argue that the practice of war is not linked to any single type of political organization or society. Rather, as discussed by John Keegan in his History of Warfare, war is a universal phenomenon whose form and scope is defined by the society that wages it.
Now I am not going to discuss these quotations, which I give to get some minimal clarity and background to the concept of war.

My first point is that the so called "war on terror" is not a war but a public relations term. There was a war of the US against Iraq, that was justified on the part of the US in terms of "
war on terror" and the events on 9/11/2001, but "terrorism" is not a state and is not a group nor is it a territory occupied by some society: it is merely a qualification of acts, that often is very relativistic:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419)
I have already in 2005 argued at length, in Dutch, that the supposed "war on terrorism" is not a war and must be state propaganda:

Unlike the situation in the Cold War, there is no dangerous enemy of the supposedly free and open societies of Western Europe, the US and Canada. when these were opposed by the totalitarian dictatorships of the Soviet Union and China, with enormous territories, very large well-trained armies, and great amounts of atomic weapons

"The enemy" in "the war on terror" is a nebulous entity styled "al-Qaida" with no territory, no army, no atomic weapons, no known program, and relatively few followers [1], that until recently was led by a bearded man hiding in caves, who was recently killed and then dumped in the sea in an obscure event, that again was mostly state propaganda.

What was the end of all that propaganda? What happened the last 10 years in Europe and the United States was an enormous loss of personal freedoms of the population - or so it would seem.

If that is
not the explicit end: To divest the citizens of Western Europe and the United States of many of the legally based freedoms that are what an open and free society are about: Habeas corpus, freedom of arbitrary arrest, public trials, no convictions without trials, no torture, no concentration camps, no arbitrary detention, no spying on one's private communications, no forced identity papers, the rule of law and free discussion rather than the rule of governments, then what is it's end?

For consider, as Glenn Greenwald writes:

The polices adopted by the Obama administration just over the last couple of years leave no doubt that they are accelerating, not winding down, the war apparatus that has been relentlessly strengthened over the last decade. In the name of the War on Terror, the current president has diluted decades-old Miranda warnings; codified a new scheme of indefinite detention on US soil; plotted to relocate Guantanamo to Illinois; increased secrecy, repression and release-restrictions at the camp; minted a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens; renewed the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five years, as well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely held detainees.

Does that sound to you like a government anticipating the end of the War on Terror any time soon? Or does it sound like one working feverishly to make their terrorism-justified powers of detention, surveillance, killing and secrecy permanent?

To me it sounds like intentional state terrrorism - on the subject of which I quote Wikipedia again, with the remark that in the present text I use "state" and "government" as synonymous (which is not always correct, but generally will do). I quote again with my bolding at the end:
State terrorism may refer to acts of terrorism conducted by a state against a foreign state or people. It can also refer to acts of violence by a state against its own people.
The Wikipedia mentions that the term "terrorism" is not clearly defined in international law, in fact because it tends to be used as propaganda and often as an emotional term, and because it is difficult to define: what are "heroic freedom fighters" in one condition and from one perspective may be "political terrorists" in another condition, from an other perspective. [2]

The Wikipedia article on
state terrrorism also gives this, that seems to me tolerably clear, with two provisos:
The Encyclopędia Britannica Online defines terrorism generally as "the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective", and states that "terrorism is not legally defined in all jurisdictions." The encyclopedia adds that "[e]stablishment terrorism, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism, is employed by governments -- or more often by factions within governments -- against that government's citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups."
My first proviso concerns the qualification "-- or more often by factions within governments --":

In view of the practices in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and other dictatorial states, the qualification is misleading (though it may sometimes also be true): Many states in the 20th century have systematically and for decades used violence - imprisonment, torture, murder, forced labor camps - against their own citizens, in order to create widespread fear, with the main objectives of (1) maintaining and extending the state's
power - where the state is understood in the sense: That group in a society of which the members hold the main social power over the rest of society, which it generally does by having an effective or legal monopoly on admissible violence - and of (2) making its citizens obey the state's executives and commands, because they fear the consequences of not doing so.

My second proviso concerns "
the systematic use of violence": Violence - imprisonment, torture, murder, forced labor camps - must be involved at some point, but state terrorism generally involves threats with violence and governmental secret or non-secret spying on its citizens to check their behavior and opinions.

I can still recall the general atmosphere of the German Democratic Republic - Ulbricht's Eastern Germany - in 1964, that was one of grim widespread fear, and indeed everyone was spied upon by the secret service, and risked major problems for speaking or behaving outside the official state's ideology.

Greenwald also wrote:

There's no question that this "war" will continue indefinitely. There is no question that US actions are the cause of that, the gasoline that fuels the fire. The only question - and it's becoming less of a question for me all the time - is whether this endless war is the intended result of US actions or just an unwanted miscalculation.

