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” →
Published on teleSUR as
The Surveillance State and the Making of a Terrorist
New York Times has published a lengthy profile of the Islamic State bomb-maker involved in the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris. In the latest attack in Brussels, Najim Laachraoui demoted (or promoted, depending on one’s feelings about life) himself from bomb-maker to suicide bomber, blowing himself up along with 15 bystanders. Much of the article, focusing on Laachraoui’s “radicalization,” follows the soporific pattern mainstream media outlets have by now mastered in their coverage of “homegrown” terrorists.
Continue reading “The Making of a Terrorist” →
Omar Waraich has a recent article in DAWN on the declining US influence in Pakistan. According to Waraich, there has been a “sharp decline” in US influence in Pakistan since 2011 because “the region is no longer important to the US.” The Obama administration is merely hoping for the least bad outcome in Afghanistan, no longer considering it a priority. While terrorism is still a threat, “Af-Pak” is no longer the central front, having been unceremoniously displaced by the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East.
Not only has US influence receded in Pakistan, it has also receded globally. Waraich believes “the US’s two-decade-long unipolar moment has now likely come to an end.”
The end of American hegemony has been a fashionable topic as of late. Fareed Zakaria wrote an awful book on the subject in 2009. Just yesterday the Boston Globe published an article by Stephen Kinzer on the US as a “fading superpower.” And here is Noam Chomsky from a few years ago issuing some important qualifications on the same topic. It seems to be a popular topic of discussion across the political spectrum.
Continue reading “The End of American Hegemony?” →
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” →
According to a new Gallup poll, about one in six (16%) Americans name terrorism as the “most important” problem in the United States. Just last month, only 3% of Americans thought terrorism was the most important problem in the United States. This is obviously a significant change, likely due to the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, California.
Continue reading “The Irrational Fear of Terrorism” →
There is a well-defined script to the State of the Union. It is typically filled with vague and platitudinous statements about the strengths of the nation and the challenges the country faces, culminating in an outline of policies the administration will pursue as it courageously rises to the occasion. To acknowledge the lack of its literary merit and its labored attempt at mass appeal is not to confuse it for being a vapid performance. The President proposes substantive policies—even if the details usually leave something to be desired.
Continue reading “Cyber Warfare and the State of the Union” →
New York Times editorials are usually a reliable guide to ruling class opinion in the United States. They don’t always echo government pronouncements and there is often disagreement with official government policies. They eagerly suggest alternatives to pursue while pointing out the ramifications current policies may have. Propaganda is of course at its most effective when it is subtle and seems iconoclastic. Such is the nature of New York Times editorials: even as they disagree with official government policies they demarcate the boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn’t.
A recent editorial in the newspaper of record concerns US aid to Pakistan. ” Since 9/11,” it reads, “the United States has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars, mostly in military aid, to help fight extremists.” The editorial board, however, has “doubts about the investment,” which they explain as follows: “Doubts about the aid center on Pakistan’s army, which has long played a double game, accepting America’s money while enabling some militant groups, including members of the Afghan Taliban who have been battling American and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.”
Continue reading “New York Times and Pakistan’s Double Game” →