The first piece of this four-part series offered both a call for collective responsibility and a selective summary of doubts and criticisms of the ‘standard’ responses to 9/11. Today’s material begins, regarding the horrors of ten years ago, the analysis that is consistently missing from most accounts of the event.
While this humble correspondent is fully capable of accomplishing such a project in an exhaustively thorough fashion, present-day ‘attention-deficit’ readers howl at such a prospect. “Just stick with the basics, keep it simple, and give us ‘the executive summary.'” Therefore, what follows remains in every sense a brief, a precis, an overview.
Nevertheless, because the delving here will never fit in a Facebook quip, or prove congruent with Twitter protocols, many readers–the vast majority, in fact–will still cavil that what follows wallows in too much detail and expects folks to partake of too much complexity. As my mother was fond of saying, “More’s the pity:” such readers deserve the crushing cretins whom their willful ignorance and cavalier inattention bring forth.
Paradoxically, and hilariously really, some of the same critics who moan about the difficulty of engaging this topic in anything other than an utterly superficial way, will look at bits and pieces of what unfolds below and they will shout righteously, “This is way too simplistic! The reality is a lot more complex.”
To this sort of critique, one can only reply, “Well, duh.” The present process seeks to walk the line between complete over-simplification and paralyzing analytical detail. It will thus suffer the conundrums of trying to dig through too much, too quickly.
Other commentators might grumble, “There’s not much about the Palestinians or the Saudis or Afghanistan here; you just can’t leave those things out!” This humble correspondent begs to differ. He asks that would-be pupils like him, who insist on a thorough capacity to apprehend our world, read on and see for themselves if the explanatory nexus provided below seems reasonable.
To those happy readers who welcome the challenge that always attends grappling with reality–whether they find my thinking totally off-base, mainly wrong-headed, often insightful, or generally correct–the next step ought to be easy. Let us continue talking about these matters, with the notion uppermost that citizen participation can only emanate from the learning curve that accompanies dialog.
So saying, the first of three analytical sections appears below. Today’s element deals with the broader historical context and immediate aftermath of what this humble correspondent argues was, sixty-six years ago, the onset of the modern period of time. It consists of two sub-sections, one looking backward and the other forward, from 1945.
BODY #1–The Genesis and Early Functioning of America’s Plutocratic Predominance
The ides of September, 1945, in some real sense centered on the deck of the Battleship Missouri, marking there both a culmination and an outset. The Japanese surrender, a version of which the country’s leadership had proffered through the Soviet Union earlier in the Summer, had not precluded the U.S. decision, five weeks earlier, to vaporize plus or minus 200,000 civilians–with many more tens of thousands long-term casualties–at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, excluding the Soviets from the peace process, learning operationally how a new weapon performed, and demonstrating far and wide precisely the extent of American potency and ruthlessness were apparently adequate counterweights to the murder of several hundred thousand civilians.
Through a Glass Darkly
This event acts as a window on several previous periods of history. Through its panes, the observer sees a clear ‘chain-of-title’ that connects this single greatest-act-of-homicide-ever with the origination of one version of the United States. This is true even though such a development was, at the start, a future, domineering in design and imperious in attitude, about which George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and many others had warned.
“Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with government,” Jefferson wrote to a diplomat in Spain in 1790. Perhaps naive, clearly not spoken in the context of a modern-day peacenik, this thinking nevertheless repeatedly typified the nation’s second President. That this vision now appears nonsensical does not negate the actuality that a program based on peace and mutuality was once the stated goal of leading Americans, who in these thoughts reflected common people.
Through the contradictions inherent in these thinkers’ ideation, and to fulfill the needs of a slaveocracy and merchant elite that equated trade with territorial expansion and military capacity, not to mention that the entire national prospectus depended on a continental-sized theft, the USA embarked on a different course from that highlighted in the ideas of high-minded ‘founding fathers. The War With Mexico and the extermination of indigenous Americans allowed the nascent ‘manifest destiny’ of the U.S. to flex muscles as yet unable to rule the globe.
Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience was merely one piece of a significant anti-war and anti-slavery dissent that confronted the move to dominate North America. This is a tension from which today’s polarization around issues of war and peace is a lineal descendant.
In turn, the Civil War gave the first opportunity to join total war with industry and finance and government, as the North spilled theretofore unparalleled buckets of blood to quash secession and change the platform upon which White supremacy operated, from slavery to Jim-Crow-apartheid. This iron-triangle–business, money, and the State–has reemerged again and again following the War Between the States, to become the underlying SOP of the U.S. economy and polity for the past seventy years or so.
