FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

9/11 and the National Security Scam

by SHELDON RICHMAN

National security is a scam — an $8 trillion scam.

That’s the amount spent since September 11, 2001, on the military, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, and “homeland security,” according to Christopher Hellman of the National Priorities Project. If “veterans benefits, future costs for treating the war-wounded, and interest payments on war-related borrowing” are added, Hellman writes, the cost is much higher: $11 trillion, by the estimate of Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Hellman says by his reckoning, the full cost of “security” is $1.2 trillion a year.

And yet officials say Americans must not let down their guard. The mildest calls for cuts in the rate of growth in military spending are met with panic by “defense” officials.

Considering that all that spending was triggered by a ragtag group of airplane hijackers armed with box cutters on 9/11, something just doesn’t add up. (Locks on flight-deck doors and armed pilots would have averted the attacks.) As Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote in The Rights of Man about the British empire, “In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.”

In America’s case, however, it is debt, not explicit taxes, that was raised. On September 30, 2000, the national debt was $5.67 trillion. Today it is $14.7 trillion, a 160 percent increase. But debt could well represent future taxes or inflation, an implicit tax on cash balances — if the government thinks it can get away with it.

It is said that 9/11 changed everything, but in fact it changed nothing whatsoever. Opportunistic politicians simply used the attacks to do much more of what they had already been doing and were hoping to continue in greater measure. Admittedly they were good at that. The attacks gave them a unique chance to frighten Americans into acceding to whatever the ruling elite wanted. As a result, those trillions were spent with little real oversight — the overseers were part of the conspiracy against the taxpayers. Reports say that $60 billion in contract money for Iraq and Afghanistan has been diverted to unknown recipients. The Pentagon routinely loses track of billions of dollars.

The military-industrial complex has never been larger or more pervasive. Thousands of companies exist to sell expensive things to the government. Fortunes have been made. The post–9/11 period has been a feeding frenzy at the taxpayers’ trough — grand larceny of historic proportions.

The attitude was well illustrated by Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Progressive Democrat who worries that military spending might be cut because of concern about the budget deficit. Does he worry because he fears that security will diminish? No, he explained, he worries because he has military bases in his congressional district.

And people wonder why the economy is in a rut.

Of course, that is only part of the story. Monetary costs aside, the security fetish has cost Americans their privacy, turned the presidency into a virtual autocracy, and further blackened America’s reputation abroad with civilian-killing drone attacks and house raids in the night. The image of the United States has been firmly set as The Invader and The Torturer.

But isn’t all that, however regrettable, necessary because there are people out there who want to kill us? That’s what the national-security elite would like you to think. We’re told “they” attacked us because they hate our freedoms. If true, they must surely hate us a lot less now, thanks to the USA PATRIOT Act. Some say there is an intrinsic conflict between Islam and the West.

That’s all self-serving nonsense. The 9/11 attacks were intended as retribution for decades of U.S. policy that has inflicted death and misery on Arabs through support for oppressive Middle East regimes and direct military and CIA operations. The attackers committed mass murder, to be sure, but Americans won’t be safe if they don’t comprehend the danger. U.S. foreign intervention provoked the attackers, and the U.S. response played into their hands by creating more people who seek vengeance and by bleeding Americans financially.

Wherever Osama bin Laden is now, I suspect he’s laughing.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) and editor of The Freeman magazine.

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail