War on terrorism

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Template:Message box The war on terrorism or war on terror (abbreviated in U.S. policy circles as GWOT for Global War on Terror) is an effort by the governments of the United States and its principal allies to destroy groups deemed to be "terrorist" (primarily radical Islamist organizations such as al-Qaeda) and to ensure that what the U.S. administration terms "rogue states" no longer support terrorist activities. The war on terror became a central U.S. policy following the September 11, 2001 attacks but other incidents have been cited as contributing factors; for example, the World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, suicide bombings in Israel and the Lockerbie bombing. Critics maintain that the war on terrorism has been used as an excuse to curtail personal freedom, to restrict access to government information and to provide a pretext for pursuing domestic and international objectives unrelated to terrorism.

Car bombing
Suicide bombing
Nuclear terrorism
Independent actors



The very phrase "War on terrorism" is the subject of some debate and disagreement. First, there has always been considerable debate as to what constitutes terrorism; in addition, the notion of declaring war on an abstract concept is troubling to some (in the same vein as the war on drugs, war on poverty, and the war on crime).

According to French prime minister Dominique de Villepin, the term war implies the fighting of :

  • two internationally defined states
  • according to international laws,
  • the respect of these laws being judged if needed after the war is over (see Nuremberg Trials).

None of these conditions are met, and as the operations cannot be qualified as regular organized crime fighting either, he suggests that the fight against terrorism continue being called the fight against terrorism.

But Villepin's criteria may be an over-simplification of the complexities of recent armed conflicts. For example, civil wars are not between "two internationally defined states", but rather two competing factions in the same geographical area.

There are difficulties inherent in labelling armed participants as "freedom-fighters," "terrorists," "insurgents," etc., due to the relative criteria required to meet such labels.

Even when the boundaries of an organization are clearly defined, there might not be a way to distinguish some organizations as terrorist or otherwise. For example, the militant Islamist group Hamas, although directly responsible for violent acts that Israelis, Americans, and Europeans deem as terrorism, is also responsible for many of the charities and other social welfare programs in Palestine.

Among those who accept the term "War on terrorism," there are disagreements as to which actions, by which states, should be considered as part of the "war." For example, the Bush administration, despite considerable international and domestic disagreement, contends that the pre-emptive 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation is a crucial part of the war on terrorism. Likewise, Russia has recently asserted that its ongoing struggles with Chechen fighters should be part of the international effort.

Noam Chomsky has argued that some commonly accepted definitions of "terrorism", as accepted by U.S. officials, also apply to many of the actions undertaken by the U.S. in the name of "the war on terror." Since, according to Chomsky, the U.S. engages in terrorism, he concludes that the "war against terror" is aimed only at terrorism directed at the U.S. and their allies. [1] (http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199112--02.htm)

Cognitive linguistics professor George Lakoff, founder of the progressive think tank the Rockridge Institute, has argued, with respect to the phrase "War on Terror", "Terror is a general state, and it's internal to a person. Terror is not the person we're fighting, the 'terrorist.' The word terror activates your fear, and fear activates the strict father model, which is what conservatives want. The 'war on terror' is not about stopping you from being afraid, it's about making you afraid." He adds "...terrorists are actual people, and relatively small numbers of individuals, considering the size of our country and other countries. It's not a nation-state problem. War is a nation-state problem." Lakoff believes that the frame invoked by the phrase plays a key role in the political changes enacted by President Bush through the implication of the frame. [2] (http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/08/25_lakoff.shtml)

Historical usage of the phrase

Missing image
Time magazine used the phrase "War on Terrorism" for a 1977 cover story.

Legal land warfare is characterized by uniformed combatants, deliberate avoidance of damage to noncombatants, and care for prisoners and enemy wounded. Combatants who do not abide by the rules of land warfare are illegal combatants. Actions which deliberately target noncombatants, with the intent to inspire widespread fear, are terrorist by definition.

The phrase "war on terrorism" was first widely used by the Western press to refer to the efforts by the British colonial government to end a spate of Jewish terrorist attacks in the British Mandate of Palestine in the late 1940s. The British proclaimed a "war on terrorism" and attempted to crack down on Irgun, Lehi, and anyone perceived to be cooperating with them. The Jewish attacks, Arab reprisals, and the subsequent British crackdown hastened the British evacuation from Palestine.

A representative article from the period in (New York Times, August 5th, 1947, p. 16) reads:

"The Palestine Government today arrested the mayors of several Jewish cities and townships along Palestine's coast, including Tel Aviv, Nathanya, and Ramat Gan. No reason for the arrests was immediately given, but it was believed that they indicated a new attack in the British war on terrorism. The bodies of the two British sergeants executed by the Irgun Zvai Leumi last week were found hanged near Nathanya."

After the withdrawal of the British, the newly formed Israeli government began using the term "war on terrorism" to refer to its efforts to crack down on Palestinian and Lebanese groups, both terrorist and otherwise, operating in Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.

The phrase "war on terrorism" was used frequently by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. In his 1986 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Reagan said:

"...the United States believes that the understandings reached by the seven industrial democracies at the Tokyo summit last May made a good start toward international accord in the war on terrorism."

Contemporary United States

The current "war on terrorism" has been primarily an initiative of the United States. Daniel J. Gallington wrote:

Despite the antiterrorism rhetoric of the U.N. and the major world powers, and with the very significant exception of Great Britain and a few others, we are in a world war against radical Islam by ourselves. [3] (http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20040929-084824-5586r.htm)

Soon after and in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush announced his intention to begin a "War on terrorism", a protracted struggle against terrorists and the states that aid them.

On September 18, 2001, the U.S. Congress authorized the president to

"use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." [4] (http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode50/usc_sec_50_00001541----000-notes.html)

On September 20, 2001, the U.S. President George W. Bush presented his position in an address to a joint session of Congress and the American people:

"Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." [5] (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html)

On October 10, 2001, the U.S. President presented a list of 22 most-wanted terrorists. Then in the first such act since World War II, President Bush signed an executive order [6] (http://www.law.uchicago.edu/tribunals/exec_order.html) on November 13, 2001 allowing military tribunals against any foreigners suspected of having connections to current or planned terrorist acts on the United States. U.S.-led military forces later invaded both Afghanistan (see U.S. invasion of Afghanistan) and, controversially, Iraq (see 2003 Iraq War) under the aegis of the War on terrorism.

These undertakings were advanced through fear that subsequent terror attacks could be much worse, including a growing fear of nuclear terrorism and the 2001 anthrax attacks ultimately discovered to have originated from a US government lab at the Dugway Proving Ground.

Several governments have provided aid in some aspect of the conflict, making arrests of suspected terrorists and freezing bank accounts, for example.

The USA has received limited military help from some (with the exception of the United Kingdom) usually small governments. In the United States, the War on terrorism became the prism through which international relations were viewed, supplanting the Cold War and in some cases the war on drugs.

Many pre-existing disputes were re-cast in terms of the War on terrorism, including Plan Colombia and the Colombian civil war; the United States' diplomatic and military disputes with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea; the war between Russia and Chechnya; and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two largest campaigns undertaken as part of the War on terrorism have been those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Objective and Strategies

In a January 3, 2005, editorial in the Toronto Star, Jonathan Stevenson, a senior fellow for counterterrorism at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (US) writes "the strategic objective of the global war on terror is to completely isolate Al Qaeda's maximialist leadership and disempower local jihadist affiliates." [7] (http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1104521199347)

The United States has based its counter-terrorist strategy on several steps:

  • Denial of safe havens in which terrorists can train and equip members.
  • Restriction of funding of terrorist organizations.
  • Degradation of terrorist networks by capturing or killing intermediate leaders.
  • Detention of suspected and known terrorists. See the section below for further details
  • Getting information, through various techniques, such as interrogation, from captured terrorists of other members of their organization, training sites, methods, and funding.
  • Expanding and improving efficiency of intelligence capabilities and foreign and domestic policing.

In doing so, the strategy is not very different from successful counter-guerrilla operations, such as in Malaysia in the 1950s. There is a fine distinction between guerrilla operations and terrorist operations.

Many guerrilla organizations, such as the Zionist armed group known as the Irgun in British-Mandated Palestine, and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian Civil War, and Vietnam's National Liberation Front (NLF), included urban terrorism as part of their overall strategy.

Denial of safe havens involves a fairly large military force; however, as in Afghanistan in 2002, once the major safe haven areas are overrun, the large-scale forces can be withdrawn and special forces, such as U.S. Special Operations Forces or the British Special Air Service (SAS), operate more effectively.

In addition, the U.S. Army is involved in increasingly large civil affairs programs in Afghanistan to provide employment for Afghans and to reduce sympathy in the civilian population for parties the United States has designated as terrorist.

