The Pathos of Politics – Militarism


Warfare is a constantly recurrent and universal characteristic of human existence. Written history has mostly been the history of wars. Practically all frontiers between nations, races, and religions have been established by wars, and previous civilizations perished because of them. ~ English psychologist Anthony Stevens

Men are ever at conflict. Whatever the objective or tragedy involved in obtaining “victory,” the means of waging war has proven to be a perpetual growth industry.

There is no likelihood of being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. ~ Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud

An estimated 10–20% of those who lived in Stone Age societies were killed. Despite profound advances in murderous technologies and their copious application, that percentage had dropped into the single digits by the end of the 20th century. This relative decline in mass murder was due entirely to there being 20,000 times as many people on the planet. There is no reason to think that men today are any less violent than their forebearers. News headlines constantly suggest otherwise.

People hardly ever give up their freedom, including their rights to kill and impoverish each other, unless forced to do so. ~ Ian Morris

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War: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. ~ American singer/songwriter Barrett Strong in the song “War” (1969)

German sociologist Norbert Elias and English historian Ian Morris argued that war has been good for something: to empower the state, and so impose order in a society which would not otherwise cohere. Hobbes would have heartily agreed.

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The police and military are exercises of state power with the same goal: pacifying the populace. The only difference are the targets: a nation’s own people or that of another.

War is never aimed at just military forces. It is instead a campaign to bring a people to their knees, so as to lose the will to fight. That is why a war always involves vast economic destruction and a gruesome number of civilian casualties, at least on the losing side.

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Why of course the people don’t want war. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. ~ German military leader Hermann Göring

The commonly used term defense is a euphemism for militarism: the spirit and policy to maintain a large military. While militarism is the wish of almost all political leaders, its embodiment is thankfully constrained by economics.

There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare. ~ Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher Sun Tzu

Only economic powerhouses can afford to sustain themselves as military powerhouses too. Militarism is invariably nothing but a drain, not matter how mighty a nation may seem.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. ~ US President Dwight Eisenhower

Every empire in history, and there have been many, has fallen from the cost of maintaining militarism.

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Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. ~ US President George Washington in his 1796 farewell address

America started down the path of militarism at the end of the 19th century. The press was manipulated to whip up war fever for the Spanish-American War of 1898. The war ceded to the US the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

In 1899, the Filipinos revolted against America as their overlord. 4,234 American military personnel died in the rebellion that cost 200,000 Filipino lives (out of a population of 8 million).

Echoing imperialist sentiments going back centuries, the United States declared its brutal colonization of the Philippines as divinely ordained, racially inevitable, and economically indispensable. These ideas inspired the Japanese, who set their sights on emulating America in Asia.

When the 1st World War broke out, President Woodrow Wilson followed President Washington’s advice and stayed neutral. Paradoxically, it was Wilson who laid the idealistic foundation for American hegemony with his idea of a “global mission” to “democratize” the world. Wilson remains the godfather to those who justify American militarism as a tool for exporting democracy.

American militarism surged as its urge in other nations was withering. The Japanese were atomically broken. The once-great western European powers had exhausted themselves with fratricidal wars. Their 2nd great war of the 20th century had them awkwardly embracing one another to avoid a repetition.

In the brief aftermath of the 2nd World War, America temporarily demobilized. Then, agitated by the Cold War with the Soviets, anti-communism reignited the flame of American militarism.

The 1st post-war peak in American military spending came during the Korean War (1950–1953), which cost only a fraction of what the US was spending to arm itself. When France stepped out of Indochina, the US insensibly stepped, societally immolating itself with its losing Vietnam War (1955–1975).

The Soviet Union was a distinct instance of militarism gone awry. Russia had an economic system which could not sustain its appetite for prestige and power. Client states in eastern Europe slipped out its grasp when weakness in Russian will became apparent.

Though the Cold War ended, and America had no enemy of consequence, outlays for US militarism did not decline; quite the contrary.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. ~ US President Dwight Eisenhower in his 1961 presidential farewell address

President Eisenhower’s concern that the military-industrial complex could become undemocratically powerful became fully realized. Republican President George W. Bush embodied Eisenhower’s worst fear.

We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. ~ US President George W. Bush in his 2001 inaugural address

The next Republican president, Donald Trump, would be even worse in his militaristic mentality. This was merely a consistency of Trump having a malevolent soul, with abject political and economic instincts to boot.

I’m the most militaristic person. I want to have a much stronger military. I want it to be so strong that nobody is going to mess with us. ~ US President Donald Trump

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It’s the same old dream – world domination. ~ English author Ian Fleming

There are no foreign bases on US soil. But the US maintains roughly 1,000 military bases in at least 74 foreign countries, housing several hundreds of thousands of troops. The US government prefers not to provide precise information to the public in this regard.

In 2010, the Pentagon listed 4,999 US military sites worldwide, including domestic and territorial installations. It was a considerable undercount, omitting Middle East countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, where there were substantial deployments and hundreds of bases.

Germany and Japan, the defeated powers of the World War that ended in 1945, are still infested with victorious Americans. In 2018, the US kept 179 bases in Germany and 109 bases in Japan, respectively housing 40,000 and 50,000 troops.

Most US citizens interpret the foreign policy of their nation through the eyes of a people committed to their image of themselves: a kind and generous people who love peace and economic and political freedom. Many around the world have a very different image. ~ American sociologist Frank Elwell

France maintains a military presence in 10 countries. The UK has military bases in 8 foreign nations.

China’s defense ministry stated in 2015 that had no military bases overseas; that China pursues a defensive national defense policy and seeks no hegemony. The lie is laughable. China is ramping its militarism and has created severe military tensions with several neighboring nations by claiming dozens of islands in the South China Sea that are well beyond its border, and in other countries front yard.

Territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests will be defended. ~ China defense minister Chang Wanquan in 2016

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My administration will rid the world of evildoers. ~ US President George W. Bush on 16 September 2001

The American homeland is the planet. ~ 9/11 Commission Report (2004) (Official US government report of the 9/11 terrorist attack.)

Since the 2nd World War, the US has selectively played the part of planetary policeman. The Bush Jr. administration proclaimed that US bases abroad “maintained the peace” and provided “symbols of US commitments to allies and friends.” President Barack Obama declared that the American foreign military presence provides “a stabilizing influence abroad.” Unsurprisingly, President Trump trumped them.

I will proudly promote our system of government and our way of life as the best in the world – just like we did in our campaign against communism during the Cold War. I will rebuild our military. ~ US President Donald Trump

American militarism cost nearly $600 billion a year in 2018, when that country’s warring was at a relative lull. The US spends more on its military now than it did at the heights of the Korean and Vietnam Wars; more than the next 7 countries combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Britain, India, France, and Japan).

Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come in 10, 20, or 30 years. ~ US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in 2016

US foreign bases are not the positive influence that the government touts. Quite the contrary.

The military cast of mind makes war far more likely. A great military machine cries out to be used. ~ Frank Elwell

Rather than stabilizing dangerous regions, foreign bases frequently heighten military tensions and discourage diplomatic solutions to conflicts. Placing US bases near the borders of countries such as China, Russia, and Iran increases perceived threats to their security and encourages them to respond by boosting their own military spending.

US bases to protect against an alleged future threat runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. By provoking a Chinese and Russian military response, these bases may help create the very threat against which they are supposedly designed to protect. In other words, far from making the world a safer place, US bases overseas can actually make war more likely and America less secure. ~ American anthropologist David Vine


The evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

If we explore the interconnection of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, we see how systemic racism allows us to deny the humanity of others; by denying the humanity of others, we are given permission to exploit people economically; by exploitation we are emboldened to abuse our military powers and, through violence and war, control resources. This quest for control of resources leads to the destruction of our ecosystem. ~ American urbanologist Liz Theoharis

However destructive the military may be, it is never efficient. The Pentagon wastes 25% of its budget on unnecessary bureaucracy. The internal study that found this out was suppressed by the military. That is just the beginning of the waste the US military tries to cover up.

Environmental Impact

The environmental harm of the military cannot be overstated. (72% of the US government’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the military; most of it emitted in foreign counties.) Seldom is there a greater diversity and concentration of hazardous substances than on a military base.

Before the introduction of national environmental legislation, the environmental damage caused by military bases was even worse than it is today. At home and abroad, bases regularly dumped toxic substances into rivers and streams, including asbestos, leaded paint, and other hazardous materials. Bases habitually oiled down dirt roads to contain dust. Some dumped hazardous waste at sea, including materials associated with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. ~ David Vine

Militaries wreak environmental havoc everywhere they set down. The intensity of environmental impact by the military can only be heightened by employment of its weapons. Long-lasting environmental damage of untold proportion is also accomplished when the military no longer wants its tradecraft materials.

The US Army admitted that from 1944 to 1970 it secretly dumped 29,000 tonnes of toxic nerve agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical bombs, countless land mines and rockets, and over 450 tonnes of radioactive waste. This was just a modest admission of dumping in domestic waters by just 1 of the 4 US military branches.

In 2000, the US military estimated that its US bases had 28,538 toxic waste sites covering nearly 11 million hectares; an area larger than the state of Tennessee. The military rarely does much of anything to clean up its toxic messes.

The US military’s care of the environment overseas cannot be anything but blithe compared to its domestic pollution. At bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, solid wastes are burned in open-air pits. Unexploded ordnance is left for the locals to deal with (or die from).

Fuel leaks are commonplace. A jet fuel leak at an air force base in Albuquerque, New Mexico started in 1953 and was not discovered until 1999. The spill grew to an estimated 91 million cubic meters, twice that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Albuquerque’s water supply was contaminated as a result, and its health consequences ignored by government authorities.

The quotidian environmental cost of military bases is extraordinary. Bases generate enormous amounts of garbage and maddening levels of noise.

On average, Americans produce 2 kg of trash daily: 70% above the global norm. An average American soldier spawns 4.5 kilos of rubbish every day.


Know the enemy and know yourself. ~ Sun Tzu

In the political sense, intelligence is secret activity aimed at comprehending or changing what goes on. Espionage is as old as warfare and diplomacy. In making sense of the seemingly insensible, intelligence, and its lack thereof, are the missing dimension of history. Without accurate intelligence, leadership is blind.

United States

The ultimate ancestor of all American intelligence services is the Sons of Liberty: a federation of dissident secret societies formed in 1765 in reaction to the Stamp Act. Sometimes called the Liberty Boys, the group employed a variety of tactics, including terrorism.

 Revolutionary War

George Washington was the spymaster-in-chief during the American Revolution. He recruited snoopers, instructed them on tradecraft, sent them out, welcomed them back, and paid them off.

Everything depends upon obtaining intelligence of the enemy’s motions. ~ George Washington in 1776

When it came to espionage, the Liberty Boys proved to be bumbling amateurs. They were countered by complacent professionals in the British, led by General William Howe, who had insufficient appreciation of espionage.

It was not until Howe was replaced, in 1778, that the British established a secret service in North America. By then, the opportunities lost meant that France’s entry into the war proved decisive for the rebels. With better intelligence and military leadership, Britain could have won a relatively quick victory.

 Civil War

The poor quality of espionage was the reason the Civil War dragged on for 4 years. Private detective Allen Pinkerton was the North’s spymaster during the war’s 1st phase. His consistent overestimation of Confederate troop strength encouraged the tendency of General George McClellan to dally in prosecuting the war. Sure victories were turned into sieges and losses as a result.

At the outset, the South had better intelligence gathering, part of which came from reading Northern news reports.

Press censorship was a problem that plagued the North throughout the war. Northern General William Sherman regarded newspaper correspondents as Confederate spies. Many other Federal commanders felt similarly. Having been informed that 3 journalists had been killed by an exploding shell, Sherman exclaimed: “Good! Now we shall have news from Hell before breakfast.” With fewer papers and tighter censorship, the South suffered less self-inflicted damage.

The North’s early bumbling of intelligence was corrected in early 1863, when Colonel George Sharpe created a modern secret service. The South had nothing to match Sharpe’s intel on enemy troop movements and intentions.

While the Civil War was a sectional conflict, neither the North nor South enjoyed unanimous support from its peoples. Secret societies sprang up to counter war efforts by providing intelligence to the other side. Those who supported the North were better organized and equipped.

A telling difference in Civil War intelligence came in counterespionage. The Confederates’ dismal failure in this regard owed in large part to misplaced trust. The Confederate leadership too readily accepted anyone who professed dedication to their aims. Such credulousness was less a reflection of Southern aristocrats lacking Yankee guile than in naïve faith in the rightness of their cause.


Americans abandoned intelligence-gathering when the Civil War ended. All institutional memory and skill were lost.

The US military took up spy craft again in the early 1880s. The 1879–1884 War of the Pacific, with Chile pitted against Bolivia and Peru for possession of the nitrate-rich Atacama desert, impressed American policy makers of the need for their own militarism and intelligence-gathering on foreign nations. The investment proved fruitful shortly thereafter, when the United States quickly defeated Spain in the 1898 conflict.

 Pearl Harbor

In the 20th century, the United States’ most grievous intelligence failure culminated on 7 December 1941; what President Franklin Roosevelt called “a day that will live in infamy.”

We failed to anticipate Pearl Harbor not for want of the relevant materials, but because of a plethora of irrelevant ones. ~ American military intelligence historian Roberta Wohlstetter

While Wohlstetter had a point, more on-point was the fact that Captain William Puleston, head of US naval intelligence, grossly underestimated the Japanese and American diligence. Dismissing the prospect of the Japanese attack to come, Puleston wrote just months before:

The Pacific Fleet is at one of the strongest bases in the world – Pearl Harbor – practically on a war footing and under a war regime.

 World War 2

I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve. ~ Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

The army led Japan’s war effort under general Hideki Tōjō, who was also prime minister; but Japan’s prospects against the US relied upon brilliant application of its naval power. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was key to that.

Beyond sheer military strength, the Germans and Japanese were defeated in the 2nd World War by their encrypted messages being cracked by Allied forces, and in not realizing that their communications were compromised.

On 13 April 1943, American military intelligence deciphered a Japanese naval message that 5 days thence Admiral Yamamoto was going to inspect Japanese air bases on Bougainville, the largest of the Solomon Islands. The American shot down the plane Yamamoto was in, killing him; an event that greatly diminished Japan’s war prospects.

Yamamoto’s death demoralized the Japanese. His successor – Admiral Mineichi Koga – was a conservative strategist who lacked flair and charisma.


The smartness of British intelligence during World War 2 prompted President Roosevelt to create a secret service modeled on the Brits’ MI6. The American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) was an evolution of previous foreign intelligence operations but fell short of comprehensiveness and coordination. The FBI was left responsible for intelligence in Latin America, and the Army and Navy continued to sport their own intelligence services.


President Truman disbanded the OSS on 20 September 1945. By the end of the year, he had changed his mind, and sanctioned the creation of the intelligence group that became the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency).


The prime worry of the CIA was the Soviets. The US developed the U-2 ultra-high-altitude aircraft, which made its 1st flight into the USSR on 4 July 1956. The CIA thought the plane might be detected at some time, but they did not imagine that the Soviets were able to track every flight from entry to exit.

The Soviets diplomatically protested the violations of sovereign air space, to no avail. So, on 1 May 1960, the Soviets shot down the 24th U-2 to fly over the USSR.

The US predictably lied about the incident. The Soviets were able the reveal the deception because the U-2 pilot, Gary Powers, had been captured alive.

 US / USSR Missile Gap

Beginning in 1957, US intelligence badly overestimated Soviet ballistic missile capabilities. The military’s guess was laughably off. Though somewhat closer to actuality, the CIA too were far above the Soviet’s actual count. The U-2 flights helped give a false feeling of accuracy.

John Kennedy, who was running for president, invented the term “missile gap” to accuse the Eisenhower administration of being weak on defense. By mid-1960, the Eisenhower administration had revised their missile gap estimates, and told Kennedy so in a secret briefing. Though he knew better, Kennedy kept up the rhetoric which helped him get elected.

(The Eisenhower administration, though frustrated with Kennedy’s lying, kept quiet for fear of revealing the U-2 program.)

 Bay of Pigs

(The Bay of Pigs is an inlet on the southern coast of Cuba; the intended landing site for the US-sponsored invasion.)

In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain’s Latin America empire rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba stayed loyal. A large part of this owed to relative enslavement. At the time, only 36% of Cubans were slaves; much lower than in the rebellious lands. (By contrast, 90% of those living in Antebellum Virginia in the early 19th century were enslaved.)

The 1898 Spanish-American War was the springboard to Cuban independence (in 1902). From then, 2 men dominated Cuban politics: Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro.

Batista ruled 1933–1944: at first through puppet presidents, then elected as president himself in 1940 on a populist platform. Aiming for a comeback after an extended holiday in the US, Batista ran again in 1952. Facing electoral defeat, Batista staged a coup. He corruptly ran the country until December 1958, when he fled from Cuba’s imminent future.

Castro’s revolution was anti-communist America’s worst nightmare: a heretic in the backyard. The CIA, with Eisenhower’s approval, set itself upon turning back the clock.

President Kennedy and his advisors were lukewarm on the planned invasion of Cuba that was financed by the US but fronted by disgruntled natives; and it came as no surprise to Castro: US national newspapers repeatedly ran stories on the planned invasion.

In the end, Kennedy believed that if he canceled the operation, he would be accused of being soft on communism; a political liability particularly hard to overcome in those days. As it turned out, Kennedy himself doomed the invasion’s prospects by failing to provide supportive air strikes. The invaders were quickly put paid by Cuban aerial assault.

This was a struggle of Cuban patriots against a Cuban dictator. While we could not be expected to hide our sympathies, we made it repeatedly clear that the armed forces of this country would not intervene in any way. ~ UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson, dissembling for the US on 15 April 1961

Thwarting the invasion made Castro a national hero, strengthening his leadership. It also solidified relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union, leading to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

A month before Soviet nuclear missiles were discovered in Cuba, US intelligence concluded that the Soviets would do no such a thing. After they were found, US intelligence predicted that the Soviets could not be made to withdraw them. Wrong on both counts.


The CIA was pessimistic from the get-go about American military involvement in southeast Asia. The agency was badly used there by their paymasters.

Foolhardy President Johnson ignored intelligence and plunged ahead. A delusional and determined President Nixon doubled down and lost.

Meanwhile, the CIA was actively corrupting political dynamics throughout Central and South America, including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, and Peru.

The CIA destroyed constitutional government in Chile by sponsoring a 1973 coup d’état against socialist president Salvador Allende, who had been elected in 1970. Allende’s successor, General Augusto Pinochet, was a fascist dictator who unleashed a reign of terror upon his own people; quite the opposite of Allende’s popular program toward social justice.

From the early 1990s, the CIA crippled itself with personnel attrition. ~7% of its clandestine operatives walked out the door every year. It had not many more than a thousand spies.

Over the years, the CIA became less willing to hire those who did not fit into is bureaucratic culture. Very few of its officers could speak or read the foreign languages where intelligence capabilities were critical. In consequence of its cultural myopia, the CIA misread the world.

Guard against arrogance, avoid underestimating the enemy, and be well prepared. ~ Mao Zedong


Worldwide, computerized technology now allows states to surveille its citizens, and others, with relative ease. As America illustrates, government surveillance does nothing to keep its people safe. It only helps the state operate with impunity, outside all bounds of propriety: which is precisely the point.

