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War on Terrorism

War on Terrorism

Immediately following and in response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the United States government announced its intentions to begin a "War on Terrorism" (or "War on Terror"), a protracted struggle against terrorists and states which aid terrorists. Many governments have pledged their support for the international initiative. The US has received military help from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Japan, Pakistan, and France, among others. The "War on Terrorism" quickly became the dominant framework in which international relations were analyzed, supplanting the old Cold War and in some cases the War on Drugs. Many pre-existing disputes were re-cast in terms of the War on Terrorism, including Plan Colombia and the Colombian civil war; the United States' diplomatic and military disputes with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea; the war between Russia and Chechnya; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other, new conflicts, like the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, were created within the framework. Although many countries are involved, the war is overwhelmingly viewed as an American initiative, or even George W. Bush's personal war.

Many groups and individuals from across the globe oppose the "War on Terrorism" in increasingly large numbers.

Military/Diplomatic Campaigns


The first target was Afghanistan and the Al-Qaida terrorist organisation based therein. The US demanded that the Taliban government extradite Saudi exile and Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden with no preconditions. The Taliban responded first by asking to see proof that bin Laden was behind the attacks. When the United States refused and instead threatened the Taliban with military action, the Taliban offered to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan, where he could be tried under Islamic law. This offer too was refused. The United States and other western nations then led an attack along with local Afghan anti-Taliban forces, including several local warlords and the Northern Alliance. Many of the Afghani groups had held power before the Taliban came to power, and ruled with human rights records similar to the Taliban. This effort succeeded in removing the Taliban from power. To date, Osama bin Laden has not been arrested or killed. His words have reportedly come to light from time to time, often via Arabic media outlets, and usually in support of anti-western atrocities, such as the bombing in Bali.

The Naming of the "Axis of Evil"

George W. Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil". In US political rhetoric these are called "rogue states" who do not respect international law and often have programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The use of the word "axis" was more rhetorical than literal; no assertions have been made that Iran, Iraq, or North Korea are in any way politically allied. The statement has become a lightning rod for opposition to the War on Terrorism and to George Bush in particular. (For more on opposition, see below.)


The United States and Iraq have been involved in military and diplomatic disputes since the Gulf War in 1990-91, continuing through the remainder of George Bush, Sr.'s presidency, Bill Clinton's presidency and the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency. On September 4, 2002, George W. Bush announced the Bush Doctrine that the United States had the right to launch a preemptive military strike at any nation that could put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists. He sought and obtained congressional approval for a strike against Iraq.

Intensive negotiations began with other members of the United Nations Security Council, especially the three permanent members of the Council with veto power, Russia, China, and France, which are known to have reservations about an invasion of Iraq. On November 8, 2002, The UN Security Council unanimously passed a new resolution. The resolution calls for Iraq to disarm or face tough consequences.

Although this is seen by the US government's administration as part of the War on Terrorism, some United States congressman, especially members of the Democratic Party, have counterposed the War on Iraq with the War on Terrorism, suggesting that the former would draw the focus from the latter. Newsweek conducted a poll after the 2002 elections and found that a majority claimed that this played a large part in the Republican's historic victory during the elections. Around the world, the threats to Iraq have led to a rise in scepiticism over the motives for invasion and the "war" in general, because there is no demonstrable link between Iraq and terrorist groups.

North Korea

Main article: George W. Bush administration policy toward North Korea In October 2002 North Korea announced that it was running a nuclear weapon development program, in violation of treaties, and said they would be willing to negotiate a new position with the United States. The response from the United States government has been muted; they have stated that North Korea is not as great a danger as Iraq, and do not seem to be willing to pursue the interventionist policy they are advocating for in Iraq.


The Bush administration has not said much about dealing with Iran.

Pankisi Gorge (Georgia)

Main article: War on Terrorism/Pankisi Gorge In February 2002, the U.S. sent approximately two hundred Special Operations Forces troops to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to train Georgian troops to fight rebels from the breakaway Russian province Chechnya, crossing the border for safe haven in their war with Russia. This move drew protests from many Russians, who believed that Georgia should remain within the Russian sphere of influence, and not the United States'. On March 1, 2002, over domestic outcry, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze in Kazakhstan and pledged his support for the American military initiative.


