We're going to go about our daily lives and
carry on: this will show that terrorism is not going to stop American
democracy." These were the brave words of New York City major Rudolph
Giuliani at a news conference held hours after the
World Trade Center attack. The next question came from a reporter
who asked, to audible groans, whether or not the New York City primary
would be canceled. Governor George Pataki, standing next to the mayor,
confirmed that the election had indeed been called off. And that's just
the beginning of what's been called off from
New York to
California, and points in between. All flights have been canceled
everywhere in the country,
and over London as well. The stock exchange did not open and will
not open until further notice. NATO headquarters in Brussels was
evacuated. The US military went on its highest alert. A flotilla of US
warships sailed into New York City harbor – and that says it all.
one well-coordinated blow,
the entire free world has been paralyzed. It is as if a
rock-wielding David has hit a glass Goliath straight between the eyes,
shattering the imperial colossus and bringing down the whole top-heavy
apparatus with an earthshaking roar.
The entire US government was shut down. President George W. Bush, in
Florida at the time, was flown at to the safety of Barksdale Air Force
Base in Louisiana. Top government officials and congressional leaders
secreted to an undisclosed location: US fighter jets patrolled the
skies above the nation's capital.
of The Temple
devastating of all was the attack on the Pentagon, which took a
devastating hit – 800 dead – and not only in terms of physical damage.
If anything was considered invulnerable, then surely this building, the
sanctum sanctorum and architectural symbol of American military power,
was it. What could be safer terrain than the capital of a world empire,
a city where the fate of nations is routinely decided, where the
supplicants of the world gather to humbly present their petitions to the
Senate and lobby the White House?
sheer fragility of the American Imperium is what is painfully apparent
here. Painful most especially to the US government, whose complete
inability to defend the country while claiming the mantle of the
world's only superpower is exposed for all to see. It is the weakness
of an entity that has grown too big, too overextended, too blinkered
by pride (some would call it hubris) to see the pitfalls of the
policies it has pursued, not only in the Middle East but around the
world, from the Balkans to the Far East. Our foreign policy of global
military and political intervention in the internal affairs of other
nations, from Bosnia to Belarus, has produced what policy analyst
Chalmers Johnson has referred to as "blowback."
book of that title, as if in anticipation of the perplexed "Why?"
of the average Americans' reaction to this carnage, Johnson wrote:
"Only when we come to see
our country as both profiting from and trapped within the structures of an
empire of its own making will it be possible for us to explain a great
many elements of the world that otherwise perplex us."
response of a weak adversary is always to exaggerate its own power, to
make a great show of faux strength that mostly amounts to a lot of noise,
and that is precisely what the US is now doing. We have pledged to go
after the perpetrators or those who gave them safe harbor, and the
usual parade of
laptop bombardiers has
declared "war" on "the enemy." But who or what is the enemy? And, most
of all, where are they?
the lack of any tangible, stationary enemy – say, a particular country or
even a group of individuals – shouldn't stop us from making a formal
declaration of war: "Let's not be daunted by the mysterious and partially
hidden identity of our attackers," says
Robert Kagan in the Washington Post. "It will soon become
obvious that there are only a few terrorist organizations capable of
carrying out such a massive and coordinated strike." If there are only "a
few," then why not get more specific?
Osama bin Laden, the
all-purpose Arab arch-villain, is
for any and all terrorist acts outside of Northern Ireland and the jungles
of South America. However, the ambitious Kagan – co-author, along with
Kristol, of an infamous article proposing that the goal of US foreign
policy must be "global hegemony" – is after more than that:
"It will become apparent
that those organizations could not have operated without the assistance of
some governments, governments with a long record of hostility to the
United States and an equally long record of support for terrorism. We
should now immediately begin building up our conventional military forces
to prepare for what will inevitably and rapidly escalate into
confrontation and quite possibly war with one or more of those powers.
Congress, in fact, should immediately declare war. It does not have to
name a country. It can declare war against those who have carried out
today's attack and against any nations that may have lent their support."
should declare "war" on a nameless enemy, about whose whereabouts we
haven't a clue – as if some empty resolution penned by a parcel of
politicians could possibly erase or rectify the horror of the past 48
hours. Surely, a formal declaration of war against the Unknown Enemy would
only underscore our own impotence. Such a fatuous proclamation would turn
tragedy into farce – a talent politicians of all stripes have in
see if I get this straight: Tim McVeigh was a "lone nut" who blew up the
Oklahoma City Federal Building all by himself, but the World Trade Center
terrorist plot just had to be aided and abetted by a foreign power.
If Mr. Kagan has information that "some governments" cooperated with or
even knew about the attack in advance, then why doesn't he name them? The
reason is because, to Kagan and his ilk, it doesn't matter who did
it – the point it to strike out at anyone or anything within range.
rage expressed in terms of a self-conscious demagoguery is what we get
David Horowitz, the wild man of the
He asks how it was possible for 4 commercial airliners to be hijacked from
major airports within a set time frame, wonders how the Pentagon – the
Pentagon – could've been pulverized so thoroughly, and avers:
"We know the answer.
America is soft. America is in denial. America is embarrassed at the idea
that it has enemies and must protect itself."
Is our alleged "softness" to blame for this horrific tragedy – the
softness that prevents us from completely militarizing America, and
converting a free society into a prison? America – in denial? But how
could that be, when so many millions and
so much rhetoric has been expended in the war on terrorism? No expense
was spared, either in terms of tax dollars or basic civil liberties – and
still it happened.
more absurd is the idea that our government is somehow "embarrassed" by
all the enemies it has made, worldwide: you certainly couldn't tell that
from our actions. Indeed, the whole point of being a superpower is that
you don't have to be embarrassed about anything: you brazenly
disregard moral principle, and go right ahead and bomb a
factory to get a presidential sex scandal off the front pages. The
arbitrary and often deadly exercise of overwhelming military force is what
being a superpower is all about.
but Horowitz would ascribe this to Clinton's personal evil, and dismiss
any more systematic critical analysis of our role in the world as simple
"anti-Americanism." But the real anti-Americans are those who would
sacrifice thousands more of their fellow citizens in defense of a policy
and a mindset that is pure hubris. Talk about blaming America first:
Horowitz spends most of his piece attacking those "soft" Americans who
have "been so eager to cash in on 'peace dividends' that it has stripped
itself of even prudent defenses." Oh, how dare those selfish soft
Americans try to get some of their hard-earned tax dollars back from a
thieving federal government. Horowitz's big solution is – yawn – a missile
defense "to protect against even worse terrorist acts in the future."
Yeah, but what about the sort of attacks we have just experienced – a
bunch of knife-wielding terrorists who commandeer a plane and ram it into
the biggest, most visible symbols of American military and financial
preeminence? What he doesn't want to admit is that there is no defense
against such acts – short of abolishing the Constitution and instituting
martial law, that is.
is in denial that much of the world hates us," rants Horowitz, "and will
continue to hate us. Because we are prosperous, and democratic and free."
But the US government is perfectly well aware that large sections of the
globe have no love for the US government, and yet this has not had the
slightest effect on US foreign policy. The whole Arab world is united in
its opposition to our mindlessly pro-Israel stance – including the Saudi
and Kuwaiti regimes that we prop up with our troops and treasure – but
that has not altered our position one iota, no matter who occupies the
White House. It is so typical of the paranoid and reflexively defensive
Horowitz to inveigh against all those terrible foreigners who supposedly
hate us because we're so wonderful. But I wouldn't count on either
prosperity or freedom if the war Horowitz and Kagan would so dearly love
to see declared and fought should ever come to pass. For the only way we
can "win" such a battle is to lose the very values that we want to defend
in the first place.
Mr. Justin Raimondo
is the editorial director of Antiwar.com
by courtesy & © 2001
Raimondo & Antiwar.com
by the same author: