FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Did 9/11 Really Change Everything?

The American people are told, again and again, that 9/11 “changed everything.” Is this really true?

The answer is both yes, and no.

Yes, because 9/11 prompted policies of regime change, preemptive strike, and humanitarian intervention, which, in turn, triggered the wars and military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya. At home, it provided justification for the institution of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, outsourcing of torture, restriction of personal/civil liberties and the ballooning of the Pentagon budget.

And no, because the militaristic policies and security measures that were thus put into effect in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks had been in the making for nearly a dozen years before the attacks took place.

There is overwhelming evidence that the US policies of preemptive strike and regime change started not with the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 but with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Beneficiaries of war dividends, that is, the military-industrial-security complex, were alarmed by the demise of the Soviet Union, by the end of the “communist threat” as the ready-made justifier of continued escalation of the Pentagon budget, and by the demands for “peace dividends.” “What we were afraid of was people who would say . . . ‘Let’s bring all of the troops home, and let’s abandon our position in Europe,’” acknowledged Paul D. Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense under President Bush Sr. “It’s hard to imagine just how uncertain the world looked after the end of the Cold War.”

Not surprisingly, in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, and in the face of widespread demands for “peace dividends,” the powerful interests vested in the military-security capital moved swiftly to fend off such demands by successfully inventing all kinds of “new threats to the national interests of the United States.” Instead of the Soviet Union, the “menace of rogue states, global terrorism, and militant Islam” would have to do as new enemies. Having thus effectively substituted “new sources of threat” for the “communist threat” of the Cold War era, powerful beneficiaries of military spending (working through the Pentagon and a number of militaristic think tanks like the Project for the New American Century, Center for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and National Institute for Public Policy) managed not only to maintain but, in fact, expand the Pentagon budget beyond the Cold War years.

The 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, global terrorism, and US military aggressions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the Muslim-Arab world can be better understood against this background: the systemic or internal dynamics of the military-industrial-security complex as an existentially-driven juggernaut to war and militarism that, in the aftermath of the Cold War era, needed all kinds of enemies and boogiemen in order to justify its continued usurpation of the lion’s share of the public finance, or the US treasury.

Major post-Cold War US military strategies such as regime change were formulated not after the 9/11 attacks, or under President Bush Jr., but under President Bush Sr., that is, soon after the demise of the Soviet Union. The early 1990s Pentagon architects of those strategies included the then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then Undersecretary of Defense, Zalmay Khalilzad, then a Wolfowitz aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, then principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Strategy and Colin L. Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most of what the Pentagon team crafted in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War was published as a government document under Cheney’s name as America’s “Defense Strategy for the 1990s”—the document also came to be known as Defense Planning Guidance.

Almost all of the Pentagon’s post-Cold War aggressive military strategies such as preemptive strike, expansion of NATO, regime change, nation building, or humanitarian intervention can be traced back to the notorious Defense Planning Guidance of the early 1990s. As James Mann (of the Center for Strategic & International Studies) put it, “What the Pentagon officials had succeeded in doing, within months of the Soviet collapse, was to lay out the intellectual blueprint for a new world dominated—then, now and in the future—by U.S. military power.”

Although President Clinton did not officially embrace Cheney’s Defense Planning Guidance, he did not disclaim it either. And while he slightly slowed down the growth in the pentagon budget, he too had his own share of military operations abroad—in Somalia, Iraq, Haiti, and various provinces of the former Yugoslavia. The Federation of American Scientists has recorded a list of US foreign military engagements in the 1990s which shows that in the first decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that is, under Presidents Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, the United States engaged in 134 such operations. Here is a sample: Operation Eagle Eye (Kosovo), Operation Determined Effort (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Operation Quick Lift (Croatia), Operation Nomad Vigil (Albania), Operation Desert Thunder (Iraq), Operation Seva Verde (Columbia), Operation Constant Vigil (Bolivia), Operation Fundamental Response (Venezuela), Operation Infinite Reach (Sudan/Afghanistan), Operation Safe Border (Peru/Ecuador), Operation United Shield (Somalia), Operation Safe Haven/Safe Passage (Cuba), Operation Sea Signal (Haiti), Operation Safe Harbor (Haiti), Operation Desert Storm (Southwest Asia), and many more.

With the accession of George W. Bush to the presidency, all the Pentagon contributors to the notorious 1992 Defense Planning Guidance also returned to positions of power in the government. Cheney of course became Vice President, Powell became Secretary of State, Wolfowitz moved into the number two position at the Pentagon, as Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, became the Vice President’s chief of staff and national security adviser.

Although George W. Bush’s administration thus arrived in the White House with plans of “regime change” in the Arab-Muslim world, it could not carry out those plans without a pretext. The 9/11 attacks (regardless of who planned and carried them out) provided the needed pretext. The evidence thus clearly shows that, contrary to the claims of many critics, including some distinguished figures like Noam Chomsky, 9/11 served more as an excuse, or boogieman, than a “trap” laid by Osama bin Laden in order to bleed and disgrace the United States by prompting it to wage war and military aggression against the Arab-Muslim world.

The administration wasted no time manipulating the public’s fear of further terrorist attacks to rally support for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. As the administration was preparing for the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, it also dusted off the Pentagon’s 1992 Defense Planning Guidance and promoted it as the “Bush Doctrine” for the new, post-9/11 world. The post-9/11 version of Defense Planning Guidance retains—indeed, strengthens—all the major elements of the 1992 version, although at times it uses slightly modified terminology.

That the U.S. military response to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and its response to the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 were basically the same should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the dynamics and profit imperatives of the business of war: continued increase of the Pentagon budget and continued expansion of the sales markets for the war industry. The pretexts or tactics for pursuing higher war dividends may change (from the “threat of communism” to the “threat of rogue states, or global terrorism, or militant Islam”) but the objective or strategy remains the same—permanent war and, consequently, continuous escalation of the Pentagon budget and higher profits for the interests vested in military/security capital.

Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

More articles by:

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail