Mumbai to Obama: End Bush’s War on Terror

by on November 29, 2008 · 7 comments

in Election, War and Peace, World News

by: Steve Weissman / t r u t h o u t | Perspective / Saturday 29 November 2008

An Indian soldier stands in front of the still smoldering Taj Hotel in Mumbai. (Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP)

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai call out to President-elect Barack Obama and his advisors to rethink the signature blunder of George W. Bush’s eight years in office – the so-called War on Terror. As US intelligence reports have made clear, the centerpiece of the supposed campaign against terror, the military occupation of Iraq, has increased the likelihood of more attacks like those in Mumbai, Madrid, London and Manhattan. The new escalation in Afghanistan will similarly increase terrorist attacks there, in neighboring India and Pakistan, in disputed Kashmir, and throughout the world.

Bush and Cheney chose the word “war” with malice aforethought. From the start, they intended a military response, first against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and then against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And, as Barton Gellman shows so brilliantly in his book “Angler,” Dick Cheney and his team consciously wanted to create a wartime presidency with enormous unchecked power and scant regard for basic American liberties.

By contrast, Obama’s advisors openly acknowledge that military force alone will never bring victory over terrorism. They would, in addition, provide more economic aid, use counter-insurgency tactics to pacify local populations, and work with surrounding regional powers, including Iran.

But Obama and his people still talk far too much about using military force and delude themselves into believing that the physical defeat of Al-Qaeda will significantly weaken the current terrorist threat.

Though it’s still too early to know who staged the attacks in Mumbai, they were most likely militant jihadis, possibly with links to Kashmiri rebels and renegade elements of Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI. Al-Qaeda may or may not have played a role in the planning.

But even if Al-Qaeda did, how would killing Osama bin Laden – if he’s still alive – or hanging all of his top aides, or hammering the Taliban in any way defuse the toxic brew of often justified grievances and outrageous religious fanaticism that we now face? The enemy is not a single man, and not a single group. It is a movement of shared ideas and beliefs, all too often encouraged by Washington’s pursuit of policies that are both unjust and counter-productive.

The terrorist bloodshed started long before bin Laden and will continue long after his dialysis machine packs up. No magic bullet will end it, but military boots on other people’s ground will almost always make matters worse. That’s what they did in Iraq. That’s what they are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What bin Laden added to the mix was the well-articulated idea that terrorist attacks could promote a clash of civilizations, or holy war. With his War on Terror, George W. Bush, the Crusader-in-Chief, responded exactly as bin Laden wanted, turning moderate Muslims around the world into terrorist supporters, funders, and enablers. Why would Obama want to continue the madness?

To gain perspective, Obama might ask his advisers to brief him on the very different wave of terrorism that spread from Russia, through Europe, and into the United States between 1881 and 1914. The terrorists were mostly anarchists, and they killed, among others, Czar Alexander II, King Umberto I of Italy, the president of France, the prime minister of Spain, and the president of the United States, William McKinley.

The assassinations shook the established powers throughout the Western world. One terrorist, a Bosnian nationalist, even triggered War I when he assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in historic Sarajevo.

The new media of the time, the daily newspaper, naturally exaggerated the threat, spreading the terrifying specter of the crazed anarchist bomb-thrower. Just as naturally, the papers gave considerably less coverage to another image of the age – that of the government-paid agent provocateur.

In time, the anarchists themselves saw that their violence, their propaganda of the deed, was not sparking the revolutionary movement they wanted, and they turned instead toward organizing workers into unions. But, even at the time of the greatest murder and mayhem, I can think of no government that ever went anywhere near as far as the Bush administration in making the fight against terrorism a question of military force.

Today’s terrorists have far more deadly weapons at their disposal, as Dick Cheney always told us. But today’s police and intelligence services have more than enough technology to meet the threat. What they need is far greater international cooperation, which a reliance on the military makes more difficult.

Similarly, Islamic societies around the world have more than enough creativity to see the dead end into which terrorism leads. What they need is time and space to adapt to a changing world.

Barack Obama is in a unique position to build cooperation and encourage Muslims everywhere to find their own way forward. Happily, he has made a good start by announcing that he will close Guantánamo and end the horrors of torture. He has also raised the hope, however faint, that he will work toward a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

Even more to the point, his pledge to build a green economy will reduce any argument for continuing American support of despotic governments in countries with large reserves of oil and natural gas.

All this is promising. But it remains only a promise, and all of it will come to naught if Obama gives the orders to continue killing people and breaking things wherever and whenever the United States wants. [Go here for the post at truthout.]


