Most acts of terrorism are covered by existing criminal laws. Murder, mayhem, criminal conspiracy, hijacking, kidnapping, and similar crimes are all crimes no matter who commits them and for what purpose. We now even have a category of crime called “hate crime” in which motives play a part in sentencing, with stiffer penalties assessed if the motive for commission of a murder or other crime is hatred of the victim.
Treatment of acts of terrorism as crimes instead of as a form of warfare would make a lot of sense. Criminals could be investigated using the most sophisticated surveillance techniques and investigative techniques. Phones could be tapped with appropriate court orders, bank records could be assessed, and criminals apprehended individually or collectively with SWAT type tactics, or even with military force acting in the role of police. Treating terrorism as a crime would prevent victimization of “collateral” damages. It certainly be far less expensive than military conflict. It would involve precision, patience, integrity, and the concepts formerly found sacred in the American constitution, such as that a man is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by a jury of his peers.
The Bush Administration and the American Congress, and apparently, many of the American people did not want justice. They wanted vengeance, and the corporate elite of the government wanted even more. The Bush administration wanted strategic presence in the Middle East by the American military so as to influence world strategic oil access, and to take over the Iraqi nation in order to exploit its oil, it commerce, and to ultimately create a new market for American products. Bush also wanted revenge against Saddam Hussein for threatening his daddy, George H.W. Bush.
Declaring war on terrorism suited Bush and his objectives just fine. With war, heavy funding naturally flows to the military-industrial complex, which was long the objective of George Bush’ presidency. With all that money flowing to war and homeland security, Bush could follow another objective of starving social programs which benefit the “little” Americans in favor of putting billions of dollars of contracts into the hands of the corporate elite, you know, Bush’ play pals.
Just as significant, going to war (even if undeclared by Congress as required by the U.S. constitution) allows for utter lawlessness. No one is innocent until proven guilty. A “terrorist” is that by declaration, not by proof and surely not by conviction by the legal system. A “terrorist” can be killed on sight by snipers, by missiles fired from drone aircraft circling out of sight overhead, by submarine launched cruise missiles, or even by torture by U.S. troops in secret concentration camps and prisons.
In wartime, “enemy combatants” can be held indefinitely without any civil rights, even if they are naturalized or native-born U.S. citizens. Constitutional rights are discarded like old boots. Even admission to the public or to family members of the reality of confinement is not a sure thing. People can just disappear, and no one knows where they went, or if they are alive, or if they will ever come back. A war on terrorism can be indefinite, and will surely be. Prisoners can be held without charges for years and years in severely inhumane conditions. The American government can deny anything, and cannot easily be proved to be lying.
War on terrorism means that a degree of collateral damage (which means killing of innocent civilians) is not only acceptable, but predictable And collateral damage against “enemies” during wartime is considered far more lightly than any collateral damage that may be caused to U.S. civilians. There are not only dual standards, there are NO standards in the war of terrorism, other than LOOK OUT! And no apologies are needed or expected if something goes askew, which happens with great frequency. Even better, war on terrorism is self-perpetuating, guaranteeing a virtually endless supply of new victims becoming terrorists, thus prolonging the struggle, and keeping the money train flowing into the coffers of the military/industrial complex.
In the war on terrorism, even American citizens are faced with governmental lawlessness, under new laws that completely violate the American constitution. Legal rights are denied. Prisoners can be coerced into making illegitimate confessions for fear of being turned over to military tribunals which have absolutely no expectation of justice. American citizens can be snooped on by their government, treated as guilty based on association, even by chance, and can lose everything for simply being at the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time.
The War on Terrorism is planned, deliberate lawlessness. It violates the norms of a civilized society. It features violence, based on greed, mired in suspicion, bolstered by hatred, and typified by savagery. And that is from the American side of the war!
The American media supports this war because they are part of the corporate/government/media conglomerate/conspiracy. The American people are so distracted by their subservience to the corporate/government control of their lives that few even can take time to think about justice in the abstract. Only when most individual Americans stare injustice in the face do they seem personally concerned about it. By then, it is too late.
America is clearly on a downhill slide to oblivion. Moral greatness is not even a pretense any more, and hardly existed even in the heydey of American industrial might, though Americans were taught otherwise, and believed it.
The whole world is now watching American civilization unravel around the Presidency of George W. Bush, with aides Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld, and Perle and Armitage and Powell and Rice all contributing their full share to the unraveling. Powell just said today that “Saddam Hussein is just a piece of trash that needs collecting”. A lot of people are now thinking far worse about the entire Bush government, and, as a whole, the American people still cannot see it.
The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.