Antiwar.com first published this guest column by Mr. Utley on
August 16, 2001. On Tuesday morning, September 11, unknown persons
attacked various targets in Manhattan and Washington, DC, in what
many are already calling the most deadly terrorist (that is, non-state)
attack in world history. We are republishing this piece in the
hope that it will influence the national debate about terrorism
that is certain to occur.
At an American
Bar Association's meeting on preparing for the terrorist threat,
General Bruce Lawler, head of the Joint Task Force to coordinate
military support for state governments, said that the threat was
from "foreigners who envy us." I asked him in the question
period if our having killed or ruined their families might not
give some more reason to hate Americans and make them much more
dangerous than others who were just envious. He quickly backed
down and said he was only repeating a statement of the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Similarly, Washington's prestigious
Center for Strategic and International Studies' major report,
America in the 21st Century," described the threat as coming
from those "who resent preeminent U.S power and/or disdain
There's a reason for this silence about why many foreigners
might want to do us harm. The bipartisan Washington establishment
newspapers, reporters, think tankers, soldiers, security
forces, intelligence agencies, Congressmen and the military-industrial
complex thrives on war or preparations for war. They don't
want Americans to learn and fear that there may be fatal costs
to us for our actions abroad. Just as trade and business are the
occupation of most of the nation, in Washington, "war is
the health of the state," to quote old libertarian, Randolph
Bourne. Every war, be it a World War or a War on Drugs or
on Poverty, spreads money and power in Washington.
The other reason for silence is that American foreign policy
is based almost entirely upon domestic political concerns, with
little thought or concern for long run consequences. NATO expansion
was promised by Clinton during the last election just to gain
Midwestern votes from Americans of Central European ancestry.
When Madeleine Albright ordered the bombing of Serbia, neither
she nor Clinton thought about how Russia would react. In fact
knowledgeable Russian experts believe that NATO expansion and
the bombing of Serbia were the turning point, after which Russia
started arming China with its latest weaponry, helping Iran and
Iraq, and moving back to nationalist policies. Russia's military
budget has now nearly doubled (to $8 billion) from what it was
before the attack. Similarly, with intervention in Colombia, there
is no thought of the new, possibly deadly, combination of Arab
terrorists willing to do suicide missions, and Colombian drug
smugglers who know how to bribe or blackmail their way into smuggling
any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into the U.S. The drug war
in Colombia is, again, being fought to satisfy another domestic
constituency, with no thought about possible wider
Equally, in fighting wars, Washington gives little thought
to overall strategy. For example, when former Secretary of Defense
Cheney was asked during the Gulf War, 11 years ago, about Washington's
plans for Iraq after the war, he replied (honest man that he is):
"Well, I don't know, we haven't thought much about that."
So now we spend tens of billions of dollars maintaining a massive
military presence in the area and are making new enemies by the
In short, one almost never hears in Washington from either
Party that foreigners might have legitimate grievances against
us. Half a million dead children
in Iraq, Palestinian teenagers raging against American-supplied
tanks, Serbs without electricity and running water or diseased
or ruined and jobless from our bombing, assorted Moslems who blame
America for their dictatorships and misery, Colombians with relatives
killed by those aided by America. The list of potential enemies
grows and grows. Even Basque terrorists now look at America as
their enemy after President Bush, during his recent visit, casually
promised to aid Spain's government with electronic surveillance.
They all now have reason to do us harm, they all want America
out of their countries, "out of their faces," in street
language. It’s not rocket science.
Right now, we have training missions in 60 to 70 nations, usually
teaching counterinsurgency. Even Albanian guerrillas have now
been trained by U.S. Special Forces. The military likes training
missions because they build relationships with foreign junior
officers all over the world. The Pentagon seems to have a clear
field to determine which nations it wants to work with. But many
nations also have those who are resisting local governments' tyranny,
who then see American forces as their enemies. American ambassadors,
I was told in Peru last March, don't have authority over assorted
semiautonomous agencies mainly military, FBI and drug war
personnel and often don't even know what those agencies
are doing in the nations where they are stationed.
But you'll rarely read this in the Washington press. Nor much
about the human misery in Iraq, caused by Washington's blockade
of supplies needed to rebuild electric, sanitation and agricultural
irrigation stations bombed by America. Chlorine, needed to disinfect
Iraq's water supply, and even pencils for school children are
banned. Nor was there much reporting, after our bombing of the
Danube River bridges, about the devastation
of South Eastern Europe and Black Sea nations' barge trade,
their major means of shipments to Western Europe. Most Americans
would not have approved of these actions had they known
about them. As a New Republic writer put it, "The American
Monster is more like an elephant bumbling rather than bloodthirsty,
oblivious rather than fierce."
This missing element,
not wanting Americans to think that there may be consequences
to our killing foreigners, seriously affects civil defense. CATO
published a long and excellent report, (No. 387, 11/27/00) "Are
We Prepared for Terrorism using Weapons of Mass Destruction?"
It warns that:
"Average citizens are left ignorant of the fundamentals
of preparedness.... The lack of any credible public education
program in matters of awareness and response violate many entrenched
principles of emergency management to minimize the phenomenon
of 'crying wolf,' citizens must receive some realistic instruction
on recognizing the difference between real 'suspected threats'
and everyday oddball occurrences. It means that any attack may
be misunderstood by the public, resulting in panic or far more
death and destruction than if it was managed properly. At a minimum
a simple protective mask and filter will block radioactive dust
and fatal particles in aerosol. Closed windows and simple plastic
raincoats and rubber rain boots will protect the skin against
most chemicals. Household agents such as bleach, lye (in the form
of drain cleaners), industrial strength detergents and even HTH
(a swimming pool bleach that is a version of an old military agent)
are readily available and useful in educated hands."
Still, the government is now spending $10 billion yearly on civil defense,
most of it going to protect government personnel and installations.
But very little, only some 2%, is going for civilian medical preparations.
There is almost no surge capacity in hospitals nowadays which
call for supplies and personnel on a just-in-time basis, according
to Tara O'Toole, deputy director of Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian
Bio-defense Studies. She added, speaking at the American Bar Association
meeting, that hospital administrators have no training or preparation
for triage decisions, that is treating those who can most likely
be saved. Such would be contrary to law and open the hospitals
to devastating lawsuits, even years later. For details on legal
and medical preparedness, please see our handout, "Preparing
for the Terrorist Threat,"published in Insight Magazine last January 15th.
Little is written about potential
targets in America, but it's interesting to speculate. Hopefully,
foreign terrorists would understand that mass killing of Americans
would be very counterproductive and that we would retaliate massively.
Rather, they could have much more effect for their causes by just
making life inconvenient for us. For example, during the bombing
of Serbia I used to joke that all they needed for defense would
be to have some old Yugo jalopies breaking down or crashing on
Washington's very congested Beltway during rush hour for a few
days. Just that would paralyze Washington and cause public demands
to ground our bombers. My joke often met with angry reactions
from War Party advocates, as if I was giving away military secrets.
In a serious vein, I think that military bases and government
organizations are the most likely targets. In spite of Washington's
accusations about "cowardly terrorists," Bin Laden's targets have
mainly been against the U.S. Military (and two Embassies). The
Pentagon and CIA are surely the most juicy targets for any terrorist,
but American bases overseas are easier and more likely
targets now. An attack upon one would have the added possible
consequence of foreigners demanding the removal of all American
bases. The fear of this result seems already to be in Bush Administration
thinking about building more long-range bombers instead of the
short range F-22, which would depend upon foreign bases. Individual
Americans overseas are also vulnerable. Already the Navy has cut
back on shore leave over much of the world because of fear of
terrorist attack upon our sailors. They now have steel beach
parties, confined to their ships. (This news was not reported
in the interventionist press; it obviously might reinforce opposition
to American interventions in so many nations.)
However, as Jude Wanniski
has written, no one controls mad fanatics. Very possibly any major
American city could be targeted by those consumed with hate against
us. A dirty bomb could contaminate much of a major city. A small
tactical nuke (of which many are reportedly missing from Russian
bases) would take out 4 or 5 city blocks; new breakthroughs in
biology may develop truly horrendous agents of selective death.
Or just plain suicide truck bombers with dynamite in a tunnel
could wreak havoc upon us. In truth, we are immensely vulnerable
to terrorists who would give up their lives for a mission. Still,
we also have great advantages. Only the most hardened and embittered
remain so after some time in our nation, where most Americans
have no idea of the killing overseas being done in their name.
In the 1970s and '80s when Washington allowed many Marxist and
leftist refugees from Chile and then Central America to immigrate
here, they didn't commit acts of terrorism. America is so all-encompassing
and welcoming and has so much opportunity that they lost their
Marxist fervor. They got jobs, settled down and built their communities.
In any case, the best defense is "to give foreigners less
offense," in the words of Ivan
Eland at CATO. Already under President Bush we seem much less
ready to go about bombing other nations as Clinton did. Except
for Palestine and Iraq, no blood is being shed by American bombs.
American conservatives did all they could to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian
peace talks when Clinton was supporting them. Hopefully, they
(other than the Dispensationalists
who almost want chaos over there) will now support peace negotiations,
for we are hated much in the Arab world. Still, Bush is vulnerable
to Washington's sophisticated and entrenched War Party, which
wants empire and is now pushing for conflict with China, or any
other nation that dares to challenge our might.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
informed check regularly the anti-intervention websites:
AntiWar.com, AgainstBombing.com, and CATO.org.
- Print out pertinent articles and distribute copies to your
to meetings. At most major Washington think tanks, hardly anyone
challenges the prevailing War Party views.
- Talk radio call in and explain. Our points are simple
and true, they are easy to get across and people respond once
they are heard.
- Write and call editors of the interventionist media, asking
them to publish such information as in this article.
to your Congressman's town hall meetings and ask him the embarrassing
questions about our interventions overseas and ask for civil
- Start a movement asking that our military send guards to
protect key bridges and reservoirs and electric stations. The
real threats are here, not overseas.
- Prepare yourself and for your family. Obtain a stock of antibiotics
(tetracycline easily cures Anthrax if used early on), gas masks
and other items, as above.
Thank you for coming and for your interest. Spreading the kind
of information I've described above can only help us to prevent
the catastrophic event which many pundits consider inevitable.
Terrorism here is not inevitable, but we have work to do in making
people aware of the reasons for the threat.
This article is a slightly-edited version of a speech by
Mr. Utley to the Convention of the Libertarian Party of Washington,
D.C., Summer, 2001.
Mr. Utley is Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Formerly,
he was a businessman and then foreign correspondent in South America
for Knight Ridder newspapers. He has written on Latin American
nationalism for Harvard Business Review and on terrorism
for Insight Magazine. He has been a commentator for the
Voice of America and has written widely on 3rd World issues.