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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 31, 2016
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Human Shields as Preemptive Legal Defense for Killing Civilians
Jim Kavanagh
Turkey Invades Syria, America Spins The Bottle
Dave Lindorff
Ukraine and the Dumbed-Down New York Times Columnist
Pepe Escobar
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, a Woman of Honor, Confronts Senate of Scoundrels
Jeff Mackler
Playing the Lesser Evil Game to the Hilt
Steve Horn
Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit
Patrick Cockburn
Has Turkey Overplayed Its Hand in Syria?
John Chuckman
Why Hillary is the Perfect Person to Secure Obama’s Legacy
Manuel E. Yepe
The New Cold War Between the US and China
Stephen Cooper
Ending California’s Machinery of Death
Stacy Keltner - Ashley McFarland
Women, Party Politics, and the Power of the Naked Body
Hiroyuki Hamada - Ikuko Isa
A Letter from Takae, Okinawa
Aidan O'Brien
How Did Syria and the Rest Do in the Olympics?
David Swanson
Arms Dealing Is Subject of Hollywood Comedy
Jesse Jackson
The Politics of Bigotry: Trump and the Black Voter
August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail