Is the U.S. at war with al-Qaeda, or not? Barack Obama (January, 2010) said "We are at war, we are at war against al-Qaeda." This is his basic rationale, and Eric Holder's, for saying that if an American is in combat against the U.S., here or abroad, killing them by drone is legal under the rules of war and under certain conditions associated with those rules.
Wars in the modern age, when not civil in nature, have been among nations and done by states. If al-Qaeda never has been a state, and it never has, how can the U.S. possibly be at war with al-Qaeda? It can't. If al-Qaeda has never been chosen to represent a nation of people by any of the usual political means, how can it possibly be conceived of as having the consent of a people and being a state? It can't. If al-Qaeda unilaterally declares itself as a leader of some people and issues a declaration of war, how can that possibly be construed as a real declaration of a real state? It cannot. If several leaders of al-Qaeda unilaterally issue a fatwa but they have no religious standing among the people they claim to speak for, how can that fatwa be anything other than a declaration of their own and only their own violent intentions? It cannot.
It is utterly illogical, not to mention a grave strategic miscalculation, for the U.S. to have declared war on al-Qaeda when such a war is an impossibility. Obama is perpetuating this blunder. War has become a popular metaphor for any determined effort, usually involving the state's force, to overcome some condition or eliminate some purported evil. But when the metaphor breaks down or should never have been invoked in the first place, the activity is misbegotten and misdirected.
It is all too easy for the Obama or any administration to declare someone an enemy of the people or an enemy combatant. Eric Holder has now brought the term "combat" back into the discussion, which allows him the leeway to redefine the meaning of combat and then to use a drone against an enemy in "combat" against Americans. Rand Paul's filibuster is useless. It does not address the basic question: Is the U.S. at war with al-Qaeda or not?
Imagine Ma Barker's gang or a gang of John Dillingers who unilaterally declare "war" against the U.S. Would the U.S. in turn declare war against them? Metaphorically it might, in order to show a steely determination to capture and stop them. But does their declaration by itself entitle the U.S. to kill them without an attempt to capture them and place them on trial? Certainly not. Lynching is summary execution. No government can be trusted with the power of summarily killing someone, even if that person has "declared war" on that government. Such a power is too easy to extend and expand and inflict upon the innocent. Compare the case of war. In war, prisoners are taken. They are not then summarily executed because they are enemy combatants judged behind closed doors to be dangerous threats that must be eliminated forthwith.
There are times when whole peoples are thought by some state or government to be enemies of the nation or state, and then we see genocides occurring. War among states at least has some definable boundaries and rules. When the meaning of war is made altogether fuzzy, as in a so-called war against al-Qaeda, a large grey swampy area is encountered in which criminality is mistakenly treated as if it were war. Furthermore, innocent people can be accused and killed, without trial. Furthermore, genocides can occur when a whole people is accused of being at war with the authorities.
Al-Qaeda's declarations of war were given far more respect by the U.S. than they deserved, and the nation's course was set on a phony war. Terrorists should be viewed as criminals and treated as such.
The reason why the U.S. declared war is that the warmongers and neocons wanted it. It was thought to be the way to strengthen the U.S. and extend its control in vast regions of the globe. It was thought to be strategically smart.
However, the leadership of the U.S. is, by and large, not organized to do what is smart. A college-educated person, supposedly certified to know some things, usually knows next to nothing. The members of Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary know less and less as each generation arrives, their heads instead being filled with myths and unrealities. They are not stupid in many things. They know how to persuade, make deals, charm people, compromise, manipulate, and create images. But they are stupid when it comes to basic understanding and conceptualization. The techniques at which they are good do not serve the public well when their basic ideas are twisted and perverted.
Even their attempts to extend U.S. control over the world, a perverse goal to start with, is being followed through with policies that are devastating to the American public. This just adds to their already highly destructive domestic policies that aimed to extend U.S. control over the American economy and American society. Their "control" mentality is mistaken at the root.
The U.S. is running on empty in this so-called "war". The U.S. is producing new terrorists at a faster clip than it is destroying them. The U.S. leadership is directly responsible for the changed civil liberties climate in America. It is the product of decades of erroneous policies, such that Americans now must endure militarized police, warrantless searches, difficulties and delays at borders, 100-mile inspection zones near borders, the sight of heavily armed police, and FBI-concocted schemes. Americans who still have a conscience have to feel shame and guilt over what the U.S. has done and is doing in a host of foreign nations.