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 the forthcoming 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

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail