Daydream Believers: James Risen’s Pay Any Price

Originally posted at TomDispatch.

The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher.  In the process, an array of warrior corporations were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”

So our four trillion dollar-plus investment gave rise to a crew of war profiteers that Risen dubs “the oligarchs of 9/11” and who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  And how has it gone for the rest of us?  If you remember, the goal of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (or, in one of the worst acronyms of the new century, GWOT) was initially to wipe out terror outfits across the planet. At the time, enemy number one, al-Qaeda, was the most modest of organizations with thousands of followers in Afghanistan and scattered groups of supporters elsewhere.  Thirteen years and all those dollars later, Islamic jihadist outfits that qualify as al-Qaeda branches, wannabes, look-alikes, or offshoots have run rampant. Undoubtedly, far more foreign jihadis – an estimated 15,000 – have traveled to Syria alone to fight for the Islamic State and its new “caliphate” than existed globally in 2001.

Some recent figures from the Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace give us a basis for thinking about what’s happened in these years.  In 2013 alone, deaths related to “terrorism” – that is, civil/sectarian conflict in areas significantly destabilized directly or indirectly by U.S. military action (mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria) – rose by a soaring 61%.  The number of countries that saw more than 50 such fatalities (the U.S. not among them) expanded from 15 to 24 in the same period.  So raise your glass to GWOT.  If nothing else, it’s managed to ensure its own profitable, privatized future for years to come.

But here’s a question: After 13 years of the war on terror, with terror running rampant, isn’t a name change in order?  A simple transformation of a single preposition would bring that name into greater sync with reality: the war for terror.

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Copyright 2014 Tom Engelhardt

15 thoughts on “Daydream Believers: James Risen’s Pay Any Price

  1. Boy could I use my share of that $4 Trillion right now. My wife and I are barely surviving. Thanks to ObamaCare, as well as the wars, my medical care is severely restricted. The prices of the medications I pay for out of pocket are going through the roof. Work has dried up. I own two pair of pants and two shirts. At least I am no longer homeless, but I may be again. Was it worth it BushBoma?

  2. I just read the amazing interview of James Risen by Glen Greenwald, two men I so deeply respect. I am currently reading Risen's book. The interview discusses all that has transpired since 9/11 and 9/11 is brought up in that context several times. However, there are two very different prisms through which to evaluate all that has transpired since 9/11. The first prism is the basic assumption that the story as outlined in the 9/11 Commission Report is essentially the truth. The conversation between Risen and Greenwald does not challenge this view. The other prism one can view all that has transpired since is that the story as outlined in the 9/11 Commission Report is false, and there is a mountain range of evidence to support that conclusion as laid out in the nine books on 9/11 by David Ray Griffin and many others, as well as the 2300 Architects and Engineers who are challenging the conclusions of NIST.

    Little about 9/11 and the GWOT makes much sense when viewed through the first prism. One thing we all can agree on is that 9/11 caused trillions of dollars to change hands. In any crime there has to be established motive, means and opportunity. The only individuals that had the motive as well as the means and opportunity was not Osama bin Laden, Kalid Sheik Mohammed and Mohammed Atta, but rather Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and all the rest of the Neo-Con cabal.

    When I read all the analysis in AntiWar, a great great web site, I am viewing all I am reading through the second prism. I have concluded long ago that the official story is absolutely false.

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