Main article: War on Terrorism/Yemen The Bush Administration approved sending about 100 Special Operations forces to Yemen, a power base for Al-Qaida. The Special Operations forces, along with the CIA, are engaged in targetted attacks on suspected Al-Qaida members, especially in the regions of Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia, which are not well-controlled by the central Yemeni authorities.


Main article: War on Terrorism/Philippines In January 2002, a force approximately 1,000 strong was sent to assist Philippine forces. About 600 troops, including 160 Special Operations forces, remain training forces in the Philippines to combat Abu Sayyaf on Basilan. On October 2, 2002, a bomb in Zamboanga killed a U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant and two civilians. In October 2002 additional Zamboanga bombings killed six and wounded 200.


Main Article: War on Terrorism/Indonesia Near the end of 2001, Congress relaxed restrictions put into place in 1999 against the U.S. training of Indonesian forces because of human rights abuses in East Timor. In October 2002 the Bali car bombing killed and wounded hundreds of foreign tourists.

U.S. Domestic

Investigations are going on through many branches of many governments, pursuing tens of thousands of tips. Hundreds of people have being detained, arrested, and/or questioned so far. The Justice Department wishes to interview 5000 young men from the Middle East. See September_11,_2001_Terrorist_Attack/Detentions.

US Legislation

$40 billion emergency bill was quickly been passed. A ~$20 billion bill to bail out the airline industry also passed. Laws are also being passed that would curtail civil liberties in the United States, to make it easier for the government to spy on what's happening within the country. USA PATRIOT Act passed.

Executive Branch

As part of the War on Terrorism, there was a reorganization of various government bureacracies which handled security and military functions. The Office of Homeland Security was created to coordinate "homeland security" efforts. There was a proposal to create an Office of Strategic Influence for the purpose of coordinating propaganda efforts, but it was cancelled due to negative reactions. For the first time ever, the Bush administration implemented the Continuity of Operations Plan (or Continuity of Government) to create a shadow government to ensure the executive branch of the U.S. government would be able to continue in catastrophic circumstances.

Opposition to the "War on Terrorism"

There have been street protests against the War on Terrorism in general or war on Iraq in specific in many major cities in the U.S. and other nations. On the 28th of September 2002, one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations in Europe since the Vietnam War took place on the streets of London. Up to 450,000 people took part, representing diverse political, religious and other groups. This was at a time when public feeling in Britain against a war was running high, with a clear majority in the polls.

On the 26th of October 2002, the largest peace demonstration in the United States since the Vietnam War era occurred in Washington D.C. About 100,000 protestors joined on the Mall, the area adjacent to the highest offices of government, to protest the war. In contrast to other recent protests, in which protestors reported being violently attacked by police or security forces, protestors in this action were evidently permitted to speak and assemble more freely.

On the same day protest rallies also took place in Mexico, Japan, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Belgium and Australia.

Critics of the "War on terror" argue that a particular tactic of war (terrorism, the targeting of non-combatants with the aim of spreading fear and disorder) can never be eliminated by force alone, and will in fact lead to more terror. Military action against terrorists inevitably results in the deaths of non-combatants ("collateral damage" in military jargon), which is another form of terror against innocents. The atmosphere of fear and hate towards the military powers in question then generated can be easily exploited by extremist elites (with their own agendas) who can direct such rage and despair towards desperate and murderous acts. Thus, critics argue, the "War" against terror simpy perpetuates circles of violence. The real reason then, for the US-led campaign, it is argued, is to expand their economic and military dominance of the world.

Common arguments against a war against Iraq include:

The death and casualties it will cause among Iraqi civilians who are not complicit in the Saddam regime. Unilateral aggressive warfare is a hazard to international law and to peace among nations in the large. Militarization can be harmful to domestic society, particularly in a time of economic downturn. The importation of more warfare into the Middle East region may lead to its further destabilization, as well as to the continuation of present causes of violence and terrorism. The increasing willingness of the American government to use violence abroad threatens the establishment of a state of perpetual warfare.

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