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      Return of the 9/11 Jitters?

      A U.S. Army soldier stands guard at an outpost in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

      Any hopes for the Obama administration winding down its drone strikes and Global War on Terrorism policy framework and concentrating on domestic priorities are in danger of being suddenly derailed, for reasons that are unclear. The immediate reason for the panic, heavily classified, was an intercepted communication between Al Qaeda “central” and an Al Qaeda leader in Yemen, followed by the sudden closure of 19 US embassies and consulates. No terrorism materialized, but the closings created a sense of high alert and imminent danger. Top US officials warned of a new Al Qaeda threat.

      No doubt the recent clamor about terrorist threats served to deflect public and congressional attention away from the growing political effort to curb drone strikes and sharply reform the secret surveillance state. Because of the public’s growing fatigue with the emphasis of the Global War on Terrorism model in place since 9/11, the possibility of domestic reform is at hand, including a refocused attention on immigrant rights, ending stop-and-frisk and protecting social programs.

      The recent panic is not simply fabricated by a conspiracy, however. In the real world, President Barack Obama’s long-standing claim that he has “decimated” Al Qaeda, a claim that served him well in the 2012 elections, turns out to have been overly optimistic. Intelligence officials warn that Syria is a new haven for global jihadists supporting the Al Nusra Front. Al Qaeda is becoming a powerful force in Iraq, where it did not exist before the US intervention. Libya, after the Western overthrow of Muammar el-Qaddafi, has become an anarchic Wild West of militias, including those who attacked the US/CIA center in Benghazi. The Libyan adventure also led to armed jihadist sanctuaries from southern Libya to North Africa. Hundreds of militants have broken out of prison recently in Pakistan, Libya and Iraq. A disintegrating Yemen was the scene of nine drone attacks from late July to the present, an escalation not seen in the recent past. The coup in Egypt may lead to insurgency or civil war.

      Obama continues to assert that Al Qaeda has been decimated, but has “metastasized” in new and virulent forms, a tacit admission that US security policy has either failed or been reduced to a purely defensive strategy. Neither can Obama mention that US support of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates nor a rogues’ gallery of monarchs is a principal cause of jihadist insurgency.

      These strategic failures are being transformed politically into rationales for maintaining the CIA’s covert programs and the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance operations at a time of increasing domestic criticism. Being considered “soft on terrorism” is the equivalent of being “soft on communism” decades ago.

      Whether real or coincidental, these developments are a dire threat to the achievement of any meaningful democratic reform in the United States. We are seeing a de facto coalition of “war on terrorism liberals,” similar to the Cold War liberals of yesteryear, trying to achieve domestic gains without challenging the priorities of the surveillance state or military budget. Such efforts perished in the Sixties and are not likely to be viable in the decade ahead.

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      Reader Comments (4)

      I recently saw this quote from the Preface of George Carlin's (of all people!) book, "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?"
      "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." HERMANN GORING AT THE NUREMBERG TRIALS
      .....Looks like very little has changed over the years!

      August 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonna Shanske

      As you state, a large part of the recent warnings about increased terrorism threats is to deflect the weariness with the failed GWOT and the national security state that has increased far beyond any rational need to counter the incompetents that make up Al_Qaeda. Lucky indeed is any nation that has these yokels as their alleged chief enemy.

      As insightful as you are, you seem to have a blind spot when it comes to our current Emperor whose mendacity is akin to that of Tony Blair only more dangerous as he has such a large and ever ready to attack military establishment. Had this man been in any way a progressive, he could not have come to power at a more opportune time, and unless your really believe a man who has had no trouble ordering the assassinations of Americans with no judicial or Congressional review, a huge ramp up in drone strikes, interventions in Libya that defy our rule of law and a disastrous surge in Afghanistan and who tried to extend our stay in Iraq beyond the time W was forced to agree to is somehow also "non confrontational" then he must also be remarkably schizophrenic when it comes to making decisions.

      With his selection of Powers and Rice, he has clearly made the choice for an aggressive liberal interventionist foreign policy just at a time when a wise ruler would note the growing economic power of The People's Republic of China, the only nation capable of challenging our (economic) pre-eminence, as their rulers have no interest in following our path and those before us who sought global military empire and begin the necessary reduction of our empire's borders.

      Tom, he's a sham, something I suspected when he chose Joe Lieberman to be he mentor upon entering the Senate in 2004, a choice someone like you would never had made and my only error in reading this man was just how far to the right he really is. He is no centrist or even center right but clearly right of center .

      Sadly, Hillary will continue the rightward drift of a party I can in no way be a party to.

      August 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermichael nola

      One day after Snowden got permission to stay in Russia, US discovered a threat in the data stream that showed the necessity to control every message in the world...

      August 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSven Sjöberg

      Bradley Manning gave us opportunity to know about the crass brutality of our soldiers-in-war, and that our aggression in others' countries earns us enemies. EARNS US... Edward Snowden let it out of the bag that our government wildly looks everywhere for the enemy, suspecting all of us at home, too. My grandkids and their age-mates have new (a fad!) LEGO construction toys that leave them in awe of space war weaponry. We are at a sick time in human history. We have a sick leadership in D.C. Shall we call it rightward drift or shall we call it mental illness, a way skewed vision of what humans are for?

      August 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn R Chong
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