WASHINGTON, August 11, 2014 — For many Americans, the “war on terror” was a figment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s fevered imagination and that of his affable marionette, President George W. Bush. Lumping al Qaeda and other international Islamic extremists into one neat group, critics said, closed off a more nuanced approach to achieving U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.
When President Obama assumed office in 2009, he desperately sought to put 9/11 behind him by wrapping the terms “terror” and “war” in thick cloaks of bureaucratic, Orwellian Newspeak. “This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT]. Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation,’” said a White House memo to the Pentagon.
“The International Commission of Jurists urged the Obama administration to drop the phrase ‘war on terror,’” the Washington Post reported. “The commission said the term had given the Bush administration ‘spurious justification to a range of human rights and humanitarian law violations,’ including detention practices and interrogation methods that the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as torture.”
Amnesty International also demanded the U.S. close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, immediately. “Detainees must either be promptly charged and given fair trials in U.S. federal courts, or be released. Illegal detention at other U.S. facilities, including those in Afghanistan, must end,” the organization declared.
President Obama attempted to follow through on these recommendations. A beneficiary of Obama’s foreign policy and national security reset was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then cooling his heels in a cell in southern Iraq’s Camp Bucca. Named after Ronald Bucca, a New York City fire marshal killed on 9/11, the facility’s prisoners were guarded by U.S. Army reservists, many of them proud members of the FDNY and NYPD.
The Combined Review and Release Board recommended al-Baghdadi’s “unconditional release” to Iraqi authorities in 2009. “I’ll see you in New York,” he quipped to his American guards while heading toward the exit. Ironically, the very Iraqi government that unleashed al-Baghdadi on the world now trembles at every territorial gain made by his Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters.
The Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) reports that “public executions are a regular weekly occurrence” in Raqqa, the ISIS provisional capital in Iraq, and the “bodies of executed people have been ‘crucified’ – placed on crosses in public areas after execution by other means, supposedly to act as a deterrent to others.”
And ISIS fighters recently seized the city of Qaraqosh, containing Iraq’s largest Christian population, ordering them to “leave, convert [to Islam] or die.”
“I was given three days to decide whether to become a Muslim, pay jizya – a special tax imposed on Christians under Islamic rule – or leave,” Khalil Touma told Britain’s Independent.
Amnesty International is suddenly concerned. “We urge the international community to provide humanitarian assistance, while the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities must spare no effort to ensure that much-needed aid is delivered to the displaced civilians and that they are protected from further ISIS attacks on the ground.”
And so, the president announced that he ordered U.S. military air strikes against ISIS targets to protect “many thousands of innocent civilians … in danger of being wiped out,” but added, “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis there.”
That last sentence completes the circle begun with the Obama administration’s 2009 memo to the Pentagon.
As much as Obama would like to make Islamic radicals disappear, it won’t happen by burying them under a mountain of inane, bureaucratic euphemisms. A spokesman for ISIS claims his merry band of killers will one day “raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”
That may require a new White House memo declaring an end to our “overseas contingency operation” and a return to the long, twilight struggle called the “Global War on Terror.” Either that or the lunatics of ISIS will keep pushing and killing until, one day, the White House flagpole is in sight.