Chum to Bloody the Waters: War and Terror
- (Originally printed in the Gadsden County Times, 2/2003)
American citizens have succumbed to propoganda and psychological warfare orchestrated by our present administration. Half truths have become the truisms that are the basis of increasingly illogical, mean-spirited and undemocratic activities of our government. All of this is based in the concept "War on Terror". An examination of this idea is warranted.
War and terror. Two terrible words used as chum to bloody the waters and invite the sharks to attack. Terrorism is an overused word in the daily lexicon, but what is it? Ask anybody--everyone is an expert these days. So, what IS it? Terrorism is a legal concept based on US code and can be defined as the "use of violence to influence a target (audience) beyond the actual victim." Terrorism is always criminal activity that is punishable under existing US statutes. The Department of Justice is the lead agency, as the Department of Defense (DoD) does not enforce US legal code. Indeed, the 911 attacks were terrorism in its purist form, but that is not warfare, it is criminal activity. The legal definition of war is a "state of belligerency between two or more nations."
If the US is at war, then who or what is the declared enemy? The Congress has not seen fit to declare war, and no nation can be proven to sponsor terrorism as a national agenda. Even the Taliban was not guilty of exporting or using terrorism as a policy tool.
Obviously, there was no linkage between Saddam's Iraq and 911. So, where is the cause for war? If it is war, then it stands that the prisoners captured are legitimate prisoners of war. Why has there been no surrender documents or armistices after defeating Iraq? Can the Al Quaida sign a peace treaty with the US? And what is the end game? All wars should have a clearly stated goal other than feel-good ideas such as spreading liberty and democracy.
Terrorists are criminals, pure and simple. When captured they should be arrested, charged and tried in legal proceedings. They are not to be conflated with POWs. If terrorists are found guilty, then execute them in accordance with the rule of law. But if a Taliban rifleman is captured on the field of battle, then the rights of warfare should be accorded to him. It is a national disgrace to treat anybody as abysmally as the prisoners of Camp X-Ray are treated.
Yet, the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Camp X-Ray is not even the key question concerning this issue. The point is this: what law, international code or convention grants jurisdiction to the US military to imprison citizens of a sovereign nation without the benefits of legal proceedings? The US military can legally only hold POWs. By all admissions, the prisoners of Abu Ghraib were low-level criminals, and now it turns out that some were clerics. If they were convicted criminals, then the legitimate Iraqi government should be responsible for their incarcerations.
The US military is not authorized to imprison civilians of the US or any other government. Military tribunals do not have jurisdiction over US nationals or citizens of other nations, and the basis of all law is jurisdiction. Military tribunals have jurisdiction only over military personnel.
The concept of insurgency in Iraq is another emotive concept that daily barrages the public through news and administrative proclamations. There is no insurgency in Iraq. the reason for this is, there is no legitimate government against whom to uprise. However, there is clearly a resistance movement, locally led by "radical" cleric Muktad al-Sadr.
Everybody accepts these facts, but upon examination, neither holds true. Insurgency is the armed attempt to overthrow the legitimate authority in a country. Insurgencies always have an agenda of change and social reconfiguration. The resistance movement in Iraq does not want a new social order, nor is there a legitimate government. If the US accepts the myth that all legitimacy emanates from the people, then the people are voting with their bullets to remove a foreign-backed government from their country. If this is what makes Sadr a radical cleric, then George Washington was also a radical.
The present governments of Iraq and Afghanistan wouldn't last a day without the combat power of the US legions. Where is the legitimacy or democracy here? Democracy and legitimacy is not spread via preemptive invasions.
If the US wants democratic principles in the Middle East, then let's leave those principles in our own foreign policy. Let's spread democracy to our allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar, Jordan, and Oman. If we can't start with our allies, at the very least, let's begin with the results of the next presidential plebescite in Florida.
Presently we have statements of pride that we are exporting democracy and freedom to repressive regimes through the force of our arms. But the question should be, on what Constitutional basis does a US President stand to do this? The US President is elected to uphold the US Constitution and defend the national strategic interests of America. The legal requirement of the President is to support freedom and democracy in America. The US President does not possess any legal mandate to spread democracy to all corners of the earth. The primary concern of any president should be the reign of democracy and freedom for America.