by Jacob G. Hornberger
President Obama says that the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military’s killing of Osama bin Laden should be a time of reflection rather than a time of celebration.
Indeed. Let’s do some reflecting.
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials claimed that the attackers had been motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values.”
That was a crock, as I pointed out in September 2001. Actually, it was U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East — that is, the bad things that the U.S. government was doing to people in that part of the world — that gave rise to the anger and hatred that manifested itself in the 9/11 attacks.
Of course, that was the last thing that U.S. officials and apologists for the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy wanted people to focus on. If people began focusing on the real motivation for the 9/11 attacks, that might cause them to begin discussing and debating U.S. foreign policy and then possibly moving America in a different direction.
Most everyone living today has been born and raised under a national-security state, a system in which the military-industrial complex, the massive overseas military establishment, the CIA, the NSA, and other such agencies play a dominate role in American society. We have become so accustomed to the national-security state that only libertarians and a few liberals gives its existence a second thought. It’s just a given that the national-security state must always be a permanent foundation of American life.
But let’s not forget when and why the national-security state came into existence. Its primary roots go back to the end of World War II, when U.S. officials converted America’s World War II ally and partner, the Soviet Union, into a new official enemy, one that was supposedly as threatening to the United States as Nazi Germany.
U.S. officials told Americans that despite the end of the war, it was now necessary that the United States remain on a war footing for the indefinite future. That meant that the standing army became a permanent part of the U.S. government, with ever-increasing budgets for the military and the military-industrial complex. It also meant the establishment of the CIA, which would end up involving the United States in all sorts of nefarious and sinister plots, including coups, assassinations, and invasions. It meant an FBI that would spy on, monitor and keep files on the activities of “suspicious” Americans. It meant embargoes and sanctions that would squeeze the lifeblood out of foreign citizens in the hopes that they would install pro-U.S. rulers into power. It meant massive death and destruction in Korea and Vietnam.
And it was all justified because of the national-security state’s “war on communism” — a war directed at the Soviet Union, the former partner and ally of the United States during World War II.
But in 1989, the worst nightmare of the national-security state occurred. The communist threat disintegrated. The Soviet Union went bankrupt, owing to out-of-control government spending. Germany was united. Soviet troops evacuated Eastern Europe.
The U.S. national-security state had lost its justification its existence. There was only one logical course that should have been followed: to dismantle the national-security state.
That’s not what happened, however. Instead, the national-security state decided to go abroad and poke some hornet’s nests, especially in the Middle East, knowing full well that people were likely to become very angry.
There was the Persian Gulf intervention, when countless Iraqis were killed and maimed and when U.S. forces intentionally destroyed Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants knowing the adverse effect that would have on people’s health, especially children.
There were 11 years of brutal sanctions on Iraq, which prevented those water-and-sewage treatment plants from being repaired and which decimated Iraq’s economy.
There was U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it.
There was the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, knowing the adverse effect that would have on Muslim sensitivities.
There were the deadly and illegal no-fly zones over Iraq.
There was the foreign aid to brutal dictators in the Middle East.
There was the foreign aid to the Israeli government.
It all added up to generate unbelievable anger and rage among people in the Middle East.
And it’s not as if U.S. officials were unaware of the boiling cauldron of rage and hatred. There were the terrorist attacks on the USS Cole and the U.S. Embassies in East Africa. There was the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, author Chalmers Johnson warned that unless the U.S. government changed course, the result would be terrorist retaliation on American soil. That’s what his book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire was all about.
In fact, in December 1999 Sheldon Richman wrote:
Apologists for activist government never tire of telling us that the benevolent state is our protector and that without it we'd be at the mercy of monsters. It is about time that we understood that the U.S. government does more to endanger the American people than any imagined monsters around the world. How so? By pursuing its Grand Foreign Policy of meddling anywhere and everywhere. It stands to reason that if you stick your nose in other people's quarrels you will acquire enemies.
In February 2000 I wrote: “If there had been a terrorist attack [on January 1, 2000], you can be 100 percent certain that the U.S. government would have used the crisis as an opportunity to march America farther down the road to total destruction of our civil liberties.”
The 9/11 attacks was just a continuation of retaliatory attacks that had occurred before, attacks that were in retaliation for what the U.S. government was doing to people in the Middle East.
And the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were also just a continuation of the things the U.S. government had been doing prior to 9/11. They were certain to produce an endless stream of anger and hatred and an endless thirst for retaliation.
It’s time for Americans to do what they should have done in 1989 — dismantle the entire national-security state, including America’s overseas military empire, the entire military-industrial complex, and the CIA. The Cold War is over, and the policies of the national-security state have produced the “war on terrorism.”
It’s time to restore our nation to a limited-government, constitutional republic. It’s the only way to restore freedom, peace, harmony, and prosperity to our land.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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