Thursday, 13 March 2014


The institutionalization of an anti-terrorism regime that impacts both domestic and foreign policy has begun to backfire on the US in many ways. When the CIA finds itself spying on the computers of Congressional staff investigating CIA torture methods, no doubt in the name of national security, this suggests that a state within a state has become a problem for a country calling itself  democracy. When Sen. Diane Feinstein accused the CIA of undermining the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee in its constitutional duty for oversight, the answer from CIA director John Brennan denied there was any such spying, despite incontrovertible evidence that the Senator presented. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating for possible criminal charges to be brought against those who have broken the law in a number of cases.

US obsession with terrorism drove the same John Brennan to immediately jump the gun on the causes for the Malaysian missing Boeing 777. Without a trace of proof, CIA director concluded it was terrorism behind the missing place. When INTERPOL publicly came out to state categorically that terrorism played no role, Brennan felt the need to denigrate INTERPOL, and insist it was terrorism, though he presented no evidence. When more evidence was discovered by various news organizations and the authorities in Malaysia that terrorism was not a possibility, though hijacking could be a cause, Brennan insisted on terrorism but offers no proof to substantiate the claim. I have no doubt that his interest is not in protecting the airline or Boeing, but rather a "terrorism ideology" rooted in obsession that prevents him and his agency from doing their job within the congressional mandate and effectively.

In an issue devoted to the US terrorism obsession, THE ATLANTIC (October 2013) argued that fear of al-Qeada has caused much more damage to the US than al-Qaeda. My only difference with that assessment is that the US has no fear of al-Qaeda, with which it has cooperated indirectly both in Syria and Libya to realize regime change, but the deliberate policy to institutionalize anti-terrorism as a way of keeping the American people loyal to the regime and institutional structure - political, economic and social order -while at the same time justifying foreign interference. Not only are US agencies spying illegally on its own citizens and on congressional committees investigating the spy agencies, all in blatant disregard of the law, but it is spying on foreign leaders and companies - industrial espionage - justifying it as 'part of the war on terror'. EU officials, of course, had to ask how does the EU Parliament pose a terrorist threat to the US; a rhetorical question for which there was never an answer other than "everyone spies on everyone else".

In October 2011, the US heavily publicized an Iran-Mexico plot intended to carry out terrorist activities on US soil, including an assassination scheme at the expense of the Saudi ambassador. As it turned out, this was a totally fabricated story and nothing ever came of it. Nevertheless, a year later Hillary Clinton insisted that Iran exports terrorism to Mexico and other countries, offering no proof for any such activities, other than the argument by authority, namely, believe me because I was Secretary of State.

Because the media always publicizes such government claims about terrorist threats, real or false intended to create diplomatic incidents, the public simply accepts them as true. Nor does the media bother with a follow up stories when there is no evidence at all supporting government claims of terrorism. This not only allows the government to have the entire country on a terrorism alert, real or manufactured, it also allows other countries to call any act from a bank robbery to illegal arms transport terrorist, instead of viewing each case on its own merits. Not only is the issue of definition subjective, based on whatever each government wishes to baptize terrorism, but it becomes even more confusing and a disservice to society because any grassroots democratic movement can be called terrorist by the government trying to repress it. At the same time, we can have two opposing sides, rebels vs. government, denouncing each other as terrorist.

US obsession with terrorism, however, goes much deeper than spying on Senate committees and the EU Parliament. This is how agencies justify their existence in the absence of a Cold War. This is not to suggest that the US has no enemies, but it does go out of its way with covert operations and military solutions to political crises to create enemies, instead of solving problems through diplomatic channels whenever possible. Let us consider the illegal CIA drone strikes that have killing an undetermined number of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen. This illegal type of warfare has been declare a war crime, but the US invokes the doctrine of "Exceptionalism" because it has relegated to itself policeman of the world.

Let us also consider the US is now engaged in what ATLANTIC in its article calls "pre-crime style police methods" (based on sci-fi movie MINORITY REPORT), where the Department of Homeland Security screens travelers 'private databases that include Americans’ tax identification numbers, car registrations and property records." This is an illegal process and violates privacy rights, but the US terrorism obsession justifies it, just like CIA director Brennan justified spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee and then denying it when Feinstein went public with the story.

Rather than bringing up what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations have concluded about US violations of human rights, war crimes, and violations of international law, I would prefer to focus on why the US is so obsessed with terrorism when that campaign has drained the US Treasury and it has not been effective in deterring terrorism as the US defines it, on case by case. Besides serving to justify high spending on defense and intelligence, which constitute a drain on the budget but help strengthen corporations linked to those sectors, the institutionalization of terrorism to the point of breaking the law, violating civil right and spying on Senate Oversight committees provides the US government with the justification that there must not be structural change in society.

As long as there is an aura of fear rooted in terrorism, the government, and of course the media and all mainstream institutions, project the image to the American people that national security come first above all else, including social justice issues. At the same time, given that the US has been challenged economically by China that is likely to become the world's number one economy at some point in the 21st century, needs to retain its military superpower status as leverage for exerting global economic influence.

Therefore, the terrorism obsession serves a domestic political and economic agenda in keeping the status quo despite the massive erosion of living standards on the part of the middle class, as well as the US preeminent global military position. Next time that CIA director Brennan goes on TV to insist that terrorism is behind everything that goes wrong with the world, from airplanes with mechanical faults to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating torture methods by CIA operatives, you must believe that he is only reflecting and serving the institutional structure and nothing more. This is not an issue of CIA credibility, because few expect a spy agency or its chief to have much credibility. Deeper than agency credibility is political responsibility at the highest levels and whether American society wishes to preserve its democratic values or to continue going the road of a quasi-police state.

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