The Imperial Mentality and 9/11

Editor’s note: On Tuesday, we linked to an excerpt of a Noam Chomsky essay from a forthcoming book. TomDispatch has a longer excerpt, which is linked to below.

This is, of course, the week before the tenth anniversary of the day that “changed everything.”  And enough was indeed changed that it’s easy to forget what that lost world was like.  Here’s a little reminder of that moment just before September 11, 2001:

The “usually disengaged” president, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd labeled him, had just returned from a prolonged, brush-cutting Crawford vacation to much criticism and a nation in trouble. (One Republican congressman complained that “it was hard for Mr. Bush to get his message out if the White House lectern had a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on it.”) Democrats were on the attack. Journalistic coverage seemed to grow ever bolder. Bush’s poll figures were dropping. A dozen prominent Republicans, fearful of a president out of touch with the national mood, gathered for a private dinner with Karl Rove to “offer an unvarnished critique of Mr. Bush’s style and strategy.” Next year’s congressional elections suddenly seemed up for grabs. The president’s aides were desperately scrambling to reposition him as a more “commanding” figure, while, according to the polls, a majority of Americans felt the country was headed in the wrong direction. At the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld had “cratered”; in the Middle East “violence was rising.”

That’s a taste of the lost world of September 6-10, 2001 — a moment when the news was dominated by nothing more catastrophic than shark attacks off the Florida and North Carolina coasts — in a passage from a piece (“Shark-Bit World”) I wrote back in 2005 when that world was already beyond recovery.  A few days later, we would enter a very American hell, one from which we’ve never emerged, with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leading the way.  Almost a decade later, Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his American legacy lives on fiercely in Washington policy when it comes to surveillance, secrecy, war, and the national security state (as well as economic meltdown at home).

This week, TomDispatch will attempt to assess that legacy, starting with this post by Noam Chomsky.  It’s a half-length excerpt from a new “preface” — actually a major reassessment of America’s war-on-terror decade — part of Seven Stories Press’s 10th anniversary reissue of his bestseller on 9/11.  Titled 9-11: Was There an Alternative?, its official publication date is this Thursday, and it includes the full version of the new essay, as well as the entire text of the older book.  It can be purchased as an e-book and is being put out simultaneously in numerous languages including French, Spanish, and Italian. Thanks to the editors at Seven Stories, TomDispatch is releasing this excerpt exclusively, but be sure to get yourself a copy of the book for the complete version.

6 thoughts on “The Imperial Mentality and 9/11”

  1. Mr. Engelhardt; roger that. I recall one of the hyped "fear" stories before 9/11 centered around hoof & mouth disease and the drastic actions being planned by FEMA. Now hoof & mouth has all but vanished as Uncle Sam promotes fretting over imagined caliphates.

  2. Ten years. Wow don't the time fly when your having fun. You know, 'fun' with that "global war of terror" crap-o-la. Ten years and the US is STILL in the Afghaniscam doing something that certainly, on it's surface, resembles cold blooded mass murder. Iraq is utterly destroyed and lives la vida loca. Pat Tillman, dead. By our very own US military. Whatever happened to the girlie what got saved by the spec/ops guys from that Iraqi hospital? Guantanamo still rockin' on. Well, and any number of "secret" CIA prisons. Torture and war crimes and the nation is bankrupt and our 'commander-in-clueless' seems worlds of out-of-his-depth. Hmmm, out of his freaking mind?
    Golly, what might the next ten years be like?

    1. What an excellent question: the Next Ten Years.

      I guess for some time to come, parents will still hear the doorbell and see the uniforms. That's a given, until it is too expensive – I mean not only won't there be a mailman, the parents will be getting a Tweet that Junior is dead. More efficient and cheaper.

      Baby boomers will be unable to hide the fact that they are well past retirement age, and into the shaky years. Without Social Security, they'll be looking for communes again. Some might actually enjoy the loss of pretense that everything is always going to be getting better.

      The New Class of kleptocapitalists and mindless materialists will be doing what they do best – spending other peoples' money on toys and pointless luxuries. Every so often, a plague will sweep through and not even spare them.

      More hurricanes, more mess. The Ogallala Aquifer will be polluted by tar sands oil headed from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, and China will crack down on us for losing the oil we owe them. We'll respond by sending them shiploads of polluted wheat from the same place. Eventually, they will have a big famine and try to make nice again.

      Israel and Iran will make a deal to rule the Mideast.

      1. Hi musings:Well said. Bravo and I mean that seriously mean that. Expand that notion and submit to Eric. Seriously. You are on to something here and I mean 'stream-of-conscientiousness' serious. Dang, why didn't I think of that…

  3. Majority of Americans demand others who were victims of US government violence to get over it and forget,but they are unwilling to get over or forget anything ,"We will never forget" is their cry.We are constantlly told to remember the Alamo.Peral Harbor.

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