How US Policy Risks More 9/11s

Though the U.S. military is no longer inflicting large-scale slaughters in Afghanistan and Iraq, the more selective “drone” campaigns continue to kill the families and neighbors of the targets, a reality that is stirring more anti-Americanism in the region, as Lawrence Davidson notes.

By Lawrence Davidson

In a short piece entitled “The Human Toll of the U.S. Drone Campaign,” Glenn Greenwald noted that the population of the United States is kept in the dark about the civilian victims of the drone campaign by a government that “refuses to disclose anything about these attacks and media outlets [which] virtually never report on [its] victims.”

What the U.S. public does get from both of these sources is a picture of the Middle East “as a cauldron of sub-human demons,” he wrote.

Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald’s article references a BBC program about a Pakistani “jirga” or gathering of tribal leaders. The leaders were from the Warziristan region of the country but the gathering took place in the capital of Islamabad. Warziristan has been the site of many drone attacks and the leaders brought with them some of the maimed survivors so they could be seen and their stories told.

The picture that came through is that there are now rapidly growing numbers of innocent victims of these attacks: children, teenagers, adults and the elderly – essentially anyone in the neighborhood of an intended target. The number of those actually targeted who have been killed is impossible to know because the government will claim such kills even if the only verifiable victims are “half-blinded, double-amputee teenagers.”

Greenwald correctly observes that “it is easy to cheer for a leader when the victims of his on-going violence remain invisible.” However, the question remains, how is this invisible status maintained in a country with a “free press”? Here are some relevant points that might shed light on this issue:

1. The “news business” in America is infinitely more interested in profit than it is in journalistic excellence. Much of that profit comes from advertisers who have no wish to underwrite what might appear to be unpatriotic investigations into unwarranted wars and foreign interventions. This makes the business-oriented boards and stockholders of media outlets very conservative and also encourages a “make no waves” cooperative attitude toward the government and its preferred storylines.

2. Most citizens do not care about all this. In the U.S., and elsewhere, the majority are apolitical. They focus on the local and thus “other people” are “real” only relative to their geographic and relational distance. As you move further away from the average person’s focal center, victims of accidents or injustice become more abstract.

3. Being apolitical does not mean that the average citizen cannot be scared out of his or her wits. Deliver the same media message over and over again, consistently and with the right amount of emotion and you can create a nationwide consensus based on nothing but a sales pitch.

Among other things you can sell the population an enemy (Vietnam, Iraq, Iran or any state you chose) to the point where almost an entire nation will support invasion and slaughter. This is what I call a “thought collective.” And, as our own recent history reveals, you can create this sort of group-think repeatedly over a relatively short period of time.

Distorted Vision

Greenwald’s piece is an indicator that, when it comes to the Middle East, the United States has long been steeped in a thought collective that distorts the vision of both the common folk and the elites alike. The 9/11 attacks raised this national mind set to the point of near hysteria.

In the immediate aftermath of that disaster, anyone who suggested that U.S. foreign policy might have helped motivate the terrorists (an obvious fact for anyone who had read the speeches of Osama bin Laden) was likely to be labeled unpatriotic, maybe even a traitor, lose their job, maybe even their friends, and refused admittance into the arena of national mourning.

When in early October 2001 Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal gave the city of New York a check for $10 million to help with recovery efforts, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rejected the offer out of hand. It seems the Prince had suggested that now was a good time for the U.S. to rethink its Middle East foreign policy.

Only in the last year or so have there been signs of small cracks in the thought collective. Growing numbers of ordinary citizens, to the extent that they think about these things at all, want the U.S. out of the Middle East. They are even starting to question the $3 billion a year that goes to Israel.

And, it may be that Islamophobia has peaked as a popular topic of national concern. More and more, this bit of paranoia is being identified with fringe factions of the conservative right.

Unfortunately, these cracks are visible only outside the Beltway. Inside the Beltway – that is in Official Washington – nothing has really changed. The thought collective is, if anything, stronger than ever.

This is because the formulation of policy is strongly influenced by special interests whose power over the politicians and the political parties is financially decisive. It will stay that way until millions of Americans decide change in our foreign policy is important enough to be a voting issue.

Because the thought collective within the government has not changed, foreign policies and actions have not changed. Violent intervention is still the mainstay of policy as can be seen in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan (with perhaps Iran in the wings).

Greenwald notes at the end of his piece that while Americans “hear almost nothing” about the victims of U.S. aggression, “the people in that part of the world hear a lot about it and that explains much about the vast discrepancy between the two regions.”

The Verdict

And what might that continuing discrepancy mean for the future of the United States? Well, it means the U.S. will almost certainly lose the war in Afghanistan, just as it lost the war in Iraq. You see, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, there are just too many people who really hold a fearsome dislike for the U.S., its government and its soldiers, to make likely successful conquest and pacification.

A more general victory in the “war of terror” is equally unlikely. Here the applicable logic is rather simple. There were a set of conditions that led up to the 9/11 attacks and the attacks themselves created a precedent.

America’s contribution to those conditions (our policies and our behavior) have held constant. Whatever damage we have caused al-Qaida can, and probably will, be repaired and other equally dangerous groups are likely to spring up in the foreseeable future.