It's increasingly hard to make the case that it's the latter.
Here it should be noted he is concerned, in his text, with the "war" as it is fought in Yemen, Pakistan, amd Afghanistan, by US soldiers against what they, "embedded" journalists and most of the media, call "terrorists", rather than what I am most concerned with, which is what looks to me as a secret war by governmental bureacrats, ministers, and part of the media, on the human rights and civic freedoms of the European and American citizens, which has been going on as long as that supposed "war on terror", and may be its real end.

Greenwald offers the following consideration:

One of the most difficult endeavors is to divine the motives of other people (divining our own motives is difficult enough). That becomes even more difficult when attempting to discern the motives not of a single actor but a collection of individuals with different motives and interests ("the US government").

This I agree with, and indeed is a correct and important observation. Greenwald then continues as follows:

But what one can say for certain is that there is zero reason for US officials to want an end to the war on terror, and numerous and significant reasons why they would want it to continue. It's always been the case that the power of political officials is at its greatest, its most unrestrained, in a state of war. Cicero, two thousand years ago, warned that "In times of war, the law falls silent" (Inter arma enim silent leges).
I disagree with the first statement: The "US officials", and especially such as know the US law and US Constitution well, such as the former professor of law Obama, have or at least should have lots of reasons "to want an end to the war on terror" - at least in principle, namely to maintain a free and open society where citizens are guaranteed habeas corpus, freedom of arbitrary arrest, public trials, no convictions without trials, no torture, no concentration camps, no arbitrary detention, no spying on one's private communications, no forced identity papers, and the rule of law and free discussion rather than the rule of governments, policemen and bureaucrats, and of media that are middle of the road and mostly avoid rational or moral criticism of governmental policies, as if "In war, truth is the first casualty". ( Aeschylus)

Then again, if a condition of war is a condition where the laws fall silent and truth turns into propaganda, lies and evasions, a nominal condition of war is eminently fit to destroy the rights and freedoms of the population, and to give almost all effective power to the state, its servants and its organs, such as the police and the military.

Greenwald also wrote this:
If you were a US leader, or an official of the National Security State, or a beneficiary of the private military and surveillance industries, why would you possibly want the war on terror to end? That would be the worst thing that could happen. It's that war that generates limitless power, impenetrable secrecy, an unquestioning citizenry, and massive profit.
This presupposes - it seems to me - that the US leaders and officials want "limitless power, impenetrable secrecy, an unquestioning citizenry, and massive profit", the last presumably for what president Eisenhower called "the military-industrial complex", but then I would agree with Greenwald that this presupposition seems a far more adequate explanation for what is happening in fact than the supposed dangers of "Al Qaida" or of "Muslim terrorists". (See my note [1] for a few relevant facts.)

And he has an excellent illustration how sick and crazy, how absurd and factually and in principle unlegal, the situation may sometimes be in the US:

Just this week, a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration need not respond to the New York Times and the ACLU's mere request to disclose the government's legal rationale for why the President believes he can target US citizens for assassination without due process. Even while recognizing how perverse her own ruling was - "The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me" and it imposes "a veritable Catch-22" - the federal judge nonetheless explained that federal courts have constructed such a protective shield around the US government in the name of terrorism that it amounts to an unfettered license to violate even the most basic rights: "I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret" (emphasis added).
To me, that sounds either like legal insanity or like what judges under dictatorships do: To uphold the "right" of the government to do what is forbidden by the very laws the state is based upon and that the state exists for in order to maintain, while also keeping those illegal acitivities secret, indeed exactly as with the surveillance state's email-reading and phone-tapping: These are also illegal, are also widely practised, and are also for the most part a "state secret".

Then Greenwald asks:
Why would anyone in the US government or its owners have any interest in putting an end to this sham bonanza of power and profit called "the war on terror"?
I answer as I did before: Because this is all quite incompatible with their own Constitution, with the rule of law in a free and open society, and with high civilization, while it is clearly quite compatible with the creation of an authoritarian police state where the citizens are in great majority effective slaves, who are continuously spied upon by state officials to see whether they think the right thoughts and do the right things, and where "right" and "true" and "good" are what the government says, and where all dissent is considered to be thoughtcrime or terrorism. [3]

Greenwald concludes as follows:

But the notion that the US government is even entertaining putting an end to any of this is a pipe dream, and the belief that they even want to is fantasy. They're preparing for more endless war; their actions are fueling that war; and they continue to reap untold benefits from its continuation. Only outside compulsion, from citizens, can make an end to all of this possible.
I agree the available evidence supports this. There is a chance that much of it is unintentional folly - and see Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly" [4], that is in part about how US governments have been having it wrong in major ways in earlier conflicts and times of war - but it must the lesser one, given that so many of the policies that have been introduced are so evidently directed against the foundations of a free and open society (for all citizens, and not just the rich or powerful).