The U.S. strategy faces several obstacles:

  • Terrorist groups can continue to operate, albeit at a less-sophisticated scale.
  • The strengths of U.S. intelligence gathering are signal intelligence and photo intelligence gathering. Organizations that avoid use of cellular phones and radios and rely on couriers have a lower profile. On the other hand, such organizations also have a slower planning and reaction time.
  • Political opposition to U.S. policies inside countries in which terrorists operate, as in Pakistan, where Al-Qaida and the Taliban have supporters who share religious or ethnic affiliations.
  • Legal opposition to U.S. methods of detaining suspected terrorists.
  • The lack of an clear statement from the U.S. administration renouncing to use or support terrorism to shape policy.
  • A policy perceived by some as superficial, based in developing a simple military approach against terrorism, but not a political solution to the causes of terrorism.

On the 2nd of September 2004, in response to the question of whether the "war on terror" could be won, President Bush declared: "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." [8] (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5866571/)

Interrogation methods

A Washington Post investigation published on December 26, 2002, quotes anonymous CIA and other government officials who claim that U.S. military and CIA personnel employ physical coercion during their interrogation of suspects and that U.S. officials believe these practices are necessary and unavoidable in light of the September 11th terrorist attacks. They state that CIA is using "stress and duress" techniques at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, a base leased from Britain at Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, and numerous other secret facilities worldwide. In May 2005, an official investigation report stated that U.S. soldiers tortured and murdered two Afghan civilians. The report concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses (see: Bagram torture and prisoner abuse).

The CIA reportedly transfers suspects, along with a list of questions, to foreign intelligence services of countries routinely criticized by the U.S. Department of State for torturing suspects, where they are alleged to be severely tortured with the assent and encouragement of the United States. These countries include Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Syria. One official stated, "We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them." (See also "extraordinary rendition" and the articles on Maher Arar and N379P.)

Anonymous sources quoted in the Washington Post article have stated that those held in the CIA detention center "are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles," and are duct-taped to stretchers for transport. The Post continues that, according to Americans with direct knowledge and others who have witnessed the treatment, that suspects are often beat up and confined in tiny rooms and are also blindfolded and handcuffed following arrest. Later, suspects are sometimes "held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights" and loud noises. The Post article goes on to say that national security officials suggested that pain killers, on at least one occasion, were "used selectively" to treat a detainee that was shot in the groin during apprehension.

The United States State Department has previously described such interrogation tactics as "abusive tactics". The 1999 State Department Human Rights Country Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories [9] (http://www.usis.usemb.se/human/human1999/israel.html) stated:

"However, a landmark decision by the High Court of Justice in September prohibited the use of a variety of abusive practices, including violent shaking, painful shackling in contorted positions, sleep deprivation for extended periods of time, and prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures."

National security officials interviewed for the investigation defended the use of such techniques as necessary to prevent further terrorist attacks. As one official put it, "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job."

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch called on the United States to respond to these reports by publicly denouncing the use of torture. In response to reports that some of the evidence that Colin Powell intended to present against Iraq to the United Nations was derived from torture, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Powell, asking him to use that speech as an opportunity to condemn any use of torture to gather intelligence. [10] (http://hrw.org/press/2003/02/powell20303.htm)

The techniques reported to be used are similar to techniques that have been used by the Soviet Union on captured CIA operatives, according to accounts by retired CIA agents. In addition, similar techniques were used by French security services in the Algerian War of Independence and in the suppression of the Secret Army Organization in the 1960s. Ethically, such techniques are seen by human rights advocates as deplorable, but some interrogators see them as necessary when information must be gained from a reluctant subject.

Further, most interrogation experts [11] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html) and the U.S. Army's own interrogation manual [12] (http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/mideast/iraq/1840.html.pf) maintain that torture can generate false responses because suspects give interrogators false information in order to stop the pain. Likewise there are concerns that torture on a suspect implies a permanent separation from the legal process, making the pursuit of justice through law unlikely. [13] (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050214fa_fact6)

International support

On September 12, 2001, less than 24 hours after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., NATO declared the attacks to be an attack against all the 19 NATO member countries. This was the first time in NATO's history that NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more NATO member will be considered an attack against all.

