Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Modern Game - The Designated Terrorist

Seriously - Do these guys look like terrorists to you?
Today the Obama administration designated the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization under the relevant provisions of the Patriot Act.  As a practical matter, very little will change as the United States has been openly at war with the Haqqanis for years.  It is true that the Haqqani Network was originally funded by the Pakistani ISI and gained tremendous power and tactical capabilities under the support of the American Central Intelligence Agency, but I am not one to place a great deal of importance on that.  Our world is one of shifting loyalties and evolving priorities, and Jalaluddin Haqqani provided a ready-made guerrilla force that could operate in Soviet occupied Afghanistan, so it was not automatically a poor decision to support them.  There were certainly opportunities to reduce the prospects of blowback, but ultimately, the ongoing American occupation of Afghanistan was going to put the US government at odds with the Haqqani Network under any circumstances.

Jalaluddin Haqqani is a Pashtun from Southeast Afghanistan, and represents a textbook example of why the arbitrary national borders drawn by the colonials in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are dangerous and counterproductive.  Haqqani's tribal area covers a geographic area that straddles the border, which gives them in modern times a perfect sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal frontier from which to mount operations in Afghanistan.  The US has been, quite unrealistically, pressuring the Pakistani military to launch an offensive against the Haqqanis in Waziristan - such an attack would indeed be helpful to the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan, but the government in Islamabad recognizes that there is truly nothing in such a fight for them.  They know that eventually the international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan, and they will be left with a long border shared with Afghanistan and a continuing strategic standoff with India.  Indeed, the actions of the US government today can be best seen in this light - another attempt to pressure the government of Pakistan to act in America's best interests instead of their own.  

As mentioned previously, the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation will change very little.  The US military has been trying to damage or destroy the Haqqani Network militarily for years, trying to trap them in Afghanistan and launching cross-border attacks into Pakistan using Drones and Afghan mercenaries.  That battle will continue, probably even heat up.  But there is something interesting here.  The Haqqani network is considered a problem by the US government because of their attacks on US and NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan.  By definition, attacks by resistance fighters against military occupiers is NOT considered terrorism, and in fact has been embraced many times by the US, from the French resistance in WW II to Organizations like, well, the Haqqani Network when they were resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.  One of the most dangerous factors contributing to the ongoing militarization of our society and the creation of an endless state of low-level global conflict is this squishy, flexible, non-specific definition (or lack thereof) of terrorism.  If terrorism can be anything we say it is, or anything the Russians or the Chinese or the Israelis or the Iranians say it is, or if it is used to kill and destroy anything and anyone we (or they) don't like, then it is only a matter of time when someone designates US as the terrorists and attacks us.

Everything about the war and occupation in Afghanistan is an obscenity - from its pointlessness and futility to its small, local brutalities to the lies used to create and sustain it to the hatred it evokes and perpetuates.  With these wars of choice, killing, maiming and destroying for artificial political or economic reasons, the US has not only made herself into a monster, she has changed the world forever.  This is the future - not the one of technology and trade, rising living standards, decreasing poverty, healthier, richer and better educated people that we could have had - but rather one of the exercise of raw power at the point of a gun, death, sickness and suffering inflicted upon people almost randomly because it's just too hard to figure out a more civilized solution to the same old problems.  Technology has made rich nations invincible, and those invincible militaries will always be used, because it's beyond the capacity of human imagination to NOT use them.  Your children's world will be one of drones, and terrorism, assassinations and truck bombs, cyber war and nuclear proliferation.  It is not a bright, hopeful future, and it is us who are primarily to blame.


  1. I am sorry for all those humans who reproduced. I hope they have some pangs of guilt when they see the world in which their spawn will live.

    Far as I can determine, the definition of terrorism has expanded to include any acts of violence against non-Muslims, whether or not they're uniformed.

  2. Once we get bored with using our super robot death machines on foreigners, we will use them on ourselves.

    Specifically, on people who don't toe the company line.

    USA! USA! USA!

  3. I was originally going to say something about cat poop and blue ribbon terrorism, btw.

  4. Specifically, on people who don't toe the company line.

    I applaud thunderpants for using the proper terminology in the phrase 'toe the line' rather than the oft-used AND INCORRECT 'tow'.

    I feel much better now.

  5. I credit the American Rock Band Toto for the correct usage you cite...

  6. robot death machines on foreigners, we will use them on ourselves.

    Won't be necessary, thunder, as we have already begun Applying the lessons of Abu Ghraib in our schools.