This dynamic industrial capacity, seeking outlets around the world, countered a depressed economy in the 1890’s by ‘liberating’ Cuba and the Philippines and more, only to inaugurate tyrannical butchery with an American flavor that rivaled or surpassed Spain’s repression. All of this transpired in the name of ‘opening doors’ to trade and helping benighted populations develop.
World War One, after the next period of fiscal panic, served as the fulcrum point for the supremacy of American industry and finance, as the European bloodletting, financed and supplied by the USA, left the continent in a shambles of upheaval and revolution. The invasion of the Soviet Union in its infancy was a part of this process too, a “secret war against Bolshevism” precisely aligned with our present day ‘war on terror.’ Though Wilson booted any potential for U.S. world leadership, as J.M. Keynes documents in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, and the League of Nations did not fit with an ever arrogant and exceptionalist ruling-class political culture here, the war and many American leaders then did foresee the coming ‘American Century’ and more.
This is an excellent point in the flow of this series to make an important analytical point. This essay has not presented much at all about the so-called ‘Mid-East.’ Surely the early U.S. interest in the “shores of Tripoli;” the consistent identification with the way that England’s empire filled the ‘void’ caused by the complete collapse of Ottoman rule, particularly in Iraq, but also in Egypt and elsewhere; the way that the ‘House of Bush’ and the ‘House of Saud’ have relational roots over eighty years old; and multiple other events and developments in and around the Eastern Mediterranean are of crucial consequence in explaining 9/11.
Well, of course that is true. However, the nearly exclusive emphasis on such aspects of anglo-American and capitalist colonialism, ‘neo-colonialism,’ and so forth is a dangerous mistake, or worse. The most thorough telling of these tales will never account for the phenomenon of imperialism as a whole; nor or they essential to an accounting of that complex reality of empire.
Instead, they are in the nature of a fetish. Since those who would look only at these matters–too much ‘favoritism’ for Israel, too much ‘greed’ about oil, not enough ‘balance’ in relation to Palestine and democratic nationalism, and on and on and on–cannot, or do not desire to, explicate a robust account of U.S. imperialism, they substitute what seems a tasty treat in place of the intellectually nutritious diet that is actually essential to conceptual health and fitness about an event like 9/11.
For a robust understanding, one needs a broader view, a more honestly political-economic and world-historical assessment. A two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who rose to become the general who headed the United States Marine Corps for nearly a decade, offers citizens grist for folks who desire a deeper and broader concept.
Smedley Butler left the Marine Corps as the Great Depression unfolded. The narrative that defined his life ensued. And War Is a Racket shows the sort of depth and breadth that analysts desperately need, though Butler’s story remains one of the little-known keys to American history.
In the book, he spoke what had become his watchwords: “I Was a Gangster for Capitalism.” Not coincidentally, he spent the last years of his life promoting a wide-ranging and thorough comprehension of capitalist empire, as he watched and spoke about the coming conflagration of 1939-1945.
In this vein, World War Two consolidated the ‘wasted opportunities’ for totalitarian plutocracy that had evaporated at Versailles. The ‘Science State,’ in which megadeath and technical knowhow wed, came to a triumphant and ecocidal fruition in the Manhattan Project, which has served as a model ever since for what Dwight Eisenhower warned could easily become a dictatorial “military industrial complex.”
Giving Birth to the Current Context
In addition to its function as a way of revealing the past, the end of WWII also operated as a midwife which assisted in the birth of the modern age, which America’s rulers saw as the beginning of their own ‘thousand year Reich.’ Eric Barnouw, whose Tube of Plenty examines the origins of television in part as an exercise in empire, is one of dozens of thinkers who review and explicate the connection between WWII’s completion and the rise of a USA ‘superpower’ bent on world domination.
As in the previous section, this humble correspondent is not focusing on Southwest Asia and Northern Africa. The formation of the State of Israel, in which the U.S. played critical parts, the Suez-war, the invasion of Lebanon, and the ‘strategic partnership’ with Israel all contain important information about U.S. empire.
But they are no more the a satisfactory causal and investigative background for comprehending 9/11 than seeing a tumorous mass is a usefully comprehensive way to understand cancer. The remainder of this section and this series seeks to proffer that adequate analytical background for understanding 9/11 as a natural expression of a ‘racket,’ run by the USA, in which occasional ‘gangland wars’ exact tragic tolls on the majority of citizens, whose lives in a sense depend on their manifesting a fuller knowledge of their world and its causes.