In the following months, NATO took a wide range of measures to respond to the threat of terrorism. On November 22, 2002, the member states of the EAPC decided on a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism which explicitly states that "EAPC States are committed to the protection and promotion of fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as the rule of law, in combating terrorism" [14] (http://www.nato.int/docu/basictxt/b021122e.htm).

At the same time, NATO and Russia intensified their cooperation.

The almost unlimited international support for the United States' War on terrorism crumbled only after U.S. preparations to invade Iraq intensified in late 2002. Some governments, such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland and Australia joined the "coalition of the willing", unconditionally supporting a U.S.-led military action against Iraq. Other countries, including Germany and France, opposed military actions that were not fully backed by a UN resolution.

The Vatican expressed its sympathy for the victms of 9/11 attacks and condemned the act of violence, but did not directly express support for the United States reaction. [15] (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_20010912_en.html)

Military/diplomatic campaigns


Main article: U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

The first target was Afghanistan and the Al-Qaida terrorist organisation based therein. The USA demanded that the Taliban government extradite Saudi exile and Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden with no preconditions. The Taliban responded first by asking to see proof that bin Laden was behind the attacks. When the United States refused and instead threatened the Taliban with military action, the Taliban offered to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan, where he could be tried under Islamic law. This offer too was refused.

The United States and other Western nations then led an attack along with local Afghan anti-Taliban forces, including several local warlords and the Northern Alliance. Many of the Afghani groups had held power before the Taliban came to power, and ruled with human rights records similar to the Taliban. This effort succeeded in removing the Taliban from power. Most Taliban did not fight; they simply went back to their tribe.

On March 2, 2003, authorities in Pakistan announced the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Hamid Karzai became Afghanistan's first democratically elected president in October 9, 2004, and the situation in the country appears to be reaching a new equilibrium. However, Karzai's authority is thin outside of the capital Kabul; the weak central government, well-armed warlords and the hidden Taliban do not change the fact that Afghanistan remains an unstable country to this day.

As of 2005, Osama bin Laden has not been found. His words have reportedly come to light from time to time, often via Arabic media outlets, and usually in support of anti-Western atrocities, such as the bombing in Bali and Tunisia.

The naming of the "Axis of Evil"

Main article: Axis of Evil

In his 2002 State of the Union address (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html) George W. Bush referred to states "like" Iraq, Iran, North Korea and their "terrorist allies" as an "axis of evil". These countries "could provide" weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, "giving them the means to match their hatred".

The phrase itself was coined by his speechwriter David Frum, who wanted to draw a parallel to World War II's Axis Powers. Not some single rogue states threaten the U.S., but possible alliances between states and terrorists. Another parallel was drawn to Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" in 1982.

The phrase "axis of evil" has triggered widespread criticism. The label "evil" claims moral superiority and was perceived by many outside the U.S. as an insult. It also reinforced fears of a religious motivation (Christian mission) behind the "War on Terrorism."

Unlike the historical Axis Powers, the three countries Iran, Iraq, and North Korea had no political links in 2002 that would justify the political term "axis". However, Iran and North Korea have extensive military and armaments links, as NK was and still is a provider of weapons and advanced weapons technologies to Iran.

Islamist, Shi'ite, non-Arabic Iran and secular-Islamic, Arabic Iraq, ruled by socialist, Sunnite Ba'ath Party and dictator Saddam Hussein, had a long history of military conflicts and open mutual hostility. North Korea was an self-isolated, secular, socialist, Far Eastern country in a Cold War-like lock with its neighbours. The common elements between the three countries were political distance from and a general hostility towards the United States, non-Christian culture, nondemocratic governments and rather closed economies.

When President George W. Bush named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil", he gave critics a reason to believe that the War on Terrorism is not about terrorist threats against the U.S., but instead is a religious and economic, unilateralist war waged against certain foreign states.


Main articles: 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. plan to invade Iraq, and Post-invasion Iraq, 2003-2005

The United States and Iraq have been involved in military and diplomatic disputes since the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, continuing through the remainder of George H. W. Bush's presidency, Bill Clinton's presidency, and the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency. On September 4, 2002, George W. Bush announced the Bush Doctrine, which stated that the United States had the right to start a preemptive military strike at any nation that could put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists.

