September 17, 2001

It's being fought on American soil.

Headlines scream: this means war! The President, the Congress, the newspaper editorialists, and the laptop bombardiers all agree. But what kind of a war? The analogy, it seems clear, is not to just any war: what they have in mind is not Vietnam, Korea, or Kosovo, all conflicts that, in retrospect, take on an ambiguous air, at best. What they're about to launch is something along the lines of the last world war. Oh no, they seem to be saying, in unison – the government, both parties, the elites in the media and in every region of the country – this time we mean business….


The atrocity of September 11 is being likened to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and that is far from the only analogous evocation of the "good war" that has been celebrated and glamorized in books and films over the past year. As a continuous stream of propaganda blares, uninterrupted, from the media, citizens are urged to donate, volunteer, and join together in the spirit of "national unity": in other words, shut up, put up, and stand up – or face isolation, and worse. That is always the wartime message of any and all governments, from democracies to totalitarian regimes, and it underscores what Randolph Bourne, the great turn of the 20th century classical liberal, had to say about the nature of war: it is "the health of the State."


In wartime, all the problems of the regime – all centers of political, economic, and cultural resistance – are effectively repressed. The restraints that normally govern monetary policies disappear, as government intervenes to inflate and regulate production. The dust had not yet settled before Alan Greenspan had already assured the markets that the government's money-printing machine was fully prepared to go into overdrive. On the political front, all dissent was immediately quashed in an orgy of "national unity," and the martial spirit was immediately infused into everyday life. Blood drives; citizen vigilance; the reporting of news replaced by endless "human interest" stories (both inspiring and maudlin); and, here in New York, a policeman on every corner, cop cars patrolling what seems like every street, while on the subway a woman wears an American flag as a head kerchief, and Old Glory adorns the faces of buildings from the chichi Upper West Side to the humblest South Bronx tenement.


I have always taken an interest in the period leading up to World War II: when I was writing my first book, I had to steep myself in that era, and, for a while, it seemed I had managed to somehow transport myself back in time. Now, it seems, no such self-induced transport is necessary: we are all the prisoners of some mad scientist's invention, traveling back (albeit involuntarily) in time.


As before, the rage of the populace and the ire of the authorities are unleashed on dissenters and, especially, on racially-defined minorities. During World War II it was Japanese-Americans, today the victims are Arab-Americans. Here in New York, anyone who even looks Arabic walks the streets at his or her own risk. The other day, a friend of a friend, a very dark-skinned Italian guy, was stopped on the street by a policeman, who asked to see his identification and asked him what he was doing there.


The day after the WTC terror attack, I was standing outside the local Post Office, waiting for my mother to finish mailing a letter, when a woman pulled up in her yuppie-mobile and parked right in front of me. It was a young mother with her two young children in tow, a hard-faced lady with short blonde hair and a determined, rather grim air. I wondered if she had lost somebody on September 11: perhaps, I thought, that accounts for the hardness and the sadness in her eyes. She glanced up at me, suddenly alert, as if some telepathic signal had passed between us, and shot me a look of pure hatred. Hmmmm. I took a long drag on my cigarette and tried to look as friendly and nonthreatening as possible, all the while asking myself: What's up with that?


As she approached the door to the Post Office, Mrs. Suburban Housewife turned her face conspicuously away, but not before glancing at me with that same sharp look, exuding an air of unmistakable hostility so tangible that I half expected her to say something, perhaps something along the lines of "Go back to your own country!" I stood there, dumbstruck: had I done something wrong? When she came out, I was still standing there, and this time she looked at me openly, a questioning look spreading across the sharp – too sharp – features of her face, as if she suspected that I might have an explosive device secreted somewhere on my person. Oh, but of course, one of the first things Osama bin Laden is likely to target – right after the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, that is – is a tiny little post office in Westchester County, New York.


Okay, so maybe I imagined all that, and simply made up a story in my head: this, after all, is what writers tend to do. Maybe the b*tch just didn't like the look of me, standing there with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, leaning against the mailbox like some streetcorner lout. Readers of this column, which comes illustrated by a photo of the author in a characteristic pose, can see for themselves that I have a certain gangsterish look. But this same photo clearly shows that if anyone looks like an Arab – the dark skin, the high cheekbones, the dark hooded eyes – it is the author of this column. At any rate, there is more than anecdotal evidence to show that anti-Arab hysteria is rampant.


A mob attacks a mosque somewhere in Illinois: Pakistani cabdrivers are pulled out of their cabs in the streets of New York, and the news kiosks in the subways (mostly run by Arab-Americans) are closed. Across the country, reports of violence and mayhem directed at Arab-Americans pour in. Unlike Roosevelt, Bush is not about to herd "enemy aliens" and other suspected collaborators into concentration camps: he won't have to. During the course of the long war our rulers are promising us, and the elites are clamoring for, the Arab-American community will either go underground or else be forced to emigrate.


What is shaping up is a war against the Taliban, a war long called for by professional interventionists and feminists, who hold up the fierce Islamic theocracy of Afghanistan's rulers as the epitome of evil. The razing of the ancient Buddhist statues was the climax of a series of actions on the part of the Taliban that might almost have been designed to enrage Western elites. The last straw, of course, was when they smashed all the televisions in Afghanistan in a (televised) display of contempt for modernity, but the real trouble started with Western feminists, horrified by the regime's treatment of women. The feminists, you'll remember, also played a key role during the period leading up to the Kosovo war, by alleging that the Serbians had set up "rape camps" – stories that later turned out to be so exaggerated that they were essentially untrue. In justifying the coming invasion of Afghanistan to the American public, the do-gooders and social uplifters of all stripes will play their part, but let the feminists be remembered for their vanguard role.


I will leave it to those of you who follow this link to research how many times I predicted a US invasion of Afghanistan, and readers with long memories (over a few months, that is) will remember the last spate of talk that an "anti-terrorist" strike force must be launched to take Kabul. That they really intend to do it, at long last, after months and even years of preparing the public, is readily apparent. We are in for a protracted conflict – just how protracted the public, used to instant victories by remote control, has yet to realize.


Whether Americans are willing to pay the price remains to be seen. When they find out what the price is – perhaps as high as a few more terrorist incidents, on a scale equal to the WTC attack. The American public must be willing to turn the US, as well as the mountains of Afghanistan, into a battlefield in the pursuit of victory: this is what the elites are counting on to prosecute their war. Furthermore, this is the real meaning, albeit only implied, of the World War II analogy. Unlike all of the other wars we have fought in the post-cold war era, this is one that will take on truly global dimensions. And, unlike even World War II, where the territory of the continental US was never for a single moment in danger of attack, the first battle of World War III was fought on American shores.


A flurry of reports have hit the news wires that the US government received all sorts of warnings, including from the terrorists themselves, that the Enemy was about to strike. The Federal Aviation is said to have alerted the military that a commercial airliner was headed for the Pentagon 12 minutes before impact, yet no evacuation was ordered. A man held in a German deportation jail contacted American authorities to warn them that a terrorist attack on the US was imminent days before September 11, but was ignored. And now even the Mossad is getting into the act, with the Israelis claiming that they sent a team of operatives to Washington last month to convince the Americans to prepare for the worst. Osama bin Laden and the Iraqis were said to be behind the plot, although the Israelis were vague on details. Here, again, the World War II analogy jumps out at us, this time in a particularly eerie and ominous way….


The evidence that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and certain members of his inner circle had plenty of advance warning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has given rise to a whole genre of scholarship which, in my view, convincingly shows that FDR knew when and where the attack would take place. The President wanted that war, and he and his advisors worked assiduously to drag us into it, as Robert Stinnett and others have shown. Today, as the death toll mounts, and the war cries resound from coast to coast, you don't have to be a "conspiracy theorist" to believe that a certain suspicion of foreknowledge, in this case, seems to be implied.


