As waves of legislative hysteria roll across federal and state governments in the wake of September 11 and the anthrax incidents that followed, assaults on American civil liberties seem to have become the norm. And while protecting public health is ostensibly the motive for these broadened new powers, state governments and private agencies are falling blindly into line, marching to the drumbeats of war.
One popular assumption that should be scrutinized is the widely held notion that we are at war. A declaration of war requires an act of Congress. Regardless of what the news media report daily and the public swallow whole, this is not a war. There has been no such declaration. What we have is an expanding military campaign by executive order.
And beyond that, I wonder if the defeat of terrorism is really the primary objective being pursued. Should we believe the prevailing mass media narrative regarding the events of 9/11? In the scale of its ineptitude, the serial failures of our nation's civil defense and intelligence services during and leading up to 9/11 provide a preponderance of incompetence that defies the laws of probability. And without more information about what went wrong, we are left to jump to our own conclusions.
It is said that we are not pursuing a full-scale investigation into U.S. defense and intelligence failures leading to 9/11 because it would be an embarrassing show of national disunity. Who, exactly, is saying that? The State Department? The Bush Administration? The major media? All of the above?
Let's not forget that immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a full-scale congressional investigation of defense failures even as the nation prepared itself for war. In keeping with its oversight responsibilities, Congress asked why our defenses were so easy to penetrate and who was responsible. Why isn't that happening now?
During the Gulf War, George Bush the First was the most popular President in history. By reelection day, with the war over and done with, he had plummeted in the polls. The aftermath of war, with its ugly underbelly of scars (hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead of starvation) can dim the magic glow of victory. But George II has learned a lesson of history: Waging war is so good for presidential ratings that we now have a war with no borders and no end in sight.
Motivating interests are essential to understanding political objectives, reactions and the reasons for certain strategic failures. These questions have been the thrust of many historical investigations of Pearl Harbor, which ignited American support for entering World War II; the German Reichstag Fire, which ignited German support for Hitler; and the Moscow apartment fires that propelled former KGB agent Vladimir Putin into the Russian Presidency. How these cataclysmically motivating national reactions to shock waves of crisis play out socially, politically and militarily have established a certain historical pattern. Political and economic mercenaries study these patterns very carefully.
As an informed electorate, we should study them, too. Consent by Congress -- and, by implication, the American public -- to a declaration of war requires that the ramifications of mobilizing a global military regime and the implications of hasty legislative actions in the wake of war here at home are carefully studied and clearly understood.
To discover the interests shaping these events, we must start by examining the chain of beneficiaries -- the top and bottom feeders, if you will -- in this so-called war on terrorism. Or is it a war of terrorism? As Noam Chomsky points out, there is only one nation so far convicted in international court of state-sponsored terrorism: The United States. Coming to grips with such uncomfortable truths and the international political context that fueled the incendiary attacks of 9/11 is imperative if we are ever going to truly defend ourselves from this kind of virulent terrorist attack. In the body politic, no less than the body biologic, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When we look to the elected officials linked to the economic beneficiaries of a given conflict, we can ascertain a chain of cause-and-effect based not on media trumpet calls, government war-drum beating or knee-jerk conspiracy theories, but on rational analysis of the motivations at work.
Follow the money, goes an ancient adage, and it's as relevant to the dynamics of U.S. imperialism as it was to the ascendancy of the Roman Empire.
In the era of globalization, the concept of national security is extinct. Or has it simply been subverted to an ulterior definition that benefits a few while wounding so many? Is national security really just a ruse disguising multinational corporate security?
These are questions we must ask if we are to penetrate the veils of secrecy that continue to shroud 9/11 events in a sarcophagus of propaganda, wrapped so carefully in the American flag.
Marco Zonka is a musician and writer living north of Colville, Wash.