In September 2002, Israel went public with claims that it possessed evidence linking Saddam Hussein to terrorist groups in the region and to weapons of mass destruction. Details were released about the interception of three members of the Palestinian Arab Liberation Front terrorist organization who were caught as they returned to the West Bank from Iraq, presumably after having received training in Iraq. ([16] (http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/9/24/73826.shtml)) A connection between Palestinian terrorists and Iraq seemed plausible in light of Saddam Hussein's high-profile practice of sending checks to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. ([17] (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/03/25/1017004766319.html)) Israeli intelligence organizations also claimed they had evidence that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. (Later, when no such weapons were found, at least one senior Israeli intelligence officer admitted Israel may have overstated this threat. [18] (http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/mcherald/news/world/7421069.htm))

In light of this evidence, and evidence supplied by U.S. and British intelligence organizations, in October 2002, President Bush sought and obtained congressional approval for a strike against Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail.

Intensive negotiations began with other members of the United Nations Security Council, especially the three permanent members of the Council with veto power, Russia, China, and France, who were known to have reservations about an invasion of Iraq. On November 8, 2002, the Security Council unanimously passed a new resolution, calling for Iraq to disarm or face tough consequences.

On November 18, U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq for the first time in four years. In early December, 2002, Iraq filed a 12,000-page weapons declaration with the UN. After reviewing the document, the U.S., Britain, France and other countries felt that the declaration failed to account for all of Iraq's chemical and biological agents.

On January 16, 2003, U.N. inspectors discovered 11 empty 122 mm chemical warhead components not previously declared by Iraq. Iraq dismissed the warheads as old weapons that had been packed away and forgotten. After performing tests on the warheads, U.N. inspectors believed that they were new. While the warheads are evidence of an Iraqi weapons program, they may not amount to a "smoking gun", according to U.S. officials, unless some sort of chemical agent is also detected. U.N. inspectors also searched the homes of several Iraqi scientists.

Although the invasion, occupation, and subsequent progress towards democratization of Iraq is seen by the Bush administration as part of the War on terrorism, some members of Congress, especially members of the Democratic Party, have suggested that the war on Iraq draws focus away from the War on Terrorism. Another criticism is that there has been no link established between Iraq and the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, despite some early intelligence and suggestions from the U.S. administration that Iraq may have been involved. However, Iraq's past involvement in supporting other terrorist acts and groups against both the United States and other nations has been well-established. The independent 9-11 Commission concluded there was no "collaborative operational relationship" between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, and "Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States." However, they did establish a number of connections between the two that suggest such a relationship could have developed.

In early 2003, CIA director George Tenet reported that an al-Qaida cell is operating inside Baghdad, although no evidence of help from the government of Saddam Hussein to this cell has been revealed publicly.

North Korea

Main article: George W. Bush administration policy toward North Korea

In October 2002 North Korea announced that it was running a nuclear weapon development program, in violation of treaties, and said it would be willing to negotiate a new position with the United States. The response from the United States government has been muted; officials have stated that North Korea is not as great a danger as Iraq, and do not seem to be willing to pursue the interventionist policy they are advocating in Iraq.

As of August 6, 2003, North Korea and Iran plan to form an alliance to develop long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Under the plan, North Korea will transport missile parts to Iran for assembly at a plant near Tehran, Iran.


As mentioned, President Bush has designated this nation as part of the "axis of evil". The United States State Department refers to the Islamic Republic of Iran as the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism."

Iran provides funding, weapons, and training to terrorist groups based in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. Iran funding of Islamic terrorist groups include Hezbollah (founded with help of Iran), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Kurdistan Workers Party (among others).

Iran was involved with Hezbollah's attempt to smuggle arms to the Palestinian Authority in January 2002. On August 6, 2003, North Korea and Iran plan to form an alliance to develop long-range ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Under the plan, North Korea will transport missile parts to Iran for assembly at a plant near Tehran, Iran.

There has been speculation about the administration's plans, and Iran is seen by some as 'next on the list' -- both because of its "axis of evil" status and its geopolitical relationship with Iraq. Reformist elements (including leaders and the public) in Iran are challenging the hard-liners' policies, intolerant fundamentalism, and anti-Western viewpoints.

Around September and October 2004, Iran has rejected most overtures from both Europe and the United States regarding suspending its uranium enrichment program. Also, Iran has been considered by Israel as a possible target for a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear sites, which Israel sees as a threat to its existence.


In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror bombing, Pakistan agreed to support the US in its war against terrorism. It gave the US the use of three air bases for the invasion of Afghanistan and the air campaign that preceded it. Some of the top Taliban leaders had studied in madrassas (religious seminaries) in the rugged semi-autonomous tribal belt along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In alliance with the US, Pakistan sent troops into the tribal areas - for the first time in its history - to flush out the remnants of the Taliban who had gone into hiding there.

Pankisi Gorge (Georgia)

Main article: War on terrorism: Pankisi Gorge

In February 2002, the U.S. sent approximately 200 Special Operations Forces soldiers to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to train Georgian troops to fight rebels from the breakaway Russian province Chechnya, crossing the border for safe haven in their war with Russia. This move drew protests from many Russians, who believed that Georgia should remain within the Russian sphere of influence, and not the United States'. On March 1, 2002, over domestic outcry, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze in Kazakhstan and pledged his support for the American military initiative.


Main article: War on terrorism: Yemen

The Bush Administration approved sending about 100 Special Operations soldiers to Yemen, a power base for Al-Qaida. The Special Operations forces, along with the CIA, are engaged in targeted attacks on suspected Al-Qaida members, especially in the regions of Yemen bordering Saudi Arabia, which are not well-controlled by the central Yemeni authorities.


Main article: War on terrorism: Philippines

In January 2002, a U.S. force approximately 1,000 strong was sent to assist Philippine forces. About 600 troops, including 160 Special Operations soldiers, remain training forces in the Philippines to combat Abu Sayyaf on Basilan. On October 2, 2002, a bomb in Zamboanga killed a U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant and two civilians. In October 2002 additional Zamboanga bombings killed six and wounded 200. In February 2003, the U.S. sent approximately 1,700 soldiers to the Philippines to engage in active combat against Abu Sayyaf, as opposed to training.


Main Article: War on terrorism: Indonesia

Near the end of 2001, Congress relaxed restrictions put into place in 1999 against the U.S. training of Indonesian forces because of human rights abuses in East Timor. In October 2002 the Bali car bombing killed and wounded hundreds of civilians, the majority of whom were foreign tourists. The Islamic extremist movement Jemmah Islamiyah, suspected of carrying out that attack, was classified as a terrorist organization in November 2001.

Syria and Lebanon

Main Article: Cedar Revolution

Syria and Lebanon are hosting the headquarters of several terrorist organization (according to the State Department list and the EU list) such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The USA is also upset about the passage of Arab militants to Iraq through the Syrian border. The White House declared it holds Syria accountable for supporting terrorism and officially implemented sanctions (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/05/20040511-7.html) on 11 May 2004.

The situation got even more tense with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri by a bomb in downtown Beirut, Lebanon's capital, on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), 2005. Although exactly who ordered the assassination remains unclear (an obscure militant group claimed responsibility), protests erupted in Beirut demanding that the Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon leave. President Bush, Europe, and Saudi Arabia also put pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to honor his promises according to the 1989 Taif Agreement and pull out of Lebanon. The Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah is the largest political party in Lebanon, but has been declared by the U.S. State Department to be a terrorist organization and has ties to Iran. Hezbollah organized a huge demonstration against the U.S. and seems poised to exploit a future vacuum as the Syrians depart.


The United States and Libya have been involved in diplomatic and military disputes stemming from Libya's activities since 1969. The United Nations imposed sanctions against Libya in 1992 following the Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie disaster. The sanctions were lifted on September 12, 2003, after Libya agreed to accept responsibility and make payment of US $2.7 billion to the families of those who died in the bombing. In the same vein, on February 26, 2004, the United States lifted their 23-year travel ban to Libya, although many other restrictions currently remain in place, such as economic sanctions and the ban on flights by U.S. airlines to Libya.

On December 19, 2003, Libya admitted having had a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program and simultaneously announced its intention to end it and dismantle all existing WMD to be verified by unconditional inspections. Libya also agreed to limit its long range missiles to 300 km. Some of the WMD included mustard gas, which was hidden in a turkey farm. The announcement came after clandestine diplomatic negotiations with the United Kingdom and United States since March 2003. On March 7, 2004, the White House confirmed that the last of Libya's nuclear weapons-related equipment had been sent to the United States.

About that same time, Libya was also caught secretly passing nuclear technology which originated in North Korea on to other countries. Furthermore, Pakistan and China were mentioned as contributors to the programs.

Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip

Main Article: Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Both Israel and the USA define the following militias as terrorists: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP, the PDLF and the Popular Resistance Committees who were responsible for the murder of 3 American diplomats and the Hatuel family.

The USA called on Palestinian Authority to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist groups who targets Israeli civilians. The U.S. government expressed great concern about the suicide bombers, which became popular among other Muslim terror groups such as Al-Qaeda. The Palestinians refuse to dismantle those groups and claim they are legitimate political factions who fight against occupation.

The Israeli Defence Forces conducted many counter-terrorism operations in order to thwart suicide bombings. U.S. Army officers studied Israeli operations and methods and even held joint trainings. The U.S. Army adopted some of the Israeli methods such as targeted missile-strike on terror leaders, the use of armoured bulldozers in urban warfare and new techniques for gathering military intelligence.

In addition to agreed-upon terrorist organizations, the U.S. also includes Kach, an ultra-nationalist Israeli organization on its official list of terrorist organizations, and recently added support of their Web sites to be an act of supporting terrorism.

The USA also has a political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and acts as a negotiator between the two parties, in order to solve the conflict in a peaceful manner.

On December 29, 2004, the Israeli Knesset passed a law against terrorism and against support of terrorism. The law prohibits funding terrorists, families of terrorists and institutes inciting for terrorism. The law gives Israel the right to confiscate property and founds of terrorist organization, even if they do not target Israel or Israelis. The law is part of the legal war against terrorism and was approved definitely by 62-6 (all opposers were Arab Knesset members). (Haaretz) (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/520764.html)

Detentions at Guantanamo Bay

Many people captured in the military conflict in Afghanistan have been detained at a facility known as Camp X-ray at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and have been treated as "illegal combatants" rather than as prisoners of war.

Many persons state that the term 'illegal combatant' has no meaning under international law and serves to justify denying these detainees rights granted to POWs under the Geneva convention. However, the U.S. position is that the detainees do not fall under any of the categories of combatants or noncombatants protected by the Geneva or Hague conventions (See Camp X-ray for further details.)

U.S. domestic initiatives

A $40 billion emergency spending bill was quickly passed by the United States legislature, and an additional $20 billion bail-out of the airline industry was also passed.

Investigations have been started through many branches of many governments, pursuing tens of thousands of tips. Thousands of people have been detained, arrested, or questioned. Many of those targeted by the Bush administration have been secretly detained, and have been denied access to an attorney. Among those secretly detained are U.S. citizens.

For more information, see detentions following the September 11, 2001 attack. The Justice Department launched a Special Registration procedure for certain male non-citizens in the U.S., requiring them to register in person at offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Several laws were passed to increase the investigative powers of law enforcement agencies in the United States, notably the USA Patriot Act. Many civil liberties groups have alleged that these laws remove important restrictions on governmental authority, and are a dangerous encroachment on civil liberties, possible unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment. No official legal challenges have been started as of 2004, but governing bodies in a number of communities have passed symbolic resolutions against the act.

In a speech on June 9, 2005, Bush claimed that the Patriot Act had been used to bring charges against more than 400 suspects, more than half of whom had been convicted. Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union quoted Justice Department figures that show that 7,000 people have complained of abuse of the act. The ACLU also maintains that many others don't know they've been subjected to a search because the law requires that searches be kept secret. [19] (http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/09/bush.patriot.ap/index.html)

The Bush administration began an unprecedented and sweeping initiative in early 2002 with the creation of the Information Awareness Office, designed to collect, index, and consolidate all available information on everyone in a central repository for perusal by the United States government.

Various government bureaucracies which handled security and military functions were reorganized. Most notably, the Department of Homeland Security was created to coordinate "homeland security" efforts in the largest reorganization of the U.S. federal government since the creation of the Pentagon. There was a proposal to create an Office of Strategic Influence for the purpose of coordinating propaganda efforts, but it was cancelled due to negative reactions. For the first time ever, the Bush administration implemented the Continuity of Operations Plan (or Continuity of Government) to create a shadow government to ensure the executive branch of the U.S. government would be able to continue in catastrophic circumstances.

U.S. citizens overseas

Overturning previous regulations which prevented the CIA from operating against U.S. citizens, President Bush has granted the CIA broad authority to secretly assassinate U.S. citizens (in addition to anyone else) anywhere in the world if the CIA thinks that they are working for Al Qaeda. The individuals in question need not be tried or convicted in any court of law, or even formally charged in order for them to be targeted for assassination. [20] (http://www.theolympian.com/home/news/20021204/frontpage/20780.shtml)

Opposition and criticism

Main article:Criticisms of War on terrorism

The notion of a "war" against "terrorism" has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that it has been exploited by the participating governments to pursue longstanding policy objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe on human rights. Some argue that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in war on drugs), since they believe there is no tangible enemy, and that it is unlikely that international terrorism can be brought to an end by means of war. [21] (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002023596_russanal02.html) Others note that "terrorism" is not an enemy, but rather a tactic; calling it a "war on terror," they say, obscures the differences between, for example, anti-occupation insurgents and international jihadists.

Its supporters argue that a reduction in civil liberties is a necessary price to pay for greater protection against what they perceive as a heightened risk of terrorism. They also contend that some previous wars waged by America and its allies lasted many years but were ultimately successful.

Some say the 2003 invasion of Iraq is part of the "war on terror," most notably but not exclusively because of Hussein's supposed WMD activities, and financial and logistical support for various Palestinian terrorist groups, including payments of approximately $25,000 (U.S.) to the families of successful suicide bombers. Others charge that because the inclusion of Iraq under Hussein appears to violate the critera for terrorism, having given weight to charges that the U.S.-led War on terrorism has, at least in part, self-serving ulterior motives.

Criticisms of the War on terror:

  • Some cite the high civilian casualty rate in Iraq (estimates range from at least 20,000 to more than 100,000) (see 2003 Invasion of Iraq: War Casualties). Some 3,000+ Afghan civilians died in the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.
  • Amnesty International has described the secret worldwide network of detention facilities as the "gulag of our times". The organization claims that suspects are held indefinitely without charge and without access to lawyers and that they have been tortured and even killed.
  • Over 1,600 U.S soldiers died and more than 12,000 have been wounded in Iraq since the War on Terror began. In Iraq and Afghanistan, aid workers, personnel of the new national armies, and international observers have also died in the conflict.
  • The U.S budget surplus has turned into a huge deficit, leaving less for health insurance improvements and other domestic initiatives. Others argue that war is not a cost-effective way of ensuring security against stateless terrorists, and that intelligence and police efforts can also be effective.
  • President George W. Bush and his administration have been criticized for failing to provide evidence to support the claim that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and/or an active nuclear program.
  • As in the Persian Gulf War, many have argued that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were intended primarily to stabilize and better control a region crucial to U.S. oil supplies. For example, during the post-war chaos in Iraq, the oil ministry was protected, while many sites of historical and cultural importance (and some arms depots) were heavily looted.
  • Many argue that U.S. oil money indirectly benefits terrorists via states such as Saudi Arabia, and that the U.S.'s unwillingness to break its relationship with such states reflects ulterior motives in the war.
  • Many argue, from pacifist or other standpoints, that the violence of bombings and invasions will only provoke further hatred from the Muslim world, and that the poverty and desperation associated with war will furnish terrorist organizations with ample recruits.
  • Internationally, many have criticized the framework of "preemptive strikes," arguing that such a notion could set disastrous precedents for international relations by justifying aggression.

Support for the War on terror:

  • The Bush Administration argues that "the best defense is a good offense," and that with terrorist organizations, unlike standing armies, it would be foolish not to attack whenever and wherever possible, destroying the weapons and terrorist training camps that underpin terrorist organizations.
  • Supporters note that democracy in traditionally authoritarian countries has a transformative power that will add to peace and stability.
  • Supporters downplay civilian casualties by arguing that many who live near terrorist cells are likely supporting them materially, although this would imply that western tax-payers should be consider legitimate targets by those opposing western military action.
  • Some argue that war could act as a deterrent against terrorists, demonstrating to potential recruits that they would face certain retribution. This argument may hold less water in reference to suicide terrorism, or when terrorists expect to become martyrs, but can be argued to deter such attacks by weakening the logistical base which provides martyrs with explosives and points them toward effective targets.

Military decorations

Since 2002, the United States military has authorized several new military awards and decorations to recognize those who serve in the War on terrorism. Such awards include:

In 2004, an award known as the Iraq Campaign Medal was created by Presidential Order of George W. Bush. While inspired partly by the War on terrorism, this decoration primarily focuses on the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

Further reading

See also

External links

Official sites by governments and international organizations
General "war on terrorism" news
Primary legal documents
Specific articles

fr:Guerre contre le terrorisme ja:対テロ戦争 nl:Oorlog tegen het terrorisme no:Krigen mot terrorisme sl:Boj proti terorizmu


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