Nearly 10 years later, in a dramatic yet sober Sunday evening address, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, perpetrator of the Sept. 11 attacks, was dead, the result of a U.S. military action. He reminded us of how, in those grim days after Sept. 11, “we reaffirmed our unity as one American family. . . and our resolve to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice.”
He described the capture and killing of bin Laden as the “most significant effort to date in our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda.” And he reaffirmed that this country will never wage a war against Islam. For that reason, Obama rightly said that bin Laden’s “demise should be welcomed by all those who believe in peace and human dignity.”
Now, with bin Laden buried at sea, it is time to end the “global war on terror” we have lived with for a decade. It is time to stop defining the post-Sept. 11 struggle against stateless terrorists as “war.” Framing the fight against terror as a war was a conscious decision made by President Bush, Karl Rove and others in those first days after Sept. 11 — a decision that destroyed the unity President Obama reminded us of in his address.
The “war” metaphor — as retired American ambassador Ronald Spiers wrote in 2004 — “is neither accurate nor innocuous, implying as it does that there is an end point of either victory or defeat.. . . A ‘war on terrorism’ is a war without an end in sight, without an exit strategy, with enemies specified not by their aims but by their tactics.”
The Bush administration used the “war” as justification for undermining the best of America’s principles. We have witnessed the abuse of international human rights standards, the unlawful detention of thousands of women and men, and the condoning of torture.
And though President Obama has wisely refused to refer to our actions against terrorist cells as a “war on terror,” he, too, has used the “war” as justification for the expansion of his executive authority, whether through the use of military tribunals or the embrace of indefinite detention.
Today it is time not only to end the use of the term “war on terror,” but to end the war itself.
It is time to bring our troops home.