Who knew what, and when did they know it? This is the question that must preoccupy any congressional or journalistic investigation of the matter. Did certain government officials know, or believe, that the attack was imminent, and, if so, where and why did their arguments fail to convince? Did the Mossad know more than it was telling? What are we paying out billions for "anti-terrorism" programs and the whole national security-intelligence apparatus, anyway? Do you mean to tell me that someone, somewhere, hadn't gleaned some small bit of information that pointed to the existence of an operation 5 years and more in the making? So many questions, that mostly haven't even been asked yet, and so few answers. Will we ever get an answer?


Yes, probably 50 years after the event, when some scholar somewhere unearths documents that give us some context in which to understand the events of September 11, 2001, much as Robert Stinnett unearthed a cache of documents through the Freedom of Information Act that prove FDR's culpability for Pearl Harbor. At any rate, such a scenario – necessarily speculative – is not all that inconceivable. In the meantime, however, all such questions are drowned out in the chorus of cries for "national unity" and the great big orgy of American "togetherness" that envelops us all like a wet blanket.


Among the many casualties of World War III will be the vigorous debate about the future of the nation that has dominated the politics of the decade past. The politics of the new millennium will worship unanimity, and the parameters of the politically permissible will be considerably narrowed. On the liberal- left, largely converted to interventionism by their hero and champion, Bill Clinton, dissent is almost completely absent: on the right, the isolationist tendency is completely silenced: even the Buchananites have come out and said, in answer to a flood of complaints from their own followers, that "now is not the time" to bring up the question of whether US foreign policy played a key role in the death of the thousands of people who perished in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As to when that time will come, the editorialist for Buchanan's group, the American Cause, does not say.


I can't say I'm surprised. Why, even the Cato Institute, which opposed the Gulf war, has fallen into line, with a statement from Cato foreign policy maven Ted Galen Carpenter solemnly endorsing a US strike at – well, at wherever. Word has it that the Libertarian Party is being torn apart by an internal debate over what position to take on The War – and I have the sinking feeling that, after all these years, the party is about to be stampeded into supporting the biggest US military mobilization since the invasion of Nazi-held Europe during World War II. A war which, as secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld put it, would "end states" that "harbor" or in any way encourage groups the US governments has classified as terrorist. But if you put an end to certain states, then what do you put in their place?


This is the ultimate goal of the "allied powers" – to impose the equivalent of the so-called MacArthur regency on the most troublesome areas of the Middle East, not only Afghanistan but also Iraq. A long-standing dream of the US oil companies – the seizure of the Iraqi oil fields, and the military occupation of the richest oil-producing region in the world – will have been accomplished. Not only that, but the door to the oil-rich Caspian Sea area, where Iran and Russia are contending with the West, will be opened – and the troops are sure to pour through this breach, and perform the same service for certain Western corporate interests. This is what we call in the United States "constituent services" – for which our legislators and other leaders, including opinion leaders, are always amply rewarded.


Yes, it's just like old times again. Soon we'll be buying "Victory Bonds." Ever since the New York Stock Exchange was closed down the Internet chat rooms devoted to stock-watching have been full of people solemnly declaring that anyone who sells on Monday is less than patriotic. We'll see if they're buying that on Wall Street – we'll find out probably just as most of you are reading this – and as a good libertarian I have to say, in this limited sense, "let the market decide." But the market's fluctuations over a single day are no real indicator of a long-term trend: in the long run, I believe, the backlash is bound to occur, perhaps in tandem with a general economic crisis – and with a force equal to that of the initial war hysteria. That, at least, is one possible future that awaits us. But until then, we're stuck in the past, just like I'm stuck here in New York until I can get a plane out, reliving the darkest days of World War II.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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