Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Beyond The Mirror: The 9/11 Funhouse, Part III

In the previous installments of this series (zero, one, two) I've been arguing that 9/11 was an inside job and that therefore the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan are illegal and immoral, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Edward S. Herman and David Peterson reach a similar conclusion by a very different route in There Is No “War on Terror”, which starts this way:
One of the most telling signs of the political naiveté of liberals and the Left in the United States has been their steadfast faith in much of the worldview that blankets the imperial state they call home. Nowhere has this critical failure been more evident than in their acceptance of the premise that there really is something called a "war on terror" or “terrorism” — however poorly managed its critics make it out to be — and that righting the course of this war ought to be this country's (and the world’s) top foreign policy priority. In this perspective, Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than Iraq ought to have been the war on terror's proper foci; most accept that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan from October 2001 on was a legitimate and necessary stage in the war. The tragic error of the Bush Administration, in this view, was that it lost sight of this priority, and diverted U.S. military action to Iraq and other theaters, reducing the commitment where it was needed.
I can't even count the number of liberal or lefty or "dissident" writers with whom I disagree on this very point. And sometimes I think if it were not for Chris Floyd and a couple of other people, I would feel utterly alone in a rah-rah-rah war-on-terror world, and I would probably go berserk.

"Redeploy!" they say, as if the War On Terror were The Thing To Do and we were simply Doing It Wrong. "Bush is incompetent! He's losing the GWOT!" and so on. You know who I mean, don't you?

Herman and Peterson had me nodding from the opening paragraph, thinking about a [long-lost, sorry!] comment thread in which Jimmy Montague recommended an article by McClatchy's Joe Galloway.

Galloway's piece is well summed up by its title, "Commentary: Sins of omission and sins of commission haunt Bush in Pakistan". The column is adorned with a photo of Afghan mountains; the photo's caption ("The stony, rocky mountains of Afghanistan") shows as much insight as the article itself, which starts like this:
In the real world, there are consequences. For every action there’s a reaction, and often even inaction triggers a reaction.

The unfolding disaster in Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is in part a reaction to a series of inactions and actions by the Bush administration during the last six years.

Bush and Company took their eyes off the ball and became preoccupied with the sideshow of their own creation in Iraq as things went sideways and backward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then they outsourced much of the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda to Pakistani Pres. Pervez Musharraf.

After the attacks on America on 9/11, President Bush quite rightly took aim at al Qaeda and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that was sheltering the terrorist group responsible for those attacks.

A relatively small group of U.S. special operators rented enough tribal leaders and their armies and, backed by American air power, were able to topple the Taliban government and put al Qaeda on the run. A force of only 7,000 U.S. Army and Marine troops went in to chase the bad guys.

So far, so good, or so it seemed. But the administration declared victory prematurely — a bad habit it would repeat elsewhere — and turned many of its resources and most of its attention to invading Iraq while Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership escaped into Pakistan.
I don't mean to pick on Jimmy but I think he was wrong on this one. Another reader questioned Jimmy's position and he replied this way:
Galloway isn't wrong. If one accepts the premise that Al Quaida took down the Twin Towers and that the Taliban sheltered Al Quaida in Afghanistan (Who in America knew better on Sept. 12? Who then so much as suspected that the POTUS was behind the 9/11 attack? Who KNOWS FOR CERTAIN even now?) then the rational thing to do was to strike at Afghanistan.
Quick answers: I knew better on September 12th, 2001, although it took a while for my brain to convince my heart that what I saw meant what I knew it meant. Plenty of other people knew as well, for all sorts of different reasons. We were each alerted to specific holes in the official story, each in our own ways, depending on what technical or other knowledge we had at the time which made the official story either implausible or downright incredible. Eventually people like us started to coalesce, to find one another and learn from one another ... and we found out that there are hundreds of holes in the official story, not just the few we each saw that day. And I personally don't believe the president was behind the attacks. So that's not an issue.

From my point of view, if we don't know for certain even now, then we had no business attacking anybody.

But to understand the point of view expressed by Herman and Peterson, it doesn't matter whether you believe 9/11 was an inside job or that there was a coverup of incompetence; it doesn't even matter whether you believe that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks. Even the question of "Who knows for certain?" is moot in their analysis, because they buy the official story compleat and swallow it whole.

If there's one point I've been struggling to make ever since I started blogging, it's that 9/11 was a military coup. I'm not surprised that people don't believe me, but I am surprised that any of them are still reading me. Be that as it may.

Herman and Peterson disagree with me, but they make a parallel observation: that the US government's reaction to 9/11 amounted to a military coup.

The essential point in all this, of course, is not what Jimmy Montague thinks or what I think, but that the United States has been pounding on a foreign country for six going on seven years now with no end in sight, and none of it is justified, even if the official story of 9/11 were true. Which it isn't. But even if it were ...
The UN Charter ... allows an attack on another state in self-defense only when an imminent attack is threatened, and then only until such time as the Security Council acts on behalf of the threatened state. But given the absence of such urgency and the absence of a UN authorization, and given that the hijacker bombers of 9/11 were independent terrorists and not agents of a state, the October 2001 U.S. war on Afghanistan was a violation of the UN Charter and a “supreme international crime,” in the language of the Judgment at Nuremberg. ...The United States attacked after refusing the Afghan government’s offer to give up bin Laden upon the presentation of evidence of his involvement in the crime. Furthermore, the war began long after bin Laden and his forces had been given time to exit, and was fought mainly against the Taliban government and Afghan people, thousands of whom were killed under targeting rules that assured and resulted in numerous “tragic errors” and can reasonably be called war crimes.

Given the illegality and immorality of this war—now already well into its seventh year—the killing of people in Afghanistan cannot be regarded as “legitimate”—and neither can the taking of prisoners there under any conditions.

Talk of the "failure" of the war on terror rests on the false premise that there really is such a war. This we reject on a number of grounds. First, in all serious definitions of the term, terror is a means of pursuing political ends, an instrument of struggle, and it makes little sense to talk about war against a means and instrument. Furthermore, if the means consists of modes of political intimidation and publicity-seeking that use or threaten force against civilians, a major problem with the alleged “war” is that the United States and Israel also clearly use terror and support allies and agents who do the same. The “shock and awe” strategy that opened the 2002 [sic] invasion-occupation of Iraq was openly and explicitly designed to terrorize the Iraq population and armed forces. Much of the bombing and torture, and the attack that destroyed Falluja, have been designed to instill fear and intimidate the general population and resistance. Israel’s repeated bombing attacks, ground assaults, and targeted assassinations of Palestinians are also designed to create fear and apathy, that is, terrorize. As longtime Labour Party official Abba Eban admitted years ago, Israel’s bombing of Lebanon civilians was based on “the rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., civilians deliberately targeted] would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities.” This was a precise admission of the use of terrorism, and surely fits Israeli policy in the years of the alleged “war on terror.” Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has also acknowledged an intent to attack civilians, declaring in March 2002 that "The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful: we must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price."

The United States and Israel actually engage in big-time terror, like strategic bombing, helicopter attacks, torture on a continuing basis, and large-scale invasions and invasion threats, not lower-casualty-inflicting actions like occasional plane hijackings and suicide bombings. This has long been characterized as the difference between wholesale and retail terror, the former carried out by states and on a large scale, the latter implemented by individuals and small groups, much smaller in scale, and causing fewer civilian victims than its wholesale counterpart.
Herman and Peterson go on to present devastating accounts of the policies of both the US and Israel, which use the so-called War On Terror as a cover for atrocities claiming many more victims than "terrorists" ever did. It could be pointed out that USA and Israel are by no means the only two countries which do so.
In short, one secret of the widespread belief that the United States and Israel are fighting—not carrying out—terror is the remarkable capacity of the Western media and intellectual class to ignore the standard definitions of terror and the reality of who does the most terrorizing, and thus to allow the Western political establishments to use the invidious word to apply to their targets. We only retaliate and engage in “counter-terror”—our targets started it and their lesser violence is terrorism.
They run through a list of reasons why it's clear that the so-called War on Terror is bogus:
At the time of 9/11 in the year 2001, Al Qaeda was considered by most experts to be a small non-state operation, possibly centered in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, but loosely sprawled across the globe, and with at most only a few thousand operatives. It is clear that such a small and diffuse operation called for an anti-crime and intelligence response, not a war. ... there has been no attempt by the organizers of the war on terror to try to stop terrorism at its source by addressing the problems that have produced the terrorists and provided their recruiting base. In fact, for the organizers and their supporters in the "war on terror," raising the question of “why” is regarded as a form of apologetics for terror ... the war on terror is an intellectual and propaganda cover, analogous—and in many ways a successor—to the departed “Cold War,” which in its time also served as a cover for imperial expansion ...
In my opinion, if you agree with Joe Galloway and Jimmy Montague and the rest of the so-called liberal or left or dissident writers who accept the War on Terror as a legitimate fight, you should read Herman and Peterson in full: There Is No “War on Terror”

And furthermore: The war on terror is not only bogus but increasingly privatized. Scott Horton has been researching America's use of "private security contractors" for a year, and he has just finished his report.

It's called Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity and you can download it as a PDF file from Human Rights First. Scott's column at Harper's gives the report a proper introduction:
The report deals with an entire industry which has popped up like mushrooms after a spring rain. But when you examine this issue, and particularly its government relations aspects, you come very quickly to a focus on one particular company, Blackwater USA, whose baroque conduct seems to supply the material for novels, if not articles in Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

Blackwater is anything but a “normal” security contractor. Its relationship with the Bush Administration is truly extraordinary in many respects. Blackwater is an unabashedly political entity, which aligns itself fully, and ideologically with the Republican Party. Its founder and owner, Erik Prince, who has been profiled very effectively by Jeremy Scahill in his comprehensive book, Blackwater, was born to wealth and privilege in the family of an automobile parts magnate with a long track record of involvement in Republican and Religious Right politics.

Prince steered the family’s fortune away from the automobile parts business and towards a new genre of business. It may be a bit simplistic to call Blackwater a mercenary outfit, because its functions are more diverse, but its self-understanding is close to the plain English understanding of that term. That is, they sell their services to governments for money. Blackwater is an outfit of contract soldiers. And it has achieved something which would at earlier points in our history been unthinkable: it has assembled an enormous private army with modernized mechanized support, attack helicopters, aircraft and even the beginnings of a navy. And until very recently, all of this was occurring under the surface, with the full collaboration of the Bush Administration, and without the sort of Congressional oversight which occurs routinely with respect to the United States military.
It's not only a military coup, it's a private one! Even when their terms of office expire, the faction will still have this huge private army, and huge private war-chests. They will have set in motion regressive tendencies that seem destined to be permanent, if not accelerating. And if you're a presidential candidate who wants to end the war, to end all the wars, and return to something approaching "normalcy", then you're a kook, and you're not to be taken seriously. So we end up with people like Hillary Clinton and John McCain winning primaries, and endless war is ok with these people.

And none of it -- none of it -- is legitimate, even if the official story of 9/11 is true. Which it isn't.

What it is -- on two fronts -- is a hostile takeover.

Gandhi looks at BushWorld and asks, "Where Did All The Money Go?" Good question.

In trying to answer it, he quotes and links to a piece at Alternet by Larry Beinhart called "The Fraud of Bushenomics: They’re Looting the Country", in which Beinhart explains:
The idea under which Bushenomics was sold is this:

* The rich are the investor class.
* If the rich have more money, they will invest more.
* Their investments will create more business.
* Those businesses will create more wealth, thus improving everyone's lives and making the nation stronger. They will also create new and better jobs.

Whether or not the people who say such things truly believe them, I cannot say. But that's their pitch, and the media certainly seems to buy it, as do most of the establishment economists.

A more realistic -- and less idealistic -- view of Bushenomics is that the Bush administration and its cronies came at the economy with the attitude of oilmen.

* They inherited a vastly wealth country.
* They looked at it like the oil under the Alaskan wilderness. They craved to pump it out, turn it into cash and grab as much of that cash as possible.

Wherever possible, they literally sold off the assets. This was called privatization. Our biggest asset -- in terms of size -- is, of course, our defense establishment. With privatization, one dollar out of every three for direct military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan goes to private contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater. So when someone says, "Support the troops!" with budget appropriations, they should really yell, "Two-thirds support to the troops! One third support to Halliburton, et al.!"
Things are a bit different on the civilian side:
For the most part, the assets of the United States, our collective wealth, could not be sold off in such a direct manner.

In order to turn them into cash, what the administration did was borrow against them.

That is, they cut taxes while continuing to spend lavishly, creating debt.

The debt is owed by all of us, the collective people of the United States.

The tax cuts hugely favored rich people. They also favored unearned income (dividends, capital gains, inherited money) as opposed to the kind of money people have to work for. The very richest got richer.

The spending was -- to the degree possible -- directed to themselves, their friends and their supporters: Big Pharma, the medical industry, insurance, banking and financial, among others. And, of course, Big Oil, from whom they have spent close to a trillion dollars of our money to conquer a big oil field for private exploitation.
It's a long article and I can't summarize it all here, but this bit makes a goodly amount of sense to me.
One way to think of what the administration has done, is as a leveraged buyout. That's when someone buys a company, using the company itself as the collateral for the loan used to purchase it, usually at very high interest, then pays off the interest by cutting the work force and salaries, selling [assets] and even breaking up the company.

It's good for the guy who makes the deal, skims the cream off the top and gets rich. (The company that Mitt Romney got rich working for specialized in doing that.) It's good for the lenders, who get a good return (if the buyer is able to squeeze enough money out of his purchase), but it's bad for the work force, bad for the company, and, if no one comes along to replace it, bad for the business as a whole.

We've experienced a leveraged buyout of the national economy.
Say it however you like. I prefer "hostile takeover" but it's all the same: strip the assets and run. Of course, if you buy your own private army, you won't have to run very far.

None of this could have happened without 9/11. On September 10, 2001, we were still laughing at the stupid little man our broken electoral system had somehow foisted upon us. Most of us were unaware that the people who would become his closest advisers had already written their blueprint for a new "American" century, in which they would extend ("Rebuild") America's imperial attacking force ("Defenses"), predicated on a "catastrophic and catalyzing event" for which they were utterly unprepared but somehow ready to take advantage of immediately.

Within a matter of hours, the stupid little man was being portrayed as presidential, and the War on Terror -- the "long war" -- was not only kick-started but even accepted by people who ought to have known better then and who still ought to know better now.

As Herman and Peterson show, even if it's not a bogus war against bogus terror, it's still a bogus war.

As Beinhart shows, it's not only a shooting war against Iraq and Afghanistan, but an economic war against the vast majority of Americans.

Whether the terror that allowed it was itself bogus is, in this context, rather moot. The reaction, if that's what it was, was so extreme, and so inappropriate, and has gone on so long -- indeed, it shows all indications of being permanent -- that it's no stretch to say the "reaction" has been much worse than the original crime.