We Have Always Been at War with Eastasia Adherents

Back on September 18, 2001, here’s who we declared war against.

the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons,

On March 13, 2009, here’s how Obama expanded that AUMF to include “associated forces.”

The President has the authority to detain persons that the President determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, and persons who harbored those responsible for those attacks. The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in aid of such enemy armed forces. [my emphasis]

Here’s how, on Monday, the White House described the speech Obama will make tomorrow on counterterrorism.

On May 23, the President will give a speech at the National Defense University on the Administration’s counterterrorism policy. In his speech, the President will discuss our broad counter-terrorism policy, including our military, diplomatic, intelligence and legal efforts. He will review the state of the threats we face, particularly as al Qaeda core has weakened but new dangers have emerged; he will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones; he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; and he will frame the future of our efforts against Al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents. [my emphasis]

Now, in point of fact, this war against “adherents” is not new. Denis McDonough invoked it in a speech on March 6, 2011.

Preventing radicalization that leads to violence here in America is part of our larger strategy to decisively defeat al Qaeda. Overseas, because of the new focus and resources that the President has devoted to this fight, the al Qaeda leadership in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan is hunkered down and it’s harder than ever for them to plot and launch attacks against our country. Because we’re helping other countries build their capacity to defend themselves, we’re making it harder for al Qaeda’s adherents to operate around the world.

Here at home, we’ve strengthened our defenses, with improvements to intelligence and aviation screening and enhanced security at our borders, ports and airports. As we’ve seen in recent attempted attacks, al Qaeda and its adherents are constantly trying to exploit any vulnerability in our open society. But it’s also clear that our dedicated intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security personnel have disrupted many more plots and saved many American lives.


For all these reasons—our stronger defenses at home; our progress against al Qaeda overseas; the rejection of al Qaeda by so many Muslims around the world; and the powerful image of Muslims thriving in America—al Qaeda and its adherents have increasingly turned to another troubling tactic: attempting to recruit and radicalize people to terrorism here in the United States.


But with al Qaeda and its adherents constantly evolving and refining their tactics, our understanding of the threat has to evolve as well.

Obama invoked adherents, sort of, shortly thereafter.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents.

And John Brennan invoked adherents in speeches on June 29, 2011, September 16, 2011, April 30, 2012, and October 26, 2012.

So the Administration has been at war against al Qaeda adherents (and affiliates, another new category) for some time.

But if I’m not mistaken, tomorrow will mark the most detailed discussion in which the President describes this war that no one declared against adherents. And given that Congress has shown newfound interest in the scope of the AUMF that includes neither adherents nor associated forces, it will be interesting to see how the President describes this expanded war.

23 replies
  1. What Constitution says:

    As I thought. It’s the “adherents” that catch us up in such a “sticky” situation.

  2. Peterr says:

    Sounds like someone at the White House (probably within the OLC) discovered the Thesaurus. (This is *not* a good thing, as illustrated quite nicely by Scott Eric Kaufman’s lexigraphical lament.)

    But as long as Team Obama is heading down that path, here’s a little help:

    Adherents, associates, affiliates, acolytes, allies, . . .

    Progeny, protectors, pupils, partisans . . .

    companions, colleagues, conspirators, co-workers, co-belligerents . . .

    followers, fans, friends . . .

    devotees, disciples, deputies . . .

    minions, martyrs, mates . . .

  3. lysias says:

    Since the current war is no longer called the “war on terror” or the “Global War on Terrorism,” what exactly IS it called these days?

  4. der says:

    -“…al Qaeda and its adherents have increasingly turned to another troubling tactic: attempting to recruit and radicalize people to terrorism here in the United States.”

    2 years on and our strong defenses at home missed the Russians tip on a possible Cambridge “sleeper cell.” Seems to need some work. Forever War needs more money to fix that, gotta be an app in or around Farifax, Rockville, Alexandria….somewhere near the Crystal City.


  5. Frank33 says:

    I have discovered more Al Qaeda Adherents and Material Supporters. Actually, Sibel Edmonds did the discovering. It is just Operation Gladio, Forever. We have always…

    Al Qaeda adherents include the FBI, the CIA, Department of Justice, State Dept, MI6, NATO, the Sunday Times, and Jamie Gorelick. Actually, I included Gorelick because she helped Al Qaeda at the DOJ. And Gorelick wants to suppress the First Amendment.

    Edmonds claimed that Ayman al-Zawahiri, current head of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s deputy at the time, had innumerable, regular meetings at the U.S. embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, with U.S. military and intelligence officials between 1997 and 2001, as part of an operation known as ‘Gladio B’. Al-Zawahiri, she charged, as well as various members of the bin Laden family and other mujahideen, were transported on NATO planes to various parts of Central Asia and the Balkans to participate in Pentagon-backed destabilisation operations…

    In the course of her work, Edmonds became privy to evidence that U.S. military and intelligence agencies were collaborating with Islamist militants affiliated with al-Qaeda, the very forces blamed for the 9/11 attacks – and that officials in the FBI were covering up the evidence…

    Edmonds said that the Pentagon operations with Islamists were an “extension” of an original ‘Gladio’ programme uncovered in the 1970s in Italy, part of an EU-wide NATO covert operation that began as early as the 1940s.

    Central Asia….That would include Chechnea and Dagestan. So I would suggest Graham Fuller is another Al Qaeda Adherent.

  6. harpie says:

    I’ve just finished reading Rosa Parks testimony [pdf] from the Armed Services committee hearing and found her description of how the reading of the AUMF expanded very clear. For example, beginning on page 8 with:

    Congress bears some responsibility for enabling the executive branch to assert such virtually unlimited authority to use force […]

    There is so much useful information in just her one well argued testimony, that it should shame the Administration to have sent 4 people with just one six page press release [pdf] between them.

    And Jennifer Daskal and Steve Vladak, who titled their proposal “After the AUMF” didn’t even get invited.

  7. 1970cs says:

    “or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in aid of such enemy armed forces.”

    Does Rumsfeld lobbying as a board member for ABB to sell light water reactors to North Korea, or send chemical weapons to Iraq fit this definition?

  8. orionATL says:

    Patience, now.

    Be patient just a little longer.

    Soon it will be manifest to us all –

    peace is what we long for and

    “WAR” is “PEACE”

  9. beowulf says:

    Now, in point of fact, this war against “adherents” is not new.

    OK this makes my head heart, do they even know what the word “adherents” means?

    “Treason of adherence to an enemy was old in the law. It consisted of breaking allegiance to one’s own king by forming an attachment to his enemy. Its scope was comprehensive, its requirements indeterminate. It might be predicated on intellectual or emotional sympathy with the foe, or merely lack of zeal in the cause of one’s own country. That was not the kind of disloyalty the framers thought should constitute treason. They promptly accepted the proposal to restrict it to cases where also there was conduct which was “giving them aid and comfort”.”
    Cramer v. United States, 325 US 1, 28 (1945)

  10. lefty665 says:

    @What Constitution: WMA/WMG (weapons of mass adhesion/weapons of mass gluing) alert.

    Round up all the glue guns.

    Chemical alert: superglue is cyanide. Epoxy is a binary. Gorilla glue reacts with water. Cap the wells, round up all the Perrier users (do that on GPs anyway). Even duct tape has been turned against us.
    Bio alert: Pine sap is subversive, don’t ever trust a loblolly. Just what is it with those “Ali phatic” glues, sounds furrin to me.

    Where are the Congressional hearings? Will torture unseal adherents lips?

    Thank god we can still trust WD 40.

  11. Peterr says:

    @lefty665: And where did WD-40 come from? A defense contractor:

    It was developed in 1953 by Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, in San Diego, California. . . .

    Larsen was attempting to create a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles, by displacing the standing water that causes it. He claims he arrived at a successful formula on his 40th attempt. WD-40 is primarily composed of various hydrocarbons.

    WD-40 was first used by Convair to protect the outer skin, and more importantly, the paper thin “balloon tanks” of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion. . . .

    WD-40 first became commercially available on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.

  12. lefty665 says:

    @Peterr: Thanks Peterr. My recollection is that some of the early Atlas’s needed more help than WD-40 could give them, but they got better.

    WD-40 the un-adherent. Not just for rockets and sticky wickets any more. DHS approved.

  13. Mike D. says:

    “the future of our efforts against Al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents

    All efforts are not war. Those future efforts mentioned do not necessarily equal war.

  14. Mike D. says:

    …I don’t have time to go through each Brennan speech to find the references to adherents, but I’ll do one.

    Here is the part of the speech – in full – that deals with topics he relates to “Al-Qa‘ida, its affiliates and adherents”:

    Finally, I want to close on a security challenge closer to home, in Europe and the United States — the threat posed by violent extremists who seek to justify the killing of innocents. Of course, Al-Qa‘ida, its affiliates and adherents pose the preeminent terrorist threat in the world today. In America and across Europe, al-Qa’ida seeks to inspire our citizens to violence, and at times they have succeeded.

    Sadly, the threat of violent extremism did not start — and will not end — with al-Qa‘ida. On both sides of the Atlantic, we have a long, painful history of violent extremism, from violent anarchists to violent white supremacists to neo-Nazis. This summer, we saw a white supremacist in Wisconsin kill six worshippers and wound four others at a Sikh temple. Last year in Norway, we saw Anders Breivik — steeped in a racist and xenophobic ideology — murder 77 innocent men, women and children in a tragedy that truly shocked the world.

    As nations, our challenge is to meet the full range of violent extremist threats in our communities, regardless of ideology. In the United States, our strategy focuses on empowering local communities because it is these communities that are being targeted by violent extremists and terrorists. We want to help these communities prevent their members — their sons, their daughters — from being radicalized in the first place. And it is these communities that know best how to reach their members and help them resist being radicalized. It is an approach based on years of experience and lessons learned in meeting a wide range of threats to public safety, both in the United States and in other countries, including in Europe.
    Broadly speaking, our efforts fall into three main areas: engaging communities directly, so they better understand how they are being targeted by violent extremist groups; improving training so that our law enforcement officials are true partners with communities; and undermining extremist narratives by showing how our nation is enriched by diverse communities. Over the past year, we have also increased our collaboration with our European partners — not just governments, but civil society and community leaders — and we will continue to do so, because countering violent extremism is a challenge that requires that we learn from each other.

    The bottom line — on both sides of the Atlantic — is that we have to work with communities rather than stigmatize them. That is especially true when it comes to our fellow citizens who are Muslim. In word and deed, we need to show Muslim communities that they are just as much a part of our countries as people of any other faith. This is a message of inclusion and opportunity that President Obama has conveyed on many, many occasions. As he has said, the United States is not and never will be at war against Islam; our nation is strengthened by all its citizens, including those who are Muslim. We are at war against al-Qa’ida — a band of thugs who offer nothing but death and destruction. And when it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in our countries, Muslim communities are part of the solution.

    …And here is the part of that where he addresses whom we are at war with:

    We are at war against al-Qa’ida — a band of thugs who offer nothing but death and destruction.

    Note that that statement does not refer to adherents. And note that essentially all of what he has to say about dealing with the part of the threat that stems from adherents (among others) outlines efforts that involve means that are (decidedly) not warfare – Muslim community engagement most prominently.

    You can say that that is all, in practice, hogwash. I wouldn’t resist that contention all that strongly, even. But if it’s about what the the speeches say, well, that is what this speech says. It says what we’re doing to address the threat coming from (among others) adherents of Al Qaeda – and that doesn’t mention warfare and highlights efforts that are very distinct from warfare – and then says who we are are at war with – and that turns out to be Al Qaeda, with no mention of adherents.


  15. Eureka Springs says:

    The old classic song “Compared To What” comes to mind. Trying to make it (adherence) real….

    We are all adherents now.

    And now the GOP simply carries the torch a bit further in progression, yet the center and left will never admit it’s something the Pres and congress led the way with in the war in error.


  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A welcome new lease on life for Eric Blair; an unwelcome further realization of his prescience for us all. Thanks, again, EW.

  17. Bill Michtom says:

    “as early as the 1940s” is a questionable usage. Since NATO was founded in April of 1949, yes it could have been, technically, in the ’40s, but, of course, just barely, despite the sense the phrase gives.

    When I see such usages, it makes me very skeptical of what else is being said.

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