US rulers turned 9/11 outrage into blank cheque for endless war

By Rupen Savoulian

September 17, 2011 -- Antipodean Athiest, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Near where I live in Sydney, there is a war memorial commemorating all those people from the area who have died serving the Australian armed forces in wars overseas. There are columns for each war Australians have participated in, followed by the names of those who never returned. For instance, there are columns for World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), the Korean War (1950-53), and also the "International Campaign against Terrorism (2001– )". Notice that last one? Unlike the others, the war on terror has no end date.

The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 prompted justified outrage at the perpetrators and sympathy for their victims. Since then, there has been a continuous barrage of war crimes, an escalation of US wars in the Middle East, new offensives against Iraq and Afghanistan by US imperial power, and a steady erosion of democratic civil liberties in the name of a "war on terror". In fact, the first decade of the 2000s can rightly be called the savage decade.

The Bush/Cheney administration seized upon September 11 as an opportunity to implement imperial designs that long predate the actual terrorist attacks. As Anthony Arnove documents, senior US national security staff were directed by Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser and later secretary of state, to capitalise on the opportunities for the US to reshape the world, implement regime change and redesign significant portions of the globe for US imperial interests. The September 11 tragedy has become a blank cheque, a banner under which US war planners have justified their imperial interventions to a sceptical public.

The US has been carrying out war crimes in the name of September 11. It is a terrible, perverse use of the tragedy to whip up public sentiment to commission crimes that have more in common with the doctrine motivating the perpetrators of September 11. As Robert Jensen, journalism professor at the University of Texas, points out, there was no doubt that the Bush/Cheney administration was going to use 9/11 as an excuse to launch all-out wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.


There are now no illusion that the Bush/Cheney cabal were fanatical imperialists and racists, dedicated on demonstrating to the world that the US empire was on the war path. What is now becoming apparent is that the Barack Obama administration is following practically the same course, although with a different disguise.

Wait a minute, didn’t Obama declare an end to the war on terror in 2009? In a way, yes – he rebranded it as "overseas contingency operations". A different name for exactly the same package.

Here in Australia, we are told that the world changed on September 11. Did it really? Yes and no. As Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, economics lecturer at Drake University says, certainly the 9/11 tragedy prompted calls for regime change, imperial retribution and pre-emptive strikes by the United States. The rendition program where torture is "outsourced" to third countries under the supervision of CIA and MI6 officials, the imprisonment of terrorism suspects without charge or trial, the Patriot Act, homeland security provisions – these are all developments post 9/11.

But the military-industrial-financial complex had plans for regime change, the economic outreach into more countries and extension of US military power years before 9/11, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. With the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, a significant restraint on US militarism was removed. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser under former President Jimmy Carter and main architect of the US-sponsored Mujahideen war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, wrote in a 1997 book about the need for the US to confront Russia, China, India and others to remain the dominant economic and military power in Central Asia and the Middle East.

US war planners needed new enemies, and they came up with many – the clash of civilisations, rogue states, militant Islamism and so on. But 9/11 was the new mantra, and the beneficiaries of the giant military budget and security spending fixed onto a new ideological banner to disguise the agenda of imperial expansion. It is this broader context in which the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and now Libya) must be understood.

War spending bonanza

The National Priorities Project is an organisation dedicated to explaining, in terms as clear as possible, how the US federal budget is composed and how tax dollars are spent. They recently put together a report regarding the amount of money spent on national security since September 11, 2001. Since that day, the US ruling class has spent US$8 trillion on homeland security, the Pentagon’s military budget, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and all the associated spending on the US State Department and federal agencies.

All this was supposedly prompted by 19 hijackers armed with nothing more than box cutters? I think that Sheldon Richman is right – national security spending is a scam. As he points out, opportunistic and cynical politicians have been using 9/11 to frighten people into accepting even more military spending.

Is the world actually safer because of the "war on terror" and all this military and national security spending? According to numerous security pundits, the world is safer because countless terrorist plots have been "foiled", but they just cannot elaborate because of "national security". It is an old ploy –  the“we could tell you, but if we did we would have to kill you” trick. Without adequate information it is hard to say, but I can make two observations. First, the war on terror has failed to thwart attacks on the European and Western countries. Second, and even more important, the war on terror and its associated extraordinary renditions, torture and repression breeds resentment across Islamic and Middle Eastern countries. When US forces and unmanned drones kill scores of civilians across Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and other countries, don’t you think that some Muslim people will develop anti-American resentments and hatreds? The descent of the US military and political system into thoroughly detestable forms of behaviour – barbaric torture at Guantanamo and Bagram air base, the killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the packs of unmanned Predator drones – all this behaviour leads to a massive build-up of discontent and sows the seeds for future terrorist attacks.

Licence to wage aggressive war

While the 9/11 fanatics were driven by a complex array of religious and political motives, there is no doubt that continued US support for Zionism, and the Arab dictators around the Middle East, was a major factor in their hatred of US imperial power. With the homicidal overreaction by the US empire, the terrorists got what they wanted – an extension of US imperial criminality into costly and savage wars that are draining the US of its resources. The Afghanistan war is coming onto 10 years, and thousands of US and other Western troops remain in that country. There is the ongoing occupation and insurgency in Iraq, and that conflict shows no signs of ending, even after Obama’s rebranding of that occupation and fake withdrawal of troops.

Not long after the September 11 attacks, then-president Bush issued a new doctrine, a new national security strategy of "preemptive war" to strike at terrorist groups and states that allegedly pose a threat, or are developing a credible threat, to the United States. This doctrine, continued by Obama, is basically a licence to wage aggressive war. Was not this kind of behaviour outlawed and condemned by the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War II? Obama explicitly endorsed the doctrine of preemptive war, ironically when giving a speech accepting the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

9/11 memories abused

I agree with Tom Engelhardt – when it comes to September 11, let’s cancel it. Let’s stop the commemorations, the gatherings of pompous politicians, the hoopla, the new towers, the waterfalls – let’s stop the lot. What is more important is stopping the abuse of the 9/11 horrific attacks to perpetrate even more terrorist crimes and imperial wars, while enveloping those wars with hypocritical reverential remembranc

Stop using the supposedly "hallowed" ground zero to promote carnage and barbarism overseas. The 9/11 killings, while appalling and ghastly, are not a licence for continuous war and descent into harrowing political conduct. Political life over the last decade is characterised by a continual assault on democratic rights; if you doubt that, just ask Omar Khadr or Moazzam Begg. Let’s stop this endless war funding.

Anthony Arnove demonstrates that we in the Western world have undergone a dramatic cultural shift, with the corporate-controlled media playing a huge role in promoting the war on terror hyperbole, legitimising the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and nourishing the racist Islamophobic campaign, targeting Arabs and Muslims in general as a potential fifth column in subverting "Western values" and bolstering public approval for war.

Let's campaign for an alternative world, without imperialist wars and occupations, racism and soaring corporate profits. Let's regain the basic democratic and social rights that we have lost because of this undemocratic war on terror, and mobilise against the financial aristocracy and war profiteers to save our planet.

This article deals with many aspects of American wars and war policies in a general political context. Rupen Savoulian rightly shows how the events of 9/11 have been a bonanza for the military-industrial complex and the vested political interests that control American internal developments and its foreign policy. His vision of a world order without imperialist wars, crimes against humanity and racism is the vision of all progressive and socialist people around the world. This is the vision towards which many old generations worked and the present one are struggling to combat the forces of capitalism and its acute political-economic manifestation, imperialism.

Coming back to the story of 9/11: Rupen rightly enumerates the disastrous results of this tragic event and how it was used by theimperialist powers to unleash wars and wars of terror whose end is not in sight yet. However, it needs to be emphasised that the official version of the 9/11 is untenable and it has been subject to expert criticism. I think it is important that we take into consideration the views that challenge the US government's version of the events while analysing the developments that took place after 9/11. If we don't do that then we swallow the bait and refrain from questioning the premisses upon which the U.S. rulers and officials s built their story.