Soon after US officials declared their “war on terrorism” some 20 years ago, I wrote that this new war was likely to last longer than the “war on drugs.” There is a simple reason for that: the supply of “terrorists” would be endless, for two reasons: (1) the US government’s deadly foreign policy of interventionism to kill “terrorists” would inevitably generate a constant supply of terrorists who would be seeking to retaliate; and (2) the US national-security establishment would wield the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to determine who is a “terrorist” (or a “bad guy”), a power that would enable it to always have a steady supply of “terrorists” all over the world.
In 1989, the end of the Cold War came as a shock to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, as well as other US officials. Since the end of World War II, it was just assumed that the Cold War would go on forever, which would thereby justify not only the continued existence of the US national-security establishment but also its ever-increasing budgets.
Keep in mind that any national-security state needs official enemies, along with crises and emergencies. If there are none of those things, then people will ask: Why do we need a national-security state? Why not a limited-government instead? Why must we continue to fund a voracious monstrosity that is no longer needed.
That’s in fact why President John F. Kennedy was determined to be a grave threat to US national security. Having determined that the Cold War was a crock and scam, Kennedy shocked everyone, and especially the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, when he declared an end to the Cold War in his famous Peace Speech at American University in June 1963.
No president after Kennedy dared to do that. Thus, the Cold War went on as normal through subsequent administrations, accompanied, of course, by ever-increasing expenditures for the national-security establishment.
What happened in 1989 was precisely what would have happened in the early 1960s had Kennedy not been assassinated. But this time there was nothing the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA could do about it. By unilaterally declaring an end to its participation in the Cold War, the Soviet Union brought the scam to an end.
People started talking about a “peace dividend,” which meant a significant downsizing of the military-intelligence establishment. After all, with no Cold War why shouldn’t the American people have their limited government republic back?
The national-security establishment was panicked. The Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA maintained that they were still essential because the world was an “unsafe” place. They could be used to maintain “order” in the new world order. They also said that they could help win the “war on drugs.”
That’s when they went into the Middle East and began poking hornets’ nests, in search of a new official enemy. There was the Persian Gulf intervention against their old Cold War partner and ally, Saddam Hussein, which killed countless Iraqis amidst the glory and fanfare of the war. That was followed by 11 years of brutal sanctions, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. There was the infamous statement by Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador the United Nations, that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.” There was the stationing of US troops near Islamic holy lands. There was the unconditional support given the Israeli government.
The result was predictable and predicted. The US government’s actions incited so much anger and rage that people were motivated to initiate terrorist attacks in retaliation. Examples included the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, and the attacks on the US embassies in East Africa.
The culmination of all this “blowback” was the 9/11 attacks, which some US officials compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Claiming that the terrorists hated America for its “freedom and values,” US officials declared “war on terrorism,” just as their predecessors had declared war on Japan. Suddenly, the US national-national-security establishment had its new official enemy — “terrorism,” which was ever better than the Cold War’s official enemy (communism) because it was likely to be more endless.
With the deadly and destructive invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to kill the “terrorists,” the Pentagon and the CIA ensured that more people would join the ranks of the “terrorists.” The entire operation became the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history. With its “war on terrorism,” the US national-security establishment had assured itself of everything the Cold War promised and more, in terms of money, power, and influence.
Today, the “war on terrorism” remains in full swing. Even better, the US national-security establishment and its assets in the mainstream press have succeeded in reinstalling Russia and China as renewed official enemies. The Cold War and the war on terrorism have coalesced to ensure a permeant state of crisis and emergency and, of course, ever increasing budgets and power for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
The entire operation combined — the Cold War and the “war on terrorism” — has turned out to the biggest scam in history. Too bad so many Americans continue to fall for it.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.