Finally, as to the real and palpable effects of terrorism in the United States:
The September 11, 2001 "attacks resulted in the death of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims"
- and I am quoting Wikipedia. This was certainly an act of terrorism, that caused many victims, but here is, in comparison, also from Wikipedia:
"On average in 2009, 93 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day"
which was less than in 2001, when there were 42,196 deaths by traffic in all, and nearly 116 each day, in all over 14 times as much as on 9/11.

Some governments or states seem to have their priorities wrong, whether by chance, by  strong emotion,  or by dishonest design.

Here is, in conclusion
Barbara Tuchman, from the epilogue to her "The March of Folly" [4]:
In the operations of government, the impotence of reason is serious because it affects everything within reach - citizens, society, civilization. It was a problem of deep concern to the Greek founders of Western thought. Euripides, in his last plays, conceded that the mystery of moral evil and folly could no longer be explained by an external cause (..). Men and women had to confront it as part of their being. His Medea knows herself to be controlled by passion "stronger than my purposes". Plato, some fifty years later, desperately wanted men never to let go of "the sacred cord of reason", but ultimately he too had to acknowledge that his fellow beings were anchored in a life of feelings, jerked like puppets by the strings of desires and fears that made them dance. When desire disagrees with the judgment of reason, he said, there is a disease of the soul, "And when the soul is opposed to knowledge, or opinion or reason which are her natural laws, that I call folly. (p. 381)
Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as "the most flagrant of all passions." Because it can only be satisfied by power over others, government is its favorite field of exercise. (p. 381)
Aware of the controlling power of ambition, corruption and emotion, it may be that in the search for wiser government we should look for the test of character  first. And the test should be moral courage. Montaigne adds, "Resolution and valor, not that which is sharpened by ambition but that which wisdom and reason may implant in a well-ordered soul." The Lilliputians in choosing persons for public employment had similar criteria. "They have more regard for good morals than for great abilities," reported Gulliver, "for, since government is necessary to mankind, they believe... that Providence never intended to make management of public affairs a mystery, to be comprehended only by a few persons of sublime genius, of which there are seldom three born in an age. They suppose truth, justice, temperance and the like to be in every man's power: the practice of which virtues, assisted by experience, and a good intention, would qualify any man for service of his country, except where a course of study is required."

While such virtues may in truth be in every man's power, they have less chance in our system than money and ruthless ambition to prevail at the ballot box. The problem may be not so much a matter of educating officials for government as for educating the electorate to recognize and reward integrity of character and reject ersatz. (p. 387)
But since that was written, over a generation ago, public education - then already no good - has much worsened, and people have grown much more apathetic. And it is not at all inconceivable that the democratic majority, ill educated, much propagandized and not very intelligent in any case, may be manipulated into believing that the destruction of their civil freedoms, of their rights on privacy, and of the welfare state, is in their own best interests.

In any case,
I do not believe in the 'war on terror': It seems to me to be much rather, and certainly inside Western Europe and the US, a war by the ruling politicians and bureaucrats on the civil rights that are at the foundation of the Western open and free society, and also a war on the welfare state that is comprised by that. [5]


[1] From Wiikipedia, al-Qaida:
The number of individuals in the organization who have undergone proper military training, and are capable of commanding insurgent forces, is largely unknown. In 2006, it was estimated that al-Qaeda had several thousand commanders embedded in 40 different countries. As of 2009, it was believed that no more than 200–300 members were still active commanders.
This may worry some, but it certainly does not constitute a danger of the order of the Soviet Union plus China from 1950-1989, when none of the personal freedoms and rights - habeas corpus, freedom of arbitrary arrest, public trials, no convictions without trials, no torture, no concentration camps, no arbitrary detention, no spying on one's private communications, no forced identity papers  - that form the quintessens of a free and open society where transgressed in the West (apart from a few exceptions).

[2] Originally, Osama Ben Laden was helped and protected by the CIA, namely when fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Also, my own father and grandfather were convicted by Dutch judges in a Dutch court as "political terrorists", in the year 1941, under Nazi rule, to concentration camp imprisonment, which my grandfather did not survive. My father did, and soon after the war found himself considered to be "a traitor", because he was a communist.

The Dutch collaborating judges were never punished, nor was the Dutch Supreme Court, all but one of whom collaborated.

[3] See also the Thought Police and this contraption from Orwell's dystopia, quoted from the last link:

Every Party member has a telescreen in his or her home, which the Thought Police uses to observe their actions and take note of anything that resembles an unorthodox opinion or an inner struggle. When a Party member talks in their sleep, the words are carefully analyzed.
[4] "The March of Folly", ISBN 0-345-30823-9, first published 1984.

[5] I also do not believe in "the war on terror" as it is being fought in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan etc.: This is not the right way to combat a secretive terrorist organization. It is not effective, it is extremely expensive, both in human lives and in dollars, and it makes lots of dangerous enemies, if only for the simple reason that - to take just one example - killing by drones, on presidential orders, seems evident state terrorism to anyone who is not either a fanatic supporter of Obama or a staunch Republican.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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