chapter  1
24 Pages

The other war on terror

This book is aimed at the less visible, lower-profile aspects of global cooperative counter-terrorism strategies. It argues that the highly visual violent events of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition that have, for better or worse, come to define the war on terror, in fact have their more ‘ordinary’ mundane and barely visible counterparts that are in need of more attention.1 In so doing, we seek to provide a fresh theoretical perspective of risk, global governance and security, on what we term the ‘other war on terror’, a campaign that has been ongoing beneath our very noses with relatively less scrutiny. To illustrate our point by way of contrast, in the years since the tragic events of 11 September 2001 (hereafter 9/11), most retrospective evaluations of the ensuing war on terror will inevitably, and rightly, roll out the unfortunately long list of eye-catching landmark events that have dominated headlines. These range from dramatic high-profile military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, accusations of American unilateralism, secret ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights and extra-judicial killings of Al Qaeda suspects by CIA drones, controversy over the 2002 National Security Strategy’s emphasis on pre-emptive strikes. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are now bywords for American apparent disregard of international law and human rights since 9/11. Wiretaps, snooping and infringements of civil liberties, ‘waterboarding’, torture, the list goes on. Who can forget as well the bitter division in the international community, even amongst erstwhile NATO allies, the US, France and Germany, over the controversial war on Iraq in 2003 and subsequent failure to unearth weapons of mass destruction? Yet despite years of the most powerful country in the world applying military force and pressure in ‘a no-holds-barred, global war on terrorism’, noted terrorism analyst Bruce Hoffman wrily observed in February 2007 that ‘Al Qaeda is on the march, rather than on the run’, contrary to President Bush’s rhetoric.2 A year later in February 2008, Director of National Intelligence John McConnell warned that despite losing many of its senior operational planners, ‘Al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates continue to pose significant threats to the United States at home and abroad, and al Qaeda’s central leadership based in the border area

of Pakistan is its most dangerous component.’3 Another August 2008 assessment by the US intelligence analyst in charge of transnational threats continues this line of argument about Al Qaeda’s resilience in the face of military attempts at eliminating its leaders: ‘in spite of successful U.S. and allied operations against al-Qaeda, especially the death of important al-Qaeda figures since December, the group has maintained or strengthened key elements of its capability to attack the United States in the past year’.4 Notwithstanding the increasingly bitter debate in Washington on just how strong Al Qaeda is or whether it has splintered into what Marc Sageman terms ‘leaderless jihad’,5 it has become clear that the use of dramatic highly visible military force, while a useful and indispensable instrument in the counter-terrorism tool kit, is not always the right solution all the time. Furthermore as Amoore and de Goede point out, although the oft-cited Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and extraordinary rendition flights are intolerable examples that deservedly attract attention,

there are other violences at work in the war on terror that are relatively unacknowledged and perhaps as a result, are in danger of being accepted as uniquitious features of contemporary life . . . concealed in the actions taken on the basis of the minutiae of daily life.