War of Terror

Since the end of the Cold War, military violence – that is, the imposition of political choices through the use of weapons – has appeared to be a continuous, normal, daily resource within an evolving political framework. ~ Italian anthropologists Alessandro Dal Lago & Salvatore Palidda

Terror has long been a tool of the state, and those groups wishing to become the state. The ultimate aim is always the same: control over the people within a territory.

Those who commit terror feel morally fortified by their beliefs. The delusion of divine authority has proven especially fertile in instilling requisite righteousness to commit atrocities without guilt, even as man’s capacity for atrocity is positively primal.

Beyond the booty which motivated many, religious fervor fueled the Crusades. It worked its spell well on Catholic Spaniards during their Inquisition; and in the carnage upon hapless natives during conquest of the New World. The savages were not the ones slaughtered defending their homes.

Geneva Conventions

War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it. ~ William Sherman

Upon witnessing the cruelty of war firsthand, Swiss businessman Henri Dunant inspired the International Red Cross and the 1864 Geneva Convention. The 1st Geneva Convention addressed relief for the wounded and protection of medical personnel. Subsequent conventions dealt with prisoners of war and civilians caught in the crossfire.

The Geneva Conventions are commonly observed in the breach. In the 21st century, the US has been especially noteworthy as a rogue nation: repeatedly perpetuating atrocities on foreign soil and to foreigners. Most other 21st-century states largely reserve their tortures to their own citizens.


In modern times, Islam has been the tinder for Arabs to visit terror upon infidels in the foreign lands where they are despised and discriminated against. Though there have been many attacks since Islamic terror began its reign in the late 20th century, one was especially spectacular.


We knew the Islamic threat since the 1970s. ~ CIA officer Duane Clarridge

Islamic fury has been particularly pronounced against the United States, which steadfastly supports Israel and asserts hegemony in the Arab homelands.

The tragedy of 9/11 had many fathers, but the airline industry itself shoulders much of the proximate blame. The airlines’ lobbying organization had a long record of opposing almost all improvements in security, especially if the airlines bore the cost. From 1996 to 2000 alone, the association spent $70 million opposing matching passengers with bags (routine in Europe at the time), reinforced cabin doors, or the presence of occasional marshals – since they would occupy nonpaying seats.

The US intelligence community was not up to the task of protecting Americans from terrorism. CIA ineptitude was long-standing. Coupled with FBI arrogance, and animosity between the 2 agencies, getting a Muslim terrorist team into the US proved a cakewalk.

By the turn of the century, analysis had long ago been overwhelmed by the volume of available information and were no longer able to distinguish between significant facts and background noise. The quality of analysis had become increasingly suspect. From the vantage point of 2001, intelligence failure is inevitable. ~ CIA officer Russ Travers

Following a plan by the terrorist group al-Qaeda, hatched in spring 1999, a few of itinerant Arabs took lessons in the US: eager to know how to fly Boeing jets, but with no interest in learning how to land them.

By the spring of 2001, the US intelligence community was on high alert: on the lookout for incipient Islamic terrorist acts. One scenario known to the CIA, FBI, and FAA was the possibility of airline hijacking.

By mid-summer, CIA director George Tenet said that his “system was blinking red”: an attack was considered imminent. Meantime, the bumbling FBI ignored specific, credible warnings that could have prevented 9/11.

An increasing threat to civil aviation from terrorists exists and needs to be prevented and countered. ~ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Federal Register statement (17 July 2001)

President George W. Bush joked about an August 2001 CIA memo stating that bin Laden was planning an attack within the US. Indeed, Bush denigrated the CIA officer who pressed to give him a briefing. After relenting and hearing what the CIA had to say, Bush concluded: “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.”

FAA inattention meant that all the Arab hijackers were easily able to board their flights, armed for the job at hand.

At the time, the airlines themselves were responsible for airport security. They employed poorly trained, low-wage screeners who did a lousy job.

Under FAA-approved guidelines, the kind of box cutters and knives that the hijackers used were allowed. To keep costs down and security lines moving, the airlines had lobbied the FAA for these and other accommodations.

The FAA didn’t follow the guidelines that were in place at the time. ~ American attorney Mary Schiavo, US federal transportation department inspector

On the morning of 11 September 2001, 4 hijacked commercial jets launched themselves at high-profile targets.

The whole security process was in disarray. ~ John Mica, chair of the House subcommittee responsible for aviation oversight

In the 1970s, hundreds of federal marshals manned American commercial flights to thwart hijackings to Cuba. By 2001, these police on planes had dwindled to 33: negligible coverage for over 20,000 daily flights from 440 airports.

Once the planes in the air were hijacked, the FAA and US air force did nothing to prevent the attack from succeeding. These agents respectively had the knowledge and time to intercept, but incompetence and bureaucracy worked in the hijackers’ favor.

The terrorists exploited deep institutional failings within our government. ~ 9/11 Commission Report

1 of the planes, aimed at the White House or Capitol building, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought the hijackers. 1 plane hit the Pentagon, which sustained significant damage, but was quickly repaired. It would not do for the beating heart of American militarism to be left debilitated for long. 2 planes successfully slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, collapsing these world-famous commercial pillars.

