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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Changing the Terms: John Brennan Announes End of "War on Terrorism"

The Washington Independent » Obama Aide Declares End to War on Terrorism
Spencer Ackerman writes:

John Brennan picked a deeply symbolic day to end the “war on terrorism.”

On August 6, 2001, Brennan, then a senior CIA official and now President Obama’s assistant for counterterrorism and homeland security, “read warnings that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike inside the U.S., but our government was unable to prevent the worst terrorist attack in American history,” he recalled to an audience Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. It was a reference to a CIA analysis, called a President’s Daily Brief, that the 9/11 Commission uncovered as a key warning that an attack by al-Qaeda was likely.

Eight years later, in his first speech since joining the Obama administration, Brennan annulled several key aspects of the so-called war on terrorism — starting with both the name and the idea that the U.S. was involved in any sort of “global war.” Brennan said Obama will subordinate counterterrorism to “its right and proper place” as a “vital part” of the administration’s national security and foreign policies, but not the lion’s share of them. Saying he was careful not to elevate al-Qaeda to a greater position of importance than it deserved, Brennan linked the rise in support for extremists to problems of global governance, economic crisis and social stratification and said the administration would make a concerted effort to address what he considers those extremist root causes.

Above all, Brennan emphasized that the U.S. was not locked in a struggle with the world’s billion Muslims. He derided al-Qaeda’s self-presentation as a “highly organized, global entity capable of replacing sovereign nations with a global caliphate,” and said that the administration would abandon the use of the word “jihad” in reference to al-Qaeda, since the term carries “religious legitimacy” in the Muslim world that al-Qaeda’s “murderers… desperately seek but in no way deserve.” David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency expert and former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, has recently argued in an influential book that the U.S. has insufficiently distinguished between implacable enemies and those who fight out of opportunism, desperation or other, non-eschatological reasons.

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