In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the 20th anniversary of the mass murders of September 11, 2001, the corporate mainstream and alternative media have been replete with articles analyzing the consequences of 9/11 that resulted in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and its alleged withdrawal after two decades of war.
These critiques have ranged from mild to harsh, and have covered issues from the loss of civil liberties due to The Patriot Act and government spying through all the wars “on terror” in so many countries with their disastrous consequences and killing fields. Many of these articles have emphasized how, as a result of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11, the U.S. has lost its footing and brought on the demise of the American empire and its standing in the world. Some writers celebrate this and others bemoan it. Most seem to consider it inevitable.
This flood of articles has been authored by writers from across the political spectrum from the left through the center to the right. All were outraged in their own ways, as such dramatic events typically manage to elicit much spilled ink informed by the writers’ various ideological positions in a media world where the categories of left and right have become meaningless.
These articles have included cries about phony tears for the wrong victims (those who died in the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and on the planes), how good intelligence could have prevented 9/11, how so many died in vain, how it all led to torture, how whistle blowers were not heeded, how the military was right, how the collapse of the towers led to the collapse of the American empire, how bin Laden won, how evil U.S. war making came home in the form of 9/11 evil, how the longest war was in vain, how the Pentagon received vast sums of money over decades, how the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a betrayal of the 9/11 victims, etc.
Many of the points made were valid; others were not. This flood of opinionated outrage was very emotional and no doubt stirred deep feelings in readers. It fed on the widespread feeling in the country that something dreadful has occurred, but what it is isn’t exactly clear. The sense of mass confusion and continual disaster permeating the air and infecting people’s daily lives. The sense of unreality existing everywhere.
These articles have almost run their course and a new series of post mortems can be anticipated as fear and trembling attaches to new matters, particularly the ongoing Covid-19 fear porn minus the dire consequences of government policies. Fear is the name of the game and untruth snakes through the media hidden in the grass of truth. Many of the articles I referred to above – and you can check for yourself as I have purposely left out names and links – contain truths, but truths that disguise deeper untruths upon which the truths are allegedly based. I will leave the logic lesson to you.
Since many of these articles have been penned by liberal writers, some of whom one might naively expect to grasp essentials, and since those further to the right are considered defenders of Pax Americana, I will quote the outspoken anti-war singer/songwriter Phil Ochs, who prefaced his trenchant 1965 song, Love Me I’m a Liberal, with these words about logic:
In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic.
So here’s the rub about the logic. Almost without exception (there are a handful of truthful writers aside from those I am here referring to, such as Kit Knightly, Michel Chossudovsky, Pepe Escobar, et al.), from the left to the right and everywhere in between, the authors of all these articles about the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and Afghanistan have based their points on a false premise.
A false premise. This is the way minds are shaped in the era of mass propaganda and servile journalism. Assume (or make believe) something is true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and build from there. Slip in this premise or background assumption as if it were truer than true. This is what has happened throughout the media in the last two weeks. It is not new but worth pointing out.
The false premise is this: That 9/11 was a terror attack carried out by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda as blow-back for American wars against Muslims, and this terror attack on the U.S. led to the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.
The evidence is overwhelming that this premise is false. In fact, the evidence makes clear that 9/11 was an inside job, a false flag attack, carried out by sinister forces within the government of the United States with a little help from certain foreign junior partners to justify its subsequent war crimes across the globe. I will not explore here the ample evidence concerning 9/11, for it is readily available to readers who have the will to look. Even the use of the shorthand – 9/11 for the events of September 11, 2001 – that I have used here for brevity’s sake, is a crucial part of the linguistic propaganda used to frighten and conjure up thoughts of an ongoing national emergency, as I have written elsewhere.
One is not supposed to say that the mass murders of September 11, 2001 were a false flag attack, for it touches a realty that is so disturbing in its consequences that all the hand wringing post-mortems must deny: That nearly three thousand innocent people in the U.S. had first to be murdered as a pretext for killing millions around the world. It is a lesson in radical evil that is very difficult to swallow, and so must be hidden in a vast tapestry of lies and safe logic. American innocence can survive the disclosures of U.S. atrocities overseas because the deaths of foreigners have never meant much to Americans, but to bring it all back home is anathema.
It is another example of the unspeakable, as the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said long ago and James W. Douglass referenced in his monumental book, JFK and the Unspeakable, to explain why John Kennedy died at the hands of the CIA and why that fact had to be suppressed. The mass murders of September 11, 2001 recapitulate that systemic evil that defies speech.
It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience…
From true writers and journalists we should expect something better – that they don’t repeat official declarations, utter hollow platitudes, and build analyses on false premises – but these are not the best of times, to rephrase Ochs, and safe logic keeps one’s legitimacy intact and protects one’s brand.
It’s always personal when it comes to the unspeakable.
The United States’ 245-year history as a political entity has been one long trail of wars and more wars. It is estimated that nearly 95 percent of that historical span has seen the nation involved in either all-out wars, proxy conflicts, or other military subterfuges.
But since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, the US has gone into hyper-war mode. Twenty years ago, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan ushered in multiple other American wars and covert operations from Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to the Americas.
At one point, the former Obama administration was bombing seven countries simultaneously all in the name of “fighting terrorism”. Hundreds of US bombs rain down somewhere on the planet every day.
What is rather sickening is how the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 event this weekend is marked with solemn speeches by US president Joe Biden and his British counterpart Boris Johnson – the two countries that spearheaded the “War on Terror” era.
Biden claims that 9/11 demonstrates the “unity and resilience” of the American people, while Johnson blusters with platitudes about 9/11 showing that “terrorists did not defeat Western democracy and freedoms”. This self-indulgent piffle is contemptible and nauseating.
Two decades after the US and Britain launched their criminal blitzkrieg on Afghanistan and the rest of the world, those two nations are more financially broke than ever. Internally, they are more bitterly divided than ever. More evidently, their so-called democracies are in reality oligarchies where a tiny rich elite rule over a mass of impoverished people who are spied on and treated like serfs by unaccountable secret agencies and a mass media in hock with oligarchic masters.
If there was a genuine commemoration of 9/11 it would entail a mass uprising by the people to overthrow the war-mongering class system that Biden and Johnson serve as frontmen.
Just this week – of all weeks – the American and British states are in effect admitting that their societies are collapsing from vast economic inequality and crumbling infrastructure. The Biden administration is trying to release a budget of up to $4.5 trillion to alleviate poverty and repair decrepit roads, bridges, buildings and other public utilities.
The Johnson regime in Britain is forced to admit that the National Health Service is overwhelmed by a chronic lack of funding. Taxes are being hiked that will hit low-income workers in order to pay for the £12 billion ($16bn) needed to prop up the enfeebled health service.
All of the cost for trying to repair the US and Britain to make these countries a modicum of decency for its citizens to live in could have been covered by the expenditure on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere that the US and Britain have directly or indirectly been involved in.
A new estimate of the cost for the “war on terror” by the United States alone is put at $8 trillion. This is roughly double the infrastructure bill that Biden is trying to get passed by Congress. American politicians are objecting to the extravagance of that “rescue budget”, yet they had no qualms about spending $8 trillion on wars. It is also estimated that for Britain its military adventurism in Afghanistan alone cost a total of $30 billion. Again, just imagine how British society might be better off if that money had been spent instead on attending to the health needs of its citizens.
But 9/11 also ushered in wanton warmongering regimes in Washington and London that have bled the American and British public of finances and democratic rights. In 2001, the US national debt was about $6 trillion. This year that debt burden on future American generations has escalated to $28 trillion – a crushing, unsustainable burden largely driven by criminal wars.
The healthcare costs for American military veterans wounded and maimed from the wars on terror are projected at $2 trillion. Over 30,000 US service members and veterans are reckoned to have committed suicide over the past 20 years. That’s 10 times the number of American people who died on the day of 9/11.
Untold millions of innocent civilians were killed by the wars that the US and British launched after 9/11. Such suffering and destruction all for nothing except for the enrichment of war-profiteering corporations and the oligarchic elite.
fThe United States and Britain have been so deformed by criminal wars they have become dysfunctional and dystopian. They have inflicted failed states around the world, but none more so than on their own people. The towers that fell on 9/11 were a premonition of much bigger collapse.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was among a small group of U.S. citizens who sat on milk crates or stood holding signs, across from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan. We had been fasting from solid foods for a month, calling for an end to brutal economic warfare waged against Iraq through imposition of U.N. sanctions. Each Friday of our fast, we approached the entrance to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations carrying lentils and rice, asking the U.S. officials to break our fast with us, asking them to hear our reports, gathered after visiting destitute Iraqi hospitals and homes. On four successive Friday afternoons, New York police handcuffed us and took us to jail.
Two days after the passenger planes attacked the World Trade Center, U.S. Mission to the UN officials called us and asked that we visit with them.
I had naively hoped this overture could signify empathy on the part of U.S. officials. Perhaps the 9/11 attack would engender sorrow over the suffering and pain endured by people of Iraq and other lands when the U.S. attacks them. The officials at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations wanted to know why we went to Iraq but we sensed they were mainly interested in filling out forms to comply with an order to gather more information about U.S. people going to Iraq.
The U.S. government and military exploited the grief and shock following 9/11 attacks to raise fears, promote Islamophobia and launch forever wars which continue to this day. Under the guise of “counter-terrorism,” the U.S. now pledges to combine drone attacks, surveillance, airstrikes, and covert operations to continue waging war in Afghanistan. Terror among Afghans persists.
I visited Kabul, Afghanistan in September 2019. While there, a young friend whom I’ve known for five years greeted me and then spoke in a hushed voice. “Kathy,” he asked, “do you know about Qazi Qadir, Bahadir, Jehanzeb and Saboor?” I nodded. I had read a news account, shortly before I arrived, about Afghan Special Operations commandos, trained by the CIA, having waged a night raid in the city of Jalalabad at the home of four brothers. They awakened the young men, then shot and killed them. Neighbors said the young men had gathered to welcome their father back from the Hajj; numerous colleagues insisted the young men were innocent.
My young friend has been deeply troubled by many other incidents in which the United States directly attacked innocent people or trained Afghan units to do so. Two decades of U.S. combat in Afghanistan have made civilians vulnerable to drone attacks, night raids, airstrikes and arrests. Over 4 million people have become internally displaced as they fled from battles or could no longer survive on scarred, drought stricken lands.
In an earlier visit to Kabul, at the height of the U.S. troop surge, another young friend earnestly asked me to tell parents in the United States not to send their sons and daughters to Afghanistan. “Here it is very dangerous for them,” he said. “And they do not really help us.”
For many years, the United States claimed its mission in Afghanistan improved the lives of Afghan women and children. But essentially, the U.S. war improved the livelihoods of those who designed, manufactured, sold and used weaponry to kill Afghans.
When the U.S. was winding down its troop surge in 2014, but not its occupation, military officials undertook what they called “the largest retrograde mission in U.S. military history,” incurring enormous expenses. One estimate suggested the war in Afghanistan, that year, was costing $2 million per U.S. soldier. That same year, UNICEF officials calculated that the cost of adding iodized salt into the diet of an Afghan infant, a step which could prevent chronic brain damage in children suffering from acute malnourishment, would be 5 cents per child per year.
Which endeavor would the majority of U.S. people have opted to support, in their personal budgets, had they ever been given a choice? Profligate U.S. military spending in Afghanistan or vital assistance for a starving Afghan child?
One of my young Afghan friends says he is now an anarchist. He doesn’t place much trust in governments and militaries. He feels strong allegiance toward the grassroots network he has helped build, a group I would normally name and celebrate, but must now refer to as “our young friends in Afghanistan,” in hopes of protecting them from hostile groups.
The brave and passionate dedication they showed as they worked tirelessly to share resources, care for the environment, and practice nonviolence has made them quite vulnerable to potential accusers who may believe they were too connected with westerners.
In recent weeks, I’ve been part of an ad hoc team assisting 60 young people and their family members who feel alarmed about remaining in Kabul and are sorting out their options to flee the country.
It’s difficult to forecast how Taliban rule will affect them.
Already, some extraordinarily brave people have held protests in in the provinces of Herat, Nimroz, Balkh and Farah, and in the city of Kabul where dozens of women took to the streets to demand representation in the new government and to insist that their rights must be protected.
In many provinces in Afghanistan, the Taliban may find themselves ruling over increasingly resentful people. Half the population already lives in poverty and economic catastrophe looms. In damage caused by war, people have lost harvests, homes and livestock. A third wave of COVID afflicts the country and three million Afghans face consequences of severe drought. Will the Taliban government have the resources and skills to cope with these overwhelming problems?
On the other hand, in some provinces, Taliban rule has seemed preferable to the previous government’s incompetence and corruption, particularly in regard to property or land disputes.
We should be honest. The Taliban are in power today because of a colossal mess the U.S. helped create.
Now, we U.S. citizens must insist on paying reparations for destruction caused by 20 years of war. To be meaningful, reparations must also include dismantling the warfare systems that caused so much havoc and misery. Our wars of choice were waged against people who meant us no harm. We must choose, now, to lay aside the cruel futility of our forever wars.
My young friend who whispered to me about human rights abuses in 2019 recently fled Afghanistan. He said he doesn’t want to be driven by fear, but he deeply wants to use his life to do good, to build a better world.
Ultimately, Afghanistan will need people like him and his friends if the country is ever to experience a future where basic human rights to food, shelter, health care and education are met. It will need people who have already made dedicated sacrifices for peace, believing in an Afghan adage which says “blood doesn’t wash away blood.”
Essentially, people in Afghanistan will need U.S. people to embrace this same teaching. We must express true sorrow, seek forgiveness, and show valor similar to that of the brave people insisting on human rights in Afghanistan today.
Collectively, recognizing the terrible legacy of 9/11, we must agree: To counter terror, abolish war.
Anniversaries can provide occasions for reflection and deep consideration. Past errors and misjudgements can be considered soberly; historical distance provides perspective. Mature reflections may be permitted. But they can also serve the opposite purpose: to cake, cloak and mask the record.
The gooey name GWOT, otherwise known as the Global War on Terrorism, is some two decades old, and it has revealed little by way of benefit for anybody other than military industrialists, hate preachers and jingoes. For its progenitors in the administration of President George W. Bush, motivated by the attacks of September 11, 2001 on US soil, few of its aims were achieved.
The central feature to the war, which deserves its place of failure alongside such disastrously misguided concepts as the war on drugs, was its school boy incoherence. It remained, and to an extent remains, a war against tactics, a misguided search reminiscent of the hunt for Lewis Carroll’s nonsense beast, the Jabberwock. As with any such wars, it demands mendacity, flimsy evidence if, in fact, it needs any evidence at all.
This perception was critical in placing the US, and its allies, upon a military footing that demanded false connections (a fictitious link of cooperation between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda), false capabilities (Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) and an exaggeration of the threat to US security (all of the above).
With such evaluations of terroristic potential, a secular, domestic murderer such as Saddam could be transformed into a global threat armed with weapons of mass destruction, neither proposition being true as the attacks on 9/11 were executed. In this hot house fantasy, the Iraqi leader was merely another pilot willing to steer a plane into an American target.
This narrative was sold, and consumed, by a vast number of press houses and media outlets, who proved indispensable in promoting the GWOT-Jabberwock crusade. Calculated amnesia and hand washing has taken place since then, pinning blame on the standard crew of neoconservatives, various Republicans and New York Times reporter Judith Miller. “It’s been forgotten this was actually a business-wide consensus,” Matt Taibbi points out, “which included the enthusiastic participation of a blue-state intelligentsia.”
War sceptics such as Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura were removed from MSNBC while war cheerleaders thickened the airwaves with ghoulish delight. The New York Times ran sympathetic columns and reviews for the war case, praising such absurd works as Kenneth M. Pollack’s The Threatening Storm. “The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States,” wrote the grave Pollack, “is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam’s regime and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.”
The New Yorker also joined in the pro-war festivities. David Remnick made his case in “Making a Case” by praising Pollack and dismissing containment as “a hollow pursuit” that would be “the most dangerous option of all.” Jeffrey Goldberg, now at The Atlantic, was even more unequivocal in a staggeringly inexpert contribution headlined, “The Great Terror.” On his own hunt for the Jabberwock, Goldberg interviewed alleged terrorist detainees in a prison operated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an anti-Saddam Kurdish group in Iraq’s northern Kurdish area. Having been permitted to interview the prisoners by the Union’s intelligence service (no conflict of interest there), Goldberg was informed that Saddam Hussein’s own spooks had “joint control, with al-Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam [a local jihadist group]”; that the Iraqi leader “hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992”; that members of Al Qaeda escaping Afghanistan had “been secretly brought into the territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam” and that Iraq’s intelligence service had “smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan.” And so rests the case for the prosecution.
In March 2003, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting examined 393 on-camera sources who featured in nightly news stories on Iraq across a range of programs – ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Of those 267 were from the United States; of the US official sources, only Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts, registered his doubts. Even then, he could hardly be said to be a firebrand contrarian, telling NBC Nightly News that he worried about exit plans, the extent of US troop losses and “how long we’re going to be stationed there”.
Many of these outlets would be the same who obsessed about President Donald Trump’s attacks upon them as peddlers of “fake news” during his time in office. Trump, drip-fed on conspiracy theories and fictions, knew who he was talking to.
The security propagandists have not done much better. With pious conviction, the vast security apparatus put in place to monitor threats, the warrantless surveillance regime exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, and the persistent interventions in the Middle East, have all been seen as beneficial. “Terrorism of many sots continues domestically and internationally,” claims Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, “but the data is unmistakable that in most cases – and especially in the United States – it is both manageable and not nearly of the scale feared in 2001.”
A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner advance a rather different proposition. “Even if one believes American efforts have made the nation marginally safer, the United States could have achieved far greater improvements in safety and security at far less cost through other means.”
The issue of what is marginal is a point of contention. Former chiefs of the Department of Homeland Security, a monster created in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, are guarded in their assessments. Bush’s Secretary Michael Chertoff admits to being “hesitant” in saying “we are safer, or less”. He prefers focusing on scale. “We haven’t had an attack of that scale since 9/11, and we’ve also been very good about keeping dangerous people out of the country.” Alas, domestic threats had emerged, notably on the Right, while jihadi sympathisers lurk.
Janet Napolitano, who occupied the office under the Obama administration, waffles in her reading. “Are there some things that we’re safer on now than we were on 9/11? Absolutely. Are there new risks that have evolved or multiplied or grown since 9/11? Absolutely. To put it shortly, on some things, we’re definitely safer.” Napolitano is up with a jargon that says nothing at all: “risks are not static”; the environment is “constantly changing”. “DHS needs to continue to be agile and to adapt.”
The smorgasbord of modern terrorism, a good deal of it nourished by cataclysmic US-led interventions, is richer than ever. “We have more terrorists today than we did on 9/11,” Elizabeth Neumann, DHS assistant secretary for counterterrorism during the Trump administration, told a Senate panel last month. “That’s very sobering, as a counterterrorism person.” Preparing the grounds for the imminent exit from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden reasoned that keeping US troops in the country as a permanent counter-terrorist force was no longer a tenable proposition. Terrorism as a threat had “become more dispersed, metastasising around the globe”. The folly of pursuing the GWOT jabberwock shows no sign of abating.
In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the emergency use authorization (EUA) concept was created. The ostensible idea was to empower the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the use of potentially life-saving products (e.g. medicines, etc.) after a terrorist attack. However, the EUA designation was not put into effect until late 2020 — for the COVID-19 “vaccines.”
The squashing of civil liberties in The Land of the Free is hardly a novel idea. For just a few (of endless) examples, one may recall Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (1996), Espionage and Sedition Act (1917), National Defense Authorization Act (2011), or the FBI Counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO (technically 1956-1971, but probably still going). Also, the interned Japanese-Americans in the 1940s just might have something to say about FDR’s concept of “freedom.” Doling out and taking away rights is essentially a side quest for America’s power elite.
A common theme of these power grabs involves exploiting a crisis. Two decades ago, the Bush-Cheney Administration used the guise of “emergency” to reshape the country’s psyche. Steps that seemed like temporary precautions are now deemed permanent and normal. These include a wide range of changes like the Transportation Security Administration, three-ounce bottles of liquid, full-body scanners, a “No Fly” list, and the completely laughable concept of taking off your shoes before going through security (soon to be rendered fully obsolete thanks to foot scanners).
All of the above (and so much more) would’ve once seemed like details from a bad, futuristic novel. Today, they exist without comment. The powers-that-be have effectively conditioned us to accept whatever is imposed upon us. And, post-9/11, that included the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” a.k.a. the USA PATRIOT Act.
This totalitarian salvo includes what the ACLU called “a host of alarming and unconstitutional anti-speech provisions” and was been condemned by three state legislatures and almost 250 municipalities across the United States.
Adele Welty declared the PATRIOT Act to be “a serious threat to the exercise of our Constitutional rights.” Welty’s son Timothy lost his life in the WTC collapse — one of the 343 firefighters who died that day. She later testified before the New York City Council and said, in part: “[The USA PATRIOT Act] undermines our Fourth Amendment right to privacy and expands the ability of the government to use wiretaps and computer surveillance and to look at confidential medical, financial, business and educational records.”
Such talk of rights and overreach sounds quaint to today’s ears. Like the internet or cellphones, the USA PATRIOT Act is just something that’s passed down to new generations without examination, thought, or even conscious awareness. That’s part of what made it so easy for the elites to use the COVID-19 pandemic to garner even more control and wealth.
Twenty years later, we’ve come full circle to see the emergency use authorization of an experimental gene therapy being forced upon a compliant population. If you scare enough people for a long enough time, they’ll believe anything. They’ll even trust their abusers to help them. It’s trauma bonding on a macro scale.
That’s how they got us to line up in our socks for a flight. One alleged shoe bomber event happens, a frenzy is created, and Americans happily surrender rights for the illusion of safety. Today’s thugs in charge use a faulty PCR test to inflate Covid numbers, impose useless and psychologically damaging mitigation tactics like masks and distancing, and then tell us how lucky we are that they’re here to save us with a magic shot. But, if the shot doesn’t work or causes injury, you can’t sue them.
Here in New York City, we’re living under a vaccine mandate — almost 20 years to the day of 9/11. Unvaccinated adults can’t attend movies, work out at gyms, visit museums, or dine in restaurants. It’s to protect everyone, of course. Except that unjabbed children under 12 can go anywhere they want. Why? Because science, of course. To question this decree is to expose yourself as a potential domestic terrorist. But the authorities won’t have to find you. Your friends and neighbors will gladly turn you in — to protect everyone, of course. Remember: We’re all in this together! (Even the ACLU is now in favor of mandates.)
Meanwhile, the majority of black and Latino adults in the Big Apple have wisely avoided the shots. Thus, this mandate is limiting the ability of People of Color to live their lives and make a living. Sounds like “structural racism” to me. Not a peep has been heard from Black Lives Matter or any other #woke organization. Some call it coincidence.
There’s a direct line from the anti-anarchist Palmer raids to the smashing of labor unions to the Red Scare to FISA to today’s demonization of anyone who questions the patently insane Covid narrative. There’s also a direct line running through all those, um, helpful citizens who gleefully support the repressive tactics imposed by a cabal of Corporate and State actors.
Unless and until everyday people break free of the programming, there will be more experimental drugs, more invasive technologies, more surveillance, more artificial intelligence, and more transhumanism. You’ll never stop lining up to be scanned, injected, genetically modified, and “enhanced.” There is only one hope and one path away from this dystopian future vision: rediscover the subversive of thinking for yourself.
It was all marvellous for Paul Wolfowitz to get on Australian television (why bother?) to brusquely discuss those attacks on US soil in September 2001 and criticism of the invasion of Iraq by US-led forces. After two decades, the former US deputy secretary of defense has not mellowed.
With each show, interview and podium performance Wolfowitz gives, there is a sense that the hole he has dug for himself has become an oasis of reassuring delusion. Iraq’s despot Saddam Hussein, executed at the behest of authorities sponsored and propped by the US, gave Wolfowitz an ecstatic excuse to explain the rationale of American power: he was a threat, and worldly threat at that. In 2003, there was little evidence to suggest that, but neoconservatism has always been a doctrine in search of cartoonish myths.
The fact that Weapons of Mass Destruction featured prominently as the reason for overthrowing Saddam became the necessitous outcome of bureaucratic sensibility: “for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy,” he toldVanity Fair in 2003, “we settled on the one issue everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction”.
When those elusive WMDs proved stubbornly elusive, PW shifted his emphasis from security rationales to one of liberation. Along the way he blamed the “consensus judgment of the intelligence community” for not getting it right in the first place, an assessment verging on the mendacious.
While Saddam Hussein was a high grade butcher and villain to many of his people, it is hard to credit him with the Bond villain, pulp view Wolfowitz gives him. Evidence chasers such as Ben Bonk at the Central Intelligence Agency were frustrated in being thrown at the fruitless effort to link Saddam to al-Qaeda. Intelligence operatives were effectively being leaned upon to confect the record and find justifications.
In 2013, Wolfowitz was still insisting on uncertainty as a principle. “We still don’t know how all of this is going to end.” He accepted that the decapitation of the Iraqi leadership without an immediate substitute might have been unwise. The “idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them” was erroneous.
That did not matter. The threat was there and present, growing like a stimulated bacillus. Depraved and disoriented, he takes the argument that invading Iraq at the time was appropriate because it would have had to happen in any case. Saddam was street store vendor, sponsor and patron of terrorism (he never defines the dimension of this, nor adduces evidence) and needed to be dealt with. The sword would eventually have to be unsheathed. “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”
In 2003, the aptly named Jeffrey Record reflected his surname’s worth by taking a hatchet to the Wolfowitz view in a scathing assessment for the Strategic Studies Institute. In declaring a global war on terrorism (GWOT), the Bush administration had identified a range of states, weapons of danger, terrorists and terrorism while conflating “them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.” Not sloppy, is Record.
He goes on to note, relevantly, the conflation premise: that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were seen, amateurishly, “as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.” This “strategic error of the first order” ignored “critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action” led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq. The result: “a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism” and the diversion of “attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”
The 9/11 Commission Report, despite noting “friendly contacts” between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi officials at various points, similarly found “no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative personal relationship.” Nor was there “evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”
Critics suggest incompetence and bungling in the invasion of Iraq. They exclude venality and calculation. Wolfowitz, as if anticipating a prosecution in some faraway court, has been busy covering his tracks and pointing the finger at other decision makers further up the greased pole. The top suspect: current retiree amateur painter President George W. Bush. “I don’t think I ever met the president alone. I didn’t meet him very often. [Secretary of State Colin] Powell had access to him whenever he wanted it. And if he was so sure it was a mistake why didn’t he say so?” What a merry band they make.
Wolfowitz, for the defence, always has to play some useful (or useless) idiot card, proffered from the surrounds of the tired lecture circuit or the American Enterprise Institute. He is ideologically inclined, evidentially challenged, and keen to accept material that confirms his prejudice rather than contradicts it. When found wanting about his decisions on accepting, for instance, the bargain basement material of Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, he returned to common cultural themes. “I don’t think anybody in that part of the world was completely straight with us.”
Perhaps, after two decades, it is time to sort the books, order the records and call forth those architects of war who, dismally deluded and acting with criminal intent and incompetence, plunged a good part of the globe into conflict, leaving a legacy that continues to pollute with tenacious determination. Along the way, we can mourn the dead of 9/11 and all the dead that followed.
Looking back on it now, the 1990s were an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a “peace dividend.” There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports (how many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?). The government could not tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion – compared with over $28 trillion today.
We have been told that the criminal attacks of September 11, 2001 “changed everything.” But what really changed everything was the U.S. government’s disastrous response to them.
That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.
Most Americans believe in democracy and many regard the United States as a democratic country. But the U.S. response to 9/11 laid bare the extent to which American leaders are willing to manipulate the public into accepting illegal wars, torture, the Guantanamo gulag and sweeping civil rights abuses — activities that undermine the very meaning of democracy.
Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz said in a speech in 2011 that “a democracy can only work if its people are being told the truth.” But America’s leaders exploited the public’s fears in the wake of 9/11 to justify wars that have killed and maimed millions of people who had nothing to do with those crimes. Ferencz compared this to the actions of the German leaders he prosecuted at Nuremberg, who also justified their invasions of other countries as “preemptive first strikes.”
“You cannot run a country as Hitler did, feeding them a pack of lies to frighten them that they’re being threatened, so it’s justified to kill people you don’t even know,” Ferencz continued. “It’s not logical, it’s not decent, it’s not moral, and it’s not helpful. When an unmanned bomber from a secret American airfield fires rockets into a little Pakistani or Afghan village and thereby kills or maims unknown numbers of innocent people, what is the effect of that? Every victim will hate America forever and will be willing to die killing as many Americans as possible. Where there is no court of justice, wild vengeance is the alternative.”
Even the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, talked about “insurgent math,” conjecturing that, for every innocent person killed, the U.S. created 10 new enemies. And thus the so-called Global War on Terror fueled a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance that will not end unless and until the United States ends the state terrorism that provokes and fuels it.
By opportunistically exploiting 9/11 to attack countries that had nothing to do with it, like Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the United States vastly expanded the destructive strategy it used in the 1980s to destabilize Afghanistan, which spawned the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the first place.
In Libya and Syria, only ten years after 9/11, U.S. leaders betrayed every American who lost a loved one on September 11th by recruiting and arming Al Qaeda-led militants to overthrow two of the most secular governments in the Middle East, plunging both countries into years of intractable violence and fueling radicalization throughout the region.
