My hunch is that once the jubilation over the killing of Osama bin Laden dissipates, everything will return to normal. The war on terrorism will continue indefinitely into the future. New official enemies will appear to take bin Laden’s place. The periodic terror alerts will remain. The president’s emergency powers that came into existence after 9/11 will stay. The infringements on civil liberties will continue growing.
More fundamentally, the U.S. Empire will remain in existence. The 700-1,000 military bases in foreign countries will continue to operate. The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue. The bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya will continue. The killing and abuse of foreigners will go on. The invasions, occupations, support of dictatorships, foreign aid, sanctions, embargoes, bombings, assassinations, torture, indefinite detentions, kangaroo tribunals, and regime-change operations will continue.
And the anger and rage among foreigners will continue to simmer and periodically boil over into terrorist retaliation, motivating the Empire to strike back and kill more foreigners.
It’s as close to perpetual war that a nation could ever come.
In September 2001 — after the 9/11 attacks — I wrote an article entitled “Is This the Wrong Time to Question Foreign Policy?” in which I asked “If U.S. foreign policy is giving rise to terrorism against the American people, what good is it going to do to smash current terrorists if they’re simply going to be replaced by new ones?”
In that ten-year-old article, I compared the federal government’s new “war on terrorism” to its decades-long war on drugs.
Periodically the government focuses people’s attention on some new drug lord or drug cartel. Amidst tremendous fanfare, the government either kills or captures the malefactor.
Immediately, there is tremendous jubilation among the people. “We’ve killed the evil drug lord! We’ve captured members of the drug cartel! It’s another record drug bust! This will put a real dent in drug trafficking!”
Soon, however, everything returns to normal. The drug war goes on. New drug gangs and drug lords enter the market, and the entire process starts all over again.
Recall the killing of Nazario Moreno Gonzales, the lead of the notorious Mexican La Familia drug cartel. Or the killing of the top leader of the Mexican Gulf drug cartel, Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen. Or the killing of Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of the Mexican Beltran Levya cartel. Have you seen any diminution of the drug war in Mexico? Of course not. The drug war in that country is being waged more fiercely than ever, with a mind-blowing death toll of some 35,000 people in just the last 5 years alone
Meanwhile, the drug war has been going on for some 40 years, with no end in sight despite the periodic drug busts and paroxysms of jubilation over the killing of drug lords.
The reason for the longevity? The drug war itself is what produces the drug gangs and drug lords. No matter how many busts they make and no matter how much people might celebrate the busts, it won’t make any difference. As long as drugs are illegal, there will be drug lords and drug gangs. The drug war keeps itself going by its own existence. The only way to get rid of the drug lords and drug gangs is to legalize drugs, which public officials are not yet ready to do.
It’s no different with the terrorist threat against the United States and the American people. As I stated in my article ten years ago, anti-American terrorism is rooted in the bad things the U.S. Empire has been doing and is doing to foreigners, especially in the Middle East. As long as the U.S. Empire is intervening in the Middle East with such things as invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, support of dictatorships, foreign aid, assassinations, bombing, torture, and humiliation, there is going to be anger and rage, some of which will inevitably result in terrorist retaliation.
Recall the killing of Saddam Hussein or the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis in President Bush’s and the U.S. military’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Consider the tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan who have been killed as part of the U.S. government’s invasion and occupation of that country. According to the U.S. government, most of the people it has killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been terrorists.
Or consider the recent wave of drone assassinations in Pakistan and Yemen. Supposedly, most of those assassinated people have been terrorists. And now U.S. drones are killing people in Libya, no doubt most of whom are considered terrorists.
Have any of those killings brought us closer to wrapping up and ending the war on terrorism after 10 years?
Nope. In fact, it’s the opposite. We’re told the same thing that people suffering under dictatorship in the Middle East are told by their rulers: that it’s more imperative than ever that the war on terrorism continue to be waged, that the “emergency” infringements on civil liberties, including the Patriot Act and the enemy-combatant powers, cannot be lifted, and that national security depends on even higher military spending.
As I wrote back in September 2001, to restore a peaceful, harmonious, prosperous, and free society to our land, it is necessary for Americans to confront the role of the U.S. government in the disharmony that afflicts our lives. Two places to start are U.S. foreign policy and the drug war.