▪ Targeted killings
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▪ International law
▪ Weapons of Mass Destruction
▪ Plus ca change…
Defined as "the purposeful killing of a civilian who, in the eyes of the attacker, has taken an active part in ongoing hostilities", targeted killings are a new tactic, distinct from political assassinations.
In the United States, Bill Clinton ordered surgical strikes on an al-Qaida base in 1998, but the practice is said to be "now no longer novel".
No authoritative figures are available on the number of targeted killings that have occurred. On 13 January 2006, eighteen people – including four children and no terrorists – were killed by Hellfire missiles fired from a CIA unmanned Predator drone at the Pakistani village of Damadola.
US officials claimed intelligence had led them to believe Ayman al-Zawahiri, said to be al-Qaida's chief strategist, was present. Many experts believe the attack could not have gone ahead without the say-so of General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani president and US ally.
No evidence exists to suggest any country other than the US and Israel has carried out such an attack.
Gary Solis, teacher of the law of armed conflict at Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC, and at West Point, says targeted killings are authorised in the US by high command – "How high? No one's saying".
"Targeted killings have serious implications in the law of armed conflict", Solis says. "Now that the US engages in them, the door is open and other countries will probably follow – including our enemies."
firefighters exposed to dust from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. More than 60% had developed respiratory problems. Police officers at the scene have contracted similar illnesses, from which one has died. But the Police Pension Board refuses to grant "line-of-duty death" status to the victims, thus denying their spouses widows' pensions. The board denies any link between work at Ground Zero and the lung ailments that led have led to officers' deaths.
In February 2006, 430 detainees held by the Multi-National Force in Iraq were released. A review board set up by the force and Iraqi ministries had examined the cases of 27,900 detainees, recommending that some 13,000 remain in custody. Only a fraction of them have been tried.
Paul Rogers, openDemocracy's security columnist, says that a conservative estimate of the number currently held in detention without trial in Iraq and Afghanistan is 15,000. About 100,000 have been detained in the course of the "war in terror" since 9/11. The great majority were held on American orders, although the United Kingdom, France, Malaysia and Singapore are thought to be complicit in others.
At present, about 450 detainees are held at the US-run detention centre known as Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Human-rights analysts estimate that 756 prisoners of thirty-five nationalities have passed through the camp since it opened in January 2002. None has been convicted of any crime.
In June 2006, the first deaths at the camp – a triple suicide – followed a judgment forcing the government to release the names of 558 detainees. In May, the Supreme Court had ruled illegal the military tribunals set up to try Camp X-Ray's "enemy combatants". Legislation authorising military tribunals to try the detainees in before Congress and may allow trials for Guantánamo inmates to resume in early 2007.
Following the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airlines discovered in the UK in August, John Reid, the home secretary, said that since 2000 almost 1,000 people have been arrested in Britain for terror-related offences. Of those, 154 have been charged and sixty are now awaiting trial.
Twelve weeks after the attacks, the World Trade Organisation met in Qatar for its fourth ministerial summit. Under pressure to present a united front in the face of terrorism, poor countries acquiesced to the launch of a new round (called the Doha Development Agenda) of negotiations on trade liberalisation, sweetened with promises of beneficial treatment for the countries of the global south.
In July 2006, after two failed summits, the round collapsed in recriminations.
11 September 2001 fuelled a resurgent fear of open borders. Protectionism on security pretexts challenged seemingly unstoppable globalisation. National governments began to veto sales of major companies to foreign buyers, most notably when the US Congress flatly refused to allow DP World, a Dubai firm, to run American ports, citing terrorism fears.
Despite newfound qualms over free trade in otherwise aggressively pro-market countries, trade has increased since 9/11. A recent report by the World Bank found that the security clampdown at ports, airports and borders that followed the attacks helped to stem corruption and make the flow of goods more efficient.
The Bush administration has frequently yoked counter-terrorism and trade, arguing that market capitalism fosters "freedom" and undercuts "terrorist ideology". There are fears, though, that this amounts to using 9/11 to lever open new markets for American business. For all the grandstanding at summits, since 9/11 Africa has become poorer.
First authorised by the Clinton administration, the practice of "extraordinary rendition" was used by the Central Intelligence Agency in at most a few dozen cases before 2000 to seize criminal suspects abroad and bring them to trial in the United States.
After 11 September, the number of renditions ballooned, probably into the hundreds.
Crucially, explains Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counter-terrorism director at Human Rights Watch, there was also a tactical shift. Rather than kidnapping suspects to bring them trial, the CIA began illicitly to fly abductees between countries other than the US.
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, said in 2005 that the US had transferred sixty-to-seventy detainees to his country alone. There also are some thirty cases of "erroneous rendition".
In June 2006, a report by the Council of Europe documented a "spider's web" of abductions, involving intelligence agencies from fourteen Europe countries, including Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain. It was alleged that Romania and Poland had held CIA detainees in secret prisons, and that detainees were repeatedly tortured or handed to regimes likely to torture them.
In April, John Negroponte, Washington's spymaster, confirmed that the US is holding three dozen "high value" detainees outside US territory. Of the highest value is the mastermind of the 11 September plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, apprehended in Pakistan in 2003.
Five days before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, George Bush confirmed the existence of secret foreign CIA prisons for the first time. He said fourteen terrorist operatives and terrorist leaders" would now be brought to Guantánamo Bay and face trial; the first part of this pledge has already been fulfilled, and access to the new prisoners is being granted to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The CIA has not been obliged to release any information on the victims of rendition.
"Nobody has the whole picture", says Mariner. "There are still huge gaps in our knowledge."
Semantic wrangling has prevented the United Nations agreeing on a definition of terrorism – a failure that has banjaxed efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.
However, Emilio Cárdenas, co-chair of the International Bar Association's Task Force on International Terrorism, argues that there are grounds for optimism.
Gradually, international law is responding to a new threat specifically aimed at civilians. The much-maligned International Criminal Court is beginning to press war-crimes proceedings against leaders of non-state militias who target civilians, most recently Joseph Kony, leader of the bloodthirsty Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
He observes that terrorism is already a crime under the Geneva conventions because it targets civilians. "There is already a way to get terrorists – under the Geneva conventions. Both internal and international conflicts have rules."
But Phillipe Sands, an international lawyer with access to the highest echelons of the Bush administration, is gloomier.
He argues that the Bush administration attempted from the outset in 2001 to "rewrite the global legal order", targeting the Kyoto protocol, the ICC and the Geneva conventions.
The 9/11 attacks gave the hawks – especially Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – carte blanche to go further. Guantáanamo Bay and the notions of "enemy combatants" and "preventative war" are typical of this, Sands argues.
Bogged down in Iraq and with few friends abroad, the second Bush term has brought a rethink. In undermining the rules of international law, Sands suggests, they sacrificed the "moral authority" of a western democracy. Importantly too, they diminished the willingness of state's harbouring terrorists to co-operate with America and the institutions of international law.
Sands claims that a recent speech by Alberto Gonzales, the US attorney-general, to a group of prominent Republicans, in which he suggested amending war crimes law to afford retroactive immunity to personnel who prosecuted the "war on terror", shows the extent to which the administration is worrying that their disrespect for internal law will come back to haunt them.
One recent study found that 1,329 international terrorists have been convicted in the US since 11 September 2001. Nine out of every ten cases referred to prosecutors were rejected, often for lack of evidence. The median sentence imposed was fourteen days' imprisonment. Only one man, Zacharias Moussaoui, has been convicted in connection with 9/11. He was spared the death sentence and instead sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2006.
Individual states have invoked the rhetoric of counter-terrorism to roll back civil liberties. In the US, the Patriot Act afforded the FBI a swathe of new powers. In Britain, the maximum period of detention without charge has been lengthened to twenty-eight days, and there are plans to double it. Most recently, the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe has moved to legalise eavesdropping – a similar bill to that authorising wiretapping in the US – as a pretext to address "the scourge of terrorism".
In late 2001, three months after the group's successful "planes operation", Osama bin Laden was cornered in the Tora Bora caves by Afghan troops and a small band of US special forces. By mid-December, he had slipped across the border into the mountainous badlands of Pakistan's Waziristan region. He is still at large. At the end of 2005, Alec Station, the CIA unit dedicated to his capture, was disbanded.
The US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban, the Islamist regime that had refused to surrender bin Laden after 9/11. The invasion dispersed al-Qaida's leadership, but the voice of bin Laden himself - inspired by Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian author who crystallised the doctrine of aggressive jihad, and ideologically guided by his deputy (and Qutb’s compatriot) Ayman al-Zawahiri - was not silenced. It was only in October 2004 that he issued a video claiming responsibility for the attacks on New York and Washington – one of twenty-four video or audio tapes the al-Qaida leader has produced since the Twin Towers came down. In a speech to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, George W Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden by name seventeen times.
After five years of hounding, al-Qaida is often described as having become "an idea" to which autonomous cells and disaffected young Muslims subscribe.
But research published in September 2006 by the Third Way think-tank estimated that the number of al-Qaida members worldwide has risen from 20,000 in 2001 to 50,000 now. In the five years before 2001 there were three al-Qaida attacks (including the bombing of the USS Cole); in the five years since, thirty. Among the operations carried out by the group or its affiliates have been bombings in Tunisia, Istanbul, Bali, Casablanca, Karachi, Sharm al-Sheikh, Madrid, London, and Mumbai. The US National Counterterrorism Centre recorded a total of 11,111 terrorist attacks globally in 2005.
Of the experts anonymously surveyed by Third Way, 86% said the United States has become less safe since 9/11.
In Iraq, al-Qaida drew certain factions of the Sunni resistance to the American-led occupation into barbaric tactics, most notoriously the beheading of hostages and the bombing of Shi’a holy places. Since before the death in June 2006 of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the organisation's Jordanian leader in Iraq, Sunni insurgents have been distancing themselves from al-Qaida.
The US justice department's list of banned terror organisations has forty-two names on it. Recent efforts to have more groups added to the EU's banned list may have backfired. Secession movements such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the PKK in Turkey and the Baluchistan Liberation Army in Pakistan (outlawed in Britain only) have claimed that their proscription – and attempts to bundle them together with Islamic fundamentalism – gives their governments a free hand to increase repression and spurred fresh violence.
Armed Islamic movements have embraced politics since 9/11. Hamas has been elected in Palestine, Hizbollah shares power in Lebanon. Both have committed terrorist acts but appear to be shifting from bullet to ballot.
In Somalia, the Union of Islamic Courts recently reached a (fragile) agreement with the country's official government.
A renewed commitment to the roadmap for peace between Palestine and Israel was the key concession extracted from the Bush administration by which Tony Blair sought to justify his backing for the American war in Iraq in 2003. Three years on, the process is hopelessly stalled. Hamas still refuses to recognise Israel; Israeli shelling of a Gaza beach in June 2006 lit the touchpaper that smouldered into full-scale war between Israel in Hizbollah, claiming more than 1,000 Lebanese lives. Washington's steadfast support for the Israeli bombardment came as a shock to those who detected a sea-change towards restraint and multilateralism under Condoleezza Rice.
In Iran, a hardline Islamic administration has won power, travelling on an anti-semitic, anti-American ticket. Secular governments in Muslim counties – particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt – have been threatened by burgeoning Islamism at home, bolstered by the icons of Arabian resistance to the Great Satan: bin Laden and, latterly, Hizbollah's Hassan Nasrallah. Hosni Mubarak's warning that invading Iraq would engender "100 new bin Ladens" appears to have been prescient.
More broadly, the "war in terror" has been characterised as a blundering intrusion into "somebody else's civil war" – namely a clash between stands of Islam. Resentment at this poured forth most spectacularly with the worldwide protests that erupted after the publications of newspaper cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. Most Muslims now say they consider their relations with the west to be "generally bad".
