What War on Terrorism? It’s a War for Terrorism.
To the American public, it may have seemed like the War and Afghanistan came to an abrupt end last month — a month earlier than the Biden Administration’s self-imposed deadline of the 20-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. To those who followed the “forever war” more closely — like my guest, Scott Horton — the botched withdrawal of troops from the country is just another in a long line of blunders in an even longer “War on Terror” that continues largely unabated. Foreign policy, like economic policy, seems to be bound by the same inextricable law of unintended consequences, whereby policy failures end up justifying further interventions, mishaps, and pretext for even bigger government programs. The only question is whether the US will learn from its mistakes this time, or set off on another damaging campaign.
The story of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East is a long one, that dates back to at least the Carter Administration. Scott Horton, director of the Libertarian Institute and host of Antiwar Radio, has meticulously documented the long litany of errors and self-reinforcing planks of the misguided War on Terror in his writings, videos, and radio broadcasts over the years.
He joined me to offer a one-hour retrospective on the War in Afghanistan, with an emphasis on the patterns and principles that have characterized our broader foreign policy failures over the past 45 years. From Scott, I’ve learned that the failures can be boiled down to one word: blowback. For the full story, you’ll have to read two of his most recent books, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism (2021) & *Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan* (2017).
Scott Horton on “Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism”
Bob Zadek 00:21
Here we are celebrating peace at last in the War in Afghanistan — or the war on Afghanistan. It has been declared ended. I choose my words carefully. Declaring a war as ended doesn’t really make it end. It’s just a political and military statement. Many of my listeners were probably born into the War on Afghanistan. This is the beginning of something somewhat unreal — all of a sudden, your war has been taken away from you. You’ve never lived in America without us having a war in or on Afghanistan. You’re probably a bit curious what it’s all going to be like. You’re also a bit curious as to what it really means for us to say the war in or on Afghanistan has ended.
To help us understand what the War on Terror of which the war in (or on) Afghanistan is a part, I’m happy to welcome to the show Scott Horton this morning. Scott is the director of the Libertarian Institute. He is the editorial director of antiwar.com, host of Anti-War Radio on Pacifica, which broadcasts at 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. He podcasts the long running Scott Horton Show from his website, ScottHorton.org.
Scott has just published Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. That book follows Scott’s earlier book of the prescient Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. I’m happy to welcome Scott to the show this morning. Scott, welcome.
Scott Horton 03:06
Thank you very much for having me. Happy to be here.
The War on Terror™
Bob Zadek 03:09
The goal of this show is to help us understand the context of this brilliant marketing invention, created by those who seem to prefer a constant state of war, labeled as the War on Terror. Declaring a War on Terror itself is a beautiful concept if you are predisposed to favor a military driven economy. It’s brilliant because it cannot possibly have an end. It is the gift that keeps on giving because how does the War on Terror end? Does it end when the last terrorist on earth dies in assisted living of old age or some other malady? Absent that it cannot end, which means if you favor that conditional foreign policy, you will be happy for eternity. Scott, I didn’t always live in a circumstance when we have a War on Terror. It seems the War on Terror more or less began on 9/11 of 2001, but it did not. Tell us, if you can, briefly how the concept of terrorism as an enemy? Where and how did it begin?
Scott Horton 05:17
I think it was after September 11. Even on that night, Bush said that the enemy is terrorism rather than terrorists, and obviously, rather than al Qaeda. He knew that day who had done the attack. Everybody knew all summer long there was an al Qaeda attack coming. The official story of that day is that if the FBI, CIA, and NSA had been doing their jobs and working together, then they would have been able to stop it because they had so much intelligence. Some of those hijackers had been in the country for almost a year and a half. They knew it was al Qaeda who did it. Who else is gonna do it? Russia? Hezbollah? There’s nobody else on the list. It was bin Laden. They knew that. They knew that bin Laden and his entire group made up no more than 400 men hiding in no man’s land in the ungoverned spaces between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the far side of the planet — as far as you could ever get from anywhere.
If they had decided to just be square with the American people, if the people in that government were just average, random, generic, good, old, decent Americans trying to do a good job, they would have said, “We’re going to war against al Qaeda. We’ll try to get extradition but barring that we’re gonna kill Osama bin Laden and his 400 friends. That’ll be what they get from messing with us.”
Right. Instead they decided immediately, “Don’t say war on Al Qaeda, say War on Terrorism,” because they wanted to draw the writ as broadly as they possibly could. If you read Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War, [you learn that] Bush told the National Security Council and the White House staff, “Go ahead and give everything to Bob. He’s our court historian. We all love him. We all trust him.” Colin Powell and all those guys in the administration had spilled their guts to him in the Bush Senior years, all about the war in Panama and Iraq War I. They were all very familiar with him, so they just turned over everything. Then Bob Woodward publishes the transcripts in the book of the National Security Council, talking just days after September 11:
“We’ve got to start bombing Baghdad. We have to start bombing Afghanistan first or it’s gonna look funny if we go to Iraq before we go to Afghanistan. If we go to Afghanistan, should we try to kill Osama bin Laden and his few Arab friends or should we go for regime change against the Pashtun Taliban indigenous regime there in Kabul?”
They decided immediately to focus not just on the Taliban too, but on the Taliban instead, and they let bin Laden get away. I make the case in both books — a circumstantial case but a very strong one — when the CIA and the Delta Force had him cornered at Tora Bora, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Franks deliberately decided to withhold the reinforcements they needed, so they could let Osama escape, so that they could lie to your mama for a year and a half, and say, “Saddam could give these weapons to Osama.”
That lie doesn’t work if Osama is already dead. The American people would believe that the war is won. Justice is done. That’s what you get from messing with us a year and a half ago. They let him go to be the Emmanuel Goldstein figure, out of 1984: the permanent enemy lurking out there somewhere. For older people in your audience who remember the Bush years, did they not invoke the specter of “Bin Laden is still out there somewhere and could do this to us again?”
As Bush said, “Imagine the September 11 attack, only this time with the hijackers armed with Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They could set up a mushroom cloud over an American city. We have to invade, to preempt and stop this alliance from attacking us, which we know they’re going to do,” which was all just lies, and they knew it. For the 9/11 conspiracy theorists out there who believe that Dick Cheney and the Israelis, or whoever it was, did 9/11, I don’t think that that’s right at all, but you’ve got to hand it to them. They might as well have done it. They exploited the grief and the fear from September 11 in the most cynical fashion in a way that it would be nice if we were talking about a foreign government doing this. We’re talking about our own government that used and exploited the deaths of 3,000 people to make the American people as afraid as they could make us, so they could launch a bonus war or two or three against countries who had not attacked us, and had nothing to do with the attack on the United States or any alliance with al Qaeda at all.
“We’re talking about our own government that used and exploited the deaths of 3,000 people to make the American people as afraid as they could make us.”
The Prologue to September 11
Bob Zadek 10:23
Let’s take a step back, Scott. Your story started with Osama bin Laden and his 400, somewhere on the other side of the world in the hills and mountains of Afghanistan, but that starts the story at chapter two. Why were 400 or so angry humans sitting around somewhere in Afghanistan angry at America and plotting against us? They weren’t born that way. The story starts perhaps one chapter earlier. What were they so angry about? After all, we couldn’t have been farther from them geographically, or in any other way. Why pick us? What were they so angry about that made them spend all of that time plotting against us? What happened before that?
Scott Horton 11:38
First of all, these guys used to be friends of the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan governments, who backed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. That included the Arab Afghan Army — tens of thousands of Muslims recruited from all around the world, especially the Arab world, to go and assist the Mujahideen in fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which did help to break the Soviet Union. It was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back on that evil empire. The Reaganites took credit for that over and over again. In fact, the Democrats gave the Reaganites credit for that today. You can’t deny Ronald Reagan helped bring down the Soviet Union in this way. Even Hillary Clinton has said that and so forth. Guess what, the Mujahideen understood the same lesson: that they had defeated the godless atheist communists — in terms of landmass size, the greatest empire the world has ever known. They brought it to its knees with faith in Allah, and AK-47s, which are Soviet weapons.
Then they decided they were going to turn their war against America. The reason was first of all Iraq War I Desert Storm, but especially the aftermath of Iraq War I, where Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney had promised King Fahd that as soon as the war was over, we were going to leave and pull all our troops out of Arabia. They didn’t do that. For your audience, here’s a good touchstone. There’s a movie called Three Kings with Marky Mark [Wahlberg] and Ice Cube and George Clooney. It’s a gold heist movie, but the setting is from the 90s. This setting is the aftermath of Iraq War I. America occupies the south of the country. There’s this massive Shiite and Kurdish uprising to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Saddam crushes that insurgency. That’s the setting in the background of that movie. What happened there? That was the true story for the setting of that fictional story.
What had happened was Bush Senior encouraged that revolution, and they dropped leaflets on Iraqi army divisions and in Shiite territory, saying, “Now’s your chance to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein.” Bush even said on Voice of America that we stand behind them and encourage them to do this, but then they choked. Remember, America was occupying the southern half of Iraq at the time. They choked and changed their mind. Why did they choke and change their mind? Because they realized that they were importing the Shiite Iranian Revolution of 1979 into Iraq in the spring of 1991. Most of your audience probably already knows that while they were backing the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, they were backing Saddam Hussein against Iran to contain the Iranian revolution to try to overthrow it, then barring that, to try to contain it. Now in the aftermath of Iraq War I, they’re importing [the Shiite revolution] into Iraq, and they realize this and so they choke and they call it off. Then it’s like the Bay of Pigs where there is this massive massacre. We send people into battle and then leave them high and dry to be slaughtered. 100,000 people were killed. They let Saddam keep his tanks and helicopters to crush the insurrection.
Then they decided to stay. “Oh, well, we have to have our bases in Iraq now,” to wage these no fly zones over southern Iraq and northern Iraq to protect the Kurds and the Shiites from Saddam Hussein. He’d already crushed the insurrection. He was just gonna keep killing them all until they were all dead or something. The rebellion was over. It was a pretext. The Israelis especially insisted in the beginning of the Bill Clinton years that Iraq is too weak to help balance against Iran. Now America must stay in Saudi Arabia for a policy of dual containment. Instead of balancing Iraq and Iran against each other, America is just going to dominate them both and have a cold war against them both. This policy of dual containment was invented by Martin Indyk, who had worked for Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli Prime Minister. Then he came to work for Bill Clinton. The Clinton government in early ’93 was reluctant to do this. The next thing came with the big fake hoax of the alleged assassination plot against H.W. Bush. Remember the lie that they were going to kill him with a truck bomb in Kuwait? The whole thing was completely debunked. It was just a whiskey smuggling ring that the Kuwaiti government embellished into a plot against Bush Senior.
Once that happened, Bill Clinton then decided to go ahead and go with the hawks and institute this policy of dual containment. What that meant was we’re staying in Saudi for the rest of the century. What that meant was bin Laden then was going to knock our towers down.
“Now America must stay in Saudi Arabia for a policy of dual containment. Instead of balancing Iraq and Iran against each other, America is just going to dominate them both and have a cold war against them both.”
Remember the Alamo? What About Mecca? Bin Laden’s Recruitment Strategy
Bob Zadek 16:47
Putting ourselves into the minds of these 400, who were the source of the successful attack on the towers — here they are sitting in the mountains, and they are very angry at the US, to be simplistic but not inaccurate. Now, I think you’re saying that they looked upon the region in one respect as the Arab part of the world. I’m being very simplistic. Forgive me. They didn’t want us there. It was our presence there for whatever reason, but our presence. It’s, “Hey, this is our house.”
Scott Horton 17:54
Let me be real clear about this. Imagine a Saudi army building a base in San Antonio, the land of the Alamo. Think of what Texans would do about that, even if our Governor invited them. Yet Jesus wasn’t born in San Antonio, but the Arabian Peninsula is where Mohammed was born and where the religion of Islam was born in the twin holy cities of Mecca and Medina. This is San Antonio times 1,000. Think of San Antonio too when you think of the Russians in Crimea. The Russians lost hundreds of thousands defending Crimea from the Nazis. You think they’re ever gonna let anybody ever have it ever after losing hundreds of thousands fighting for it? Might as well be holy land, just to put you in their perspective for a minute on that one.
That’s what these guys were upset about. That American combat forces, not just oil businessmen walking around — combat forces from Christian North America, whites and blacks and Hispanics, none of them Arabs, and virtually none of them Muslims occupying. Essentially America is the World Empire and Saudi Arabia is our client state. When America says we’re going to leave some bases here, the king doesn’t have much choice in that. Bin Laden despised the king and denounced King Fahd for going along with it back then.
Here’s the thing about it: I hope that your audience is mad at me right now for citing bin Laden and his statements because the reality is this guy is a mass murderer. Once somebody is a mass murderer, who cares what they say? You don’t take their word for anything, right? If he’s a murderer, he’s a liar. Here’s the point. This was his recruitment shtick. This was how bin Laden got other people to do what he wanted them to do. He said the Americans occupying the land of the two holy places must be expelled. He also routinely denounced American support for Israel in their occupations of the Palestinians and of the Lebanese. In fact, his first declaration of war in 1996 was called the Declaration of Jihad Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places. Pretty subtle, huh? In there, he goes on and on about the Israeli operation, Grapes of Wrath, in southern Lebanon that Shimon Peres had launched in 96, and including the Qana massacre of 96, where 106 women and children were killed by the Israelis hiding in a UN shelter. Bin Laden went on and on about this.
Guess what? This is how he recruited Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker of September 11. Bin Laden said the Americans must be punished for what the Israelis are doing in Lebanon. This Egyptian engineering student studying in Hamburg, Germany said, “I agree with that,” and he and his friend, bin al-Shibh, went to Afghanistan and met bin Laden and were recruited and were the leaders of the planes operation of 20 years ago yesterday that killed 3,000 people.
They also accused us, quite correctly, of supporting all the dictators of the region, pressuring them to keep production high, and therefore the price of oil artificially low to subsidize our economy at their expense. This one’s interesting. They accused us of turning a blind eye to Russia, China, India and Uzbekistan, for their oppression of Muslims. As I’m sure you remember, in the 1990s, Bill Clinton took the side of the Mujahideen in Bosnia and Kosovo and in Chechnya. Most people don’t know about that one. While Bill Clinton was financing the Russian war against the terrorists in Chechnya, he was also financing the Chechens war against the Russians at the same time with the help of the Saudis, and he was also training Uyghurs for use against China, which is going to be an issue coming up here in our medium term future as well.
When September 11 happened, Bill Clinton, Tom Lantos, and Brad Sherman all said something very close to, “Geez, how could these Muslims attack us after everything we’ve done for them lately?”
The reality was all the policies that have provoked them to turn against us were still on. The fact that we supported them against the Serbs in Kosovo, against the Russians interests there, didn’t impress them. I’m sure they appreciated it, but it didn’t buy their loyalty. They were attacking us all through the 1990s. By the time Bill Clinton supported them in Chechnya, it’s treason. They’ve already tried to blow up the World Trade Center. They already killed Americans in 1995 and 1996 with bombings in Saudi Arabia. They blew up African embassies in the summer of ’98. They blew up the USS Cole in the year 2000. In fact Coleen Rowley just wrote about this. They connected Zacarias Moussaoui before 9/11 to al Qaeda through the Chechen terrorists. You know what FBI headquarters said? “Yeah, no, but we like the Chechen terrorists. They’re our friends so this doesn’t concern us.” We know now if they had gotten their FISA warrant and looked into Moussaoui’s computer, they could have directly connected him to the hijackers in Florida and stopped the September 11 attack. That was why the government wasn’t interested in considering them and anti-American terrorists — because he was friends with pro-American terrorists or at least terrorists that America was for.
Bob Zadek 23:43
From what you are saying, the goal of the terrorists from 9/11 and beyond, was it simply to get American forces the occupying forces in their minds, and they’re not wrong, to get the American occupation forces out of that part of the world?
Scott Horton 24:16
Sorta, but it’s complicated. Now, here’s the thing. If you ask the war party, read the New York Times, they’ll tell you that, “Yes, see, bin Laden said we were a paper tiger. If they hit us hard enough, we’d turn around and run away.” I believe that that was the strategy probably with the Africa embassy attacks, and things like that, that they thought that they could get America to just pull up stakes and go, but let’s get realistic about September 11 — they hit the Pentagon. They killed only 3,000 but it could have been 10,000. What if those buildings had come right down instead of people having an hour to evacuate before they finally collapsed? They were attempting to provoke a cataclysmic clash and apocalyptic conflict between the United States and the Muslim world. At the very least, they were trying to provoke a full scale invasion of Afghanistan.
If they wanted us out of the region, why are they trying to lure us into the region? The answer is to replay the same strategy that we helped them use against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s — to bog the Empire down, bleed us to bankruptcy and force us out the long and the hard way so that it will stay gone. That was the plan. They said it all along. I proved it in the book. I got all the footnotes in the world. In fact, my most recent article at antiwar.com details all this, to where bin Laden said over and over again before September 11 that his goal was to provoke an overreaction by the Americans that we would go and get bogged down and bled to bankruptcy. They would do the same thing to us, as he had done to the Russians. As his son said, to get us to chase after the red scarf, like a big dumb bull that chases the red scarf. That’s exactly what they did. The real irony here is this is why Jimmy Carter started backing the Mujahideen in ’79 in the first place. It wasn’t just, “Oh, we don’t like Russians, let’s shoot some.” There was a whole plan behind it. It was to provoke the Russians into invading Afghanistan. The American people have Vietnam syndrome and don’t want to contain world communism anymore. Maybe we can bait them in overexpansion. They didn’t want them to spread into West Germany. “How about, Afghanistan? Those people are expendable. We’ll provoke them into invading Afghanistan. Then we’ll support this guerrilla war effort against them for 10 years.”
It worked better than they ever imagined. That’s what they were trying to do. This was their language. They said, “We’ll give the Soviet Union their own Vietnam.” They even put those words in the mouth of the character Colonel Trautman in Rambo 3, when he’s a captive to the KGB and says, “We’ve already had our Vietnam. Now you’re going to have yours.”
This was the whole point. How could America fall for this again and do the same thing to ourselves that we had done to the Russians trying to replicate the thing that we had done to ourselves in Vietnam? It’s incredible that they would go for it, but they went for it.
Omar Bin Laden’s Analysis: America as the Bull Chasing the Red Flag
Bob Zadek 27:39
All you have to do is give enough Stinger missiles to Mujahideen and you bring Russia to their knees. Scott, the irony is that Reagan’s policy — using the Mujahideen and Stinger missiles and the like to start to bring down the Russian Empire of the USSR — was recognized as being a brilliant policy with enormous leverage. We fell for it ourselves and we were sucked right in. You mentioned in your book that Osama bin Laden was able to, from the grave, carry out the Reagan-esque policy against us. Is that simplistic or is that pretty much what happened?
Scott Horton 28:47
Yes. I mean sometimes people get mad at me, like I’m making excuses for W. Bush. I’m saying, he’s just a big dummy who made a mistake and was tricked, but that’s not right. What happened was bin Laden saw in W. Bush the perfect mark. His son Omar explained this in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2010. He said, “My father in the election of 2000, he was so happy. He said, this is the kind of president he needs. One who will attack and spend money and break the country.” He says, “In Clinton’s time, he sent some cruise missiles after my father and he didn’t get him.” The interview was in 2010 when bin Laden was still alive for another year. He said, “Now you’ve been here for 10 years, you still don’t have my father. You spent all these billions of dollars that would have been better if he had kept that money for your economy. In Clinton’s time, America was smart, not like the bull that runs after the red scarf.”
What was it that he saw on W. Bush? To be perfectly frank about it, he’s a Republican representing Houston, Texas — corrupt corporate oil interests. He’s a mean and dumb and short-sighted and narrow-minded cynical, little B word. Osama could tell that. Osama could tell, “If I slapped this guy in the face, he’s gonna cry victim, then he’s going to go completely overboard in exploiting the crisis to the Nth degree.”
That’s what empires do. That was the dynamic that he was counting on. The more corrupt and cynical and ruthless the American president, the better, because he wasn’t trying to get us to turn and run. He was trying to get us to double, triple, quadruple down and kill ourselves, which, by the way, ironic note — 30,000 Iraq and Afghan war veterans have killed themselves in the last 20 years, which is a perfect reflection of the American policy of imperial domination. It’s murder–suicide. That’s what it is. We’re never supposed to be an empire in the first place. This is the kind of thing that happens to empires. They provoke resistance, then they cite that resistance is the reason that they need to have an empire in the first place. Then they go broke. Somebody pull up the national debt clock right now. What are we at, 29.5 trillion?
“30,000 Iraq and Afghan war veterans have killed themselves in the last 20 years, which is a perfect reflection of the American policy of imperial domination. It’s murder–suicide.”
Losing the War on Terror
Bob Zadek 31:44
It seems to me that , whatever may happen in the future, we have already lost the War on Terror — I hate the phrase, but everybody knows what I’m referring to. We have lost it if you simply count dollars spent, lives lost, lives disrupted. Measured that way, there’s no way we recoup the lives and the treasure lost. The longer the War on Terror continues, the more that we lose. I’ve often observed that if the terrorist brought down the Twin Towers and then retired to the south of France and watched the action after that, they didn’t have to do another thing.
Scott Horton 32:58
You’re exactly right about that. In fact, in that interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the reporter, Guy Lawson asks Omar bin Laden, “Do you think Osama your father is gonna continue to attack the United States?” He says, “No, I don’t think so. Once America invaded Afghanistan, his plan worked. He’s already won.” That interview was 11 years ago.
Bob Zadek 33:25
There has been no president, Democrat or Republican, since 9/11, who simply has recognized, “No, the enemy has stopped.” They’re continuing this Hollywood set of terrorism, but they don’t have to do anything. It’s a total victory. Hang up your cleats and retire. You have won and just sit from the sidelines and watch us continue to search grandmothers in the airport for eternity and to lose American lives in a part of the world that we love. For our relationship with Israel and perhaps Saudi Arabia — a whole other discussion — we are continuing this ritual with no end in sight and no goal.
No one can tell us what the goal of the war is. In World War II, there was a goal. We had a defined enemy and we had to make them surrender. We had to bring them to the battleship, sign documents, and then we could pack it in. Are we going to have terrorists sitting on a battleship somewhere in the South Pacific signing a peace treaty? Of course not. Never. In fact, who even knows if there are terrorists left to sign the treaty? We are now on and have been, it seems to me, on War on Terror autopilot with maybe an enemy that doesn’t even exist, maybe and maybe not.
Now we are to your book, the prescient title, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. Tell us today, Scott. Give the other side the pro-War on Terror crowd, give them every benefit of the doubt that you can. What is the goal of the War on Terror? How will they know that we have won so that we can stop the defense contracts and bring home America’s young men and women? From their point of view, what will be the objective measure that the War on Terror can be ended, in their minds?
Scott Horton 36:18
I don’t think they have an endpoint. I think you’re right that they’ve written themselves a warrant to continue doing this from now on until they’re stopped by another force, meaning the American people make them stop, is it? If you go far enough down the chain of command, you could find somebody at the Delta Force, or JSCO, or the CIA, who say, look, our job is killing al Qaeda guys. We find old friends of bin Laden, or friends of friends, and we put bullets in their head or bombs on their head. There’s some truth to that but that’s not what this is about. What this is about is the project of American global hegemony, as they call it, preeminence or dominance. What it means is they’ve written all this down at the end of the Cold War, at the end of Iraq War I in the Bush senior years. The policy is that America will maintain military dominance over the entire planet forever and that we will never tolerate any power or group of powers that could possibly come together to challenge our military dominance. We call this keeping the peace and “leading the world” and the liberal rules-based international order, and whatever set of euphemisms. It requires, for example, dominance in the Middle East. Why? It’s not because we’re dependent on that oil. It’s not just for Exxon oil interests, making cash money, or making gasoline cheap enough that we can get to work in the morning or something like that as much as the geostrategic imperatives. We need to be able to turn off the tap of oil to China in the event of a crisis with them.
The continuing Cold War — you thought Nixon ended the cold war with China 50 years ago? Nope. It’s still going on this whole time. Not only that, guess who else drinks Middle Eastern oil all day? Our friends — the Indians, the Koreans, the Japanese, the Australians, the Indonesians. This is leverage. This is American military dominance over the planet. It’s just one small part of it. As they used to say in the 1990s at the Pentagon, this was their slogan. Terrorism is a small price to pay for being a superpower. They weren’t anticipating their own building getting hit by a jumbo jet. I guarantee you that. Actually, some of them probably imagine such a scenario. That was the fire that they were playing with. Terrorism is the side effect of the policy of dominance. Then it becomes the excuse for the policy of dominance.
Look at the perverse situation, the way it stands in the Middle East now in the aftermath of the Iraq War II, because who’s the biggest obstacle to American dominance in the Middle East? It’s not al-Qaeda, who are dissident radicals from our allied states of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The obstacle is Iran, which used to be under America’s thumb after World War II up through 1979. Then the revolution came. They declared independence from us. We’ve had a cold war against them ever since then. How are we supposed to dominate the world? We don’t have an alliance with the Persians. It’s the ultimate frustration for the American Empire but they try. They have their bases all through the Arabian Peninsula. They had their former friend Saddam Hussein, who was no longer compliant, that they needed to find a way to do something about.
Here’s the thing about the neocons: they are as dumb as they are cruel. It’s amazing that they couldn’t figure this out. If you look at their thinking and the Clean Break policy, they have this nonsensical idea why it made sense to them. What they didn’t realize, I guess, in effect was if they got rid of Saddam, they would empower Iran. They thought they were going to empower the Iraqi Shiites over the Iranians and lord it over the Iranians, which has absolutely been the other way around. They realize this. This is the entire Iraq war. Everybody knows Iraq War II was horrible. All these people died, and there was a civil war and all this, but remember on TV, all they ever told us was, “Well, it’s America and the Iraqi people versus the terrorists. We’re trying to create a democracy for the people and the terrorists are trying to thwart it.”
That was just nonsense. What was happening was we were fighting for the Shiite’s super majority, the same ones that Bush Senior encouraged to rise up and overthrow Saddam and then stabbed in the back in 1991. His son picked up right where he left off 12 years later and came in in 2003 and drove them all the way to Baghdad, and then fought a five year civil war for them to ensconce them in power. This is the same regime that’s still in power in Iraq to this day because it was the super majority. It was the factions of the super majority Shiites that he put in power there, but they’re in league with the Ayatollah in Tehran. The change did not come with Barack Obama, the secret Muslim from Kenya and all this stuff. The change came from W. Bush. We really wish we empowered the Ayatollah and the Shiites in Iraq. What we’re gonna do is we’re gonna go right back to backing the al-Qaeda terrorists again, Fatah al-Islam against the Iranians, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Muslim Brotherhood groups in Syria –head chopping, suicide bombing crazies backed by the United States and Israel against the Iranians, and then took their side after Iraq War II.
What did Barack Obama do? Not that he was a secret Muslim from Kenya, he was the secret W. Bush. He took the same policy and continued it and took the al Qaeda side in Libya and took the al Qaeda side in Syria. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad represented a link in the alliance between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran. Obama said to Jeffrey Goldberg in 2012 in the Atlantic magazine, after Jeffrey Goldberg said, “Barack Obama, don’t you think that if we got rid of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, that would help bring Iran down a peg.” Obama says, “Absolutely.” That was the reason they did it. They said they were fighting to protect the Syrian people from their government. Please, come on– as the CIA was backing bin Ladennite head chopper suicide bomber terrorist murderers, who had sworn blood oath loyalty to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the butcher of New York City. They did that for years just to try to spite the Shiites. What War on Terrorism? It’s a war for terrorism.
“Here’s the thing about the neocons: they are as dumb as they are cruel.”
Redefining War in the 21st Century
Bob Zadek 43:44
I want to focus on a very short word, part of your website, antiwar.com. I want to focus on war. Implicit in so much of what we’ve talked about is equating war with helicopters and missiles and drones and killing. I’m not an expert in military affairs, but I simply can’t imagine that any war, using that word in its most simple sense, any war will be fought with instruments of war or the war we have, the Cold War, you use the phrase, with China, the Cold War, if there is one in the Middle East is not a war of who has the most dead bodies. The war being fought with China is an economic war. It’s a cyber war. It is a war of stealing intellectual property. It is a war of disrupting infrastructure. It is not a war for territory nor is it a war for building a captive population.
Therefore, the whole concept of war, the whole concept of occupation, it’s like cavalry, it’s like who cares about who has the most weapons of war, when victory or defeat will be decided on an economic battlefield not a physical battlefield? Indeed, the bringing down of the Trade towers was not done with instruments of war. It was done with cutters to open boxes, and it was done with airplanes. Isn’t the whole concept of war itself misunderstood? Therefore, if I’m right, does that change the whole policy of War on Terror?
Scott Horton 46:21
It’s such an important point. The comparison to Pearl Harbor was made over and over again because hey, surprise attack, 3,000 killed. All good so far, except for what you just said. They had to hijack our civilian domestic airliners to even have weapons to use. There was no Japanese Empire sized Islamic caliphate out there. This was a last ditch Hail Mary pass effort on the part of his tiny little group of stateless bandits. These left over terrorists from two wars ago, who were desperately trying to get something started. In other words, as antiwar.com said all along, but as even General Zinni, the former commander of CENTCOM, and Gary Bernsen, one of the CIA leaders at Tora Bora, who tried his best at the time to kill bin Laden, as they admitted back in 2016, the whole war could have been over by the end of 2001, by Christmas 2001. All they would have had to do, even assuming they couldn’t have negotiated extradition, which I make the case in the book that they could have. Even forgetting that, if they had just focused on bin Laden and Zawahiri and their friends, and just killed them, the whole thing could have been over by Christmas 2001.
There’s no state that we’re at war with here. Remember the axis of evil — Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Osama bin Laden? That’s somehow an axis. Where have I heard that word before? Oh, that was the signed written blood oath alliance between Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito in World War II. Iraq and Iran were enemies. America supported them in war against each other, both sides of it in the 80s. It’s not like they didn’t know that. Neither of them had any alliance whatsoever with Osama bin Laden. Both Saddam and Ayatollah were terrified of Osama bin Laden. Then North Korea. What the heck did he have to do with anything other than if you said Syria, then people would know this is all about Israel. “Oh, I know, let’s pick a rogue state from East Asia. That’ll confuse the issue a little bit.” North Korea, what was their tie in this axis? They had sold a couple of missiles to Iran years before in a commercial transaction, no alliance of any sort whatsoever.
Bob Zadek 49:08
What is the Scott Horton recipe for to quote the title of your book, Ending the War on Terrorism? How easy would it be? What would the first day of peace be after we end the War on Terror? What would it look like?
Scott Horton 49:33
Sure. No problem. The answer is simple. We have to renounce the policy of dominance in the Middle East. We have to just quit it. As long as America is intervening militarily over there, propping up dictators over their people and all of these things, we are going to continue to have terrorist attacks against the United States. People say, “No, it’s a safe haven.” Anywhere we ever go, we can never leave because then there’ll be a power vacuum and the terror will take it over and use it as a base to attack us. Like I said, America backs the terrorist bin Ladennites in Syria and in Yemen right now as well. That debunks that whole thing. Those people are very dangerous, and they could attack the United States. The only way to make that stop is to stop intervening. Let’s say you had the best Delta Force ever, and you could kill all only bin Ladennites — you’re still going to kill a few innocent people and drive a few more terrorists into the movement against you. At the absolute best, this is a perpetual motion machine. We have to stop it because we’re the ones who started it.
Bob Zadek 50:45
You’re not going to kill a few innocent people, Scott. You’re going to kill a whole bunch of innocent people. As long as we continue to kill innocent people, the War on Terror has no end.
This is Bob Zadek. I’ve been speaking with Scott Horton. Scott is the director of the Libertarian Institute, editorial director of antiwar.com, host of Anti-War Radio. Most importantly, for this morning show, the author of Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism. The title of the book tells the whole story. I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from this morning’s broadcast. If so, please indicate your satisfaction or otherwise by tuning into the podcast. Share your comments, share your ratings, plus or minus. We read all the reviews. We take them seriously.
Scott, thank you so much for the work you have done at antiwar.com, and your book is a must read. It is not dense. It is readable. It is a book written for people who have spent their careers in the area of foreign policy, as well as those people who just want to exercise their right to vote on the most informed basis. You’ve done a public service to us all.
- AMAZON: Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, January 16, 2021
- AMAZON: Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, August 16, 2017
- About — The Scott Horton Show
- Scott Horton (@scotthortonshow) / Twitter
- Hard Questions About Asylum and Afghanistan with Ilya Somin, August 18, 2021
- Rethinking Afghanistan with Jonathan Bydlak, January 3, 2020