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  War and Terror

Send in the drones
(apologies to Sondheim)

All that's missing in the early stages of the Iraq intervention sweepstakes is the signature gesture for Obama administration conflicts across the Greater Middle East (and increasingly Africa). If you listen carefully, you can already hear the theme music for the era, and - with apologies to Stephen Sondheim - it's clearly "Send in the Drones". - Tom Engelhardt (Jun 25, '14)

Who won Iraq?
With the United States visibly tired of its wars in this century, questions over "who lost Iraq?" are unlikely ever to resonate as much as similar debates around who "lost" China and Vietnam. The geopolitical dreams of the George W Bush era are buried somewhere deep in the rubble of Iraq, while the present White House has neither visionaries nor global dreams. - Tom Engelhardt (Jun 20, '14)

Burn, Men in Black, burn
Divide and Rule has run amok in the Levant, courtesy of the Men in Black of Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the US-trained jihadis and bastard children of Saudi spy chief Bandar Bush. While the CIA could never have conceived it, the ISIS is the perfect ski-mask-clad tool to keep the Global War on Terror in Enduring Freedom Forever mode. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 20, '14)

Iraqi quagmire calls the US back
As US President Barack Obama mulls the extent of America's next intervention in Iraq, he must also decide if its purpose will be to continue Nuri al-Maliki's brutal sectarian rule. If Obama decides that a breakup of Iraq won't hurt vital US interests, the Iraqi prime minister's paranoid visions may become reality. - Ehsan Ahrari (Jun 17, '14)

Drone war:
Remote and personal

Unexpected support of a small but growing group of former drone pilots who have carried out strikes on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq and in CIA covert assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen may give new life to a US campaign against "targeted killings". Evidence that other operators and analysts are beginning to crack under the pressure of the true horrors of their remote-controlled missions adds to the sense that the drone war has failed. - Pratap Chatterjee (May 12, '14)

How the US created, and lost, Afghan war
Zoom back to Afghanistan in 2001, where the United States first set its "war on terror" sights, and the real history emerges of how the US fought for almost a year against - quite literally - ghosts. The post-9/11 invasion succeeded in resuscitating the Taliban movement and creating a template for jihadist recruitment that al-Qaeda could only dream about. Long after the war was lost, that template is still being used by new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. - Anand Gopal (Apr 30, '14)

Drone killing the Fifth Amendment
Top American officials proudly leak details about ongoing efforts to use drones to assassinate suspected terrorists - the most recent case being the prospective killing of an American citizen and suspected "al-Qaeda facilitator" in the tribal borderlands of Pakistan. Yet there seems to be little interest in the US about the transformation of the White House into a killing machine. - Peter Van Buren (Feb 18, '14)

Islamabad hides behind Taliban talks
Aware that a large-scale military offensive in tribal areas would drain Pakistan's ailing economy and deplete finite military resources, the government is pointing to the advantages of a dialogue with the Taliban that appears doomed by preconceptions. While the insurgents see Islamabad as American stooges, the ruling elite would never accept a Taliban-sanctioned interpretation of Sharia law that threatens their riches. - Shams uz Zaman (Feb 7, '14)

The real US legacy in Iraq
As Fallujah, the city once again "lost" to jihadists, brings back to the United States the specter of the terrible loss of life among its troops in past battles in Iraq, the unspoken truth is that the indiscriminate targeting of the general population by US efforts to "liberate" Fallujah's residents entailed numerous violations of the Geneva Convention. - Nick Alexandrov (Jan 21, '14)

Secret wars and
black ops blowback

The Obama administration has overseen the reorganization of the Global War on Terror as a vast secret operation of unrivaled proportions. It now oversees a planetary surveillance network of staggering reach and the spread of a secret military spawned inside the US military that is now undergoing typically mindless expansion on a gargantuan scale. What could possibly go wrong? - Nick Turse (Jan 17, '14)

Fall of Fallujah refocuses US on Iraq
The takeover of Fallujah by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has refocused Washington's attention on the center of Sunni insurgency. But as Iraqi troops reportedly surround the city with the support of rushed-in US Hellfire missiles and military supplies, critics of the US and Iraqi governments are urging both to show greater flexibility to the Sunni minority's demands. - Jim Lobe (Jan 9, '14)

