War on Terror Over in the UK

The British Government changes their rhetoric:

The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.


Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult."

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

London is not a battlefield, he said.

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

This is excellent. The only war has been rhetorical, and using that language only served to scare people and legitimize the terrorists. Someday the U.S. will follow suit.

Posted on January 2, 2008 at 12:59 PM • 43 Comments

Comments

Carlo GrazianiJanuary 2, 2008 1:19 PM

"Someday the U.S. will follow suit."

Sure. Right after we drop the "War On Drugs", the "War On Poverty", and the "War On Cancer". Then we can use the freed war resources to make war on those flocks of migratory winged pigs that will be invading our skies.

The "War" rhetoric serves too many political purposes here. In a culture that expresses political programs in bumper-sticker-length slogans, its utility is too great to be dispensed with.

stimpyJanuary 2, 2008 1:30 PM

A UK Goverment official saying something blindingly obvious for a change! A new years resolution - lets hope so for the rest of them!!!

Clive RobinsonJanuary 2, 2008 2:08 PM

Sir Ken Macdonald said of the people behind the 7/7 bombings,

"They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

I'm not sure that "narcissists" is a word I would associate with those involved with the 7/7 bombings. One dictionary definition of narcissism is,

"An erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development."

When Sir Ken also says,

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,"

He conveniantly forgot to mention that they had input from others outside their immediate group. And that they where acting under the direction of others who effectivly gave them training and orders.

As such the line between many modern terorists and soldiers is that the former are not paid directly from the public purse or are acknowledged by a Government. Also they tend to attack from within a country not across it's boarders.

However If we follow Sir Ken's logic then we have no need of "Anti-terror" laws or personel as ordinary murder/criminal investigation and laws will suffice.

It would be interesting to find out how many people involved with anti-terror activities would agree with him.

renJanuary 2, 2008 2:08 PM

"The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public"

hmmm?

SlartyJanuary 2, 2008 2:27 PM

"It would be interesting to find out how many people involved with anti-terror activities would agree with him."

It really doesn't matter: many of us who work in enforcement are far to close to the issue to make rational judgment about policy.

The key point here is that using the word "terrorist" is precisely what these mentally ill people want. Time after time history has shown us that the only way to defeat crime is to deny the benefits.

As will be the case when we finally legalise (and regulate) drugs, and stop pretending that the value of Intellectual Property can be maximised by distorting legal precepts.

These people are simply criminal or mentally ill. The sooner we start to treat them as such the sooner we can get back to a world based on human growth, not state sponsored fear and childish retaliation.

james_in_tennesseeJanuary 2, 2008 2:56 PM

"aimless death cult" ok definition of aimless

aimless - aimlessly drifting
adrift, afloat, directionless, planless, rudderless, undirected
purposeless - not evidencing any purpose or goal

ok wtf how many times has alkiada hamas,islamic-jihad what have you stated there goals which basicaly either involve do what iran/saudi arabia tells us to or kil the jews(hey didnt another group of people want to kill jews oh but wait they where never army or nation where they) or dominate then world forcing a discusting ideological perversion of faith on every man women and child on the PLANET.

of course aimless remember kidds raping murduring ppls is ok as long as your not a world power unless your communist

AlbatrossJanuary 2, 2008 3:02 PM

While we're on the topic of rhetoric, the U.S. military action in Iraq is an Occupation, not a War. It was a war while we were fighting the government of Iraq under Hussein: now the government of Iraq is a putative ally, and our enemies are militias and guerrilla forces from both Iraq and the surrounding areas.

The reason it's important to refer to it as an Occupation is that Occupations are not "won" or "lost," they are only ended. Much of the rhetoric supporting the Occupation justifies continuance of current policies by referring to "winning" and rejecting the idea of "losing." These are nonsense terms when applied to an Occupation - the only decision that can be applied to an Occupation is when to end it.

AndrewJanuary 2, 2008 3:12 PM

The 'war' rhetoric is uniquely powerful in American politics and sociology. The costs are borne by the public and by those who find themselves carrying rifles instead of shovels to solve the problems at hand. Hurricane Katrina come to mind?

KanziJanuary 2, 2008 3:16 PM

"The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27."

As ren says, hmm???

The words "war on terror" have never been used to describe attacks on the *public*. The word for attacks on the public is "terrorism".

The phrase "war on terror" has been used to describe the fight against the *terrorists*.

derfJanuary 2, 2008 3:23 PM

"The term 'Islamic terrorist' will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities."

Did the 9/11 and 7/7 crews posthumously convert to another religion? One would think the Al Quaeda "narcissists" might get upset that their "criminals" were having their virgins removed when the British government converted their martyrdom to simple manslaughter.

DV Henkel-WallaceJanuary 2, 2008 3:29 PM

Note that the civil service doesn't want to use these terms but the politicians continue to want to. Wonder how that will play out.

"Aimless death cult" seems like a more appropriate term, though if so is there a way to prevent future attacks, if any? How did the early 20th-century anarchist attacks stop? Did they burn themselves out or was some useful means found to stop them?

Winston SmithJanuary 2, 2008 3:33 PM

Sounds double-plus bellyfeel goodthinkful to me. After all, Big Brother is watching, but Nanny State is watching out for you.

"War is Peace"
"Freedom is Slavery"
"Ignorance is Strength"

MikeMJanuary 2, 2008 3:39 PM

"Someday the U.S. will follow suit"

You have much more faith in our eventual change than I.

bzelbobJanuary 2, 2008 3:46 PM

So, they have taken how long (years) to realized out something that Bruce had figured out long ago: Terrorism is a tactic.

How do you declare war on a "tactic"?

wkwillisJanuary 2, 2008 3:47 PM

The want several things.
1. To get the Palestinians their homes back.
2. To get the other countries of the world from interfering in their countries and helping the dictators and other thugs running their countries from stealing their money.
Why do they pretend otherwise?
Is there anyone in the world that doesn't know that Israel used to be inhabited by Palestinians before the Israelis chased out most and made the others second and third class citizens, without social benefits for the first and social benefits and the right to vote for the second?
Is there anyone in the world that does not know that the Arab countries are not democracies and do not run their countries for the benefit of the citizens?
Why not just call it a war on Arabia? A war on Iran? A war on Mindanao? A war on Chechniya?
What is the point of lying?

IanJanuary 2, 2008 3:56 PM

The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public

In other words, the "war on terror" refers to when the public at large is attacked. Thus, the public is "terror."

Interesting.

Carlo GrazianiJanuary 2, 2008 4:20 PM

There are some comments here indicating a belief that to deprecate the term "War on Terror" is to indulge in weak-minded political correctness, and to somehow neglect the evidence of bombs, hijackings etc.

This belief is incorrect. "War on Terror" is a confused and self-destructive political term for (at least) two reasons:

(1) It indicates a state of intellectual confusion over who is fighting what. As Zbigniew Brezsinski has pointed out, you can't make "War" on "Terrorism". "Terrorism" is a tactic, not an enemy. To declare war on Terrorism is about as confused as declaring war on Blitzkrieg.

This confusion matters. Thinking in terms of a "War on Terrorism" leads to the notion that the war will be over when we find and kill the last terrorist, or somehow force the terrorists to surrender. That's an insane approach to the problem. The source of this terrorism is a cultural struggle over the meaning of Islam in the modern world. If we want to play a role in this struggle, and if we want the threat of this kind of terrorism to go away in our lifetimes (or at least in our kids' lifetimes), we're going to have to de-emphasize the military aspect of the conflict and start giving priority to the hearts-and-minds aspect. We are going to have to go back to being the sort of place with the sort of people and the sort of institutions that could be admired and imitated by folks whose support and understanding will otherwise go to Islamist loons.

Needless to say, erecting a high-surveillance police state, making our airports into monuments to our fear, administering a gulag of secret and not-so-secret prison camps, and proclaiming our enthusiasm for torture, does not constitute progress in this sense. Those are the sort of things you might do if you thought you were in a real war.