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

james November 29, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Are you people retarded??Its not Bush’s war on terror,it’s every americans war on islamofascism around the world and it will continue forever.Your blatant pacifivism of:don’t get mad at the terrorist or they’ll hurt us is bullshit and cowardly.As a proud american,I will fight these motherfuckers til the last god dam drop of blood.Obama is an empty suit joke and thru trickery and acorn’s manipulating the voting procedure stole the election.Obama can say what he wants ,but he doesn’t speak for this good american.


OB Joe November 29, 2008 at 7:45 pm

James? Is that really you? “every americans war on islamofascism around the world and it will continue forever.” Is this really what modern life is all about? James, whoever you are, you must be joking, sir, to even utter such nonsense. This has to be a joke. It couldn’t be real. James, come back and explain yourself. Tell us you just did it for laughs.


Molly November 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Joe, as usual, mi amigo, you put foot into mouth before engaging brain. James is, either a) someone who follows the Rove-right-wing Republican line, Cheney, Rumsfield & Co, and is sincere; or is (b) a friendly reader who is simply pulling our leg, putting out the standard position on ‘Islamofascism’, for whatever reasons. I guess it could also be (c), a blog troll, someone who goes around to various blogs, and stirs things up just to do that by espousing outrageous positions that flow contrary to the particular blog’s view or stance.
The point is, how do you respond? If it’s (a), why respond at all? That person is already so much of an ideologue that you’d be wasting your time trying to convince them of the truth. Or you could figure that maybe you should respond in a reasoned way, pointing out carefully how that right-wing line is Swiss chesse and full of holes – something Joe that you didn’t obviously try to do – in order to demonstrate to any readers who were waivering over whether to go ‘anti-isolamofascist’ or adhere to more of a leftwing perspective. IF you think that there are many readers of the OB Rag that are actually in that place, then golly gee whizagers – you too?
Now if it’s (b), why jump into their game? What’s the point but mutual mental masturbation via this blog, and the rest of us will doubtlessly not be amused or entertained.
And, so it if it’s (c), again I ask, why respond? What’s the point? See (b). And now dear Joe, I wonder why I even tried with you.


OB Joe November 30, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Molly, obviously I was being rhetorical with James. And talk about mental masturbation, geez!
As to the article itself, I basically agree with it, although it does not discuss or address exactly what or who caused the whole Mumbai spectacle. I knew the Indian government would blame Pakistani militants or at least people associated with the whole Kasmir situation. This conflict has been festering for some time now, and under Bush, the US tried to be allies to both sides in the India-Pakistan power struggle over the province. Both have nukes. And even though the US says it wants stable governments in that region, it has an imperial interest in keeping the two involved with each other. You know, conflict between rivals can give the third power – the US in this equation – more power in relation to both of them. And if India and Pakistan ever made complete peace and actually assisted each other as deep and intricately intertwined peoples they are, they would become their own power center and post a threat to US empire interests (not against the interest of the American people). That’s why people like Bush and Cheney and their corporate supporters want the two countries continually at each other. In a clever way, the terrorists are playing into the empire’s game. Take that! yo-bomb-thrower ! You’re a pawn of the capitalist-pigs! Ha!


dougbob December 1, 2008 at 6:06 am

the point of article is that military force is not the solution to terrorism. it hasn’t worked in the last decade and it hasn’t worked historically. the clown “james” has spent too much time watching “action” shows on fox (and other media) and thinks that’s what the world is really like. while we can feel sorry for his delusional perspective, he’s best ignored at this point in time.


RF Buirton December 2, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Ah, geez, if only we’d end the War on Terror, people wouldn’t be so
a n g r y at us! If only we’d be n i c e r they wouldn’t want to blow us up. Smarten up, read Huntington! The best thing about Obama coming into office is that all the mealy-mouthed leftists in the world offering pious assurances that they only hated the soon-to-be-peacefully-departing fascist Bush regime and not the wonderful American people may have to conclude that, waitaminnit, yes, they *do* hate the American people, after all.
Good! Bring it on.


OB Joe December 3, 2008 at 7:35 am

So, RF, are you into war into perpetuity also? do we continue to fight the terrorists long after we have passed, and we pass the fight on to our grandkids? Is that your vision of America?
Military solutions are NEVER the answer to anything. Look at India and what just happened. Has India done anything to stir up animosity amongst tribes in the Kashmir region?
When a country such as US declares itself the policeman of the world, with no authority than imperial ambition, then we’re going to get our toes bitten – or more. We have no right going around and ordering countries to obey our system or else.
Get a grip FR. You say, ‘bring it on” – isn’t that what Bush said in 2003? and look what it got us. You need to study history, dude. And the US Constitution while you’re at it. No where does it say in that historic document that we police the world. Our colors don’t run – the world.


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