India as a terror model for Southeast Asia
Indian Mujahideen's personalized recruitment campaigns and harnessing of local grievances to elicit support could be mimicked as Southeast Asian terror outfits seek to regroup. What is lacking for Indonesian, Thai or Filipino militants is the kind of protection and support afforded to Indian Mujahideen from inside Pakistan. - Shanthie Mariet D'Souza and Bibhu Prasad Routray (Nov 12, '13)

How Obama created endless war on terror
Despite Barack Obama's second-term promises of ending "perpetual war", his administration has ensured that future presidents will inherit a streamlined process for assassinating enemies, and an executive branch with sweeping powers rationalized under the banner of national security. By sanctifying the "kill list", Obama has made the war on terror a self-fulfilling prophecy. - Jeremy Scahill (Nov 1, '13)

Pakistan takes u-turn on drone strikes
The Pakistan government's latest report on innocent civilians killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan puts the number of deaths at 67 since 2008. That is lower than previous data and suggests Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leading a u-turn on policy towards the controversial hi-tech program to assassinate terrorist suspects. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Nov 1, '13)

Tiny wars still don't work
Every significant US military action of this century has demonstrated that boots on the ground and force, no matter in what form, are incapable of achieving even Washington's most minimal goals. In the face of spilt blood and lost treasure, the US has turned to drones and assassins as a new micro-force. US leaders still don't grasp that war doesn't work. - Tom Engelhardt (Oct 29, '13)

Taliban terror fears grow for Pakistanis
For people on the Pakistan side of the porous border, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan next year can only strengthen the position of militants in their midst. The small flicker of hope for peace a few months ago has been extinguished - and all many can see is the rising flames of Taliban terror. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Oct 28, '13)

Drone strikes on Pakistan remain on radar
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif failed to convince President Barack Obama to end controversial US drone attacks on Pakistan territory, despite the killing of civilians being labeled as war crimes. While their Oval Office meeting fostered an important personal relationship, a wall of mistrust remains. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Oct 24, '13)

US drone strikes may amount to war crimes
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to Washington for his first official visit as the country's leader since 1999, the White House is under intense pressure to "come clean" and admit that its drone strikes in South Asia and the Middle East are killing innocents. - Kitty Stapp (Oct 23, '13)

War easily evades
US shutdown

Even as political stalemate in the US halted the most basic government services, the advanced weaponry used to generate profit and project power across the world continued to roll off the assembly line. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, it's also the first recourse of those seeking to mobilize customers for the latest bloodletting exercise in combat as commerce. - William J Astore (Oct 22, '13)

How to win a lost war
If you decide to go to war you have to decide to win. The question after Iraq and Afghanistan is what does it mean to win a war? The answer in the 21st century: coming out on top in the political narrative to communicate superiority in the battle space of policy, morality and the conduct of warfare, regardless of the military outcome. - Andreas Herberg-Rothe (Oct 4, '13)

Al-Qaeda's air force still on stand-by
It was 12 years ago today that, according to the official narrative, Arabs with minimal flying skills turned jets into missiles to attack the US homeland in the name of al-Qaeda. 9/11 elevated them to Ultimate Evil status. Twelve years on, the President of the United States wriggles on a Syrian hook, and the amorphous "al-CIAeda" eagerly awaits the US Air Force to clear the road to Damascus. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 11, '13)

A post-9/11 view of John Adams
Although his strategies helped keep American free from the whims of European powers and their trans-Atlantic Wars, second president John Adams' search for national security through peaceful neutrality has been long forgotten by modern America. The US has instead embraced the partisan strife and perpetual war footing he rejected. - Dallas Darling (Sep 10, '13)

Intrigue surrounds Obama's intel
The intelligence summary on last month's chemical attack in Syria released by the Barack Obama administration on August 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's refused to endorse the document - presumably because it was too obviously an exercise in "cherry picking" to support a decision for war. - Gareth Porter (Sep 10, '13)

Kerry becomes first war casualty
The strain of defending an indefensible brief to push for a US military strike on Syria is beginning to show as US Secretary of State John Kerry performs taxing diplomatic acrobats. As gaffe piles upon gaffe, the United States is being forced to consider the merits of Russia's proposal for Syria to hand over chemical weapons. It's time for a contorting President Barack Obama to step up to the bar. - M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 10, '13)

Dogs of war versus the emerging caravan
While China and Russia pulled up at the G-20 caravanserai to re-enact the spirit of the Silk Road, the dogs of war were baying for blood outside. "Yes We Can" bomb Syria, barked US President Barack "Red Line" Obama. To which the emerging-powers caravan threw him an old bone, "It's the (global) economy, stupid", and kept on trucking. - Pepe Escobar (Sep 6, '13)

Operation Tomahawk
with cheese

By pronouncing the use of chemical weapons in Syria a "red line", President Barack Obama effectively strangled his own options, with the forthcoming G20 summit now further limiting his room for maneuver. So Operation Tomahawk, set to unleash missiles on Syrian innocents, must go ahead - with or without added ingredients - if only to maintain his own credibility. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 29, '13)

Obama set for holy Tomahawk war
"Responsibility to protect", invoked for the war on Libya, has transmogrified into "responsibility to attack" - just because the Obama administration says so. Forget (again) about getting the facts right about chemical or any other weaponry; the window of opportunity for war on Syria is now, before Bashar al-Assad's forces get too much into the habit of winning. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 27, '13)

Hi, I'm your new Axis of Evil
The bloodbath in Egypt marks a victory for the House of Saud/Israel/ Pentagon triumvirate. And as they plot their way round a Middle East, with more settlements in Palestine, Egypt in civil war, Syria and Iraq bleeding to death (and never losing sight of Israel's perpetual survival), what's left is the certified proliferation of all kinds of axes, and all kinds of evil. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 16, '13)

The spy and the patriots
American Revolutionary War hero and spy Nathan Hale - executed by the British in 1776 - would likely be as bemused by today's labyrinthine US security state as current intelligence "employees" would be by Hale's devotion to his country. In searching for spies who demonstrate Hale's true ideals today, only two names spring to mind - Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. - Tom Engelhardt
(Aug 8, '13)

The post-terror terrorism of war
Heightened terror alerts from the US State Department serve as a reminder that terrorism originates from imperialism and military aggression against the poor and helpless. With the War on Terror a recipe for disasters far more destructive than rational minds can perceive, new thinking is needed to create peace; but that won't emanate from leaders intent on a never-ending war. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Aug 8, '13)

Al-Qaeda to the rescue
Fatwas from former Osama bin Laden sidekick Ayman "Doctor Evil" al-Zawahiri and jailbreaks galore have given the US a golden opportunity to deflect attention from the heady atmospherics of the Edward Snowden saga and back to trusted terror firma. Washington is waving its al-Qaeda false flags high, while hiding the colors of a truer enemy. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 5, '13)

Manning guilty, war criminals on the loose
The young Bradley Manning faces a lifetime behind bars after the delivery of a (predictable) guilty verdict in his show trial for spying. The US government went no holds barred, and failed, to prove that Manning had helped al-Qaeda. Events in Iraq this week show it's the US government that has actually enabled al-Qaeda, while the real culprits are still on the loose. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 31, '13)

The rise of al-Qaeda 2.0
While today's al-Qaeda lacks a centralized leadership and prominent figurehead, successes like this week's prison break in Iraq and the chaos it has fomented in Syria highlight that its diffuse nature is a strength. By eschewing spectacular terrorist attacks in favor of exploiting local conflicts, "al-Qaeda 2.0" can gradually start to again exert global influence.
- Frud Bezhan (Jul 25, '13)

When Iraq invaded the United States
When world history is presented as a calendar of anecdotes, US war-making features on almost every page, with momentous dates such as the August 6, 1945, Hiroshima bombing and the March 20, 2003, Iraq invasion impacting back and forth across humanity's age of rule. Seen in fragmentary glimpses, the storms of bombs and professional fear-mongering are still traumatizing.
- Eduardo Galeano (Jul 25, '13)

Pashtuns rue militant image
Propaganda portraying Pashtuns as violent warriors, based on their considerable presence in the Taliban's rank-and-file, ignores that the militants have never identified with the ethnic group, and that Pashtun history is replete with heroes who fought with the pen instead of the sword. While the situation can be partly blamed on the geopolitical vortex in Afghanistan, a fragmented Pashtun leadership is also responsible. - Ajmal Shams (Jul 24, '13)

War against Iran,
Iraq AND Syria?