The U.S. response to 9/11 was corrupted by a toxic soup of revenge, imperialist ambitions, war profiteering, systematic brainwashing and sheer stupidity. The only Republican Senator who voted against the war on Iraq, Lincoln Chafee, later wrote, “Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”
But it wasn’t. Very few of the 263 Republicans or the 110 Democrats who voted for the Iraq war in 2002 paid any political price for their complicity in international aggression, which the judges at Nuremberg explicitly called “the supreme international crime.” One of them now sits at the apex of power in the White House.
Trump and Biden’s withdrawal and implicit acceptance of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan could serve as an important step toward ending the violence and chaos their predecessors unleashed after the September 11th attack. But the current debate over next year’s military budget makes it clear that our deluded leaders are still dodging the obvious lessons of 20 years of war.
Barbara Lee, the only Member of Congress with the wisdom and courage to vote against Congress’s war resolution in 2001, has introduced a bill to cut U.S. military spending by almost half: $350 billion per year. With the miserable failure in Afghanistan, a war that will end up costing every U.S. citizen $20,000, one would think that Rep. Lee’s proposal would be eliciting tremendous support. But the White House, the Pentagon and the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate are instead falling over each other to shovel even more money into the bottomless pit of the military budget.
Politicians’ votes on questions of war, peace and military spending are the most reliable test of their commitment to progressive values and the well-being of their constituents. You cannot call yourself a progressive or a champion of working people if you vote to appropriate more money for weapons and war than for healthcare, education, green jobs and fighting poverty.
These 20 years of war have revealed to Americans and the world that modern weapons and formidable military forces can only accomplish two things: kill and maim people; and destroy homes, infrastructure and entire cities. American promises to rebuild bombed-out cities and “remake” countries it has destroyed have proven worthless, as Biden has acknowledged.
Both Iraq and Afghanistan are turning primarily to China for the help they need to start rebuilding and developing economically from the ruin and devastation left by America and its allies. America destroys, China builds. The contrast could not be more stark or self-evident. No amount of Western propaganda can hide what the whole world can see.
But the different paths chosen by U.S. and Chinese leaders are not predestined, and despite the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the U.S. corporate media, the American public has always been wiser and more committed to cooperative diplomacy than America’s political and executive class. It has been well-documented that many of the endless crises in U.S. foreign policy could have been avoided if America’s leaders had just listened to the public.
The perennial handicap that has dogged America’s diplomacy since World War II is precisely our investment in weapons and military forces, including nuclear weapons that threaten our very existence. It is trite but true to say that, ”when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
Other countries don’t have the option of deploying overwhelming military force to confront international problems, so they have had to be smarter and more nimble in their diplomacy, and more prudent and selective in their more limited uses of military force.
The rote declarations of U.S. leaders that “all options are on the table” are a euphemism for precisely the “threat or use of force” that the UN Charter explicitly prohibits, and they stymie the U.S. development of expertise in nonviolent forms of conflict resolution. The bumbling and bombast of America’s leaders in international arenas stand in sharp contrast to the skillful diplomacy and clear language we often hear from top Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats, even when they are speaking in English, their second or third language.
By contrast, U.S. leaders rely on threats, coups, sanctions and war to project power around the world. They promise Americans that these coercive methods will maintain American “leadership” or dominance indefinitely into the future, as if that is America’s rightful place in the world: sitting atop the globe like a cowboy on a bucking bronco.
A “New American Century” and “Pax Americana” are Orwellian versions of Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” but are no more realistic. No empire has lasted forever, and there is historical evidence that even the most successful empires have a lifespan of no more than 250 years, by which time their rulers have enjoyed so much wealth and power that decadence and decline inevitably set in. This describes the United States today.
America’s economic dominance is waning. Its once productive economy has been gutted and financialized, and most countries in the world now do more trade with China and/or the European Union than with the United States. Where America’s military once kicked open doors for American capital to “follow the flag” and open up new markets, today’s U.S. war machine is just a bull in the global china shop, wielding purely destructive power.
But we are not condemned to passively follow the suicidal path of militarism and hostility. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be a down payment on a transition to a more peaceful post-imperial economy — if the American public starts to actively demand peace, diplomacy and disarmament and find ways to make our voices heard.
— We must get serious about demanding cuts in the Pentagon budget. None of our other problems will be solved as long as we keep allowing our leaders to flush the majority of federal discretionary spending down the same military toilet as the $2.26 trillion they wasted on the war in Afghanistan. We must oppose politicians who refuse to cut the Pentagon budget, regardless of which party they belong to and where they stand on other issues. CODEPINK is part of a new coalition to “Cut the Pentagon for the people, planet, peace and a future” — please join us!
— We must not let ourselves or our family members be recruited into the U.S. war machine. Instead, we must challenge our leaders’ absurd claims that the imperial forces deployed across the world to threaten other countries are somehow, by some convoluted logic, defending America. As a translator paraphrased Voltaire, “Whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”
— And we must oppose the corrupt power of the arms industry, including U.S. weapons sales to the world’s most repressive regimes and an unwinnable arms race that risks a potentially world-ending conflict with China and Russia.
Our only hope for the future is to abandon the futile quest for hegemony and instead commit to peace, cooperative diplomacy, international law and disarmament. After 20 years of war and militarism that has only left the world a more dangerous place and accelerated America’s decline, we must choose the path of peace.
What a strange and harrowing road we’ve walked since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties. We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.
Our losses are mounting with every passing day.
What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.
The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation has been locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.
Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.
The rights embodied in the Constitution, if not already eviscerated, are on life support.
Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since 9/11.
Indeed, since the towers fell on 9/11, the U.S. government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist or foreign entity ever could.
While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the U.S. and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign nations (which too often fall into the hands of terrorists), and foment civil unrest in order to keep the security industrial complex gainfully employed.
The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.
In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, pandemic lockdowns and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the U.S. government—the government that was supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people.
Consider that the government’s answer to every problem has been more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty.
Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn: The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.
Viewed in this light, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. Or, to put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.
This is how the emergency state operates, after all, and we should know: after all, we have spent the past 20 years in a state of emergency.
From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.
This is a government that has grown so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and tyrannical over the course of the past 240-plus years that our constitutional republic has since given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).
What this really amounts to is a war on the American people, fought on American soil, funded with taxpayer dollars, and waged with a single-minded determination to use national crises, manufactured or otherwise, in order to transform the American homeland into a battlefield.
Indeed, the government’s (mis)management of various states of emergency in the past 20 years has spawned a massive security-industrial complex the likes of which have never been seen before. According to the National Priorities Project at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, since 9/11, the United States has spent $21 trillion on “militarization, surveillance, and repression.”
Clearly, this is not a government that is a friend to freedom.
Rather, this is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.
This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data as a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors. Incredibly, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.
This is a government that routinely engages in taxation without representation, whose elected officials lobby for our votes only to ignore us once elected.
This is a government that uses fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, to track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.
This is a government whose wall-to-wall surveillance has given rise to a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been reversed such that Americans are now assumed guilty until or unless they can prove their innocence.
This is a government that treats its people like second-class citizens who have no rights, and is working overtime to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.
This is a government that persists in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely based on the say-so of the government.
This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.
This is a government that has militarized American’s domestic police, equipping them with military weapons such as “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; a million hollow-point bullets; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like.
This is a government that has provided cover to police when they shoot and kill unarmed individuals just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
This is a government that treats public school students as if they were prison inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, and indoctrinating them with teaching that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.
This is a government that has empowered police departments to make a profit at the expense of those they have sworn to protect through the use of asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, and red light cameras.
This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.
This is a government that treats dissidents, whistleblowers and freedom fighters as enemies of the state.
This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.
This is a government that allows its agents to break laws with immunity while average Americans get the book thrown at them.
This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.
This is a government that exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world in order to prop up the military industrial complex and maintain its endless wars abroad.
This is a government that is consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.
This is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, eviscerating individual freedoms so that its own powers can be expanded.
This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.
Warfare has been a plague haunting the human species ever since our evolution to become Homo Sapiens, finally, around 300,000 years ago in Africa. Etymologically, homo means human and sapiens means wise or knowledgeable. One can see that in this 18th century anthropocentric characterization of our species, the notion of wisdom was highly overrated. What made our common Homo sapiens ancestors any wiser than the Neanderthals that they would eventually invade and annihilate? History is narrated by victors, therefore we were told that Homo sapiens were highly superior to the so-called brutal Neanderthals. It could be true in territorial ambitions, and some technological aspects, but it remains questionable in other area of social activity.
Ultimately, a taste for adventure and conquest is what drove Homo sapiens to expand their territories on Earth. It would be utterly naive to think that this progressive form of colonization was accomplished through peaceful means. No, unfortunately for our species, a propensity for aggression, for domination through warfare was always present in Homo sapiens DNA.
Wars of necessity or of choice: all wars are for profit
Warfare in the 20th century was rather simple compared to today’s predicaments. Either during World War I or World War II, nations had traditional alliances which were usually respected and recognized by treaties. Usually formal declarations of wars were issued before a military action — with the exception of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl-Harbor. The two wars were sold by leaders to their respective populations as wars of necessity. In both cases, they were still wars fought by conscripts, as professional soldiers, a euphemism for mercenaries, are usually not eager to become cannon fodder.
While the United States cautiously, one could say cowardly, stood on the sideline during World War I until 1917, the conflict unquestionably triggered the Russian revolution, as poor Russians conscripts refused to fight the tsar’s war. As Marxist ideas were quickly spreading elsewhere in Europe, many French soldiers refused to fight their German brothers for the sake of capitalism. Many conscripts then knew that the so-called war of necessity was a scheme of war for profit. At the Versailles treaty, Germany was forced to pay an enormous amount to France, in gold, as war compensation. In the Middle East, in an even more substantial perennial spoils of war story, the two dominant empires of the time, the United Kingdom and France had grabbed for themselves the bulk of the Ottoman empire through the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement.
If you analyze the war of necessity versus war of choice, and correlation of war for profit during World War II, in the case of the United States, first you wonder what took the US so long to enter the war alongside their allies France and England? The answer is often murky, as many major US corporations such as Ford Motor and General Motors, as well as policymakers such as Joe Kennedy (father of JFK), had either vested economic interests in Nazi Germany or were upfront in their support for Adolf Hitler.
Further, once the United States was attacked by Japan and finally committed to the European part of the conflict against Germany, a large part of Detroit’s manufacturing sector was converted to military purposes. In the United States, it is arguably more this massive war effort than FDR’s New Deal which turned the US economy into a juggernaut, in a dramatic recovery from the Great Depression, which the Wall Street crash of 1929 had started. Warfare writes human history using blood and tears for ink, but the merchants of death of the military-industrial complex and their financial market affiliates always profit handsomely.
If slavery or slave labor is the ideal structure for capitalism, any war, under any pretext, is the perfect business venture, as it provides a fast consumption of goods (weapons and ammunition), cheap labor force using the leverage of patriotism — defend the motherland or fatherland — and infinite money to rebuild once capitalism’s wars for profit have turned everything to ruins and ashes. After World War II, the US Marshall Plan was painted as some great altruistic venture, but, in fact, it justified a long-term occupation of Germany and incredibly lucrative contracts, some of them aimed at controlling West Germany’s economy and government.
Rise of conceptual wars: war on terror and war on Covid
If the wars of the 20th century were conventional as they either opposed sovereign nations or were in the context of imperial-colonial setback, like the French war in Indochina, Algeria’s independence war against France, some were specifically defined by the Cold War era, like the Korea war. From World War II at the Yalta conference, two new empires had emerged as dominant: the United States and the USSR. The world had then the predictability of this duality. The collapse of the Soviet Union altered this balance, but it took a bit more than a decade to make a quantum leap.
Almost exactly 20 years ago, an event, the September 11, 2001 attack, radically changed the dynamic, as it marked the start of the conceptual war on terror. Terror is an effect, an emotion. How can one possibly wage war against an emotion? However absurd conceptually, this turning point in history allowed more or less all governments worldwide to embark into surveillance, obsession for security and a crackdown on personal liberties. Using the shock and fear in the population, which followed the collapse of the New York City Twin Towers in the US, a form of police state was almost immediately born using new administrative branches of government like the Department of Homeland Security. We still live in the post 9/11 world, as that coercive apparatus keep dragging on.
Just like in standard, more conventional warfare, capitalism doesn’t create crises like 9/11, but seems always to find ways to benefit from it. In the war-on-terror era, a narrative also popular with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, the beneficiaries were and still are the global military-industrial complex, private security apparatus more like small private armies, and layers of police forces. How can one go wrong in terms of maximum profit?
In complete haste, and with a massive international support, using the trauma to influence worldwide public opinion, an attack on Afghanistan was launched by NATO’s invincible armada. Were the Taliban governing the country at the time responsible for 9/11? Not so. Their fault was to host the man who was arguably the architect of the attack: enemy-number-one Osama bin-Laden, of course. The fact that most of the pilots who flew the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were Saudi Arabian nationals was not even dismissed, it wasn’t even publicly considered by governments or the corporate controlled mainstream media.
As matter of fact, many families of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack victims are still trying to get a sense of closure on a potential involvement of Saudi Arabia, at the highest level, in the tragedy to this day without much success, as a form of foreign policy Omerta seems to prevail in the US with the Saudis royal family. This was certainly not a war of necessity, it barely qualified as a war of choice, as it was a pure fit of anger against an individual and his relatively small organization, not even against a state.
Twenty years later, back to square one, with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan affairs, but NATO, the military coalition of the impulsive and ill informed, are still not candidly making mea culpa, and admitting their gross ineptitude and almost criminal negligence. Colossal failure was always written all over Afghanistan’s bullets ridden walls, mosques and even modest fruit stands! Quagmires were also perfectly predictable in the war on terror sequels in Iraq; Libya (using French/Anglo/UAE proxies); Syria (using proxy good Jihadists), then ISIS (once many of the good Sunni Jihadists somehow decided to turn bad). Described like this the 20-year war on terror’s horrendous fiascos sound like the theater of the absurd! Absurd for the successive policy makers and incompetent or corrupt planners, but tragic for the almost one million dead and their surviving families, the 38 million refugees or internally displaced, and countries like Libya, turned into wrecked failed states. Meanwhile the military-industrial complex, including the private contractors, has become more powerful than ever.
The tragically failed policies of the past 20 years have to be quantified. According to Brown University Watson Institute, and this is a conservative estimate, the human cost of post 9/11 wars is around 800,000 in direct deaths; 38 million people worldwide is the number of war refugees and displaced persons collateral victims of the war on terror; and finally, the US war on terror spending from 2001 to 2020 was $6.4 trillion. All this money extracted from the US taxpayers, and enthusiastically approved in Congress by both Democrats and Republicans, was injected into the private corporations of the military-industrial complex, the Pentagon, of course, to a lesser extent, and ultimately as a billionaire-making cash bonanza into Wall Street and all global financial markets. How it works is rather simple: below are two prime examples, among countless other similar schemes, to profit from the war machine.
One quick example of war for mega-profit comes to mind. Before he accepted to be George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000, Dick Cheney was the CEO of the giant construction, oil and mineral extraction firm Halliburton. Right before he started to campaign, he, of course, resigned from his CEO function and sold his huge Halliburton stock portfolio to avoid conflict of interests. Fast forward to 2003, and guess which firm is getting the lion share of private contracts for the Iraq war? Halliburton, of course. Coincidence? Hard to believe. Such example of vast sums of money being recycled from the taxpayers’ pocket book to the coffers of private companies war profiteers are countless.
The other example is the major weapon systems manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin manufactures fighter jets like F-15, F-16, F-35, and F-21; helicopters like Blackhawks and Cyclone, as well as Drones. On January 19, 2000 the share value for Lockheed Martin was $12.10. By January 17, 2020 Lockheed Martin stock traded at $408.77 a share. The bottom line: who in the US Congress would dare to say no to funding the military-industrial complex via the US Defense Department budget? Basically nobody. It would be deemed unpatriotic and bad for the job market, considering that the military-industrial complex employs a lot of people.
Terror is out, global pandemic is in
One cannot help making an analogy between the war on terror and the new global war for profit, which is the war on Covid. As the war on terror is being exposed as a complete fiasco and receding in history’s rear view mirror, global capitalism needed something else. It magically materialized as a global biological warfare against a virus.What a golden opportunity! Since March 2020 — a bit later in the crisis actually — the beneficiaries of the war on Covid have been, not only pharmaceutical companies, but also digital giants that benefit from remote-location work due to measures like lockdowns, online commerce; and, finally, the global financial markets.
France’s President Macron was, to my knowledge, the very first world leader to use the bellicose semantic of war on Covid. He did it in March 2020. We have seen previously that the war on terror has been immensely profitable for the nexus of global corporate imperialism, but the recent war on Covid could be even more profitable, as its protagonists/profiteers appear to be benevolent, even altruistic. The current push worldwide, and Macron was once again ahead of the game, is either to make vaccination mandatory, or blackmail the population with coercive measures like the Pass Sanitaire in France, to obey and comply.
This is the calculus and assumption that all governments and biotech affiliates are likely making. Let’s say that they manage to make vaccination mandatory. Worldwide, you would have a captive market of around 7.8 billion people. Even if 800 million people globally resist vaccination, we are talking about an extraordinarily profitable market. At around $15 per dose for the best-adopted vaccines on the market, which are from Pfizer and Moderna, multiplied by two, or even better by three, as is now recommended by pharmaceutical companies and some governments, because of the Delta variant, we are talking about some serious cash flow. With booster jabs likely recommended down the line every nine months or so, we are talking about a biotech Eldorado!
As an example of the heavenly jolt of joy vaccines have already injected into the arms of the Masters of the Universe of global finance, Moderna stock on January 2, 2020 traded at $19.57 a share. On August 11, 2021, Moderna stock traded on Wall Street at $440.00 a share. It is rather obvious, besides various stimulus package schemes applied in all countries to boost economies and prevent a massive Covid economic recession, global financial markets, with the big hedge funds pulling the strings, have become addicted to vaccines. It is no wonder that all major Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have already made vaccination mandatory for their employees. It is no wonder either, why stock markets, like the CAC40 in France, have reached record high despite a severe contraction of the real economy.
I previously mentioned the real cost of the 20-year war on terror as being $6.4 trillion for the United States alone. It is not yet possible to quantify the real cost of the so-called global war on Covid. One can suspect it will be very high as well, and its human cost higher in term of diminished personal liberties. The negative side effects of the war on Covid are mainly sociological and psychological, as it has already increased human isolation and fragmented communities. This 18-month old pseudo war on a virus has also withdrawn global resources and focus from the only war of necessity, the one critical for our species survival: namely the war on climate collapse.
War on climate collapse is a war against capitalism
The war on Covid could even last longer than the war on terror. Cynically, the reason for this is that the war on Covid has worked wonders for the benefit of corporations and the super-rich. It has also allowed for governments that are supposed to be neoliberal economically and progressive socially to become paradoxically authoritarian. A prime example, in this instance, is again Emmanuel Macron’s government in France. As long as wars, invented or not, either conventional or conceptual, can be used to extract a profit, they will remain the modus operandi for the billionaire class and their political surrogates. It might sound Utopian, but let’s just imagine for a moment what humanity could do collectively to address the climate crisis existential threat, if we were going to implement a global policy of massive cuts in military spending and security apparatus.
Trillion of dollars could be allocated to the true emergency that will determine our survival or extinction. What could be more critical than this for our children and grandchildren? Climate collapse is on its way. During this entire summer, large areas of Earth were on fire, and others were flooded. Killer storms will keep coming relentlessly at us. Before 2050 many coastlines will be submerged, causing more than 1 billion people worldwide to become the climate collapse refugees. This is not a projection or speculation, it is documented by the scientific community.
Unfortunately, the reason why our Banana Republic styles of governments are not willing to fight this war of necessity, the war on climate change, is because it can only be really fought by getting rid of the capitalist system altogether. Radical approaches are needed, such as scrapping capitalism’s holy precept of permanent economic growth and its correlation of population growth. The remedies to try to mitigate the unfolding climate collapse would be many tough pills to swallow, because it’s about drastic systemic changes. Such as a zero-growth, sometime called negative-growth, economic model, which even Green parties at large do not embrace. The notion of Green New Deal is ludicrous. Green politicians either do not get it or are complete hypocrites if they are not also staunch anti-capitalists.
Another issue almost never addressed by Green politicians anywhere is the one of overpopulation. The rapid growth of the human population is a fundamental factor for capitalism as it provides two critical elements: plenty of cheap labor as well as a continuously growing consumption base. Case in point, in 1850 or at the start of the industrial revolution, the global world population stood at around 1 billion people; currently, or 171 years later and not much time in term of human history, it stands at around 7.8 billion. Some demographic projections forecast that it will reach between 10 to 13 billion by 2100. Needless to say, from a purely physical standpoint, this is entirely unsustainable as the surface of Earth’s landmass has gone unchanged. The problem with overpopulation, as an issue, is that almost everyone in every culture rightly views his or her ability to procreate as a fundamental right. My News Junkie Post partner, Dady Chery, and I, we know that even to bring up overpopulation as an issue is extremely unpopular. However, it has to be done.
Without a massive reduction in carbon emissions, we are on track to pass the fatal mark of a 2-degree Celsius global warming, not by 2050 but by 2035. In other words, a wrench has to be jammed into the gear of the infernal machine created by humans since the mid-19th century’s industrial revolution. Carbon emitting fossil fuels, of any kind, have to stay in the ground. Combustion vehicles should be banned promptly, and massive subsidies should be given to produce extremely affordable and fully electrical cars immediately.
Many in the West point the finger at the big carbon emitters, which are China, India and Brazil. But they are not the only culprits for the nearly criminal inaction of our governing instances. The populations of countries that rely heavily on extraction must put a severe pressure on their politicians or vote them out of office. One thinks, of course, of the Gulf’s usual suspects like Saudi-Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, but other major players are almost as nefarious as far as having an economy built on energy or mineral extraction. A short list of the main countries heavily involved in the fossil fuel extraction business, either for domestic consumption or exports, would be: Russia, The United States, Canada, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, and Iran.
Would the various radical changes – including capping human population growth- which seem to be objectively needed be painful? Certainly. But the alternative option, which is basically to keep the course of this giant high-speed bullet train without a pilot that is global capitalism, amounts to a medium-term collective suicide.
Protest in Westwood, California 2002. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
America’s corporate media are ringing with recriminations over the humiliating U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan. But very little of the criticism goes to the root of the problem, which was the original decision to militarily invade and occupy Afghanistan in the first place.
