May 4th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 17

May-04-2012 | Comments Off

No Tikkunista next week, due to travel plans. Back on May 18th, insh’Allah.

 

1. How’s that Global War on Terror Thing Working Out for Ya?

Bird’s Eye: The US has been waging war on terror for twelve years now. Originally framed as a hunt for Osama and Al-Qaida, the goals seemed to have …uh…diffused. Andrew Bacevitch breaks the war into three parts (Rumsfeld, Petraeus, and Michael Vickers) and examines the characteristics of each part. Glenn Greenwald looks at how the nature of the war has escalated since bin Laden’s death. And Schneier, whose log on security is always a treat, looks at the costs in money and lives of the farce through which we go when we travel via US airports.

* Scoring the Global War on Terror   NationofChange

With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome. 

…Viewed close-up, the “war” appears to have lost form and shape.  Yet by taking a couple of steps back, important patterns begin to appear.  What follows is a preliminary attempt to score the WFKATGWOT, dividing the conflict into a bout of three rounds.  Although there may be several additional rounds still to come, here’s what we’ve suffered through thus far.

So what tentative judgments can we offer regarding the ongoing WFKATGWOT?  Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called “the dark side,” with implications that few seem willing to explore.  Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose.  Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair…..

Round 3. The Vickers Era: Assassination.  Unlike Donald Rumsfeld or David Petraeus, Michael Vickers has not achieved celebrity status.  Yet more than anyone else in or out of uniform, Vickers, who carries the title Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, deserves recognition as the emblematic figure of the WFKATGWOT’s round three….The Vickers approach means acting aggressively to eliminate would-be killers wherever they might be found, employing whatever means are necessary.  Vickers “tends to think like a gangster,” one admirer comments. “He can understand trends then change the rules of the game so they are advantageous for your side.” Round three of the WFKATGWOT is all about bending, breaking, and reinventing rules in ways thought to be advantageous to the United States.  Much as COIN supplanted “shock and awe,” a broad-gauged program of targeted assassination has now displaced COIN as the prevailing expression of the American way of war

* Since Bin Ladin’s Death Glenn Greenwald Salon

In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s summary execution one year ago, many predicted that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. Here’s what has happened since then:

*With large bipartisan majorities, Congress renewed the once-controversial Patriot Act without a single reform, and it was signed into law by President Obama; Harry Reid accused those urging reforms of putting the country at risk of a Terrorist attack.

* For the first time, perhaps ever, a U.S. citizen was assassinated by the CIA, on orders from the President, without a shred of due process and far from any battlefield; two weeks later, his 16-year-old American son was also killed by his own government; the U.S. Attorney General then gave a speech claiming the President has the power to target U.S. citizens for death based on unproven, secret accusations of Terrorism.

* With large bipartisan majorities, Congress enacted, and the President signed, a new law codifying presidential powers of worldwide indefinite detention and an expanded statutory defintion of the War on Terror.

* Construction neared completion for a sprawling new site in Utah for the National Security Agency to enable massive domestic surveillance and to achieve “the realization of the ‘total information awareness’ program created during the first term of the Bush administration.”

* President Obama authorized the use of “signature” drone strikes in Yemen, whereby the CIA can target people for death “even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known.”

* Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security  Schneier on Security

[Previously] I made two basic arguments about post-9/11 airport security. One, we are not doing the right things: the focus on airports at the expense of the broader threat is not making us safer. And two, the things we are doing are wrong: the specific security measures put in place since 9/11 do not work. Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes and asks us to trust that airport security—and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular—knows what it’s doing.

He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they’re not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can’t be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there’s a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic light saber that’s really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).

The humiliation, the dehumanisation and the privacy violations are also harms. That Mr Hawley dismisses these as mere “costs in convenience” demonstrates how out-of-touch the TSA is from the people it claims to be protecting. Additionally, there’s actual physical harm: the radiation from full-body scanners still not publicly tested for safety; and the mental harm suffered by both abuse survivors and children: the things screeners tell them as they touch their bodies are uncomfortably similar to what child molesters say.

In 2004, the average extra waiting time due to TSA procedures was 19.5 minutes per person. That’s a total economic loss—in –America—of $10 billion per year, more than the TSA’s entire budget. The increased automobile deaths due to people deciding to drive instead of fly is 500 per year. Both of these numbers are for America only, and by themselves demonstrate that post-9/11 airport security has done more harm than good.



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