Glenn Greenwald writes: Anonymous U.S. officials this morning are announcing in The Washington Post that they have effectively defeated what they call “the organization that brought us 9/11″ — Al Qaeda — by rendering it “operationally ineffective.” Specifically, “the leadership ranks of the main al-Qaeda terrorist network have been reduced to just two figures whose demise would mean the group’s defeat, U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials said.” And: “asked what exists of al-Qaeda’s leadership group beyond the top two positions, the official said: ‘Not very much’.”
You might think this means that the vastly expanded National Security and Surveillance States justified in the name of 9/11, as well as the slew of wars and other aggressive deployments which it spawned, can now be reversed and wound down. After all, the stated purpose of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) which provided legal cover to all of this was expressed in the very first line: “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.” The purpose of this authorized force was equally clear and limited: “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Now, the group which the U.S. government has always said was the one that “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001″ is, according to this same government, “operationally ineffective.” So what does that mean in terms of policy? Absolutely nothing:
U.S. officials stressed that al-Qaeda’s influence extends far beyond its operational reach, meaning that the terrorist group will remain a major security threat for years.
Not just a threat — but a major security threat — “for years” to come. In fact, it turns out that the version of Al Qaeda that the U.S. just spent the last decade “defeating” on the ground that it perpetrated 9/11 does not even really matter: “U.S. counterterrorism officials now assess al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen as a significantly greater threat.” Even in Pakistan, where the “effectively inoperable” group is based, the CIA refuses even to reduce its activities: “letting up now could allow them to regenerate,” an anonymous official decreed. And if that’s not enough to keep your fear levels sufficiently high to support (or at least acquiesce to) more militarism, there is always this: “The arrest this week of an alleged al-Qaeda sympathizer in New York underscored the group’s ability to inspire ‘lone wolf’ attacks.”