History repeats itself with ‘war on terror’

Remi Brulin writes: More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks, we are finally getting a clearer picture of the ways in which the United States is waging what it calls its “war on terrorism.”

At the center of the government’s strategy has been the decision to shift the focus away from capturing and interrogating alleged terrorist suspects to killing them, with a series of covert wars prosecuted mostly by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command frequently relying on so-called kinetic operations: night raids, “find, fix and finish” operations, cruise missile strikes, and the increasing use of drones.

Yet these approaches raise not only fundamental legal and moral questions, but also doubts about their long-term strategic effectiveness. And, to a historian, they also carry disturbing echoes of the past.

Decades ago, Latin American regimes allied with the U.S., and then the U.S. government itself, insisted that they were fighting a war on terrorism. In the process, they resorted to methods and tactics that themselves fit any reasonable definition of terrorism. Indeed, America’s “targeted killings” and the 2004 decision to fund and train Iraqi special commandos echo very specific practices of the 1970s and 1980s. Considered in such a historical context, they highlight some of the fundamental contradictions and inconsistencies that lie at the heart of the discourse on terrorism. [Continue reading…]

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