Unwinnable War

The so-called war against terrorism is unwinnable. It was designed to be unwinnable so that it can be carried on for an indefinite duration and thus support the vast military-industrial-anti-terrorism complex. The end of the Cold War scared this complex half to death. It can only survive with an enemy at the gates.

Conventional wars can be won because they are fought against governments. Either the enemy government can be destroyed or it is made to pay such a high price in casualties and assets that it will sue for peace. Either way, everybody knows the war is over. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Russians ended their occupation of Eastern Europe. We should have dismantled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as they did the Warsaw Pact, and moved to a peacetime situation.

Too many people in this country, however, have a vested interest in war, and they were in desperate need of a new enemy and some dramatic event to get the people all riled up. Osama bin Laden obliged on both counts.

The war against terrorism, however, is being waged against individuals scattered around the world. When one is killed, he is replaced by another. There is not, and there never will be, anyone who can say, on behalf of all terrorists, “OK, we quit.” Most of the terrorists in the world don’t even know each other.

The analogy of war is a false one. The proper analogy is simply dealing with individual criminals and a few criminal gangs. To do that, you don’t have to put the nation on a war footing; you don’t have to destroy or injure civil liberties at home or spend billions of dollars. You just doggedly pursue the criminals as they arise, knowing, as police forces do, that this is steady work. You will never get them all because they are replenishable.

I’ve often pointed to Israel as an example of the futility of trying to shoot or bomb your way out of a terrorist problem. No nation on Earth has been more ruthless, more determined and more effective in fighting terrorists than Israel, yet after more than 50 years, the Israelis are still plagued by it. That’s because they have refused to solve the political problem – occupation of Palestinian land – that gives rise to it.

Now President Bush is following their bad example. He’s developed a habit of lying. He claims we were struck by terrorists because they hate our freedom and prosperity. That’s not what the terrorists said, and they ought to know their own motives. They said they make war on us because of our one-sided support of Israel, our military presence in the Persian Gulf, and now our occupation of Iraq. They said that if we will correct those policies, they will stop attacking us.

In his recent White House remarks about Iraq, on every single occasion Bush used the word “terrorist” instead of “insurgent.” The majority of people fighting us in Iraq are not terrorists. There are some, mainly the suicide bombers, but the majority of them just oppose our occupation of their country. Attacks against an opposing army cannot be called acts of terrorism. Only attacks against civilian targets qualify as acts of terrorism, and that’s true whether the civilians are killed by a suicide bomber or an American airplane or an artillery piece.

The president and his band of pro-Israel neoconservatives grossly misled the American people into a war that, even were we to win it (and we won’t), will not benefit the American people one iota. It’s good to see that more and more Americans are catching on to the fact that our government was not honest with us.

It’s too bad the Democratic Party is in such a sorry shape, with spineless opportunists and left-wing ideologues, that there is no good alternative party for the American people to turn to.

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Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.