Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

December 22, 1999


The arrest of an Algerian national, Ahmed Ressam, with nitroglycerine, timers, and other bomb-making goodies stashed in his car has brought Millennium Madness to a fever pitch of morbid anticipation. U.S. government officials are a veritable flock of Chicken Littles, warning of so many possible disasters that one can hardly keep up with them. The many faces of millennial doom loom closer every day, leering and gibbering as the New Year approaches like so many Halloween goblins. Aside from the supposedly dire consequences of Y2K – which I'm convinced will be strictly limited to my own PC – officials in every department of government are clamoring to draw attention to their own particular disaster scenarios, in a kind of doomsday bidding war. It is as if the head of practically every agency in the federal government is rehearsing for when he is called on the carpet in the wake of the impending disaster: "Don't say we didn't warn you." While the FBI is warning of the possibility of violence from amorphous "right-wing extremist" groups, other agencies raise the alarm over "computer hacker" attacks launched by nose-ring wearing black-clad cyber-terrorists. Even the Federal Reserve is mutely signaling that interest rates will be cautiously frozen until after the new year.


This government-generated hysteria has been put to good use by its trumpeters, in a general clampdown on every area where there might be "suspicious" activity. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger advised Americans to "exercise caution" and not so subtly suggested they should perhaps even cut back on their travel plans during the holiday season. The U.S. Customs Service is putting hundreds of new agents in the field, and "we are applying additional resources to do additional contacts with the public coming through," a Customs official said. "It would mean more questioning, looking for perhaps questionable or suspicious activity, engaging in more conversation. That's basically how Customs inspectors work."


So, please, if you have the temerity to disregard Doomsday Berger, and insist on visiting your family during the holidays anyway, don't do anything "questionable" or "suspicious" – you know, like engaging anyone in "more conversation." Just button your lip, submit to a body cavity search, and be on your way – or else.


Ressam is said to have links to a criminal syndicate that specializes in thievery, which in turn is connected to an Algerian terrorist group, the Armed Islamic Group. This particular group seems to specialize in terrorist attacks on civilians, carried out not only against European expatriates in Algeria, but also wiping out whole villages filled with natives. As I write this, a report is just in detailing the latest atrocity: six members of the same family had their throats slit Sunday in a small, isolated village about 160 miles west of Algiers. Over 100,000 have lost their lives since the Islamic insurgency was sparked, in 1992, by the nullification of the election results giving the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front a clear majority. In alliance with members of the Algerian Communist Party(!), the regime routinely brutalizes and jails its mostly fundamentalist Islamic opponents, even the relatively secular liberals, with the tacit cooperation of the U.S. and its European allies.


Aside from tightening "security measures" inside the U.S. and at the border, there has been a general roundup of Islamic militants abroad, from Jordan to Pakistan: 13 were arrested in Jordan by local authorities – 11 Jordanians, one Iraqi, and one Algerian, and in Pakistan hundreds were arrested. Contradicting earlier reports – which cited government officials – Washington is now playing down the terrorist angle. While officials contend that the U.S. has no evidence of any particular terrorist plot or target, state department spokesman James Foley says out of the other side of his mouth that "we've indicated that we have information that terrorists are undertaking planning for attacks during the New Year period. It is obviously particularly important now for there to be maximum vigilance." So what's up with all the wildly contradictory statements – do they or don't they have credible evidence of a plot to blow us all to kingdom come?


Government officials are probably telling the truth about the lack of evidence for any particular plot, but they are right to batten down the hatches and sound the alarm anyway – because we are living in a state of perpetual siege. As the arbiter and enforcer of the post-cold war order, the main financial and military prop of repressive regimes throughout the world, we have become the targets of every aggrieved faction on earth. As we intervene, on a global scale, in the civilizational conflicts of non-Western nations – which we can neither understand nor ameliorate – we are reaping a whirlwind of hatred. The current terrorist scare more than confirms Samuel P. Huntington's thesis "that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world." Given Huntington's insight, it is no surprise that we are "celebrating" the holiday season cowering in our homes, afraid to get on a plane or even to venture out on New Year's Eve.


They all hate us, and are out to get us: in the age of the American Empire, this is not paranoia but a statement of simple fact. In this context, the terrorist scare is not all that overblown: the U.S. government is taking reasonable precautions – reasonable, that is, in the era of "globalization" in which all the treasures and troubles of the world are deposited on our shores.


In a universalist crusade to make the world safe for MTV, gay marriage, and the profit margins of multinational corporations, we have unleashed forces that we cannot comprehend – or placate. As the consequences of our actions boomerang and endanger the imperial megalopolis itself, the truth is beginning to sink into the American consciousness: in proclaiming the internationalist credo, John F. Kennedy averred that America must "pay any price, bear any burden" to carry out its foreordained leadership role. Well, we are paying it. We are the captives of our own overweening dominance, an irony anticipated some fifty years ago by Garet Garrett, the Old Right pamphleteer and prophet, in words that haunt me as I listen to the rising panic on the evening news.


In his classic Rise of Empire, Garrett describes the signs that a republic has become an empire: the rise of the executive principle of government, the subordination of domestic policy to international allegiances, the rise of militarism, a system of satellite nations, and "an emotional complex of vaunting and fear." The final symptom, however, is near fatal, for

"when it is clearly defined it may be already too late to do anything about it. That is to say, a time comes when Empire finds itself a prisoner of history. The history of a Republic is its own history. The past does not contain the future, like a seed. A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is world history and belongs to many people. A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power."


Is it really too late to stanch the rising sense of panic that seems to be the leitmotif of the new year and the new era? Are we stuck forever with the draconian "anti-terrorist" measures that violate our liberty and what is left of our dignity? Must we live in eternal expectation that some inexplicably evil disaster, such as the World Trade Center bombing, could wipe us out in the next moment?


It isn't easy being a citizen of the American Empire, these days: the burden may be heavier than Americans are prepared to carry. We seem to have lost much more than we gained – even our history, which we must share with such formerly distant peoples as Algerian Islamists, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanian Kosovars, who now play a central role in our destiny.


Speaking of Bosnians, is anyone surprised that Ahmed Ressam's alleged accomplice, a character by the name of Karim Said Atmani, had been previously expelled from Canada – and sent packing on a plane to Bosnia? The Bosnian connection is not hard to fathom: it has long been known that Islamic militants associated with Osama bin Laden have been given a safe harbor in Bosnia, where they operated with relative impunity until the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Africa.


What is really odd is the disparity between what Canadian authorities are telling us and what the French are saying about the mysterious Atmani. Now the subject of a far-ranging manhunt, Atmani, it seems, had been responsible for several terrorist bombings, including one that took place in a Paris subway in 1996. The Canadians declared that they had extradited him to France – but the French claimed that, au contraire, the Canadians had done nothing of the kind, but instead previously expelled him to Bosnia. And besides, they averred, in their view Atmani had no known connection to the Paris bombing. We can only speculate as to what is being covered up here – but does anyone really believe this Keystone Cops routine?


The American and Canadian authorities also denied, at least initially, that they knew whether Ressam or Atmani had any known connection to terrorist organizations. Yet both seemed well known to French intelligence as members of what one official called "gangster-terrorist organizations." U.S. officials are hot for evidence that the shadowy Ressam-Atmani conspiracy is linked to Osama bin Laden, their all-purpose villain. But the French description sounds like nothing so much as the drug-dealing and distinctly gangsterish thugs who call themselves the Kosovo Liberation Army. These charmers run the European heroin trade and are now displacing the fast-declining Mafia as the big power in southern Italy. The same Mujahedeen who served the CIA in Afghanistan were recruited from all over the Middle East to "liberate" Kosovo. The news that they have turned these "liberated" countries into base camps and safe havens for terrorists whose target is America would be ironic but hardly surprising; when you're a snake-charmer, the risk of being bitten comes with the job.


We are indeed the prisoners of history, just as Garrett foresaw, lording it over the entire globe when we cannot even ensure the safety of Americans, in America, from a sudden terrorist strike. As we cower behind triple-bolted steel-reinforced doors in our Y2K-proof bunkers, shaking in fear of retribution by any one of a number of crazed assailants, our deliverers and saviors appear in the form of government officials who smugly assure us: "Only we can protect you." Perhaps they are right, but what I want to know is – who will protect us from them?


The terrorization of American life will continue and even accelerate as we ring in the new millennium for one very good reason: it benefits the centralizers, the interventionists, the war propagandists, and the global crusaders in government and the media. A constant state of crisis means that we must trust our rulers, whose ostensible job is to protect us from foreign invaders: in this context, we place our lives literally in their hands. Why does this make me nervous?


Surveillance and repression of legitimate and peaceful political dissent is a time-honored American wartime tradition, and the "war on terrorism" is the latest cover for a general crackdown on "rightwing extremists" who supposedly threaten the peace of the nation by their very existence. The main effect of "anti-terrorist" legislation, passed by Congress in a bipartisan chorus of self-congratulation, has not been to combat foreign terrorists, but to raise the heavy hand of government repression against homegrown American dissidents. Such are the domestic uses of a globalist foreign policy.


Speaking of which: the "wag the dog" scenario, so overused by Clinton that it has become a grisly popular joke, could not be executed by the chief executive of a Republic. He could not, on his own authority, call out the troops: the Founders, in their wisdom, reserved this right to Congress. But an Emperor can rain death on foreigners at will, either for his own amusement, like Nero and Caligula, or as a diversion away from the scandals and excesses of the Imperial Court, as in the case of His Imperial Majesty, Clinton I.


And the beat goes on – U.S. policymakers openly plot another assault on Iraq, while continuing to starve its people. The Pakistani general whose name George Bush could not recall is busy rounding up hundreds of his opponents and loudly threatening to execute the democratically-elected President he overthrew – the latter with our tacit approval, and the former in response to our covert command. In Turkey, the Islamic Virtue Party is banned by the government, and a radically anti-religious regime is unstintingly supported by the U.S. and its allies – who are ready to proclaim that the forcible secularization of the Turks has proceeded to the point where they are no different from your typical godless European. Such politically correct secularism has been properly rewarded with a much-coveted membership shot at in the European Union. In Algeria, the leaders of the parliamentary-minded National Salvation Front remain in prison, in spite of an official U.S.-backed government program to "re-integrate" their followers back into "civil society" (at least until they win the next elections). In Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the region, the pattern is repeated – repression, rebellion, and retribution – while ordinary Americans look up from their television screens just long enough to wonder: why do they hate us?


Speaking of "wag the dog" – the announcement that Juanita Broaddrick, who claims she was raped by the President of the United States, is launching a Paula Jones-style civil suit against Clinton should have half the world trembling. The last time this happened, the poor Iraqis and Serbs felt the full brunt of the Clintonian Caligula's wrath: recent history teaches us that a little state terrorism is more than enough to knock a sex scandal off the front pages and relegate the President's shame to the status of a footnote. And so the story changes from being "all about sex" to being "all about death" – except that, in Clinton's case, one gets the eerie feeling that it is the same story. During the reign of this liar and sexual predator, America launched more military interventions than under the four previous presidents combined. Having legitimized and rationalized rape as a prerogative of political power, at least in his own mind, it wasn't long before he would try to legitimize it as a foreign policy. During the first few days of the Kosovo war, we posted the following slogan on the front page of "CLINTON DOES TO KOSOVO WHAT HE DID TO JUANITA BROADDRICK." We stand by our story, and proffer this advice to Iraqis, Serbs, and citizens of other "rogue" states – take cover.

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