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Friday, January 01, 2010


Asymmetric (language of) warfare

I was listening to Anderson Cooper on "AC360" earlier and heard him refer to the recent event in Afghanistan as a "terrorist attack on the CIA base." I'm not going to do an exhaustive search, but I'm pretty certain he's far from the only one to refer to the attack which killed eight (some say seven) CIA agents as a "terrorist" attack.

But to me, it stuck out like a sore thumb. After all, we've just been through a news cycle in which Dick Cheney was attacking President Obama for "refusing to say we're at war," and the press routinely refers to the "war on terror" or, following Obama, to a "war on terrorist groups." But if the U.S. is at "war," then how could it possibly be that when the other side in that war strikes back, by whatever means, it is a "terrorist" attack? Certainly one could use that term if the attack was directed at civilians, e.g., a marketplace or a mosque or the like. But this attack was directed against a CIA base, and not just CIA agents sitting at a desk analyzing information, but CIA agents who were actively involved in planning and directing drone strikes against that very enemy! Very much a military target, whether they wore military uniforms or not.

As I've said with respect to Gaza, for example, no doubt the Taliban would love to have drones or jet fighters or helicopter gunships, and if they did, they'd be glad to use those to attack CIA bases and Army bases. Well, they don't, and their best weapon to inflict the most damage is often a suicide bomber. That does constitute asymmetric warfare, but one thing it doesn't constitute is "terrorism."

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