So what then is the answer to the question of whether there will be more 9/11s? The honest answer is that if there continues to be no change in U.S. policies and behavior in the Middle East, it is more likely than not that another attack of the magnitude of 9/11 will occur within the next ten years.

The time line is guesswork, but the rest of the answer is not.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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10 comments on “How US Policy Risks More 9/11s

  1. “Greenwald notes at the end of his piece that while Americans “hear almost nothing” about the victims of U.S. aggression”

    Absolutely right.

    Over 5,000,000 Murdered .Crippled ,Diseased ,Homeless and displaced human beings.

    BTW according to Dr. Alan Sabrosky who was the director of Studies at the US Army War College the US Military knows who did 9/11.

    Unfortunately the American people are NOT being told.

    • tedbohne on said:

      hmmm. the u.s., u.k. israel, and maybe pakistan? whaddaya think. still think arabs did it? oooooooooh, that’s crap.

  2. The old saying that the press is only free if you own it continues to be valid.

    It appears that the author has identified a primary weakness of capitalism: when the mainstream press, composed of television networks and print media conglomerates, work in unison to protect their financial interests, which are seldom synonymous with a free press by preventing, blocking and ignoring vital information for an informed citizenry in a democracy to make electoral decisions.

    There is no doubt the print media and cyber media has provided for a free press and done outstanding work consistently, but alas this is really a minor adjunct to the mass of information provided by mainstream media and press to the American people. Increasingly, the mainstream media is becoming a propaganda arm of government, for each appears to reinforce and complement each other. Profit, access to government, favorable legislation are mainstream media’s benefits while government gets it point of view out, which is often propaganda, not facts, accurate and complete information

  3. The only policy that would risk another 9/11 is a policy that would allow another false flag operation as a pretext for another imperialist fossil fuel war OF terror and aggression.

  4. rosemerry on said:

    Why would anyone need another 9/11? Americans are already terrified out of their wits by one attack on them, whoever did it. Most other lands have this kind of violence to cope with often, perhaps even caused by the “good guy” USA, which has to invent enemies if they are not really there.

  5. clarence swinney on said:

    Osama Bin Laden on a Videotape prior to 9-11

    “I have had nightmares since watching Tall buildings fall from Amircan shelling.I have since dreamed of watching Tall buildings fall in America?

    9-11 was one mans revenge. One Man. Not a country

    Is it not strange? When Soviets invaded Afghan the Taliban fighters were called Freedom Fighters.The Americans invade and they are Terrorists.?????

    Is we sick?

    A senior FBI Offical said “On 9-11 there were no more than 100 Hard Core Al Queda members worldwide.”

    OBL was training a small group to overthrow monarchs and dictators in the middle east. 7000 miles away no threat

    Bill Kristol and his small group of PNAC Hebrews ceaated Hell On Earth for us with imperialisitc ambitions. Dumb Bill on TV recently “we need to spend more on military not less”

    Send Kristol to Israel to await the 2 ICBM with 10 warheads each 30 minutes for end of Israel out of a silo 7 stories underground in Russia.

    That is Terror. We can do nothing.200 ICBm with 10 hi tech warheads await “Fire” and end of Empire of America.

    our Secretary Of Defense visited the Silo 7 stories underground AGHAST.

    Bush-Cheney-Kristol Neo-Con Hebrews created Americas Hell On Earth
    with most of world now hating our guts.

    Americans never saw the destruction and killing that others saw.

    How do you think they feel about pics of of slaughter. 5 soldiers.
    In home late at night. Killed mother. Father. Six year old sister.
    Took turns raping 15 year old beauty they had been observing as convoy passed the home each day.

    Took naked body. poured kerosene set her afire.

    One pled guilty in Ft. Carson Trial and got Life Sentence
    4 await trail several years later?? Why the delay? Burn them.

    TV in middle east let all ses details. Nothing in Free Press of USA.

    42 slaughtered in one block in Haditha. House to house killing all occupants. Old. Disabled. Pregnant. Our Heroes!Our boys. Our Christians.
    Details seen by millions not in USA.

    America can only weep. We can do nothing. 200 ICBM await our attack. We cannot stop them once in flight.

    • Hey, uh ‘Clarence’, you’re kinda all over the place there, and your message is a little muddled. Whatever it is your trying to say, you might want to work with someone to tighten it up a bit if you want to share it with others…

    • tedbohne on said:

      Osama bin Laden didn’t do it. neither did Khalid Sheik Mohammed. and american job. but………….dumbshit americans fell for it!!!

  6. tedbohne on said:

    OH JESUS CHRIST!! you still think 911 was an arab job? good god, get a brain, then a job!!

  7. tedbohne on said:

    both Iraq and Afghanistan are still “hot” wars. the u.s. has lost both of them. this gutless country has resorted to “leading from the rear.” In the Nam, we called those types REMFS. “rear echelon mother fuckers.” the coward americans use pathetically inaccurate drones. kill more innocents than “taleban.” the u.s. has won nothing. wasted millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and dumbshit americans are now looking forward to the “elections” of ’12. who wants to vote in a clearly nonfunctional, necrotic, failed social control paradigm? the u.s. is lost, stupid, and a hopeless rabble of uneducated, uninformed, unsophisticated forest of tree stumps.