Fifteen years ago the U.S. government, in response to 9/11, took the unprecedented step of declaring war on a tactic. Waging a ‘war on terror’ gave the president and his neocon cabal vast new powers to make the world a battleground and sacrifice constitutional rights.
Key to this was the declaration of a “State of National Emergency” on September 14, 2001. This, combined with the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), gave the executive branch dictatorial powers, allowing for the invasion and occupation of Iraq – which had nothing to do with 9/11 – and bypassing the Geneva Conventions to declare foreign fighters as “enemy combatants” to be tortured and held indefinitely.
These new powers also allowed for the creation of a surveillance state that Stasi Germany could only dream of – pumping billions into new spy centers, giving the FBI National Security Letters to go after U.S. citizens for any reason, and turning the power of the NSA against the homeland.
While politicians claimed these powers would only be temporary while the terrorist threat was supposedly being neutralized, many of us knew government would never let go of power once it had been gained. The war on terror and its dismantling of human rights became just another fact of life.
Predictably, the invasion and occupation of Iraq turned the country into a breeding ground for terrorism, and drone bombings in other countries such as Pakistan – killing untold numbers of children and innocent civilians – created a million new terrorists.
With regime change in Iraq carried out under the banner of “pre-emptive war” – in accordance with the pre-9/11 goals of the Project for the New American Century – eyes were turned to Syria, where purveyors of U.S. military hegemony longed to oust democratically elected president Bashar al-Assad.
To help achieve this, the U.S. nurtured the Salafist sect in Syria, which went on to become a major component of the brutal terrorist organization called ISIS or Daesh. Besides the horrendous, unchecked murder it is inflicting in several Middle Eastern countries, ISIS has managed to stage multiple attacks in Europe and inspired people within the U.S. to go on shooting sprees.
Funny thing how terrorism has become more of a problem 15 years after the U.S. began its war on terror.
A few days ago, Obama quietly recommitted to the cause of perpetual war and diminished civil liberties by continuing the “State of National Emergency With Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks” for another year. The August 30 memo cited “the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”
The specter of terrorism, which always has and always will exist, means that “the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2016.”
To underscore the point that government never intends to give up these powers, and will always look for the next bogeyman to keep that power in place, consider a recent press briefing at the U.S. Defense Department.
At the August 16 briefing, a spokesperson said, “We’re not focused on the former al-Nusra Front [al-Qaeda in Syria]. We’re focused on Daesh [ISIS]. And that’s what we’re fighting and that’s where therefore we look and where we target.”
What this means is that al-Qaeda and other perceived actors responsible for 9/11, which were the pretext for the State of National Emergency, are no longer the focus of the war on terror. ISIS is now the focus, yet they had nothing to do with 9/11 and the justifications for dictatorial powers.
As Eric Zuesse from the Strategic Culture Foundation describes:
Congress never authorized anything but al-Qaeda to be the enemy in the war against terrorism. Consequently, President Obama is now violating the law by his no longer targeting al-Qaeda at all, and he is also ignoring the law by his targeting ISIS (as he has long been doing) without requesting a new authorization from Congress to do so – an authorization that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress would be virtually certain to grant immediately…
The Congressional resolution that on 14 September 2001 authorized the US President to make war in response to 9/11, declared the President «authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. That was subsequently interpreted to refer to al-Qaeda. Bush invaded Iraq on 19 March 2003 by declaring that Iraq supported al-Qaeda.
While Bush at least attempted to make a connection with 9/11 and Iraq – which was full of lies and misinformation – Obama is not even pretending that 9/11 matters anymore as he keeps the powers in place that were granted because of 9/11.
It is no coincidence that the only target of the U.S. military now is ISIS, which is the jihadist organization that wants to overthrow the Saudi regime – a strong U.S. ally.
In fact, the U.S. is supporting “moderate” rebels that would otherwise be called terrorist groups, such as al-Nusra, because they share the same goal of overthrowing Syrian president Assad. Plausible deniability is easy to achieve when the U.S. can simply fund and train proxy groups through allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
In contrast, ISIS was virtually created by the U.S. – as demonstrated by Ben Swann – to serve the goals of Syrian regime change and to counter increasing Russian influence in the region.
So they are now the target of the war on terror, which no longer has any connection to the attacks of 9/11. But Obama and willing lawmakers and career bureaucrats have no compunctions about using that 15-year-old State of National Emergency to further the interests of U.S. military hegemony.