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Title: The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How U.S. Politics Have Become Paramilitarized
Source: The Intercept
URL Source: https://theintercept.com/2018/11/25 ... erinsurgency-us-drone-strikes/
Published: Nov 25, 2018
Author: Jeremy Scahill
Post Date: 2018-11-28 11:20:11 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 64

Donald Trump ran a campaign promising to refill the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists, to ban Muslims from entering this country, and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet these policies didn’t start with Trump: Torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary renditions, record numbers of deportations, anti-Muslim sentiment, mass foreign and domestic surveillance, and even the killing of innocent family members of suspected terrorists all have a recent historical precedent.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, continued some of the worst policies of the George W. Bush administration. He expanded the global battlefield post-9/11 into at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria. At the end of Obama’s second term, a report by Council of Foreign Relations found that in 2016, Obama dropped an average of 72 bombs a day. He used drone strikes as a liberal panacea for fighting those “terrorists” while keeping boots off the ground. But he also expanded the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan. Immigrants were deported in such record numbers under Obama that immigration activists called him the “deporter-in-chief.” And then there were the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, where Obama national security officials would order pizza and drink Coke and review the list of potential targets on their secret assassination list.

For his liberal base, Obama sanitized a morally bankrupt expansion of war, and used Predator and Reaper drones strapped with Hellfire missiles to kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens stripped of their due process. The Obama administration harshly prosecuted whistleblowers in a shocking attack on press freedoms. By the end of his presidency, official numbers on civilian deaths by drone were underreported; we may never know the true cost of these wars, which continue today.

Bush, before him, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, took a hatchet to civil liberties: He expanded National Security Agency surveillance on overseas communications and created a system for unprecedented levels of surveilled communications of U.S. citizens. Much of this happened with the support of leading Democrats. Mosques across the country and in New York City were spied on. The authorization for the use of military force was passed in 2001 with the full backing of every lawmaker except for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. The bill created the justification for the forever wars that still rage on 17 years later.

And steadily, all of the counterinsurgency tactics of these foreign wars have crept back home, Bernard Harcourt argues in a recent book. Called “The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens” and it makes the argument that through NSA spying; Trump’s constant, daily distractions; and paramilitarized police forces or private security companies, the same counterinsurgency paradigm of warfare used against post-9/11 enemies has now come to U.S. soil as the effective governing strategy.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented paramilitarization of state and local law enforcement agencies in this country. Police at protests and demonstrations often look like they’re SEAL Team 6 getting ready to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound. Many agencies have received military equipment through a Defense Department program that allows police to obtain military equipment after it’s been used in foreign war zones.

In “The Counterrevolution,” America’s post-9/11 domestic reality is placed within the deeper history of modern warfare and counterinsurgency doctrine. Harcourt traces the evolution of modern warfare, or counterinsurgency, as it developed in the 1950s and ’60s to fight small rebellions, including the colonial struggles for freedom in Algeria and Indochina against France and the Viet Cong fighting against the United States in Vietnam. The lessons learned by France in fighting colonial uprisings were distilled into French war strategist David Galula’s “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” which many decades later became an influential text for Gen. David Patraeus as he worked on writing the document that would come to define U.S. war strategy in the Middle East. The 2006 counterinsurgency field manual shaped the counterinsurgency strategy across Iraq and Afghanistan.

Insurgents, or the “active minority,” were aggressively sought out — often targeted for elimination via drone strike. In fact, at the center of Harcourt’s argument for how the domestication of the counterinsurgency warfare paradigm occurred is the drone strike. Heralded as “precise” or “surgical,” the drone strike won the public’s favor under Obama. Any public debate surrounding the use of drones as a legitimate replacement for boots-on-the-ground arguably ended in 2011, with the drone assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and, subsequently, the strike that killed his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman. Instead of an arrest, trial, and verdict for these U.S. citizens, an execution by strike from the sky was authorized. A Gallup poll reported in 2013 that 65 percent of the American public supported drone strikes against overseas targets even after the killing of its own citizens. Harcourt writes, “[Drones] make killing even U.S. citizens abroad far more tolerable. And this tolerance is precisely what ends up eroding the boundaries between foreign policy and domestic governance.”

We spoke to Harcourt about his latest book, what makes the Trump presidency unique, and why we aren’t talking about drones anymore on the Intercepted podcast. What follows is the audio of the edited conversation as aired - the full transcript of the unedited interview can be found at the link.

The interview begins at 45:32.

(Transcript at the link)

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