January 14, 2007

Bush's war of Terrorism

We've all heard the logical refrain, "Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy that we can target in a war, which means that the 'war on terrorism' is nothing of the sort." Yes, it's just a slogan, one the corporate mass media has been happy to adopt. Unfortunately, so have many progressive voices.

We need to reframe the issue. George Lakoff has introduced the concept of "framing" issues in the public discourse. The title of this essay is one such attempt. Another example is the phrase "the death tax." Once the mainstream debate on estate taxes is framed as "the death tax," an uphill battle is established. It's hard enough to be in favor of taxes, but being in favor of taxing people upon their death becomes even more implausible. Framing is key.

There can be no such thing as a "war on terrorism." Given ample evidence of domestic spying and police infiltration of organizations, new legal definitions like "enemy combatant" for which Geneva Conventions don't apply, the use of torture and renditions, the use of horrific weapons of war (ala "Shock and Awe"), the unleashing to death squads (ala the Salvador Option), adopting Israeli tactics of punishing the familiy members of insurgents [1], it isn't hyperbole to reframe Bush's war on terrorism to be called "Bush's war of terrorism."


[1] One basic principle of urban warfare was described to New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins by a U.S. commander: “the new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas, but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating.” According to Brigadier General Michael A. Vane, “We recently traveled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their counterterrorist operations in urban areas.” In the words of Michael Schwartz, collectively "punish the families and neighbors of guerrillas until they decide to reveal their identity and location." This tactic had been used in the village of Abu Hishma, and was going to be used in Fallujah.
See: Fallujah is Bush's Dujail.

A specific example of this appears in a New York Times Magazine article on death squads by Peter Maass, May 1, 2005. See the section entitled Threatening to Kill a Suspect's Son. Here's a brief excerpt witnessed by Maass:

The [Special Police] commandos reached an isolated farmhouse and detained al-Takhi's son, who looked to be in his early 20's. This was an excellent catch. The son of a suspect usually knows where the suspect is hiding; if not, he can be detained and used as a bargaining chip to persuade the father to surrender.

Note how Maass speaks of this as if it is routine. Maass had gone on other raids. He highlighted this example, because it illustrated the use of threatened execution, not the aside about "bargaining chips."

Another source on the use of threats against family members is Dahr Jamail. In a January 2007 audio interview with Flashpoints Radio that I transcribed, Jamail described torture continuing at US detention centers. Then he continued:

Other things that have become even more rampant, that have been reported on in the past, but are even being more utilized by the US military now are, if there's a particular resistance fighter in a community, they'll figure out sometimes who that is, and they'll go detain his wife and then hold her and say, "If you don't come and turn yourself in we'll begin raping her quite soon and then if you still don't come in, maybe we'll go get your kids too."

So that's basically a standard policy now. I'm getting reports pretty often at this point, and we'll be doing a story on that before too long, so let's be real clear that torture in Iraq is rampant and that's because it is policy.

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