Terror Arguments Boomerang from Waziristan to Standing Rock: Argumentative Frameworks and the US Surveillance State
In his first forty-five days in office as President of the United States, Donald Trump authorized 36 targeted drone attack operations, one for every 1.25 days of his presidency. Compared to President Barack Obama’s 542 targeted drone attacks in 2,920 days of his presidency, Trump’s utilization of targeted drone attacks within the US led terror wars represents about a 432% increase in active use of the technology known as armed, unmanned aerial vehicles. In this paper, I examine violence in the age of the terror wars with an eye toward the technologies of argument that facilitate that violence across the globe. Specifically, as life-ending US drone attacks are increasingly deployed against majority-Muslim populations around the world, the same argumentative frameworks that authorize those attacks are beginning to authorize comparable surveillance techniques against US citizens on US soil. Recently publicized discourse from global security firm Tiger Swan concerning actions at the anti-DAPL protests in North Dakota demonstrates what I argue is the “boomerang effect” of terrorism arguments utilized by the US to facilitate the terror wars. This paper traces the cartography of arguments around the US drone program, emphasizing key moments in the argumentative map of the terror wars. I argue that the ways that the argumentative frameworks deployed in the US to authorize deadly drone strikes against majority Muslim people abroad have now boomeranged back and are being deployed against indigenous protesters in the US, tracking, attacking, and incarcerating them. I conclude by offering some thoughts about the intersection of argument frameworks, governmental control, and violence as the Trump administration prepares to amplify both military and non-military technologies of surveillance to continue waging the terror wars against majority Muslim communities across the world. I draw connections between the arguments that sanction those terror wars abroad alongside new surveillance strategies against protesters on US soil.