The signing by officials of Iraq, Syria and Iran of a memorandum of understanding to build a gas pipeline linking Iranian gasfields to the Mediterranean coast makes manifest a fundamental reason for the proxy war in Syria. The Europeans - who endlessly carp about being hostages of Gazprom - should be rejoicing. Instead, once again, they are shooting themselves in their Bally-clad feet. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 23, '13)

Jihadi embers reignite a vulnerable Iraq
The rise of Salafi-jihadi groups in Syria's war theater has breathed new life into al-Qaeda's Iraq affiliate, with its new moniker, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, reflecting a desire to conflate conflicts in Iraq and Syria and forge an Islamic state stretching from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean coast. - Derek Henry Flood (Jul 23, '13)

Islam's civil war moves to Egypt
Whether Egypt slides into chaos or regains temporary stability under the military depends on the view from the royal palace in Saudi Arabia, not on the conflicting protests in Tahrir Square. Democracy activists are a hapless force as democracy in Egypt is dead. Crosswinds from the great Sunni-Shi'ite civil war enveloping the Muslim world are at work, and the only question in the current power struggle is whose Islamism will win out. (Jul 8, '13)

Taliban talks renew specter of civil war
The opening of a Taliban political office in Qatar raised alarm bells in Kabul not only because it honed the ousted group's image as an Afghan power, but because it threatens to unravel everything President Hamid Karzai's government has worked for. Saber rattling by warlords opposed to talks with the Taliban, like General Abdul Rashid Dostum, could lead to war breaking out again. - Frud Bezhan (Jun 26, '13)

US warriors in search of Afghan peace
The United States' plans to hold peace talks with the Taliban highlight the moral bankruptcy of the Washington's initial decision to invade Afghanistan. There's little chance of any peace succeeding without help from Iran and Pakistan, but it will be hard for them to help the US - a country that's continually undermining them through warmongering, drone attacks and threats. - Mahboob A Khawaja (Jun 24, '13)

US spreads blowback nightmare
As the war in Afghanistan winds down, the United States military has greater incentive and opportunity to project power ever deeper into Africa. US destabilization of the continent has already sparked the spread of terrorist outfits like wildfire (from none before 9/11), and now it's creating what increasingly looks like a blowback machine. - Nick Turse (Jun 20, '13)

Taliban hints at Afghan power-sharing
Amid attempts by the United States to defend efforts to negotiate with the Taliban, and Kabul's strident rejection of the hardline Islamic group's political representation in Qatar, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem expresses the militants' readiness to share power in Afghanistan. - Abubakar Siddique (Jun 20, '13)

US-Taliban talks set to begin
Nearly 12 years after the United States ousted the Taliban, the US will begin formal talks with the militant Islamist group this week as part of Afghanistan's national reconciliation process. Whether a major change in US policy, or more a reflection of shifting power inside Washington, the road ahead will be long, and negotiations between the Taliban and the Hamid Karzai government will also be of crucial importance. - Jim Lobe (Jun 19, '13)

Dystopian secrecy
fuels clueless wars

Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' source inside the US Army, has done more to make Americans safer than the Navy SEAL unit that assassinated Osama bin Laden. As his trial proceeds to its foregone conclusion, the greatest threat to the United States is not terrorism but secrecy and the clueless foreign policy that Manning helped expose.. - Chase Madar (Jun 12, '13)

How to pre-convict an American Muslim
From manufactured "plots" and outsourced "confessions" to mental tortures designed to skirt the boundaries of legality, domestic US justice for terror suspects has evolved to match the Guantanamo detention center's grey system of pre-punishment and pre-conviction. In the world of special administrative measures, the George W Bush-era of "taking the gloves off" is still being pushed to the limit. - Victoria Brittain (Jun 11, '13)

Meet the 'Friends of Jihad'
That about 70% of the Syrian people support President Bashar al-Assad is something the "Friends of Syria" prefer to trample under the nearest Persian rug. As Western governments - notably Britain and France - "lead from behind" to play the Sunni-Shi'ite divide, all they are promoting is perpetual petro-war by proxy. - Pepe Escobar (Jun 5, '13)

Drone death would hit
Pakistani Taliban hard

The death of key Pakistani Taliban commander Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud in a US drone strike would be a big blow to the militants. The as yet unverified killing of the deputy leader would deprive the Taliban in Pakistan of a key strategist and operative capable of navigating politics, raising funds, and carrying out major attacks. - Abubakar Siddique (May 30, '13)

Afghanistan: Is it really the end game?

