Friday, February 08, 2008

The ever-changeing faces of terror


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I'm quite surprised no one has picked up on this. No matter what happens, there's always another enemy out there.

The US needs enemies or it doesn't need a huge military industrial complex.
The recently expressed view of Nigel Inkster, the former deputy chief of Britain's secret service (MI6), that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud is now the world's "deadliest Islamist threat and public enemy number one" reveals the puerility of the so-called "war on terror". As it enters its seventh year, the massive American effort to root out al-Qaeda and its allied organizations around the world faces a credibility problem with few successes and several mishaps.

On commencing his costly misadventures in 2001, US President George W Bush confidentially delivered bad news to his military generals that "this will be a long campaign". As the vague and drifting campaign reached the limits of temporal stretching with no end in sight, a psychological strategy that found favor with the US and its allies was to personalize and simplify the problem for the imagination of skeptical publics.

If victory is redefined as eliminating individual personalities rather than defeating a complex network or ideology, the bitter pill of failure can not only be sweetened but also showcased as a sweetmeat for citizens' consumption. This carefully crafted ruse of selling defeat as success begins with lionization of an al-Qaeda-affiliated leader through relentless coverage of his dreaded activities in the state-browbeaten media. The next step is to keep releasing stories that a hunt is on for the high-value target and that US/North Atlantic Treaty Organization intelligence is closing in on the star figure.

Since warfare is lethal, the likelihood of an operational commander being killed in combat is not far-fetched. After months or years of media buildup about the significance of a particular jihadi leader and the extent of havoc he has caused, when the subject does meet his maker, the event will be hailed by American spokespersons as a major milestone and feather in the cap for the "war on terror". The reality on the ground is likely that a replacement for the slain leader has already slipped into his new shoes, but Western media will be asked to raise a toast and self-congratulations will resound in Washington and London that they are one step closer to extinguishing the Islamist threat.

Truth is, building weapons of destruction, mass or otherwise, is the predominant manufacturing base in the US outside Boeing's building of commercial aircraft and Detroit's building cars which are too expensive for most foreigners to purchase.

No, the US has little else to offer. It specializes in "services" which is selling services to other Americans. Not hardly an exportable commodity.

Via Asia Times.

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