There seems little doubt that the original Al Qaeda” organization, based in Afghanistan and led by Osama Bin Laden, has been “decimated,” to use her term. Our enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan appears to be the Taliban and the Haqanni Network. Yet reports often refer to one or both “Islamic militants” and “Al Qaeda” as if they are two different groups, the latter in some sense more dangerous to us than the former.
Yesterday in her Senate testimony Secretary Clinton referred to Al Qaeda as “a brand,” saying that some groups using that name included people who were trained in Afghanistan by the now decimated organization. She went on to refer to use of the name to recruit adherents and used the term “affiliated with Al Qaeda” to describe other groups of Islamic militants. She pointed to yet other groups that do not use that designation.
Is there any meaning left in the term Al Qaeda that distinguishes these people from Islamic militants from a public perspective? (I can see why intelligence agencies might make some distinctions particularly to understanding the biographies and training of those individuals who have migrated from Afghanistan.)
I raise this question because the term is still such a “hot button.” It seems to me that officials and the media use it to heighten the sense of threat, even as it seems to be losing its ability to be more of a threat than any other militant group.
In my quest to cool hot buttons, if they have no real heat, I raise the question, what is Al Qaeda? What does that term mean now?
“What is the difference between planning to win the next election and conspiring to intentionally collapse the American economy, if necessary, merely so the conspirators’ party can regain the Office of the Presidency? On such razor sharp edges the Republicans decided to dance.”
Taken from Wassup This Week, the blog written by a friend, Folke Tyko Kihlstedt, which I commend to your attention.
Convincing oneself that one is following a valid process, to do something one’s own lawyers believe to be legal, to achieve something appropriate that others in the future will confirm by following this example must surely be one of the most common and self-deceptive journeys upon which the human mind can embark.
“For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”
We are being allowing our civil liberties to be eroded close to the vanishing point, we are privatizing our military and defense (two governmental functions at base) at great cost economically and socially in that we are creating interest groups that thrive on war and covert operations, and most people seem unconcerned.
Key to this is the creation and manipulation of “fear.” Think of it, fear exists in endless supply, accompanied by secrecy it is nearly impossible for citizens to to know whether or not there is a factual basis for it, and it can be used to justify the expenditure of billions on activities which, because secret, are not subject to public audit and democratic oversight. Congressional oversight, if it really exists at all, is so constrained by the executive branch that it might as well not exist. This is changing our system of government fundamentally without our knowledge or consent.
Please read the whole article from which this is quoted.
“The second lesson is that we continue to over-react to the “terrorist threat.” Here I recommend you read John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart’s The Terrorism Delusion: America’s Overwrought Response to September 11, in the latest issue of International Security. Mueller and Stewart analyze 50 cases of supposed “Islamic terrorist plots” against the United States, and show how virtually all of the perpetrators were (in their words) “incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational and foolish.” They quote former Glenn Carle, former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats saying “we must see jihadists for the small, lethal, disjointed and miserable opponents that they are,” noting further that al Qaeda’s “capabilities are far inferior to its desires.”
It is, best I recall, unprecedented for me to rely on another publication to express my views on this blog but this item in Foreign Affairs summarizes the history, situation, stakes, ironies and a possible set of steps forward that can stand for my view.
The U.S. global Internet freedom agenda will only succeed in the long run if the United States can find a way to live up to its own values and offer a vision — in practice — of what a digital future based in civil liberties can provide. So long as confusion reigns, there will be no successful global Internet agenda, only contradiction.
How do we recapture our rights? No small trick in the face of this kind of assertion…
Mr. Holder said such operations require high levels of secrecy. That is obvious, but the FISA court operates in secret, and at least Americans are assured that some legal authority not beholden to a particular president or political party is reviewing such operations.
Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution “are not one and the same.” This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.
Now I ask you to read that last sentence with as open and credulous a spirit as you can muster, and tell me if you think the Agency that controls the TSA, INS, FEMA, Secure Cities, and is headed by someone who displays the worst personal and professional characteristics of an unresponsive and publicly unaccountable bureaucrat, is being egregiously disingenuous.
A senior Homeland Security official who spoke to The Huffington Post on Friday on condition of anonymity said the testimony of agency officials last week remains “accurate” and the manual “is a starting point, not the endgame” in maintaining situational awareness of natural and man-made threats. The official denied Electronic Privacy Information Center’s charge that the government is monitoring dissent. The manual’s instruction that analysts should identify “media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities” was not aimed at silencing criticism but at spotting and addressing problems, she added.