To begin, therefore, the centrality of secrecy in an erstwhile ‘open’ society over and over again showed up as a clear component of this hegemonic America. In the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the execution of the Rosenbergs for the crime of assisting the inevitable rise of the Soviets as a nuclear force, for example, the arrogation of knowledge to those with ‘clearance‘ became de rigeur.
The suppression of protest and any ideological deviation from the falsely-labeled ‘free market,’ especially if such dissent or divergence honestly supported social democracy, appeared repeatedly as well. From the vicious depredations of the House Un-American Activities Committee to the crimes of impunity committed by the FBI in its Cointelpro operations to the totalitarian machinations of the ‘Patriot’ Act, an overarching, invasive attack against dissent has transpired in which subterfuge, subversion, and sabotage have been hallmarks of ‘the American way’ of government.
The deployment of innumerable agencies of murder in the guise of ‘foreign aid,’ ‘free information,’ and sophisticated ‘dirty tricks,’ hidden behind various covers, also characterized this period of time. While any honest study must admit to this American inclination, what William Appleman Williams called The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, the overall ignorance about this palpable proclivity continues to astound those with even a sliver of knowledge.
Guatemala was one of the first to fall to American hit-men and thuggery. ‘Sanitized’ versions of original ‘intelligence’ plans are now accessible. That such blithe employment of homicidal conspiracy to advance the interests of business, for example United Fruit, led to tens or hundreds of thousands of later killings, seldom becomes a part of the ongoing discussion.
Practically simultaneous with the skullduggery on the Central American isthmus, British Petroleum and the CIA joined hands to install a psychotic killer in Tehran, in place of an elected President who believed Iran’s border with Russia made economic ties useful and necessary. Of course, any critique of contemporary Iran makes zero sense without the contextualization of this point. Equally obvious should be the connection between condemnations of ‘terrorism’ so steeped in hypocrisy that they would be laughable if attempted by a child.
Among the dozens of additional instances of such murderous, yet hidden, imperial trickery, none caused more carnage or involved greater complications than did the quagmire of death that the United States plowed into in Southeast Asia. The Pentagon Papers, as voluminous in its day as Wikileaks is now, is merely the tip of a large iceberg that demonstrates the imperial purpose of U.S. mayhem(v) inflicted on the Vietnamese.
In what might well have been the piece de resistance of cloak-and-dagger politics, had Fidel Castro been more like Salvador Allende, whom this series will discuss on the morrow, the U.S.’s ongoing attempts to unseat socialism in Cuba might have been another ‘masterful’ lesson in the art of mass homicide, instead of representing a prime failing of U.S. policy. In passing, the fanatical obsession with ridding the world of one of its heroes has also suggested the threat-level that American business perceives in any attempt to brook its gaming of the Earth.
The tiny slice presented here of the evil and terror that have typified U.S. foreign policy makes a point about a period of time. After WWII, the U.S. conducted such operations with an aplomb that befitted a nation with no rival that could even begin to demonstrate the same resources and reach.
A comprehensive examination of like cases would provide a litany of death and destruction that would make the consequences of a pair of jets’ flying into a couple of skyscrapers seem like a drop of blood in a lake of gore. This is a harsh assessment. However, it is a conclusion well-supported by a truthful accounting of what began with the end of the last worldwide bloodbath, from which the United States of America emerged as global kingpin.
Thus, MacArthur’s triumph aboard the Missouri offers a way of looking backward to the origins of the military industrial complex, the national security state, and the Uranium economy, among other things. These roots flourished in the soil of the British empire and matured in the identification of capital with “open-door” trade policies and a complete accession to the development of the maximum industrial-war-making capacity imaginable.
As well, the treaty provides a way of tracing the development of the terroristic subterfuge that came to mark U.S. policy for the next several decades. The formation of the CIA, the overthrow of multiple legitimate governments, the promotion of war and terror as part of the enterprise of freedom, these and other ‘dirty tricks’ flow ineluctably from the ink on the peace treaty with Japan.
For two decades or so, U.S. leaders seemed almost as “untouchable” as the lawmen in the T.V. show, whose ‘whatever-it-takes’ methodology for derailing bad guys also rationalized the anti-communist, pro-imperialist, faux-free-market, profiteering ventures of U.S. rulers. As the 1960’s yielded the ’70’s, however, and defeats such as in Vietnam, assassinations and upheaval exploded in the streets, troubling signs of economic stagnation affected most economic enterprise, and challenges to U.S. supremacy seemingly emerged from every direction, a transition became irresistible.