Saturday, October 27, 2007

War on Terror Six Years Later

Two stories speak to America's prosecution of the war on terror some six years after 9-11. New York University's Center on Law tracked the number of terror cases filed and their prosecution while the BBC assessed the American and British post war planning for the war in Iraq. Both reveal disturbing information.

American leaders redefined torture, suspended habeas corpus, expanded domestic spying capabilities and granted the President the power to name anyone an enemy combatant because of a wide, ever present danger of terror attacks. After six years, one would expect huge dividends from these cumulative acts. According to NYU's Center on Law, of 510 terror cases, 158 were prosecuted. Of those only four resulted in convictions for planning attacks within the United States. The Justice Department challenged these numbers saying 62 more people were convicted for planning attacks. The Law Center says those attacks were planned overseas.

With Iraq the "central front on the war on terror", one might expect the Coalition to invest major resources into post war planning. America and Great Britain did very little of that according to the BBC. The British chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Basra's first task was to find a computer. That was three weeks after the war ended. A different British advisor warned Americans they'd be "lucky to get 6 hours worth of flowers and roses." Winston Churchill occupied Iraq unsuccessfully. Despite trying to control the country by air via bombings, the British were driven out of Iraq by "recalcitrant Arabs". It's a shame the bust of Winston in the Oval Office didn't warn President Bush or P.M. Tony Blair.

The terror threat while potentially catastrophic, seems statistically minuscule within the United States. It is much greater in other countries torn by internal strife, but was certainly exacerbated by the Coalition's poor post war planning. I thought America wanted to grow democracy abroad and not terrorism. It turns out they're both messy and neither seems to be spreading quickly.