The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today. ~ President George W. Bush on 11 September 2001

The 9/11 attacks killed 2,996. Over 6,000 were injured.

At least 200 fell or jumped from the burning towers. Some inside made their way toward the roof, but roof access doors were locked. No helicopters would have saved them even if they had made it to the roof, as no plan to do so was ever envisioned.

The World Trade Center was assumed indestructible, despite history having already shown the folly of such an assumption.

 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

On 26 February 1993, Islamic terrorists drove a truck loaded with explosives into the underground parking lot of the north Trade Center tower and set it off.

Had the bomb been placed as envisioned, it would have brought both towers down: the north tower toppling so as the bring the south one down. Instead, 6 were killed, power to the building temporarily cut, and the underground garage extensively damaged.

The FBI had an inside informant who warned them about the bomb plot, but, owing to agency incompetence, there was no intervention.


3 days after the World Trade Center collapsed, Christine Todd Whitman, head of the EPA, announced that air quality there was “no concern.” 1 week later, Whitman assured residents that the air “is safe to breathe” and the water “safe to drink.”

Whitman is a New Jersey native, and so might not even know what clean air or water actually are. Nonetheless, her false assurances damaged the health and shortened the lives of 50,000 rescue workers and residents.

I know people blame me, they say that I lied and that people died because I lied. I’m sorry. ~ Christine Todd Whitman in 2015

Whitman was not held culpable for her negligently false and dangerous statements. Government accountability is not the American way.

US government statements about the 9/11 attack, and its official report, were met with widespread skepticism. The omissions and distortions were so fulsome that the idea that the US government itself knew of, had abetted, or even masterminded, the attacks, gained credibility. (Among other signifiers was George W. Bush’s nonchalant non-reaction when first told of the 9/11 attacks, as if he already knew. Bush was reading aloud a children’s story about a pet goat at a public elementary school at the time. Upon told being told of the World Trade Center being hit, Bush turned his attention back to the pet goat tale.)

It is a horrific notion, but the predictable response by the Bush Jr. administration, which got Congress to grant it broad authoritarian powers under a “Patriot Act,” lent motive to conspiracy theories.

The public had been seriously misled [by the 9/11 Commission] about what occurred. At some level of government, at some point in time, there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened. ~ John Farmer Jr., senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission

 2001 Anthrax Mailings

Shortly after 9/11, envelopes of anthrax were mailed in 2 waves; the 1st to news media outlets, the 2nd to prominent politicians who were skeptical of the Patriot Act. Anthrax is an often-fatal bacterial pathogen.

In all instances, the anthrax envelopes carried machine copies of crude handwritten notes claiming “Allah is great.”

The 1st wave of anthrax letters was sent on 18 September 2001 to 5 news media outlets: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, the New York Post, and the National Enquirer.

3 weeks later, more potent packets were sent to 2 senior senators who were questioning the hastily introduced Patriot Act legislation. Taking the hint, both senators switched positions and voted for the bill.

To garner support for going to war, the Bush Jr. administration pushed the FBI to quickly conclude that al-Qaeda was behind the mailings.

They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East. ~ FBI Director Robert Mueller

The extensive FBI investigation of the anthrax attacks was badly botched. The agency closed the investigation by scapegoating a mentally ill research scientist who did not commit the crime but had conveniently committed suicide after intense interrogation by the FBI.

In the years that followed, the anthrax episode raised further suspicions that the 2001 attacks were all false-flag deceptions by a secret cabal that supported the enhanced authoritarian militarism that the Bush Jr. administration summoned, and which the US has maintained since.


I’m a war president. I make decisions on foreign policy matters with war on my mind. ~ US President George W. Bush

To strike out after 9/11, the US invaded Iraq: ostensibly because its dictator, Saddam Hussein, had “weapons of mass destruction.” To bolster his case, President Bush Jr. linked Hussein with the 9/11 attack. None of this was based upon intelligence; just lies concocted to back bloodlust by George W. Bush. (George Bush Jr. held a personal grudge against Saddam Hussein because the Iraqi dictator had ordered George Bush Sr. assassinated in 1993, after the US foiled Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Ever transparent, Bush Jr. even publicly cited the Bush Sr. assassination plot as a reason to go to war against Iraq.) The CIA had no reliable intel about Iraq. Hussein had no such weapons, nor anything to do with 9/11.

The Bush administration’s massive disinformation campaign, abetted by a lazy and timid press, succeeded spectacularly in driving the public to support its long-planned war. In the end, it was the power of lies, not logic, that was the deciding factor. ~ American journalist James Bamford

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. ~ English dramatist Harold Pinter

Islamic Terror

Islam has never acknowledged a distinction between religion and the state. From the time of Muhammad, both developed together. This supposed natural order was torn asunder by Western colonialism, and never reconciled in the post-colonial despotic states which combined political repression with economic stagnation. To grow up under such oppression is to be fed a steady diet of rebelliousness, which is invigorated by a righteous religion.

To the religious, Islam cannot be blamed for the miserable conditions. The West bequeathed the intolerable.

For Shias, the high-water mark was the 1979 Iranian revolution, which transformed a somewhat repressive modernizing monarchy into a thoroughly stifling theocracy. At least Allāh was again supposedly center stage.

Meanwhile, political Sunnis – frequently marginalized, manipulated, and oppressed by their autocratic rulers – do not yet have a comparable landmark. And their numbers are much greater: Sunnis comprise ~85% of the Muslim world.

Salafis have played upon these grievances to ignite the modern jihad that sporadically reigns terror. The Salafis are Sunni reactionaries who look to restore Islam to its conservative roots in the 12th century. They restored the meaning of jihad to its archaic construction of armed struggle against infidels: non-believers. al-Qaeda is Salafist, as is the more virulently violent Islamic State.

Islamic terror is fueled by religious ideology, instilled into frustrated young men who hold their lives cheap. It may be contrasted to American terror, which is fueled by secular ideology, and lead by frustrated older men, who hold others’ lives cheap.

American Terror

He who does battle with monsters needs to watch out, lest he in the process becomes a monster himself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The United States must not adopt the tactics of the enemy. Means are as important as ends. ~ US Senate Committee on Intelligence (1976)

One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice. ~ US President George W. Bush in 2003

6 days after 9/11, on 17 September 2001, President Bush Jr. ordered the CIA to hunt, capture, imprison, and ruthlessly interrogate terror suspects around the world. This was the foundation for a system of secret prisons throughout the world where the CIA and its contractors tortured anyone it thought might know something useful to them. The most notorious of those prisons was Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, Iraq, where the CIA and US army jointly committed atrocities. (No high-ranking US officials in the military or government were prosecuted for their war crimes.)

The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal. ~ US Senate Report on CIA Torture (2012)

The Americans were inspired in their extreme barbarity by Chinese practices on captured Americans during the Korean War, which were known to produce useless results.

These were techniques to get false confessions. ~ US Senator Carl Levin

In short, in response to a terrorist attack that succeeded only by the incompetence or acquiescence of the US government, the Bush Jr. administration unleashed a reign of terror upon the world, aimed specifically at Muslims.

I want to be absolutely clear. The United States does not torture. ~ US President George W. Bush in 2006, knowingly lying

We were well outside of the bounds. Part of the defense the agency used, the Bush administration used, defenders, proponents, Republicans use, is that “you have to understand the context of the times, we were all afraid there was going to be another attack, we had to act.” That’s all bullshit. ~ CIA officer Glenn Carle

No advantage was gained through torture. Instead, the campaign of terror only furthered the enmity and justification for Islamic terrorists to attack the US and its allies.

During the brutal interrogations, the CIA was often unaware the information was fabricated. ~ US Senator Dianne Feinstein

These were practices that not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the US and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world. ~ US Senator John McCain

We are creating more new enemies than we are killing terrorists. And revenge is a powerful force. ~ American national security scholar Jeremy Scahill

The American torture regime did not end when George W. Bush left office. The Obama administration continued to practice terror targeted at Muslims.

This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida, they are going to kill them. ~ American lawyer John Bellinger III

To ostensibly kill terrorists, the US bombed civilians in foreign countries. Drone strikes repeatedly killed innocents. Torment was still visited upon detainees, who were imprisoned indefinitely with no recourse to any semblance of justice.

Few things are more likely to undermine our legitimacy than the perception that we are not abiding by rule of law or are indifferent to civilian casualties. ~ American lawyer Hina Shamsi

The terror that the US inflicted on hundreds of men, almost all of them innocent, left lasting psychological damage. The US government never bothered to study the long-term psychological effects of the brutality it embraced. Instead, its military denied any problem, insisting that prisoners were treated humanely.

They tortured us in jails, gave us severe physical and mental pain, bombarded our villages, cities, mosques, schools. ~ Pakistani Mohammed Jawad, who was captured, held, and tortured by the US while a teenager, then released after years of imprisonment, never having been charged with any crime


Western leaders are entirely aware of the racist character of contemporary conflicts. ~ Alessandro Dal Lago & Salvatore Palidda

Despite extensive countermeasures after 9/11, terrorism worldwide grew. The US war of terror was part of it, inciting terror by Muslims in response.

The threat is actually worse: it has metastasized and spread geographically. ~ American counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke in 2016

American programs to counter extremists proved ineffective. As a practitioner of terror and deception, US credibility was absent.

Winning this fight requires projecting a narrative about American values and interests. And we have failed to do that. ~ American politician and security analyst Jane Harman

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If terrorists have created an atmosphere in which an ordinary person can have bullets pumped into him by the police and society shrugs its shoulders, then the terrorists have already won. ~ English political scientist Tim Hames

The United Nations has never adopted a formal definition of terrorism, because to do so would include acts that characterize everyday law enforcement in many nations, not to mention ordinary military action. The definitions bandied by state agencies, such as the FBI, emphasize legality.

These definitions, of course, favor those who have the power to define what constitutes “illegitimate” and “lawful” violence or force. Thus, to a great degree, terrorists are those without political or social power who attack the powerful, usually the government and its representatives or corporations, to wrestle power from political elites. ~ American criminal justice scholars Larry Gaines & Victor Kappeler


In the US, the 2001 Patriot Act that was the instantaneous response to 9/11 ushered in even broader electronics surveillance than was already in place. Everyone within digital reach, regardless of nationality or position, was targeted and surveilled – even the prime minister of Germany, an ally.

The US government spends over $75 billion each year on intelligence, with $10 billion of that on mass surveillance.

 Airport Diligence

Giving everyone a pat-down search is a waste of resources. ~ English security consultant Philip Baum

Once commercial planes were successfully hijacked for spectacular terrorist attacks, everyone wanting to board a commercial airplane was subject to intrusive scrutiny. The US government went overboard concocting a time-consuming, but ineffective, screening process that created long lines of travelers.

TSA has wallowed in its own bureaucracy for over a decade. ~ American congressman Mike Rogers, who was on the oversight committee of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in 2015

The X-ray scanners used at airports expose travelers to potentially hazardous levels of radiation. TSA only checks its scanners once a year. Hospitals usually check their X-ray machines daily.

Rather than rationally profile likely terrorists and subject them to sufficient scrutiny, young children, the terminally ill and kindly grandmothers had their dignities insulted.

Look at him. He’s clearly not a terrorist. He’s 7! ~ Mila Harris, an exasperated mother, to an airport security official

The British took a different approach at their airports: harassing most anyone who looked Muslim.

The UK government has created an atmosphere of suspicion and stigmatisation of Muslims. An effect of this will ultimately be to nurture the very radicalisation they wish to eradicate. ~ Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan

Tests repeatedly showed that US airport security could be easily thwarted.

We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this – and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do. ~ American security analyst Bruce Schneier

Enhanced airport security provided a profit opportunity to intrepid baggage handlers, who rifle through checked-in bags and steal whatever suits their fancy. Missing property claims against airlines soared. This points out one of the greatest vulnerabilities of airport security: the threat from those inside the system.

Airports provide a security theater as opposed to a security reality. ~ Philip Baum


Attempting to “protect” against mass casualty attacks is a somewhat hopeless task due to the near infinite number of targets. A deterred terrorist will just go elsewhere. ~ Australian security analyst Mark Stewart

Though public air travel became more taxing with its theater of security, this did not stop the terror; on the contrary. Publicity of past events proved inspirational.

Firearms are abundantly available in the US, and bomb-making materials throughout the world. There is a surfeit of mentally ill walking about with a taste for violence.

The combination has meant that bloodshed continues unabated. Shopping malls, nightclubs, coffee houses, schools, and other public places become instant slaughterhouses as the murderously deranged take out their frustrations on hapless people who are only trying to enjoy their lives.

The American government is notably nonplussed about the ongoing slaughter of its citizenry by terrorists, including its own fragmented police state. The failure of Americans to revolt can only be chalked up to ignorance or indifference: a people consumed by consumerism.

Chinese Terror

China is a country governed by the rule of law. Extracting confessions through torture is explicitly banned by China’s laws. Anyone found using torture during interrogation will be subject to punishment. ~ Chinese government spokesman

Respecting no impediments to intruding in its citizens lives and personal expressions, the Chinese government is zealous in trying to stave off any public expression of dissatisfaction, however oblique.

They see critics as opponents. ~ Chinese historian and political analyst Zhang Lifan

Civics groups not supportive of the government are dismembered. China proscribes Internet sites that present unfavorable news, including pollution reports.

The positive energy on the Internet has overwhelmed the negative energy to uphold the online justice. ~ Chinese Internet censorship general secretary Zhu Huaxin

Many Western media sites are blocked in China. The government is acutely aware of the danger posed by “harmful Western influences” on its populace.

Chinese social media sites are constantly surveilled. Stories or inquiries that criticize or question the correctness of the government or corporate business practices are removed.

The ecosystem for public opinion online has noticeably improved, and that has created a good environment conducive to the overall work of the party of the government. ~ Chinese vice minister for the Internet Ren Xianliang

Dissident and questioning voices are silenced. Those insistent on their errancy are persecuted, tortured, held indefinitely, or executed without trial. Lawyers who aim for some semblance of justice are an especial target.

The anxiety is overwhelming, not knowing if they are coming for you. It’s frightening as they disappear, one friend after another. The police are not following any law. They just do as they please. ~ Chinese civics scholar Yang Zili

Practically speaking, legal due process does not exist in China. Its facsimile is a puppet theater.

(The US also suspends due process in innumerable instances, not just for terror suspects, and so is scarcely distinct from China in this regard. In contrast to China, American laxity toward dissent is a historical gift: letting people impotently vent (and vote) while the state retains its remorseless grip.)

China has done little to change the deep-rooted practice of torturing suspects. ~ Amnesty International