Topics: World Post-war (1946-Today) - War On Terrorism

War on Terrorism

The War on Terrorism (also known as the Global War on Terrorism or the War on Terror) is the common term for what the George W. Bush administration perceived or presented as the military, political, legal and ideological conflict against Islamic terrorism, Islamic militants and the regimes and organizations tied to them or that supported them, and was specifically used in reference to operations by the United States, the United Kingdom and its allies since the September 11, 2001 attacks. It has since been expanded beyond the Bush administration, and has included such events as the Mumbai attacks.

The stated objectives of the war in the US are to protect the citizens of the US and allies, to protect the business interests of the US and allies at home and abroad, break up terrorist cells in the US, and disrupt the activities of the international network of terrorist organizations made up of a number of groups under the umbrella of al-Qaeda. Both the term and the policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preemptive war, alleged human rights abuses and other violations of international law.

Led by Osama Bin Laden, a radical Islamist trained by the US during the 1980s to conduct guerilla attacks against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda formed a large base of operations in Afghanistan, which had been ruled by the Islamist extremist regime of the Taliban since 1996.

Following the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. President Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in Sudan and Afghanistan against targets the U.S. asserted were associated with al-Qaeda. Although others have questioned the Sudan plant's use as a chemical warfare plantĀ  The strikes failed to kill al-Qaeda'a leaders or their Taliban supporters (targets included a civilian pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that produced much of the region's malaria drugs and around 50% of Sudan's pharmaceutical needs).

Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. In October 2000 the USS Cole bombing occurred, followed in 2001 by the September 11 attacks.

By 2003, 12 major conventions and protocols were designed to combat terrorism. These were as well, adopted and ratified by a number of states to become international law. These conventions require states to co-operate on principal issues regarding unlawful seizure of aircraft for example, the physical protection of nuclear materials and freezing assets of militant networks.

In 2005 the Security Council also adopted resolution 1624 concerning incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the obligations of countries to comply with international human rights laws. Although both resolutions require mandatory annual reports on counterterrorism activities by adopting nations, the United States and Israel have both declined to submit reports.


The conflict has also been referred to by other names other than the War on Terrorism. It has also been known as:

* World War III

* World War IV

* Overseas Contingency Operation

* Bush's War on Terror

Historical usage of phrase

The phrase "War on Terrorism" was first widely used by the Western press to refer to the attempts by European governments, and eventually the US government, to stop attacks by anarchists against leaders and officials. For example, on 24 January 1878, Russian Marxist Vera Zasulich shot and wounded a Russian police commander who was known to torture suspects. She threw down her weapon without killing him, announcing; "I am a terrorist, not a killer."

The phrase "war on terrorism" gained currency when it was used to describe the efforts by the British colonial government to end a spate of attacks by Zionist Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine in the late 1940s. The British proclaimed a "War on Terrorism" against Zionist groups such as Irgun and Lehi, and anyone perceived to be cooperating with them.

The Zionist attacks, Arab attacks and revolts, and the subsequent British crackdown hastened the British evacuation from Palestine. The phrase was also used frequently by US President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, to describe his campaigns against Libya and Nicaragua.

On September 20, 2001, during a televised address to a joint session of congress, President George W. Bush launched the war on terror when he said, "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." Bush did not say when he expected this would be achieved. (Previous to this usage, after stepping off the presidential helicopter on Sunday, September 16, 2001, Bush stated in an unscripted and controversial comment: "This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while." Bush later apologized for this remark due to the negative connotations the word crusade has to people of Muslim faith. The word crusade was not used again).

US President Barack Obama has rarely used the term, but in his inaugural address on January 20, 2009, he stated "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." It is likely that the phrase will fall into disuse, as one referring to concepts and strategies of his predecessor. In March 2009 the Defense Department officially changed the name of operations from "Global War on Terror" to "Overseas Contingency Operation" (OCO). In March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid use of the term, instead using "Overseas Contingency Operation".

British objections to the phrase "war on terrorism"

The Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the United Kingdom, Ken McDonald—Britain's most senior criminal prosecutor—has stated that those responsible for acts of terror such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings are not "soldiers" in a war, but "inadequates" who should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. He added that a "culture of legislative restraint" was needed in passing anti-terrorism laws, and that a "primary purpose" of the violent attacks was to tempt countries such as Britain to "abandon our values." He stated that in the eyes of the British criminal justice system, the response to terrorism had to be "proportionate, and grounded in due process and the rule of law":

“London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered...were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London there is no such thing as a war on terror. The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws, and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.”

In January 2009, the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, wrote "ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken" and later said "Historians will judge whether [the notion] has done more harm than good".

US objectives

The George W. Bush administration defined the following objectives in the War on Terrorism:

1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroy their organizations

2. Identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their organizations

3. Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists

1. End the state sponsorship of terrorism

2. Establish and maintain an international standard of accountability with regard to combating terrorism

3. Strengthen and sustain the international effort to fight terrorism

4. Work with willing and able states

5. Enable weak states

6. Persuade reluctant states

7. Compel unwilling states

8. Interdict and disrupt material support for terrorists

9. Eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and havens

4. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit

1. Partner with the international community to strengthen weak states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism

2. Win the war of ideals

5. Defend US citizens and interests at home and abroad

1. Implement the National Strategy for Homeland Security

2. Attain domain awareness

3. Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures at home and abroad

4. Integrate measures to protect US citizens abroad

5. Ensure an integrated incident management capability

Source: Wikipedia

War on Terrorism
U.S. Soldiers boarding a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan