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In Operation Jump Start, the National Guard is engaging in a federal mission of law enforcement and anti-terrorism that under the Posse Comitatus Act would require authorization by Congress, if we had a Congress capable of saying anything in the face of escalating militarism except “more.”
Today’s hearing in Laredo, for example, will be structured by its Congressional organizers to legitimize further militarization of the border, especially under the alibi of anti-terrorism. Of course, when the feds put their boots down to protect us from terrorism, they are carrying a rationale that would seem impossible to disprove, but we ought to be able to disprove one thing by now: you don’t fight terrorism with an Army.
Remember the argument that some of us were making during the frozen autumn of 2001? A terrorism network is an organized crime, and if you want to fight organized crime in your neighborhood, you don’t militarize the streets, instead you work on intelligence and precisely-targeted law enforcement. If we were called loony in 2001, what does the evidence now show?
According to the Congressional leadership in Laredo today, the evidence shows that Al Qaeda could be crossing the border at the Rio Grande. And once again, they say, give us more military boots, and we’ll kick back the terrorist threat once and for all.
To begin with, let’s take the Congressional leadership at their word and suppose that Al Qaeda is preparing to exploit the Rio Grande as a place to enter the USA. Don’t we face the same question we faced prior to the militarization of Afghanistan? Is wholesale military deployment really the most effective way to identify, isolate, and prevent terrorist activity? Or would it be better to intensify intelligence and law enforcement related to actual terrorist cells?
As the Congressional leadership would have us believe, the most efficient way of protecting against incursions along the Rio Grande would be a regime of total surveillance and control of a geography. But this is the awful folly of the Bush war on terror and the lesson that Americans refuse to learn. So long as the people insist on a military-geographical model of anti-terrorism (Afghanistan, Iraq) rather than a network model (focused on actual terrorist cells, remember Tora Bora?) they will clamor for more safety in a way that guarantees only more state interference into their ordinary lives.
After five years of this gruesome nonsense, don’t we finally have enough evidence in hand to convince ourselves that the Bush war on terrorism is a model that in the name of anti-terrorism actually produces ever more unaccountable powers over the ordinary lives of non-terrorists the world over?
And haven’t we learned that the best way to isolate a terrorist is to make peace and civil justice?
Contrary to the lessons we have learned in the Bush war on terrorism, Operation Jump Start provides a bankrupt model of militarized, geographical lockdown that begins to get citizens of the USA used to the big lie, that anti-terrorism and military deterrence are natural born twins.
But we have been too charitable to the Congressional leadership by taking them at their word. If militarized geographical control is the best way to fight terrorist incursions, how do Congressional leaders explain their presence in Laredo today? Why are they not in Detroit? We ask the question not in order to shoo their posing pinstripes northward to inflict their stupidity on the people of Detroit, but in order to expose the double standard of their pretensions.
What the Bush war on terrorism accomplishes actually is a way of demonizing entire geographies for the purposes of war profiteering. As the model has worked pretty well against the vast, pan-Muslim world, so it will now be attempted in USA relations with Latin America, beginning where Latin America begins, north of the Rio Grande.
GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.