That decision set in motion a cycle of violence and chaos that no subsequent U.S. policy or military strategy could resolve over the next 20 years, in Afghanistan, Iraq or any of the other countries swept up in America’s post-9/11 wars.
While Americans were reeling in shock at the images of airliners crashing into buildings on September 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld held a meeting in an intact part of the Pentagon. Undersecretary Cambone’s notes from that meeting spell out how quickly and blindly U.S. officials prepared to plunge our nation into graveyards of empire in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.
Cambone wrote that Rumsfeld wanted “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time – not only UBL (Usama Bin Laden)… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
So within hours of these horrific crimes in the United States, the central question senior U.S. officials were asking was not how to investigate them and hold the perpetrators accountable, but how to use this “Pearl Harbor” moment to justify wars, regime changes and militarism on a global scale.
Three days later, Congress passed a bill authorizing the president to use military 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…”
In 2016, the Congressional Research Service reported that this Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) had been cited to justify 37 distinct military operations in 14 different countries and at sea. The vast majority of the people killed, maimed or displaced in these operations had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11. Successive administrations have repeatedly ignored the actual wording of the authorization, which only authorized the use of force against those involved in some way in the 9/11 attacks.
The only member of Congress who had the wisdom and courage to vote against the 2001 AUMF was Barbara Lee of Oakland. Lee compared it to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution and warned her colleagues that it would inevitably be used in the same expansive and illegitimate way. The final words of her floor speech echo presciently through the 20-year-long spiral of violence, chaos and war crimes it unleashed, “As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.”
In a meeting at Camp David that weekend, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz argued forcefully for an attack on Iraq, even before Afghanistan. Bush insisted Afghanistan must come first, but privately promised Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle that Iraq would be their next target.
In the days after September 11, the U.S. corporate media followed the Bush administration’s lead, and the public heard only rare, isolated voices questioning whether war was the correct response to the crimes committed.
But former Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor Ben Ferencz spoke to NPR (National Public Radio) a week after 9/11, and he explained that attacking Afghanistan was not only unwise and dangerous, but was not a legitimate response to these crimes. NPR’s Katy Clark struggled to understand what he was saying:
Clark: …do you think that the talk of retaliation is not a legitimate response to the death of 5,000 (sic) people?
Ferencz: It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done.
Clark: No one is saying we’re going to punish those who are not responsible.
Ferencz: We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t believe in what has happened, who don’t approve of what has happened.
Clark: So you are saying that you see no appropriate role for the military in this.
Ferencz: I wouldn’t say there is no appropriate role, but the role should be consistent with our ideals. We shouldn’t let them kill our principles at the same time they kill our people. And our principles are respect for the rule of law. Not charging in blindly and killing people because we are blinded by our tears and our rage.
The drumbeat of war pervaded the airwaves, twisting 9/11 into a powerful propaganda narrative to whip up the fear of terrorism and justify the march to war. But many Americans shared the reservations of Rep. Barbara Lee and Ben Ferencz, understanding enough of their country’s history to recognize that the 9/11 tragedy was being hijacked by the same military-industrial complex that produced the debacle in Vietnam and keeps reinventing itself generation after generation to support and profit from American wars, coups and militarism.
On September 28, 2001, the Socialist Worker website published statements by 15 writers and activists under the heading, “Why we say no to war and hate.” They included Noam Chomsky, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and me (Medea). Our statements took aim at the Bush administration’s attacks on civil liberties at home and abroad, as well as its plans for war on Afghanistan.
The late academic and author Chalmers Johnson wrote that 9/11 was not an attack on the United States but “an attack on U.S. foreign policy.” Edward Herman predicted “massive civilian casualties.” Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, wrote that, “For every innocent person Bush kills in this war, five or ten terrorists will arise.” I (Medea) wrote that ”a military response will only create more of the hatred against the U.S. that created this terrorism in the first place.”
Our analysis was correct and our predictions were prescient. We humbly submit that the media and politicians should start listening to the voices of peace and sanity instead of to lying, delusional warmongers.
What leads to catastrophes like the U.S. war in Afghanistan is not the absence of convincing anti-war voices but that our political and media systems routinely marginalize and ignore voices like those of Barbara Lee, Ben Ferencz and ourselves.
That is not because we are wrong and the belligerent voices they listen to are right. They marginalize us precisely because we are right and they are wrong, and because serious, rational debates over war, peace and military spending would jeopardize some of the most powerful and corrupt vested interests that dominate and control U.S. politics on a bipartisan basis.
In every foreign policy crisis, the very existence of our military’s enormous destructive capacity and the myths our leaders promote to justify it converge in an orgy of self-serving interests and political pressures to stoke our fears and pretend that there are military “solutions” for them.
Losing the Vietnam War was a serious reality check on the limits of U.S. military power. As the junior officers who fought in Vietnam rose through the ranks to become America’s military leaders, they acted more cautiously and realistically for the next 20 years. But the end of the Cold War opened the door to an ambitious new generation of warmongers who were determined to capitalize on the U.S. post-Cold War “power dividend“.
Madeleine Albright spoke for this emerging new breed of war-hawks when she confronted General Colin Powell in 1992 with her question, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”
As Secretary of State in Clinton’s second term, Albright engineered the first of a series of illegal U.S. invasions to carve out an independent Kosovo from the splintered remains of Yugoslavia. When U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told her his government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over the illegality of the NATO war plan, Albright said they should just “get new lawyers.”
In the 1990s, the neocons and liberal interventionists dismissed and marginalized the idea that non-military, non-coercive approaches can more effectively resolve foreign policy problems without the horrors of war or deadly sanctions. This bipartisan war lobby then exploited the 9/11 attacks to consolidate and expand their control of U.S. foreign policy.
But after spending trillions of dollars and killing millions of people, the abysmal record of U.S. war-making since World War II remains a tragic litany of failure and defeat, even on its own terms. The only wars the United States has won since 1945 have been limited wars to recover small neocolonial outposts in Grenada, Panama and Kuwait.
Every time the United States has expanded its military ambitions to attack or invade larger or more independent countries, the results have been universally catastrophic. So our country’s absurd investment of 66% of discretionary federal spending in destructive weapons, and recruiting and training young Americans to use them, does not make us safer but only encourages our leaders to unleash pointless violence and chaos on our neighbors around the world.
Most of our neighbors have grasped by now that these forces and the dysfunctional U.S. political system that keeps them at its disposal pose a serious threat to peace and to their own aspirations for democracy. Few people in other countries want any part of America’s wars, or its revived Cold War against China and Russia, and these trends are most pronounced among America’s long-time allies in Europe and in its traditional “backyard” in Canada and Latin America.
On October 19, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld addressed B-2 bomber crews at Whiteman AFB in Missouri as they prepared to take off across the world to inflict misdirected vengeance on the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. He told them, “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.”
Now that dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles on the people of Afghanistan for 20 years has failed to change the way they live, apart from killing hundreds of thousands of them and destroying their homes, we must instead, as Rumsfeld said, change the way we live.
We should start by finally listening to Barbara Lee. First, we should pass her bill to repeal the two post-9/11 AUMFs that launched our 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan and other wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.
Then we should pass her bill to redirect $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget (roughly a 50% cut) to “increase our diplomatic capacity and for domestic programs that will keep our Nation and our people safer.”
Finally reining in America’s out-of-control militarism would be a wise and appropriate response to its epic defeat in Afghanistan, before the same corrupt interests drag us into even more dangerous wars against more formidable enemies than the Taliban.