In a recent interview, Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, said:
"Many Muslims would tell you that things like democracy and human rights are somehow 'western' values. That argument simply doesn't hold up.
"The cliques of power in the developing world and the Muslim world, the corruption and the plundering, it all comes down to the powerful not being held to account.
"The Americans have all the power. But no one considers the Americans the guardians of the fundamental principles. They have supported dictatorships."
The invasion of Afghanistan in October-November 2001 enjoyed broad support. The Taliban was undoubtedly sympathetic to Islamic terrorism and was harbouring al-Qaida's high command. Since the invasion, hundreds of troops and thousands of civilians have died. The Taliban has regrouped and is resurgent, attacking forces now under Nato control. The production of Afghan poppies – source of 92% of the world's opium – is up 56% in 2006.
In March 2003, Washington named thirty countries willing to join military action against Iraq without a United Nations mandate, calling them "the coalition of the willing". Morocco's offer was 2,000 monkeys to detonate landmines was a greater military contribution than most made. In Spain, Italy and elsewhere, governments that backed the invasion have fallen. Currently, the three largest foreign military forces on the ground are the United States, with 140,000; the United Kingdom, with 7,200; and private contractors, who number some 20,000. The exposure of US troops in Shi’a-majority Iraq is considered perhaps the primary reason why US hawks are wary of attacking Iran.
More than 40,000 civilians have been killed by military action in Iraq. It is now believed to be embroiled in the bloodiest sectarian conflict since the American civil war. Military casualties run at 2,660 US personnel and 117 British. Economists project the war will cost America over $1 trillion. The pretext for the invasion was Saddam Hussein's ambitions to develop weapons of mass destruction. None have been found.
The first poll of US troops in Iraq, conducted in February 2006, found that 85% said the US mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks" – even though only the most tenuous evidence exists to suggest such a role.
In 2004, global arms sales exceeded $1 trillion for the first time since the end of the cold war. The US accounted for more than half the total – spending more than $1,533 per American. The major beneficiaries were its allies in the "war on terror". Pervez Musharraf, the authoritarian Pakistani president who took the "strategic decision on 14 September 2001, to stand with the United States", took delivery of a consignment of F-16 fighter jets. An unnamed US official said there was "no set limit on what the United States is going to be willing to sell to Pakistan".
In May 2006, the European Union scrapped an agreement to hand over passenger details for transatlantic flights from Europe. Passenger information may once more be shared internationally between law enforcement and customs agencies, however, after the alleged plot to blow up ten jets as they left Britain.
Since the London bombings on 7 July 2005, transport authorities say they have worked "to harden the Underground network to make it an unattractive choice of target".
After a slight dip, it took only three months for passenger numbers to return to normal. By 2011 at the latest, the network will have 12,000 CCTV cameras. "This will ultimately mean that no one will be able to enter the Underground network without their face being recorded by CCTV camera", Transport for London says.
Following the 9/11 attacks, sudden spikes in military recruitment, sales of the stars-and-stripes and church attendance suggested that America had been so convulsed by the first attack on its soil for sixty years that it was transforming itself into a nation of fervent fighters, patriots and zealots.
All three trends, tracked over following years, have tailed off.
Sales of the national ensign have flagged. The sudden urge towards the divine subsided – currently roughly the same proportion of Americans who support their openly religious president say they also believe in ghosts. In August 2006, the US marine corps was forced to issue an involuntary call-up of reservists for service in the "war on terror" as Iraq continued to deter new recruits.
While airline capacity has been decreased by added costs, demand for air travel has risen steadily.
Oppressive regimes thought to be threatened by resurgent radical Islamism – such as those in Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Egypt – have survived unscathed, and have even used their alignment with Washington to strengthen their hands domestically. This has only increased scepticism as to whether Bush's commitment to "freedom and democracy" is anything other than Realpolitik.
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