For some years now, we’ve been hearing about how it must have been a missile not an airliner that struck the Pentagon, how the World Trade Center towers must have come down through a controlled implosion, how they came down at a implausible rate given acceleration due to gravity, and how the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania didn’t leave enough debris. I don’t know the truth of these allegations. I have repeatedly said that many questions are inadequately answered but that inadequate answers do not constitute proof of an inside job.
An actual hoax has been in far plainer sight. A BBC Series, “The Power of Nightmares” (parts 1, 2, and 3) has just come to my attention, which tells the story of neoconservatives and radical Islamists, two groups who employ simplistic good/evil dichotomies. They were second degree allies in repelling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and each took credit for the Soviet Union’s collapse–though the Soviet system in fact collapsed through its own corruption.
When the Soviet Union fell, neoconservatives who believe a unifying mythology of good vs. evil is necessary to hold a society together first demonized Saddam Hussein, but were cast adrift when George H. W. Bush (the elder) declared that military objectives had been achieved following the liberation of Kuwait and refused to continue the invasion. They subsequently focused on Bill Clinton–and failed to impeach him. But then they managed to create al Qaeda.
Osama bin Laden, the series claims, never used the term al Qaeda until after the 9/11 attacks. Neoconservatives invented the term, took invented worst case scenarios–the scarier the better–for facts, and created the image of a massive sinister organization surrounding Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. In fact the two, who had utterly failed to incite Islamist uprisings in Algeria and Egypt, had retreated to Afghanistan, virtually alone. bin Laden retained considerable wealth and was able to finance widely scattered terrorist operations.
Having failed in local uprisings, bin Laden and Zawahiri chose a distant foe and declared war on the United States as the insidiously corrupting source of all evil which must be defeated to enable the Islamist uprising they had long dreamed of. Among the projects which bin Laden financed was the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. Neoconservatives used these attacks to build up the image of al Qaeda as a monolithic face of all evil, which the United States had a unique role–the shining city on the hill–to defeat. This propaganda also helped with al Qaeda recruiting, creating terrorist organizations where none had previously existed.
Neoconservativism has led the human race–on entirely fraudulent evidence–to a war on terror that strongly resembles descriptions of the apocalypse. Politicians, according to the series, benefit–as George W. Bush (the younger) certainly did–from enhanced stature. A frightened populace acquiesced to successive constraints on civil liberties and plumped up ridiculous amounts of money for wars that important respects resemble Vietnam. These wars cannot be won; the relative peace of Iraq has been achieved primarily through ethnic cleansing. Afghanistan would require a far larger force even than General Stanley McChrystal has requested and could then be won only after many years and only if counterinsurgency doctrine succeeds.
All this against an enemy that barely exists. We have killed over a million Iraqis and are killing thousands in Afghanistan. We fight the Taliban when our “real” enemy is al Qaeda, which experts say has less than 100 fighters in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, too, the fight is against the Taliban.
It is true that the Taliban hosted Osama bin Laden when they ruled Afghanistan and that they were cruel to women. But all evidence is that they are only interested in fundamentalist Islamist rule in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a mere assumption that they would “host” al Qaeda again. The so-called terrorists who threaten the United States can operate from anywhere. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and three other alleged conspirators now face charges for organizing the 9/11 attacks from Germany.
And as Afghan President Hamid Karzai made apparent in approving laws requiring wives to have sex with their husbands, misogyny in Afghanistan is hardly limited to the Taliban. Meanwhile, the war on Afghanistan, like all modern wars, kills and maims more civilians, women and children among them, than Taliban.
But this is not an apocalyptic fight for good against evil. That, as the BBC series makes clear, is a myth for ordinary people. It is about enhancing the role of politicians in society. It is about power.