The Global War on Terror

  • Since 2001 the “Global War on Terror” has become a household phrase that has set the political, economic, and ideological agenda for the US and its accomplices. The GWoT has done less to keep people safe from terror as it has to grow the reach of US militarism and imperialism and terrorize people across Southwest Asia to Africa, throughout the Global South, and here in the United States. The terrorizing of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities in the US by police is another expression of this ideological war that shares the same tools and strategies of surveillance and control.
  • In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the entire apparatus of the US government shifted to counterterrorism, and oftentimes with complete support from media, universities and think tanks, and cultural institutions. While the GWoT was launched by George W. Bush and his administration, the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump continued and expanded the war, each making it their own. And even though he has been in office now for only eight months, Joe Biden is already ensuring he too is able to fight terrorism on his terms, particularly with the push around “domestic terrorism” and him continuing airstrikes in places like Afghanistan, despite supposedly ending the war there.    
  • Beyond airstrikes and ground warfare, the GWoT has been carried out via unlawful detention and black sites; torture; massive surveillance and counter violent extremism programs; militarized borders and policing; and the building of walls and the implementation of bans. There are 39 Muslim men still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, the majority of whom have never been charged. 
  • While this project focuses on the 20 years since 9/11, we know that the framework of “terrorism” has been used long before, particularly to repress Black freedom fighters, and other liberation movements throughout history. In the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims- of different racial and ethnic backgrounds- became a primary target of the GWoT, and the dehumanization of Muslim communities as “terrorists” globally became an essential part of paving the way for repressive policies and practicies to be implemented. These eventually were also used against others who have also long been targeted by state violence. 
  • The main focus of this project is the United States, but we want to stress that the GWoT is truly a global war: not only in terms of the vast geography of where the war has been and continues to be fought but also the number of states carrying it out. The US invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2001 the US- oftentimes with support from dozens of allies- has bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Libya, all Muslim majority countries. In 2012 US drones struck the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Throughout these airwars the US has mostly claimed to target “terrorists.”  The reality has been that thousands of civilians have been directly killed as weddings, hospitals, and mosques have been bombed. And the US military has trained or assisted the security forces of 58 countries across Africa, Asia, and Europe to combat terrorism.
  • Outside the US context, France has been carrying out airstrikes in Mali since 2013. Russia began its own bombing campaign of Syria in 2015. China has launched its own version of the war on terror against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang deploying mass detention and surveillance, torture, and other crimes against humanity. Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya people  also began by proclamations of fighting terrorists. Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and India and others have all claimed to be fighting terrorism as part of military actions and repression against Palestinians, Kurds, Yemenis, Syrians, Kashmiris, as well as their own citizens.

Big Tech Sells War (and Hate, White Supremacy, and Fascism)


  • The 2000s saw the rise of profits and prominence of US Big Tech. While tech corporations like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter became more and more a part of our everyday lives, these same companies were providing tools to the US military and government to help fuel their war on Muslim communities. From databases to drones, US Big Tech is complicit in and has profited from this never-ending war against Muslims at home and abroad.
  • Big Tech has also been a vehicle for the rampant spread of Islamophobia since the start of the GWoT. Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s streaming service YouTube platform virulent anti-Muslim, xenophobic hate speech, and conspiracies that have fueled events like the 2019 Christchurch attack. These platforms also allow think tanks and individuals invested in the GWoT in some way to spread disinformation to justify its continuation. At the same time these platforms have censored BIPOC creators and activists for speaking out against state violence. 
  • While weapons manufacturers have rightly  gotten much attention as war profiteers, tech also has a role in war against our communities. The United States remains the largest arms exporter in the world, but now tools to fight “war” are different and focused on what the tech and military industries refer to as the “digital battlefield” where metadata, drones, and artificial intelligence (AI) do the killing in the name of efficiency. Add the reality that surveillance has become an essential part of the GWoT and there is now an entire terro industry for Big Tech to profit from. 
  • Big Tech is benefitting from what some have called “terror capitalism,” the phenomenon of corporations profiting off of defining entire communities as “terrorists” and using these communities as test subjects for technology developed in service of counterterrorism, which can eventually also be deployed for other purposes. For the GWoT, it is Muslim communities across the globe who have been dehumanized as “terrorists” and have become test subjects for a wide range of technology from drones to databases.
    • From 2004 to today, Big Tech corporations have seen a huge climb in federal demand for their services. The top three federal agencies that have the highest demand for Big Tech services are all central to foreign policy- the Pentagon and State- and or were established as a direct result of the GWoT- Department of Homeland Security. 
    • The GWoT’s reliance on surveillance and database technology from the start laid the groundwork for the data economy as we know it- where our personal data is collected on profit-driven platforms and then sold to third parties, the police, and the federal government. Surveillance is a primary driver of terror capitalism. 
    • The scale and power of Big Tech has enabled them to both monetize the GWoT and perpetuate the harms on Muslim communities that ensures the GWoT continues. While on the one hand corporations like Google can create the AI for military drones to target Muslims, they can also perpetuate the criminalization of that very same community by spreading anti-Muslim bigotry on their platforms like YouTube. Big Tech corporations like Google can therefore profit from creating the conditions to make an “enemy” of Muslim communities while also creating the machinery that can target and kill them.
    • The federal demand for Big Tech’s services will only increase as the government continues to turn to private sector contractors to build public infrastructure. The Pentagon, ICE, and DHS together have put out calls for proposals for cloud computing contracts potentially worth tens of billions of dollars. 
    • In addition to the contracts and profitterring taking place, there is a revolving door between US government agencies running the GWoT and Big Tech jobs as hundreds of people have rotated in and out of government and tech jobs in the past 20 years. Major figures coming out of agencies that are essential to the GWoT such as DHS, the Pentagon, FBI, and State now have major roles in Big Tech, bringing up the question if the companies collecting and handling our personal data and designing tech be the same ones that created the demand for war-driven tech in the first place. 

What else is motivating Big Tech to help create a war that criminalizes Muslim, Black, and brown people? The bigger and more powerful Big Tech gets, the more they must prove to the US government that they will fall in line with federal priorities. And the more Big Tech falls in line with federal priorities, the less representatives will feel compelled to curb their market power via regulation as retribution. And because Big Tech is ultimately motivated by the drive to generate as many profits as possible, they are quick to cast off any promise to not be evil in order to stay in the government’s good graces.

Why This Project


  • Crescendo, a project by ACRE, MPower Change, and LittleSis, focuses on research and campaigns against corporations complicit in and profiting from Islamophobia and anti-Muslim violence. 
  • The purpose of this project is to highlight the many ways Big Tech is selling war on Muslim and other BIPOC communities. War now happens in ways beyond ground troops and invasions and tech is needed to carry it out. From manufacturing the UAV and drones that have killed thousands of civilians in Muslim majority countries to creating the software and systems that produce the many databases that are used to surveile and collect private data on our communities, Big Tech have been critical support of US warmongering and imperialism in the last two decades.
  • Bringing troops home while tech continues the wars- whether through drones to carry out airstrikes or the massive collection and analysis of data needed to  terrorize communities at borders and airports or repress people through surveillance and policing- means the war continues but just looks different. A kind of warfare that they deem more “efficient” but is no less inhumane.
  • We are seeing resistance to this growing role of Big Tech in selling war and we hope this project will support more resistance such as the organizing around demands of No Tech for ICE and Tech Is Not Neutral. Those working in the field of Big Tech are also sounding the alarm of the abuses and complicity of their industry and a growing number are refusing to create productions for the US military and border patrol. In 2018 workers forced Google to not renew a contract with the Pentagon for AI work. In May 2021 Amazon and Google workers  demanded their companies take action in support of the Palestinian people in the face of continuing Israeli apartheid and war crimes. 
  • With 20 years of the GWoT already having passed and in the midst of growing demands for abolition and defund, it is an important opening to consider what this means for the GWoT. With the help of Big Tech, the United States continues to repress BIPOC communities and police the world, serving as an occupying force, waging airwars, and spreading Islamophobic ideology across the globe.  But as demands to end the endless wars and abolish the police grow, as well as pushback against the wide range ways Big Tech is harming communities,  we must tackle how Big Tech sells war and end their profiteering and complicity. 

More Resources


We are thankful for research support from Empower LLC and Jack Poulson at Tech Inquiry to make this project a reality. 

We want to acknowledge the many organizations and activists who have done important work in the past 20 years resisting the Global War on Terror and continuing to build towards justice and liberation even in the face of repression. Some of these groups who helped inspire this project in one way or another include: About Face, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Center for Constitutional Rights, Dissenters, Mijente, Muslim Justice League, Palestinian Youth Movement, and Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. 

We also remember the millions of people whose lives have been disrupted  and destroyed through the invasions, occupations, airwars, and state violence since 2001. And also those who are resisting all the repressive forces  they are facing whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Kashmir, Xinjiang, and beyond.