1. On the endless 'war on
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":
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)
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. . . .
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."
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
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 , 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:
To me it sounds like
terrrorism - on the subject
of which I quote Wikipedia again, with the remark that in the present
text I use "state"
as synonymous (which is not always correct, but generally will do). I
quote again with my bolding at the end:
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,
at the camp; minted
a new theory of presidential assassination powers even for US citizens;
the Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping framework for another five
well as the Patriot Act, without a single reform; and just
signed into law all new restrictions on the release of indefinitely
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?
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. 
The Wikipedia article on state terrrorism also gives this, that seems to me tolerably
clear, with two provisos:
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
My first proviso concerns the
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
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:
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.
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.
increasingly hard to make the case that it's the latter.
Greenwald offers the following consideration:
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
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
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  for a few
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:
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
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
Then Greenwald asks:
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
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
Greenwald concludes as follows:
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" , 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
resulted in the death of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and
- 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
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)
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.
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."
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)
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
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. 
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
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
 Originally, Osama Ben Laden was helped
and protected by the CIA, namely when fighting against the Soviets in
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.
 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.
March of Folly", ISBN 0-345-30823-9, first published 1984.
 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
orders, seems evident state terrorism to anyone who is not either a
fanatic supporter of Obama or a staunch Republican.
(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: