Their Terrorism, and Ours

The War Party is going bonkers, these days – maybe it’s the indictment of Scooter Libby. Or the way the war itself is going – badly. In any case, the war’s proponents seem to be in a downward spiral of what can only be described as utter craziness. Why else would this administration – or, at least, the office of the vice president – be openly pushing to exempt the CIA from U.S. laws against torture?

America, from the “shining city on a hill” to the dark dungeon of sadistic torturers. What a comedown! Abu Ghraib, we were told, was an “aberration.” Now they want to make it a policy. How low can we go?

We’re supposed to be spreading “democracy” and “freedom” throughout the Middle East, according to this administration and its Washington amen corner, but how is human liberty advanced by frying Iraqi civilians with incendiary phosphorous bombs ?

If that isn’t a war crime, then nothing is.

Check out the whole video, produced by the Italian station RAI, here – and you tell me if we haven’t descended into barbarism.

What strikes me about the Italian video occurs in an interview with two American soldiers – witnesses to this horror – in which one of them describes his orders to kill “anything that moves” in the Fallujah free-fire zone.

What the U.S. government is doing in Iraq is precisely what Milosevic was accused of in Kovoso: targeting a population for near-extermination and dispersal, i.e., “ethnic cleansing.” Fallujah, as this video proves, was “cleansed” in a phosphorescent lake of fire.

The administration and its supporters continually refer to the insurgents in Iraq as “terrorists” – but if we’re using a napalm-like substance to bomb population centers like Fallujah, then what are we?

The warlords of Washington aren’t exporting “democracy” – they’re exporting terrorism.

Not only is this monstrous, it’s incredibly stupid: is this how we’re trying to build support for “democracy” in the wider Arab world? We might as well keep Karen Hughes at home. The poor woman already has an impossible job – but that video of burnt Iraqi women and children, the skin hanging off their bodies, their melted faces coagulating into a grimace of universal sorrow, makes her a moving target.

Winning hearts and minds – there’s an echo of the past we hear often – was supposedly the goal of the LBJ-Nixon administrations in raining napalm and other chemical weapons, like Agent Orange, on Vietnam. But we have already lost that battle if we have to resort to burning the “liberated” people of Iraq alive.

The death visited by phosphorous bombs is an eerie one: the bombs explode and spread a lethal cloud that goes right through clothing and seeks out flesh, searing and eating it up like some airborne ghoul. We are confronted with the sight of charred skeletons, the skin dripping off the bone, with clothing still clinging to the corpses.

What kind of demonic evil justifies this – in the name of “liberty”?

The policy is not only crazed, but anyone and everyone who supports it, at this point, is dangerously deluded, and this is coming out in the recent utterances of prominent warmongers. Norman Podhoretz, for instance, is reduced to arguing, in the current Commentary, that everyone believed Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” including many prominent Democrats, and therefore no one ought to criticize the war, because we are all equally implicated in an elaborate process of self-deception. Somehow, critics of the war who never accepted the WMD argument – like Scott Ritter, often cited in this space during the run-up to the invasion – go unmentioned in Podhoretz’s screed.

Aside from being just plain wrong on the facts of the case, what kind of a loony argument is it that tries to justify a war by underscoring the incompetence of the government that started it? Only a neocon would even attempt it. They don’t have much choice, though, beyond going completely silent: the only alternative is admitting that the whole thing was an outright deception, which is what the polls are telling us the majority of Americans have come to believe, anyway.

Another casualty lost to the epidemic of diminished mental powers afflicting the more voluble neocons is Christopher Hitchens, who told blogger Kris Lofgren, at the Chalabi-fest over at AEI the other day… well, let Lofgren tell it:

“Hitchens then turned the subject back to Chalabi, his good friend. I asked him if he thought Chalabi had been passing American intelligence to the Iranians. ‘No,’ he insisted. ‘It’s possible that with his training, you know, at [the University of] Chicago that with his own ability he was able to crack the codes. He is a mathematical genius. His expertise is cryptology. It is possible that he broke the codes himself.'”

Let’s leave aside the complete impossibility of this scenario – Chalabi’s specialty is not cryptology, but in group theory – and ignore what it says about the weird Washington-based cult the neocons have built up around the Great Embezzler. What, exactly, is Hitchens saying about Chalabi’s relationship with Tehran? The vital information Chalabi is charged with passing on to the Iranians is that the Americans had broken their code and were reading their internal government communications. So Hitchens is saying Chalabi told the mullahs: your code is cracked, and I know because I’m the one who cracked it. How, exactly, does this exonerate Chalabi?

Poor Hitchens. Whatever comes out of his mouth, these days, is more the result of delirium tremens than the product of human reasoning.

Lacking any genuine moral sense, “Hitch” exhibits no remorse, no regrets, no second thoughts about having helped sire the horrors we are seeing today in Iraq. Everybody wants Chalabi to apologize – but what about our own neocons, who relentlessly pushed the wily Iraqi’s fabrications as solid facts? Not a chance.

Podhoretz, too, is similarly unreflective, and not at all humbled by the catastrophic failure of the Iraq misadventure. The neocons speak abstractly, in ideological terms, about the war, referring often to “democracy” and “liberalizing” Arab society, and avoiding any discussion of concretes or costs. However, “democracy” has nothing to do with it – except insofar as the Americans and their allies can get the consent of the Shi’ite-Kurd majority to systematically kill off – and drive off – the Sunni minority. And “freedom” sure as heck has nothing to do with it – except the “freedom” of our neoconservative theoreticians to dress up mass murder in “patriotic” and even “idealistic” robes.

This ideological window-dressing, however, becomes less convincing as the true ugliness and brutality of the war is brought home to the American people. I was struck by what one of the American GIs said in the Italian video: the Fallujah operation was all about “killing Arabs” in large numbers. This, it seems to me, gets at the essential goal of the invasion and occupation of Iraq: it is a targeted mass slaughter. Its purpose is to terrorize not only the people of Iraq, but the entire region, and Muslims worldwide. Submit – or this will happen to you.

This war has become one prolonged act of state terrorism, and anyone who continues to support it – now that the full horror of American military tactics has been exposed – becomes a pro-terrorist fellow-traveler. I don’t know if Dante reserved a special rung of Hell for such people, but if not, it should be fairly close to the bottom of the infernal pit.

Mass murder, torture, and a military strategy founded on unmitigated cruelty and horror – that’s what this war is about. Its symbol is Lynndie England wielding a leash. Insofar as it is based on any philosophical worldview, I would look for the clue to this not in The Federalist Papers, but in the works of the Marquis de Sade. We are inflicting pain and raining clouds of death on a society, not to achieve any goal, but, I would argue, purely for the perverted pleasure of exhibiting our power.

Paul Wolfowitz famously argued in favor of attacking Iraq in the wake of 9/11 because “it’s doable.” We can, therefore we will – what would be quickly diagnosed as sociopathic behavior in an individual is the same mindset that dominates our top policymakers. This is a policy, not of “liberation,” but of domination – and the main threat [.pdf] to liberty and peace on earth.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].