Thoughts: Dirty Wars the Book

Today is a guest post written by Jason Rosenblatt. I read this and was so impressed that I got permission to post it here.

Dirty Wars

An amazing book that will leave fans of Obama at a bit of a loss (i.e. having to retreat from thinking Obama is great to accepting that he was better than the alternatives, to finally having to consider that his popularity in some ways acted as the candy coating around a poison pill as far as counter terrorism policy and actions that, had they occurred while an unpopular Republican was in office, would’ve resulted in much greater outcry). The book’s full title, derived from an official quote: the World is a Battlefield argues (very well supported) that there are no longer limits to what actions can be taken in the name of counter terrorism (specifically bypassing due process for reasons deemed classified as state secrets) and being able to pretty much kill anyone anywhere in the world without having to prove any standard of imminent threat. As it sheds light on as many dirty practices started by Bush as dirty practices maintained or used by Obama, it’s kind of guaranteed to be unpopular among both Republicans and Democrats who prefer the more simple (Bush bad/Obama good – or vice-a-versa) world view. The problem with trying to maintain such a viewpoint is that imprisoning and torturing people in Guantanamo sucked, and but so does murdering people using predator drones. Wars against terrorists who MIGHT attack someday becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and, as the book illustrates through a few examples, you end up creating terrorists who would not otherwise have existed. The next stage (as the movie Sicario depicted) is that the same techniques used to fight terror are used to fight cartels. Then once you grow comfortable with that notion, it progresses to the next stage. The spine of Dirty Wars follows the first American citizen ever to be targeted and killed in the war on terror and how that has been accepted and paved the way for the next logical step. If American citizens living overseas can be targeted for assassination, what about American Citizens at home? And if your primary action is advocating taking a stance and articulating rage and being a cultural leader who has and will inspire violent actions do you deserve to die? The book doesn’t bring them up, but it’s worth mentioning that both Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela were branded as terrorists. If they were active today would they be targeted by privatized kill teams? And I wish I could say this was a document of a dark time that has passed, but the pattern is not complex or difficult to understand. A screwup overseas results in innocent people being killed, a few people start to question the whole war on terror thing, but then a failed or successful attack of some sort (organized or not) occurs and shuts up any voices of dissent, convinces us there’s bad people out there so it’s okay if a few bad things are done to stop them and we skip to the sports or celebrity news and then act confused when it seems like everyone living in the places we’re supposedly helping hates this country.

As John Oliver pointed out, kids in parts of the world feel safer and happier on cloudy/rainy days because US drones don’t work so the possibility of deadly bombs falling out of the bright sunny sky is reduced. In other words they live in constant fear and are terrorized. If someone was flying remote controlled bomb dropping devices over my home growing up and I had relatives and friends who died, don’t you think it would pretty easy to be motivated to do something about it? Yes, drone strikes don’t put as many current American lives at risk, but like with most logic these days, it doesn’t account for the future safety of both American soldiers and citizens as tragedy and loss inspires passionate hatred and does all the recruitment work needed for a terrorist organization. From the initial pronouncement that Bush made wherein he linked terrorists with those who would house them and aid them he declared an unwinnable war with no end in sight. The headline “Obama apologizes for bombing hospital” is not just a Homer Simpson doh! It’s evidence that the harder we try to “win” the worse it gets. Come on if “they” (insert anyone) bombs a US Hospital do they get to say “sorry”? We don’t get to accidentally kill innocent people over there in the name of preventing someone from intentionally killing innocent people over here. That’s not fair, that can’t be how this shit works. We wouldn’t argue that and expect to win.

So yeah none of the lessons of what brought about the end of terrorist organizations and campaigns in the 70s were heeded this time around and now we’re in a war but because we haven’t invaded a country, because it’s not about a number of troops overseas inside a specific border, we don’t know how to tell our leaders to cut it the fuck out. We can’t say bring our troops home because it’s not about that. Calling for the truth in reporting (if the reporting reveals we’re the bad guys) is quickly labeled treason because we’ve kinda all decided that there’s the truth and then there’s the truth. If it’s the kind of truth that justifies terrorists targeting Americans then it’s terrorist propaganda that’s being spread. The problem comes once you can’t handle the truth cause you just have to be the good guys all the time. There are solutions to undermining terrorists and terrorist organizations. But it’s like a grease fire, you can’t just splash water and more water on it – that just makes it worse. And at this point in time, the amount of power people are willing to give up for the illusion of safety means nobody in charge is going to want the war on terror to end.

The only thing you can control is what you decide is acceptable and unacceptable. Shit like 9/11 that is going to happen, the Boston Marathon bombing proves it doesn’t require huge international organizations and multiplying the kill list is gonna create more terrorists than it eliminates, so we just have to accept the possibility that shit like that will happen and draw the line at what WE are willing to do or have done in our name by the people we elect. If we’re cool with torture, extraordinary rendition, imprisonment without trial, targeting and killing people for what they say and redefining the standard for terrorism based on whether the victims are over there or over here. Come on, our country bombed a hospital, they’re calling us terrorists and we’re pretending it didn’t happen because the argument “the bombs were meant for other people not worthy of a trial by jury” kinda sucks. I mean is this what everyone wants? 9/11 sucked but the endzone was Bin Laden and once he was gone they just moved the goal post so what the fuck are we doing?

Jason Rosenblatt is just a struggling artist trying to stay educated and informed (and encouraging others to do likewise).

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