(2) It's stupid to declare a "war" if you have no idea of when and how the war will end, and no clue about how to bring it to an end. If there is no real prospect for declaring "victory", the "war" will go on for ever. This is tantamount to saying that insofar as we take the rhetoric of war seriously, we are agreeing to live under what is essentially martial law, in perpetuity. We are stipulating that the sort of emergency measures that a nation might consider taking in time of war -- suspension of civil rights for certain suspect groups, suspension of laws limiting government surveillance powers, etc. -- may be only a decree or a vote away, forever. There can be no more corrosive climate to liberty than war. If we really allow this idiotic rhetoric to be taken seriously, our polity is doomed.

antimediaJanuary 2, 2008 5:32 PM

@Carlo Graziani says "It's stupid to declare a 'war' if you have no idea of when and how the war will end, and no clue about how to bring it to an end."

When we declared war on Germany and Japan we had no idea when or how the war would end and no clue how to bring it to an end. In fact, if you study the history of WWII, you know that a few simple changes in a few events would have resulted in an entirely different outcome.

All we knew was that we couldn't allow Germany and Japan to rule the world through dictatorship. We had, therefore, to fight and die in the hope (correctly, as it turned out) that we could defeat them and prevent the outcome that they desired.

The same is true of terrorists. But they are not state-aligned actors, so, if you are going to go to war against them, what would you suggest calling it?

If one could predict the outcome of a war before its declaration, there would be no war. You'd simply point out to the other side that the outcome will be A, therefore they should not even begin.

Furthermore, to say that you can't declare war on terror because it's a tactic not an enemy is an a priori assumption that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. If terrorism isn't an enemy of peace what is? What better name would you suggest? The war on terrorists? The police action against loons?

The suggestion that this is a law enforcement problem is silly. The world approached the problem just that way for the better part of forty years without resolution. Indeed the problem became progressively worse until a war was declared. Now that the people of Iraq (for example) have figured out that the wonderful caliphate that Al Qaeda has been promoting turns out to be quite dangerous to their well-being and freedom, they are rejecting it wholesale. It isn't because they love America or want America to occupy their land. It's because the alternative is so much worse.

They didn't learn that lesson when we took the blind sheik to court and imprisoned him. They learned it when we invaded their land and attracted the same element to their land that had already come to ours. Once Al Qaeda began the wholesale slaughter of Muslims, the outcome of supporting them became readily apparent, even to the "radicals" in their midst.

It's astounding how many people seem incapable of understanding these simple facts.

AndrewJanuary 2, 2008 5:59 PM

>> But [terrorists] are not state-aligned actors, so, if you are going to go to war against them, what would you suggest calling it?

The pursuit and prosecution of international criminals through both legal and extra-legal means. Of course, this isn't 'catchy' nor does it justify invading other countries.

I'd be cool with "hunting down terrorists wherever they may hide, to be dealt with as enemies of humanity."

To grant terrorists the dignity of soldiers is absurd; as is granting them the full protections of POWs. Viewed from civilian law, they are mass murderers. Viewed from the laws of war, they are either bandits (acting on their own) or war criminals (acting for a government).

However, to abandon the ideal of "innocent until proven guilty" opens a Pandora's box of governments worldwide arresting, torturing and imprisoning people absent due process of law.

>> Furthermore, to say that you can't declare war on terror because it's a tactic not an enemy is an a priori assumption that doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

Which you have yet to supply.

>> If terrorism isn't an enemy of peace what is? What better name would you suggest? The war on terrorists? The police action against loons?

Enemy of peace? I can hear the definition sagging under too much weight. Anyone who makes war is an enemy of peace. This begs the question of "just war."

Tearing down society to fight terrorism is a lot like chemotherapy. At present we hope to kill the terrorists before the body politic.

However, consider that unlike cancer cells, terrorists are made and not born. Some attention to the root causes of terrorism would be most helpful.

Also, we can target terrorists a lot more closely than we can target cancer cells. This requires a lot less hysteria and a lot more thoughtfulness, which is in short supply once one declares "You're either with us, or with the terrorists!"

>> The suggestion that this is a law enforcement problem is silly.

Not silly, problematic. We still don't have a solid body of international law, nor do we have anything approaching universal jurisdiction. I'm not terribly sure we want these things, either.

Counter-terrorism is a complex societal problem, and schoolteachers, relief workers and NGOs are as much shock troops in this conflict as are US and Royal Marines.

