Immediately following and in response to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the United States government announced its intentions to begin a War on Terrorism (or War on Terror), a protracted struggle against terrorists and states that aid terrorists. On October 10, 2001, US President George W. Bush presented a list of 22 most wanted terrorists. Then in the first such act since World War II, President Bush signed an executive order on November 13, 2001 allowing military tribunals against any foreigners suspected of having connections to terrorist acts or planned acts on the United States. US-led military forces later invaded both Afghanistan (see U.S. invasion of Afghanistan) and Iraq (see 2003 Iraq War) under the rubric of the War on Terrorism.

Many governments have pledged their support for the initiative. The US has received military help from some (mainly Western) governments, though much of the support was fairly limited. The War on Terrorism quickly became the dominant framework in which international relations were analyzed, supplanting the old 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 have been those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although many countries are involved, making arrests of suspected terrorists, freezing bank accounts and participating in military action, the war is overwhelmingly viewed as an American initiative.

There was a previous War on Terrorism declared during the 1980s, by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, though it never gained as much widespread support or traction as the current one.

Table of contents
1 Overall Strategy
2 Military/Diplomatic Campaigns
3 U.S. Domestic Initiatives
4 Opposition to the War
5 External links

Overall Strategy

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

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 the Viet Cong, 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 American 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 American 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 American methods of detaining suspected terrorists.

Interrogation methods

A Washington Post investigation published on December 26, 2002 quotes anonymous CIA and other government officials who claim that US military and CIA personnel employ physical coercion during their interrogation of suspects and that US 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.

The CIA reportedly transfers suspects, along with a list of questions, to foreign intelligence services of countries routinely criticized by the US 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 [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." (See also the article on Maher Arar.)

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 [1] 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."

Nevertheless, the Post admits that there is no direct evidence that the US government is mistreating prisoners. Additionally, as reported by Reuters, the U.S. military denied these allegations and stated that the Post's article was "false on several points". [1]

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. [1]

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 interrogators see them as necessary when information must be gained from a reluctant subject.

Human rights advocates point out that torture can generate false responses; tortured suspects may give interrogators false information in order to stop the torture. Therefore, the use of torture may actually hurt the War on Terror.

Military/Diplomatic Campaigns


Main article: U.S. invasion of Afghanistan

The first target was Afghanistan and the Al-Qaida terrorist organisation based therein. The US 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. The weak government in Kabul, the well armed Warlords and the hidden Taliban did not change the situation, that Afghanistan is a unstable country. To date, 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.

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

The Naming of the "Axis of Evil"

Main Article Axis of Evil

George W. Bush named Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil". In US political rhetoric these are called "rogue states" who do not respect international law and often have programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The use of the word "axis" was more rhetorical than literal; no assertions have been made that Iran, Iraq, or North Korea are in any way politically allied (The former Ba'athist regime in Iraq and the Shi'ite fundamentalist regime in Iran were enemies). The statement has become a lightning rod for opposition to the War on Terrorism and to George W. Bush in particular. Interestingly, the inclusion of North Korea in the "Axis of Evil" subtly served to politically distance the US from the perception that the "war on terror" was a codephrase for a "war against Islam". (For more on opposition, see below.)


Main articles: 2003 invasion of Iraq and U.S. plan to invade Iraq

The United States and Iraq have been involved in military and diplomatic disputes since the 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 that the United States had the right to launch 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[1]. A connection between Palestinian terrorists and Iraq seemed plausable in light of Saddam Hussein's high-profile practice of sending checks to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers[1]. Israeli intelligence organizations also claimed they had evidence that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (although later, when no such weapons were found, at least one senior Israeli intelligence officer admitted Israel may have overstated this threat[1]).

In light of this evidence. and evidence supplied by US and British intelligence organizations, in October 2002 President Bush sought and obtained congressional approval for a strike against Iraq should diplomatic efforts fail[1].

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, which are 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, UN 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 believe 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.

As of September 25, 2003, no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered in Iraq by occupation forces. Indeed, on September 24, 2003, the BBC reported that the United States' Iraq Survey Group's draft report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq states that none whatsoever have been discovered [1].

Although the invasion and occupation of Iraq is portrayed 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. This appears to not be the case, considering that major operations and arrests continue to take place all over the world as part of the War on Terrorism. Newsweek conducted a poll after the 2002 elections and found that a majority believed that this played a large part in the Republican victory during the elections.

Despite attempts by the CIA and US administration, certain Republican politicians and the government of Israel to prove one, some critics claim that there is no demonstrable link between the Iraqi government and any anti-American terrorist group.

Around the world, the threats to Iraq from the US and Britain have led to a rise in scepticism over the motives for invasion and the "war" in general.

In early 2003, CIA director George Tenet reported that an al-Qaida cell is operating inside Baghdad, although no evidence of assistance 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 they would be willing to negotiate a new position with the United States. The response from the United States government has been muted; they 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 for in Iraq.

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.


As mentioned, the nation is 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 administrations 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.

Pankisi Gorge (Georgia)

Main article: War on Terrorism: Pankisi Gorge

In February 2002, the U.S. sent approximately two hundred Special Operations Forces troops 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 forces 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 forces, 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 1700 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.

Syria and Lebanon

Syria and Lebanon are hosting the headquarters of several terrorist organization (according to the State Department list and the EU list) such as Hizbullah, 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 threaten to cast sanctions over Syria.

Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip

Both Israel and the USA define the following militias as terrorists: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PPLF and the PDLF. The USA called on Palestinian Authority to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist groups who targets Israeli civilians. The US 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 a lot of counter-terrorism operations in order to thwart suicide bombings. US army officers studied Israeli operations and methods and even held joint trainings. The US army adopted some of the Israeli methods such as 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 US also includes Kach, an ultra-nationalist Israeli organization on its official list of terrorist organizations, and recently added support of their websites 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.

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 POWs. 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, and/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, see September_11,_2001_Terrorist_Attack/Detentions. The Justice Department launched a Special Registration procedure for certain male non-citizens in the US, requiring them to register in person at INS offices.

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. However, no official legal challenges have been launched so far.

The Bush administration launched 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 US 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 US 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 Qaida. 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. [1]

Opposition to the War

Initial opposition to the War on Terrorism was limited in the United States and Europe. On September 14, when the United States House of Representatives voted on a bill authorizing the President of the United States to use force in the War on Terrorism, there was only one dissenting vote--Representative Barbara Lee of California. Much of the opposition that existed came from the long-standing peace movement as well as the anti- or alternative globalization movement (e.g. the Independent Media Center broadened its focus from globalization and corporations to militarization). The leadership of the German Green Party, known for its pacifist principles, supported the attack, but condemned the use of cluster bombs. This support led to an internal division within the party and a confidence vote called by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, in which he retained the support of enough Greens to stay on. Those Greens who voted against the government were later punished by being removed from the party list in the 2002 elections. Similar internal divisions arose in the United States political left, with some prominent opponents of the Vietnam War, like Christopher Hitchens, supporting the War on Terrorism. However, many more veterans of the Vietnam War have come out against the war against Iraq.

Over time, opposition to the War has grown across the US and Europe and begun to take form in mass protests. There have been street protests against the War on Terrorism in general or war on Iraq in particular in many major cities in the U.S. and other nations, many of them the largest anti-war protests since the Vietnam War. On the 15th of February 2003, 1,000,000 people rallied against the War on the streets of London, representing diverse political, religious and other groups in what was described by the BBC as the largest demonstration the capital has seen. This was at a time when public feeling in Britain against a war was running high, with a clear majority in the polls. On the 26th of October 2002, protesters joined on the Mall in Washington D.C., the area adjacent to the highest offices of government. While the Park Services no longer makes estimates regarding the size of protests on the Mall, the Washington Post estimated about 100,000 people attended, quoting police and park officials as saying that this anti-war protest may have been the largest since the Vietnam War. In contrast to other recent protests, in which protesters reported being violently attacked by police or security forces, protesters in this action were evidently permitted to speak and assemble more freely. On the same day protest rallies also took place in Mexico, Japan, Spain, Germany, South Korea, Belgium and Australia.

U.S. and European critics of the War on Terror make many different arguments in their opposition to the War. Some argue that the War unjustly results in the deaths of non-combatants (collateral damage). An alternate version of this argument is that the War is being fought in a way intended to minimize deaths to allied soldiers without regard to the effect on non-combatants. (See, e.g., Ten Reasons Why Women Should Oppose the "War on Terrorism".) Another prevalent theme in opposition literature is that the War is "sowing the seeds of future terrorism and violence" by creating conditions of poverty and desperation (Artists' petition against the war). Many believe that the interrogation methods employed by the CIA violate international conventions against torture.

A common analysis is that the War is being fought "to establish a new political framework within which [the US] will exert hegemonic control." (World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board) Many say the US seeks to do this by controlling access to oil or oil pipelines. Similarly, many argue that the War is being fought to benefit domestic political allies of the Bush administration, especially arms manufacturers.

Many opponents of the war focus on the domestic aspects, complaining that the government is systematically removing civil liberties from the population or engaging in racial profiling. Other criticisms of domestic policy are focused on the individuals given leadership roles in War on Terrorism-related posts. In November 2002, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was appointed as the chairman of the independent panel investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America. His appointment led to widespread criticism, mainly because he is wanted by France, Spain, Chile, and Argentina for questioning in connection with war crimes he allegedly had knowledge of and directed while serving as Secretary of State during the Nixon and Ford administrations. John Poindexter was appointed head of the Information Awareness Office (IAO). Poindexter's qualifications as head of the IAO have been widely questioned on grounds of personal integrity, as he was convicted on five felony counts of lying to Congress and destroying and altering evidence related to the Iran-Contra Affair.

Others emphasize the perceived stupidity of the leaders of the War on Terrorism, especially George W. Bush. These critics point to Bush's dichotomies (e.g. good versus evil, with us or against us) as simplistic, and often criticize Bush for his verbal miscues.

The opposition movement in many majority-Muslim countries started earlier than in most Western countries. In Pakistan, there was immediate opposition to the invasion of Afghanistan, especially in the border regions near Afghanistan, where there are strong ties to the Pashto population in Afghanistan. When Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf chose to ally himself with the U.S. campaign, many Islamist parties organized protests. In October, 2002, these parties made large gains in elections. In January, 2003, they organized nation-wide protests against the potential U.S. invasion of Iraq, largely in solidarity with their co-religionists.

Some point to a documentary by CBS - Hitler: The Rise of Evil - about how Hitler came to power. Later, the producer was fired because of remarks he made about how closely Hitler's coming to power resembles the current situation.

The program has acquired pejorative nicknames: "War on Terra", alluding to Bush's mispronunciations and PNAC's explicit written advocacy of US supremacy over Earth, aka Terra. British and Australian persons tend to call it "TWAT" (using "Against" instead of "On"). The Iraq component was called "Whack Iraq" (a forecast of pitting the world's mightiest military against one of its smallest) or "OIL" ("Operation Iraqi Liberation", petroleum being the suspected true motive under all the liberation "sales pitch").

And some—Lt. Gen. William Boykin among themclass="external">[1—think it's actually a new mediæval-type Crusade.

See also: Current events, list of terrorist incidents

External links

General War on Terrorism news: Specific articles: Critical Links: