Who Is Winning the War on Terrorism?

New York is a city under siege. As I write on the morning of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, thousands of police, federal agents, and the National Guard are swarming over the panicked metropolis, as reports proliferate that three suspected terrorists who entered the country recently are planning a car-bomb attack. Bomb-sniffing dogs patrol Grand Central Station, while police checkpoints delay traffic for hours – and threats appear on the White House Facebook page.

Amid the hundreds of editorials, reminiscences, and opinion pieces directed our way this somber day, all of which seek to extract some larger meaning from the worst terrorist attack in American history, the real meaning of that signal event is plain as day: we are losing the “war on terrorism” – big time.

Look at what happened in New York City: how many resources, how many tax dollars, have been expended in the search for three terrorists who may or may not be planning an attack? One of the major pieces of evidence for the 9/11/11 plot is the uptick in “chatter” supposedly filling the terrorist communications network. But what if this “chatter” is a calculated tactic? Simply by feinting – “leaking” false information – the Bad Guys can provoke a major and exhausting response, draining us until we’re eventually so worn down – or so bankrupt – that they accomplish their goal without even launching another strike on the scale of 9/11.

As Osama bin Laden put it in a videotaped message broadcast by al-Jazeera on November 1, 2004:

“All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedin to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qa’ida in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note.… So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

The late terrorist leader went on to point out that

“Al-Qa’ida spent $500,000 on the [9/11 attacks], while America in the incident and its aftermath lost – according to the lowest estimates – more than 500 billion dollars, meaning that every dollar of al-Qa’ida defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah besides the loss of a huge number of jobs. As for the size of the economic deficit, it has reached record, astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars. And even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the Mujahedin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan with Allah’s permission.”

As we scramble to defend New York City against a threat that may not even exist, bin Laden’s ghost is laughing at us from beyond the grave.

Yet there are worse fates than mere bankruptcy. We are living in a world where, if you get up and go to the bathroom more than once while traveling on a airplane, the flight is diverted on account of your “suspicious behavior.”

Hysteria has blinded us to the real threat. Even as the terrorists openly proclaim their “bleed-until-bankruptcy plan,” we continue to travel down the same path to economic oblivion. It has been widely noted that the 19 hijackers appropriated our own high technology – airliners – and turned them against us, but little noted that they also appropriated our emotional commitment to a war of revenge and used it in a similar fashion. As bin Laden put it:

“So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. Allah is willing and nothing is too great for Allah. That being said, those who say that al-Qa’ida has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise because when one scrutinizes the results, one cannot say that Al-Qa’ida is the sole factor in achieving these spectacular gains. Rather, the policy of the White House that demands the opening of war fronts to keep busy their various corporations – whether they be working in the field of arms or oil or reconstruction – has helped al-Qa’ida to achieve those enormous results.”

New fronts in our endless “war on terrorism” are opened, it seems, with each passing week: Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, the Philippines, Pakistan, and now Libya – where we are carrying out the new co-optation strategy of the Obama administration, which seeks to hijack the “Arab Spring” and utilize it as a weapon of against Islamist extremism. By setting up US-aligned “democratic” states in the Middle East, from Egypt to Libya and beyond, the Americans hope to inoculate the region against the virus represented by al-Qaeda.

This is a dangerous policy in so many ways that it would take more than a single column to even list them. Suffice to say that recent events in Egypt, and the growing influence of Islamist elements among the Libyan rebels, underscores how the “blowback” from our efforts could backfire in our faces.

We’ve spent trillions fighting this losing battle, but more than money has been lost – we’ve forfeited our freedom. The barrage of legislation enacted since 9/11 that empowers our government to openly spy on us in ways that would have been inconceivable before has effectively abolished our old republic, and replaced it with something else – a misshapen, polyglot creature, half “democratic” and fully authoritarian, which cannot sustain itself economically, and – for all its vaunting about exercising “world leadership” – shows every sign of descending into an irreversible decline.

If some historian of the future should attempt to chronicle the decline of the American republic, the point when history made its fateful turn will be readily identifiable: September 11, 2001, the day the 9/11 coup d’etat was victorious. As President George W. Bush sat reading The Pet Goat to a group of schoolchildren while the World Trade Center and the Pentagon came under attack, the government was effectively taken over by Vice President Dick Cheney and a cabal of government officials already in place and ready to assume command of the world’s mightiest superpower. From that moment on, the War Party had its hands on the reins of power, and they remain in the drivers seat to this day – albeit under another partisan alias.

For ten years they’ve been driving this country into the ground, just as bin Laden predicted they would. As dead as he is, he’s having the last laugh: his strategy is working.

Speaking of strategies that work: the circumstances surrounding the terrorist icon’s death point the way to fighting an effective campaign against those who plot and plan to pull off another 9/11. We didn’t get bin Laden by launching a massive invasion, or by “democratizing” the Middle East: it was good old fashioned police work, meticulous and patiently executed, that finally nailed him in his lair. We didn’t beat the Mafia by invading Italy – and we won’t beat the Islamist Mafioso by conquering Afghanistan and occupying great swathes of the Muslim world. Unfortunately, our present rulers show no signs of having learned the lesson of their greatest success.

Yes, we do have enemies who want to kill us, but those ghouls who worship Thanatos understand that death can take on many forms. A man can still continue to exist long after he has betrayed everything that made him uniquely himself. Nations, too, can commit this kind of slow motion suicide, so that the passage from life to death can go undetected until it is far too late to reverse course.

Is it too late for us? I fear the answer to this question, because we cannot know it until that point is well behind us. I can only let the historians of the future argue the question, while here, in the present, I fight – in my small way – to influence their verdict.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, 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].