With the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, the United States adopted radical changes to its foreign policy and its response to terrorist threat. With the swift implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act shortly after the attacks (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act), and intervention in Afghanistan, the United States had begun its War on Terror. This war was shepherded by then President George W. Bush. These actions marked the beginning of the War on Terror, and laid the groundwork for the problems experienced by the Obama administration almost ten years later.
The USA PATRIOT Act was a statute designed to unburden law enforcement agencies from privacy laws and protections with the intention of making them more effective in the hunt of terrorists. It also focused on restricting terrorist finances by implementing measures to counter illicit finance (Roberge 2009: 266). It has also come under criticism in retrospect, with the Policy Reversals, Terrorist Financing author Ian Roberge noting that “the unprecedented transpartisan unity that followed in the wake of 11 September facilitated and made possible the adoption of measures previously rejected” (Roberge 2009: 274).
Meanwhile, captured terrorist suspects began being transferred to Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay on 11 January 2002, after the realisation that “despite the fact that the United States has had exclusive control over Guantanamo Bay since 1903, the courts have no jurisdiction to examine the legality of the detention of the prisoners” (Steyn 2004: 10). It too is the subject of wide-ranging and sharp criticism. Abraham Lowenthal, author of The Obama Administration and the Americas: Agenda for Change, cites Latin American condemnation, stating “Latin Americans have been understandably critical of U.S. conduct in the ‘war on terror,’ especially the use of Guantanamo to circumvent legal protections of the rights of prisoners detained there” (Lowenthal 2009: 19).
The United States initiated Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March 2003, without NATO approval, beginning with targeted bombing of Iraq, and soon a full-scale invasion. This has proved to become an unpopular war, for some because of the motivations behind it or because of the perceived lack of progress in Iraq, attributed to “enemy body counts and casualty ratio data” which “is quantifiable and commonly viewed by the public as a reasonable indicator of success (or, more likely, failure)” (Boettcher and Cobb 2006: 833). It also damaged the United States’ international standing because the war in Afghanistan “was followed by the deeply controversial Iraqi war of 'shock and awe' which fractured the international legal order so carefully crafted in the crucible of Lake Success in 1945” (Steyn 2004: 7).
To the present day, the United States remains engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq; and continues to operate military camps outside of legal jurisdiction in...