Given the fragility of the Afghan government and army, and the skepticism rising over the bloody and expensive Afghan conflict's legacy, most would expect the United States to place extra effort into securing a safe withdrawal and military and economic transition. Yet instead of pursuing the inclusive dialogue needed to prevent chaos, Washington is relying on a "shoot and talk" strategy that's consistently failed.
- Conn Hallinan (May 30, '13)

Islamabad faces drone dilemma
Placing limits on Pakistan's cooperation with the US in the use of drones to fight the Taliban would ease intense political pressure over the issue for the incoming Nawaz Sharif government, but the resultant power vacuum in the northwest would enable the militants to regroup and inflict maximum damage on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- Sajjad Ashraf (May 29, '13)

A warning shot for Turkey-Qatar axis

Limited US condemnation of the Reyhanli bombing in Turkey suggests Washington, like its ally Saudi Arabia, is frustrated with how Turkey and Qatar are pursuing their agendas in Syria, especially their arming of groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Like a recent blast targeting a Qatari delegation in Somalia, the Reyhanli bombing seems targeted to warn Ankara off.
- Alper Birdal and Yigit Gunay (May 29, '13)

Naming a nameless war
George W Bush's "Global War on Terror" ended long ago, banished from the lexicon of his successor, while Barack Obama's pledge last week to give new definition to the scope of the now nameless conflict doesn't stand scrutiny. Washington seems in as little hurry to come up with a name as it does to end the war. Names and dates matter, and might actually explain what's going on. - Andrew J Bacevich (May 29, '13)

America's truth-seeking drone program
Hunting militants through morally and legally questionable bombing missions hardly provides real justice to the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The same international laws are broken by the drone program purportedly intended to protect American soil from foreign enemies seeking to eliminate its citizens. - Elliot Saunders (May 24, '13)

Nuclear terror in the Middle East
Projections of the millions who would be killed in an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran's capital are as frightening as the knowledge that the US is powerless to derail a war path set by two countries committed to conflict. In a world awash in nuclear weapons, a detonation would cause suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, perhaps nowhere more so than in Tehran. - Nick Turse (May 14, '13)

Drone strikes on trial in Pakistan
A High Court declaration in Pakistan that Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes are war crimes comes as US critics of the strikes increasingly call into question the lack of legislative or judicial pressure to curb the executive powers used in launching the unmanned aircraft. For many, the lack of transparency suggests that the administration is well aware the drone program breaks international law. - George Gao (May 13, '13)

Fear envelops Pakistan elections
The mounting death toll from the Pakistani Taliban's campaign of terror in the last days before the country's general election and the switch in targets to include both secular parties and the leading Islamist contender have created a chaotic climate of fear surrounding the May 11 vote. That is exactly what the Taliban wanted as punishment for candidates and voters taking part in a democratic process the banned militants have branded "un-Islamic". - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (May 9, '13)

Israel rescues
Mujahid Obama

Israel's bombing of Syrian army installations near Damascus is an act of war, and a timely one for President Barack Obama, just when the "red line" charade was reaching fever pitch and he had to choose between the US "exercising restraint" or "directly involving itself" in the Syrian war. - Pepe Escobar (May 7, '13)

The Islamic Emirate of Syriastan
As Islamic brigades answer al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri's call to form an Islamic Emirate in Syria, Syrian jihadists, with a little help from Western weapons, are preparing an annex to Iraqi jihadis. Baghdad sees the writing on the wall: as a direct consequence of divide and rule Sunni-against-Shi'ite games the Americans have been encouraging for 10 years now, the stage is set for a civil war, Syria-style, in Iraq.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 12, '13)

 Dec '12 - Mar '13

ATol Specials

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the Afghan war from the Taliban side
(Dec '06)

How Hezbollah defeated Israel
Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
(Oct '06)

Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
talk to the 'terrorists'
(Mar, '06)

  The evidence for and against Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program

  Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the 3rd armored cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson

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