>> Indeed the problem became progressively worse until a war was declared.

Until America's own ox was gored, we didn't care. Since 9/11 we have wholesale abandoned a number of essential principles of democracy and liberty (no offensive wars, habeas corpus, rights of citizens) in the pursuit of a dubious War Of Terror. We also managed to substantially erode the protections of POWs along the way.

>> It's astounding how many people seem incapable of understanding these simple facts.

Lecturing will not impress us or win you points. Invading Iraq created a new safe harbor for terrorists! Rather like burning the barn down to catch a few mice. When we build terrorist factories (as we did in Afghanistan in the late 1980s), we shouldn't be surprised when we reap what we sow.

ufofruitJanuary 2, 2008 6:19 PM

I am sure glad they formed a committee and spent the tax payers money to come up with these new names....
It ranks right up there with calling a Christmas tree and holiday bush.....

AnonymousJanuary 2, 2008 6:37 PM

@Antimedia

"When we declared war on Germany and Japan we had no idea when or how the war would end and no clue how to bring it to an end."

This statement is intentionally obtuse to the point of disingenuous.

The United States absolutely knew how the war would end: the Axis powers must unconditionally surrender.

Obviously we didn't know yet how that was going to be done, but there were actual identified government powers that operated under well-defined rules of diplomacy that could negotiate binding resolutions on behalf of their entire military organization and population.

"Terrorism" has no such organization that can surrender. No event can end the war.

Osama Bin Laden could be captured. Iraq could be subjugated. Syria could declare themselves an Israeli ally, and the Palestinian Authority could sign a permanent two-state peace deal, and there would very likely still be terrorists, and even if there weren't there would be no way to prove it.

The World Wars could end, but The War on Terror cannot (unless we choose to end it).

You intentionally missed the point.

AntimediaJanuary 2, 2008 9:00 PM

@Andrew "Until America's own ox was gored, we didn't care. Since 9/11 we have wholesale abandoned a number of essential principles of democracy and liberty (no offensive wars, habeas corpus, rights of citizens) in the pursuit of a dubious War Of Terror. We also managed to substantially erode the protections of POWs along the way."

Until America's own ox was gored? You were serious when you wrote that? I'm sure the Klinghoffer family and the Stedham family, and the families of the Pan Am victims and the families of the Cole victims and the families of the Marines killed in Beirut and the families of the many US diplomats (another one just this week, in Sudan) who have been killed would appreciate your callousness.

It would be much more accurate to say "until America's ox was slaughtered".

And you've contradicted yourself. First you say "To grant terrorists the dignity of soldiers is absurd; as is granting them the full protections of POWs." Then you say "We also managed to substantially erode the protections of POWs along the way." Which is it? Do they deserve the protections of the Geneva Conventions? Or do they not?

Finally, if you think "Invading Iraq created a new safe harbor for terrorists" then you are ignorant of what is going on in Iraq today.

@Anonymous writes "The United States absolutely knew how the war would end: the Axis powers must unconditionally surrender."

The US knew how they *wanted* the war to end. They did not know if it *would* end that way or not, and the outcome was in doubt for quite some time.

Finally, you write "The World Wars could end, but The War on Terror cannot (unless we choose to end it)."

This is nothing more than your opinion, informed by your opposition to the present approach.

One definition of the end of the war on terror would be that the countries that harbor terrorists no longer do, that the countries that tolerate terrorists no longer tolerate them, that the countries that promote an intolerant form of Islam (Saudi Arabia being the foremost offender) no longer promote it and that the organizations that support terror have been effectively dismantled.

There could certainly be others. Just because you claim it can't end doesn't mean it cannot. If you sincerely believe that terrorism can never be ended, then you certainly can't argue that it's America's fault or that America can stop it by stopping the war.

sptJanuary 2, 2008 9:52 PM

@ Anonymous

"The United States absolutely knew how the war would end: the Axis powers must unconditionally surrender."

..and can you tell me what the Axis countries, Cuba and North Korea, have to do with any of this??? Oh yes I remember, they hold up a finger to successive right wing US administrations and manage to get away with it!

(and yes, I know there is far more to it than that)


@ Everyone

May be it's time for a "war on rhetoric"...

My initial thought here was tongue-in-cheek but the more I think about it the more I see this as spin... however, I believe this may actually be anti-spin for a change!

AlexJanuary 3, 2008 2:43 AM

spt, in that chronological context 'Axis' means "allies of nazi Germany" (ex: Italy, or Japan; at times - Romania, other European states).

Today 'axis' is used in the context of 'axis of evil', this is what you refer to when mentioning North Korea.

Don't confuse these things because they are horses of a different colour.

To the point, I agree with the original poster; during WW2 there was a definition of "victory", for example:

for country in axis:
__defeat(country)


Today things are very blurry, as Moore said - "you cannot go to war with a noun".

umacf24January 3, 2008 3:13 AM

@DV Henkel-Wallace
How did the early 20th century Anarchists stop?

Well, one of the attacks precipitated an unprecedentedly bloody and catastrophic war in which both sides used WMD. Military setbacks caused revolutions in the Russian and German empires which led in turn to most of misery of the rest of that century.

Not a happy parallel.

Charlie_EJanuary 3, 2008 4:57 AM

This is the fourth time Ministers and UK officials have gone on the record suggesting that we all need to change our rhetoric - Hilary Benn (April 2007), Ken Macdonald (this time last year) and the Foreign Office advised Ministers in December 2006 to drop the phrase. It is worth noting that in the last couple of months experts and officials have also been calling for governments to take a more balanced approach to global risks (incl terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters) ... however what I suspect will really need to change is the media's approach to headlines before the term is finally deleted from our collective vocabulary

AndrewJanuary 3, 2008 8:26 AM

@Andrew "Until America's own ox was gored, we didn't care. Since 9/11 we have wholesale abandoned a number of essential principles of democracy and liberty (no offensive wars, habeas corpus, rights of citizens) in the pursuit of a dubious War Of Terror. We also managed to substantially erode the protections of POWs along the way."

>> Until America's own ox was gored? You were serious when you wrote that?

Absolutely.

>> I'm sure the Klinghoffer family and the Stedham family, and the families of the Pan Am victims and the families of the Cole victims and the families of the Marines killed in Beirut and the families of the many US diplomats (another one just this week, in Sudan) who have been killed would appreciate your callousness.

Fortunately we don't make policy in terms of lives lost, or we'd have US Marines all over the world ending completely preventable and predictable famines. If grieving families were how we made foreign policy, how could we resist the temptation to make peace with terrorists at any price? I didn't say that _I_ didn't care, but rather that America didn't care. Clinton at least was targeting Bin Laden prior to 9/11, Bush didn't bother.

>> It would be much more accurate to say "until America's ox was slaughtered".

5,000 lives and a few buildings do not equal slaughtered. You mention World War II. There is simply no comparison between the pin-pricks inflicted on us by world terrorism (9/11 included), and the havoc unleashed by either Germany or Japan, take your pick. Of course, dead Chinese and Poles may count for less than Americans in your lexicon.

Certainly America lost no cities in World War II; nor have we in your War on Terror. Yet.

>> And you've contradicted yourself. [Terrorists vs. POWs.]

I am pointing out the contradictions of the Bush administration. A prisoner of war cannot be put on trial for the lawful acts of killing, destruction of property, etc.; (he) enjoys a specially protected status which is not that of a criminal.

There is all the difference in the world between a CONVICTED terrorist (who is a criminal) and a SUSPECTED terrorist. The latter is not a POW and should not enjoy either the presumptions or the protections of POW status; but retains the benefit of the doubt until convicted. Even a dog has his day in court.

By saying in many venues and through our conduct that torture is OK, the Bush administration has put every soldier, sailor and airman in America's armed forces in danger of torture if captured.

>> Do they deserve the protections of the Geneva Conventions? Or do they not?

Yes, suspected terrorists should enjoy Geneva protections. But NOT those of a POW. Those protections extended to a civilian, internee or enemy alien -- until and unless convicted of crimes, whereupon they lose Geneva protections. The good guys are the ones who do things the right way, even if it takes a little longer.

