FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Before the Era of Insecurity

by SAUL LANDAU

[This essay is an excerpt from SAUL LANDAU’s new book, The Preemptive Empire, published by Pluto Press.]

After 9/11, as much of the world recoiled in shock, the US media began to televise a stupefying loop of images of the infamous day, interrupted by information-bytes provided by the US government. It offered the tritest of historical context for the events. In the newspaper editorials and TV and radio commentaries, the pundits tended to suggest courses for immediate action as if terrorism had no antecedents. The president should immediately avenge the dirty deeds!

Few commented about the causes of the attacks or the significance of the President and Vice President going into hiding at that dramatic moment. Instead, TV news directors endlessly repeated the sci-fi like pictures of the burning tower one and the plane flying into tower two. Then came images of the Pentagon aflame. Citizens stared, mesmerized by the sight of the impossible, and shook their heads in disbelief.

TV directed the public to divide the images into good and evil. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took charge as a hero at the site of the catastrophe as Bush began to emerge from his two-day trance.

For most of the country, the virtual had become the real. Yet, the mass media did nothing to channel the population toward dialogue, much less reflection on the events themselves. Instead, TV elicited sympathy for the dead, praise for the heroes and scorn for the villains. Viewers saw the avengers and the rescuers as the good guys and the swarthy males wearing kefiyas on their heads as the black hats. In this way our media (I include here White House and State Department press secretaries) would conduct the post-traumatic orchestra. Few commentators asked: what did these fiends want?

Some leftists talked conspiracy, including a role for the CIA and Israel’s Mossad. I sighed in despair. I thought of the people I knew inside the national security gates of the US and British governments, the opportunists who didn’t have the imagination to hatch such a diabolical plot but who after the events saw the inherent possibilities of expanding their own power and influence. Some of those scheming bureaucrats viewed 9/11 as the chance to adorn the most trivial of their departments’ issues with the sacred drapes of ‘national security,’ which they quickly hung over the windows of routine policies and procedures. They also took advantage of the vacuum of oversight during the traumatic post 9/11 days. Who would monitor them when the President directed all government energy to meet the crisis?

A silent and unseen panic seemed to vibrate through the public, a kind of national anxiety attack encouraged by official pronouncements of impending danger. As the media predictably embellished on all potentially bloody and explosive stories, the ambience for the heightened ‘security’ state reverberated as well through the Halls of Congress.

Without significant debate, the Members, more panicked than the public, passed the UNITING AND STRENGTHENING AMERICA BY PROVIDING APPROPRIATE TOOLS REQUIRED TO INTERCEPT AND OBSTRUCT TERRORISM ACT (25 October 2001), aka the USA PATRIOT ACT, enabling non-elected officials to assume increased bureaucratic control: tightening immigration procedures; legalizing intrusion into personal privacy, including probing of social organizations and their bank accounts; and invasion of telephone and computer messaging. Within months, bureaucracies had created their near-perfect world, one of permanent emergency in which the CIA, FBI and the newly created Homeland Security Department could escalate their anxiety-security game.

Yes, real terrorists destroyed buildings and thousands of people, but the very agencies that failed to prevent the 9/11 acts successfully covered their intelligence lapse by evoking fear. The mysterious and evil Al-Qaeda plotters, government officials repeated, would return. The citizenry now had to contain a fear of epic proportions to add to already mounting anxieties caused by economic recession, like job and healthcare security. Then came the anthrax scare, which also baffled the FBI.

In Washington, DC, as veteran observers have learned, nothing succeeds like failure. Incompetent agencies whose unwieldy size, top heavy hierarchy and inflated budgets now possessed even larger budgets and were managed by the same lethargic, but more powerful, insiders. And the money, as all Washington insiders know, must get spent before the end of the fiscal year.

Most important, since Congress and the Courts had agreed, the citizens could no longer claim certain inalienable rights. The media, which feeds anxiety to the public as its own means of reproducing itself, loved the emergency atmosphere: ‘You better watch TV or you might miss something vital in the daily hysteria about terrorism!’ Security had become incompatible with liberty.

The quotidian salvo of bloody and trivial stories makes concentration hard, the obvious obscure. Indeed, one can read daily newspapers from small towns to major metropolitan areas and watch and listen to the network and local news without ever hearing the obvious fact: a small group of fanatic Muslims successfully attacked the greatest Empire in the history of the world.

But Americans presume they live in a republic. The dictionary defines ‘republic’ as the antonym of ’empire.’ The imperial government availed itself of the confusion and offered a transcendent message to cover the fact that it no longer even wore republican clothes: revenge!

SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, will be published in September by Pluto Books. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail