As promised, on the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding the Muslim ban and overturning one of Trump administration’s signature anti-Muslim policies. The country was “built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance,” declared the Biden administration’s proclamation, callin the ban “a stain on our national conscience” and “inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.”
The expected move was welcomed by civil liberties and American Muslim organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations commended President Biden on “an important first step toward undoing the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the Biden Administration’s executive orders “welcome first steps after four brutal years of attacks on Black and Brown people.”
Much of the subsequent discussion has revolved around the steps needed to undo the significant harms caused by the Muslim Ban. The ACLU, for example, called on the Biden administration to “provide justice by restoring lost diversity visas, waiving fees for those who were denied, and expediting processing, among other necessities.”
Continue reading “The War on Terror Created the Muslim Ban” →
The rage palpable on the streets after the police murder of George Floyd has coalesced into a demand for abolishing the police and there is once again an increased focus on how US law enforcement has become militarized in the past three decades.
“For the past week,” writes Stuart Schrader, “our social media and television screens have been dominated by images of police officers in head-to-toe body armor wielding batons, pepper-ball guns, riot shields, and teargas against mostly peaceful protesters.” These images may be shocking but the spectacle is hardly new. It was on full display during the police response to protests in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown in 2014 and during the first public iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Travyon Martin a year before. Continue reading “Abolition and the War on Terror” →
A string of recent attacks in Paris and Orlando have led to renewed calls for surveillance of American Muslim communities from both Republican and Democratic politicians. Donald Trump wants surveillance of “certain mosques.” Ted Cruz thinks mosques are only the beginning and law enforcement should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Liberal darling Barney Frank has similarly called for “significant surveillance” of Muslims who adopt “angry Islamic hate views,” regardless of whether there is any reasonable basis to believe they pose a threat.
Such misguided calls for surveillance have recently become far more common, along with an upsurge in violence against American Muslims. They also betray a complete ignorance of the ongoing surveillance efforts against American Muslims, a luxury not afforded to those who have been on the receiving end of such untoward government attention. Various law enforcement and intelligence agencies have pursued extensive surveillance of American Muslim communities since 9/11, a project which now includes the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.
Continue reading “How the United States Creates Terrorists” →
In the waning months of his presidency, the Obama administration has finally released an assessment of civilians killed in its drone strikes outside areas of “active hostilities.” An Executive Order accompanying the assessment also promises the protection of civilians in counter-terrorism operations, an acknowledgement of responsibility for civilian casualties, and financial compensation for victims or their families.
According to the three-page summary released by the Director of National Intelligence, the US has killed 64 to 116 “non-combatants” in 473 US drone strikes since 2009. It is impossible to compare the government’s aggregate assessment to much more thorough, case-specific information compiled by independent sources such as the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Even still, the government figure is absurdly low and previous reporting on civilian deaths in just a handful of drone strikes already approaches the high-end of casualties admitted to by the government.
And yet to quibble with the numbers, even as it is necessary, would be to miss the point. The release of the assessment and the Executive Order has precious little to do with the long-awaited transparency. Instead, it is a calculated attempt to ensure Obama’s legacy is untainted by a program of extrajudicial murder and wanton killing, one which extends beyond any recognizable battlefield.
Continue reading “Obama’s Drone Legacy” →
A few days ago, the United States killed the leader of a militant group it does not consider to be a terrorist organization, with which it is attempting to engage in peace talks, as part of the longest war it has ever been engaged in.
So far the justifications offered for the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Mansour only reveal the myopic mindset and desperation which must have led to the decision to authorize the killing.
Continue reading “The Longest War Gets Longer” →
Last month, lawmakers in the state of Minnesota introduced legislation to invest $2 million in youth development schemes aimed at the state’s Somali-American population. The House minority leader Paul Thissen noted that such programs have a “positive impact” on the community and lawmakers should “continue that progress by passing this legislation.”
Around the same time, $300,000 of federal and private funding was being allocated to six groups in Minnesota working on mental health and after-school sports. This funding was also aimed at helping the state’s Somali-American population.
Such interest in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population should certainly be welcomed by all. Who, after all, could possibly be against state and federal investment in local communities? Unfortunately, in this particular case, the government’s interest is less in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population and more in the hope that these programs would deter its members from becoming terrorists.
Continue reading “National Security & Muslims” →
One esteemed scholar of terrorism is very worried. William Braniff is concerned about the possibility of the Islamic State exploiting technology for nefarious ends. A mercilessly violent ideology aided by thoroughly modern technological means will spell disaster for the US in this latest phase of the War on Terror. The FBI’s recent battle with Apple illustrates how important it is to underscore exactly what technological platforms law enforcement should be able to monitor if it is to prevent this horrific disaster from unfolding.
Continue reading “Terrorism: Theirs and Ours” →
Recent attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California have led to some unduly assessments of terrorist threats faced by Western societies. British Home Secretary Theresa May was quick to label Islamist militancy the greatest terrorist threat in British history. Referring to the Islamic State, former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confessed to Foreign Policy that he believed the United States was “up against something … we had never seen before.” US Senator Lindsey Graham was much more apocalyptic, telling an interviewer that the Islamic State “will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world.”
That these exaggerated appraisals have become common among politicians is unfortunately no surprise given the irrational fear of terrorism prevalent in the West. Each new attack serves only to compound this fear and leaves even less room for sober analysis. Politicians attempt to outdo each other with hawkish proposals to defeat one or other extremist group and an accurate diagnosis of the problem falls to the wayside.
Jason Burke’s book The New Threat: The Past, Present, and Future of Islamic Militancy is a welcome antidote to contemporary hysteria about terrorism as well as an insightful account of the history and evolution of Islamist militancy. Throughout the past decade and a half, Burke has remained an indispensable guide to various strands of political Islam and what he now characterizes as the “monumentally misconceived” War on Terror. His previous books Al-Qaeda and The 9/11 Wars are essential readings for anyone wishing to understand the nature of al-Qaeda and the foundering responses to Islamist militancy which exacerbated the very problems they were supposed to solve. In his new book, Burke turns his focus to the threat Islamist extremism poses to the West.
Continue reading “The Gray Zone and the Clash of Barbarisms” →
If we truly wish to understand the depth of British failure in Afghanistan–and by extension the folly of a knee-jerk military response to, well, everything–consider the following news report:
Afghanistan’s Helmand province could fall to the Taliban after months of heavy fighting, with 90 members of the security forces killed over the past two days, the deputy governor of the volatile southern province warned on Sunday.
Mohammad Jan Rasulyar said unless President Ashraf Ghani took urgent action, the province, a Taliban heartland that British and American troops struggled to control for years, would be lost
Continue reading “Worse than Defeat: UK in Afghanistan” →
Four marines have reportedly been killed in attacks on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman has been identified by law enforcement officials as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. The FBI is supposedly treating this, in contrast to the white supremacist massacre in Charleston, South Carolina as a terrorist act—“until it can be determined that it is not.”
There is little doubt that this will be recorded as another instance of domestic or homegrown terrorism, though there is little information available about the gunman. The reaction of the media should also be predictable. There will be considerable bewilderment about how the gunman was “radicalized,” a reliance on discredited theories and absurd psychological theorizing. There will be even more hysteria than usual about the pernicious influence of radical Islamists. U.S. policies and precedences will remain absent.
Continue reading “Chattanooga: The World is a Battlefield” →