Cross-posted from Al Jazeera
When the Soviet Union collapsed, many Americans hoped that the Cold War would collapse with it, that a "peace dividend" would lead to the shrinkage of the Pentagon, and that bloated military spending would be reallocated.
The mantra of that moment was "the enemy is dead."
It was momentary.
It was soon replaced by a silent "long live the enemy," as the terror
war replaced the Cold War. This war was never really just about
terrorists, of course. It's largely about keeping the
military-industrial complex steaming ahead with all of its jobs in key
congressional districts, while sustaining the profits earned by military
A war economy always needs a war. The big secret in Washington is that American capitalism needs Pentagon socialism to survive.
The attack on the Twin Towers became a justification for a vast expansion of military activity without end. Dick Cheney predicted this new war would be a long one, estimating it could last 50 years.
Ten years of that 50 have elapsed with no real end in sight. The threat posed by Osama bin Laden was waved in our faces every day as the face of evil, even as experts on Afghanistan kept reporting that there were fewer and fewer foreign jihadis in the country. The shrinkage of their forces did not stop the media from highlighting the endless threat they represented.
'Primo enemy status'
The background was all but buried: how the US abandoned Afghanistan after the mujahedeen forces it funded drove the Soviets out. Washington stood by in silence while a civil war fought by competing warlords pulverised the country, killing 50,000 people.
The US later encouraged, recognised and began making deals with the Taliban before 9/11, because some US policymakers saw them as a "stabilizing" force -- until their brutal treatment of women and girls became too visible and led to global outrage.
After 9/11, when the US failed to nail bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the
Taliban was given primo enemy status even though they were not the
people that attacked us. The US went after them, and invaded their
country to satisfy popular demands for payback, and, in part, because we
couldn't find bin Laden's networks after he slipped away.
Is there even an al-Qaeda? Many "experts" disagree. Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that "al-Qaeda" is not really a terrorist group, but a database of international mujahedeen and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel arms and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. They have since turned up in Pakistan, Yemen, North Africa and Syria. If it existed, it was a decentralised global movement, what Coca-Cola claimed to be -- a "multi-local corporation."
The point is, the US needed an enemy and the Taliban soon filled the bill. The US has been at war with the Taliban for a decade, but it's a war we seem to be losing and, at the same time, losing public support for.
As political scientist Michael Brenner explains:
"This endless crusade has achieved a state of perpetual motion generated by a confluence of dogmatic ideology, intellectual obstinacy, cynical political calculation and the exertions of powerful financial and professional interests. Today, the enterprise -- or at least 90 per cent of it -- looks to be divorced from reality."
Just as television morphed from factual/reality programming to reality-based programming, a terror narrative was conjured up and reinforced in all media. The media companies soon turned their programming into a comic book-like weapons system -- "weapons of mass deception".