>> Finally, if you think "Invading Iraq created a new safe harbor for terrorists"

Saddam Hussein monopolized power in Iraq. His ruthless, vicious machinery of state governance killed, tortured and maimed -- but the violence was purposeful and not random. Now foreign terrorists can operate relatively freely in those parts of Iraq which are not controlled by US forces. Saddam would have had them all up against a wall and shot by sunset.

We have no defined "victory condition" for the War on Terror. We had a defined victory condition for World War II. It's hard to win a war if you can't even imagine victory.

Your definition of victory in the war on terror is a prescription for endless war, to wit: Countries no longer harbor or tolerate terrorists. Organizations that support terror, dismantled. Countries that promote intolerant Islam no longer do so.

Of course, in the book "1984" by George Orwell, none of the three world regimes actually wanted the war to end. "The future is a boot stamping on a human face, forever." Not the future I want, thanks for not asking.

Kiaser ZohsayJanuary 3, 2008 8:32 AM

From the first time Bush used the phrase "war on terror", shortly after September 11, I disagreed with it. War is an act of aggression by one sovereign nation towards another. People who carry out acts of terror are not and do not represent any nation. They are simply common criminals. And as Bruce has stated many times, the most effective deterrent against these acts is good old fashioned investigative police work.

EUJanuary 3, 2008 8:36 AM

@ Antimedia
Suggest you read the book 'What Terrorists Want: Understanding the enemy, Containing the Threat', by Louise Richardson.

It will explain a lot about terrorism. That it exists already for centuries and that a war on terrorism per definition can not be won.

RustyJanuary 3, 2008 10:02 AM

@Clive... "However If we follow Sir Ken's logic then we have no need of "Anti-terror" laws or personel as ordinary murder/criminal investigation and laws will suffice."

"It would be interesting to find out how many people involved with anti-terror activities would agree with him."

I'm gonna guess not many, as that would cut off the KBR/Haliburton/Blackwater gravy train.

antimediaJanuary 3, 2008 2:53 PM

@Andrew "Fortunately we don't make policy in terms of lives lost, or we'd have US Marines all over the world ending completely preventable and predictable famines."

"5,000 lives and a few buildings do not equal slaughtered. You mention World War II. There is simply no comparison between the pin-pricks inflicted on us by world terrorism (9/11 included), and the havoc unleashed by either Germany or Japan, take your pick."

Then why did we enter WWII? Before we did, the Germans weren't killing "us" at all, and the Japanese "only" killed our military (and a few unimportant - policy-wise) civilians.

"Clinton at least was targeting Bin Laden prior to 9/11, Bush didn't bother."

That's laughable in the extreme. Bush sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. Clinton bombed an aspirin factory and passed on the opportunity to take Bin Laden into custody when the Sudanese were offering him up.

"Yes, suspected terrorists should enjoy Geneva protections. But NOT those of a POW."

Perhaps you should actually read the Geneva Conventions. There are three classes of people dealt with; civilians non-combatants, legal combatants and illegal combatants. Terrorists fit into the third category and have no rights at all (other than basic human rights - food, water and shelter.)

"Now foreign terrorists can operate relatively freely in those parts of Iraq which are not controlled by US forces. Saddam would have had them all up against a wall and shot by sunset."

This is patently false. You're at least six months behind. Terrorists are being eradicated from Iraq - by the Iraqis, with the assistance of coalition forces.

"By saying in many venues and through our conduct that torture is OK, the Bush administration has put every soldier, sailor and airman in America's armed forces in danger of torture if captured."

A silly canard. Name one conflict in which Americans were involved and some were captured yet none were tortured. This despite the fact that we religiously follow the Geneva Conventions.

And BTW, not one shred of proof has been provided that anyone has been tortured by Americans. Nor has any proof been provided that America condones torture as policy. In fact, just the opposite is the official policy.

zappaheyJanuary 4, 2008 5:06 AM

@antimedia

"Then why did we enter WWII? Before we did, the Germans weren't killing "us" at all, and the Japanese "only" killed our military (and a few unimportant - policy-wise) civilians."

Assuming that you are writing from a US perspective, because both Germany and Japan declared war upon your country.

John PhillipsJanuary 4, 2008 10:06 AM

Antimedia, you are joking about the US not torturing aren't you, aren't you? For you have US personnel who have already admitted to doing waterboarding and even your government admits to it, unless of course you are one of the ones who don't think that waterboarding constitutes torture, shades of Orwell's newspeak methinks. And let us not even mention extraordinary rendition, where we kidnap often totally innocent people, then transport them secretly so as to sub contract the actual torture to others, enabling us to wash our hands of the actual torture, more newspeak. BTW, I say we, for though I am from the UK, we are or were at least complicit in rendition if perhaps not actually actively doing it anymore.

antimediaJanuary 4, 2008 1:21 PM

@John Phillips - no, I'm not joking. And if you think waterboarding is torture, then explain why we waterboard every serviceperson who goes through SERE training.

The definition of torture has been so watered down that getting a prisoner agitated now constitutes torture according to some human rights organizations.

As far as kidnapping "totally innocent people", that's a figment of the fevered imagination of "human rights" people who, oddly enough, don't have a word to say about honor killings or beheadings or hangings or any of the other atrocious behaviors conducted routinely in the Muslim world.

If you think rendition is wrong, then why does no one speak up about the torture that takes place in the countries where people are rendered? How is it somehow wrong for western countries to return bad people to the country of their origin simply because that country practices torture? Is it only wrong when western countries render them? Or is it always wrong? And if it's always wrong, then why is are the same people who complain about rendition silent about the same practice when it involves that country's own citizens that were not rendered?

Please spare me the hypocrisy.

AndrewJanuary 4, 2008 9:40 PM

I replied yesterday with some Web links, but the anti-spam filter ate it. Therefore I will limit my links to the most essential items, and trust Google for the remainder.

World War II thread: Nanking Massacre; Pearl Harbor Raid 7 December 1941; German Declaration of War with the United States 11 December 1941

Clinton's attempts on Bin Laden thread: Wikipedia for Osama Bin Laden; Executive Order 13099 of August 20, 1998; Clinton's public statements

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14986702/ Clinton defends bin Laden efforts, rips host

Snopes.com "Claim: The Clinton administration failed to track down the perpetrators of several terrorist attacks against Americans. Status: False."

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,216480,00.html Clinton's Braggadocio Will Haunt U.S. in War on Terror

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47812-2004Jun16.html Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed

Geneva Convention thread: Wikipedia (Fourth Geneva Convention) and the ICRC Web site at http://www.icrc.org/

Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949

"Art 85. Prisoners of war prosecuted under the laws of the Detaining Power for acts committed prior to capture shall retain, even if convicted, the benefits of the present Convention."

Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949

"Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

State Parties to the Following International Humanitarian Law and Other Related Treaties as of 5-Dec-2007

Excerpt: "GC I-IV 1949: Afghanistan 26.09.1956 Iraq 14.02.1956 USA 10.04.1975"

Iraq operational zone for terrorists:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/petraeus-testimony-slides20070910.pdf 10 September 2007 - Maps and Charts to Accompany the Testimony of General Petraeus [PDF] Slides 1, 4, 10 and 11.

http://www.state.gov/s/wci/us_releases/rm/19448.htm
Department of Defense Briefing on Humane Treatment of Iraqi and U.S. POWs Under Geneva Convention

"And Article V of the Prisoner of War Convention, it specifies that if there is any doubt as to the status of a person, that person is entitled to prisoner-of-war protection until his or her status has been determined. That determination can be done by an Article 5 tribunal, which is a tribunal, set up by the military to look at the facts and circumstances of the capture and any other information. They then make a determination or recommendation. Our past practice, in Vietnam as well as in the first Gulf War, was that if at any time there remains any doubt, that person will be entitled to prisoner-of- war status."

War in which American POWs not tortured: War of 1812, over 8100 American POWs held by British at Halifax (Melville Island)

CIA Torture Thread: torture flights, interrogation techniques, "Black Sites," rendition, waterboarding, interrogation tapes,

http://www.shadowmonkey.net/articles/general/dear-senators-cia-letter-on-torture.html Dear Senators - CIA Letter on Torture

"We believe it is important to combat the hatred and vitriol espoused by Islamic extremists, but not at the expense of being viewed as a nation who justifies or excuses torture and incarceration without recourse to a judicial procedure." Signed by 11 CIA, 3 DoD, 1 FBI and 2 State Dept. employees.

A last thought for antifreedom, I mean antimedia.

I remember when America was the good guys, when we held ourselves to a higher standard and didn't have to stoop to comparisons between American torture and beheadings.

ZebedeeJanuary 6, 2008 6:46 AM

Just pointing out that the 'war on terrorism' that took place between the British and the IRA only ended when the British surrendered (think about the latest 'trial' of the biggest bomb scandel to hit Ireland). So when do we surrender to our Islamic friends?

John PhillipsJanuary 6, 2008 9:33 PM

Antimedia: the reason that servicemen are given a taste of waterboarding, as with all the SERE training, which I have done by the way, is so that they are aware of what it feels like and may be better prepared. As an ex soldier and friend with many still serving, I don't know of one of them who approves of waterboarding or who regard it as anything but torture. If you believe that repeated controlled drowning, i.e. waterboarding, isn't torture I suggest you get someone to try it on you sometime and see if you still think the same afterwards.

As to innocents, one of the most famous examples was the Canadian who, thanks to Canadian and US IS, spent a year or so travelling around the world 'meeting' various interrogators before being dumped, IIRC, on a back road in Germany with his family not even aware of what had happened to him until afterwards. His sin, he had the wrong name. Afterwards the Canadian government held an investigation into his case and even publicly cleared him, saying it had all been a dreadful mistake. There are plenty of other examples if you care to look for them. In some instances all it took was an accusation by someone they had crossed in some way, shades of the Stazi. Sometimes an accusation is made because the accuser know that in his country there is a substantial reward to be had, irrespective of whether the accused is actually a terrorist or not. BTW, there are some 13 US personnel being tried in absentia in Italy for carrying out extraordinary rendition through Italy because it is against Italian law. By the way, extraordinary rendition isn't about extraditing or deporting a person back to his country of origin, but is purely about transferring suspects outside our jurisdiction to friendly regimes who are not so squeamish about torture so we can wipe our hands of any claims of torturing them ourselves.

As to torture by other countries, the very human rights organisations you decry constantly catalogue the excesses carried out by the worlds various less salubrious regimes. Even Western governments deride many of those same countries, often openly. Even the US and UK has, hypocritically in some instances, or rather probably more likely for their own publics consumption. Unfortunately, countries like the US and UK are now viewed as equally bad by many. As Andrew said, we were once generally regarded as the good guys, however mistaken that appearance may have been at times. Not any more, in fact, the open change in behaviour of countries like ours is a very good recruiting tool for the terrorist as can be seen if you listen to people who have been there. It being used as one element in highlighting how corrupt and hypocritical we are by saying one thing while doing another.

jerzyJanuary 7, 2008 3:56 PM

"The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public"

Does it mean that the British government will now attack the public under a different name?
If so - I agree: "Someday the U.S. will follow suit"

antimediaJanuary 7, 2008 5:21 PM

@John Phillips - so we torture our own people so they'll know what torture is like? Interesting juxtaposition. Why don't we pull their fingernails out? Crush their testicles? Beat them to within an inch of their life? After all, we want them to know what to expect, right?

We've now degraded the word torture to the point that loud music is torture. Exposure to cold or heat is torture. Denial of regular meals and drinks of water is torture. Not allowing a prisoner prayer time is torture. Incarceration without "just" cause is torture.

By those standards, the torture our POWs have experienced over the past two hundred years must be described by some other word.

The opinion that waterboarding is torture conflates that behavior with the ripping out of fingernails, electrocution, crushing of testicles, drilling through a person's body and other despicable behaviors which terrorists routinely engage in.

It is nothing more than moral equivalence. It allows the terrorists to justify their extreme behavior by saying, "Well, they torture too" when the difference between the two behaviors is stark and obvious.

The former terrifies a subject or disrupts them psychologically. The latter maims them for life. Conflating the two serves no one but those who seek to do the most harm.

If you think waterboarding is wrong, then say so. But do not make it the equivalent of what terrorists do, because it is not even in the same universe with those behaviors.

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