War Is the Health of What?

Paul Craig Roberts is not a leftist, a liberal, a socialist, or a Democrat. He never has been. Roberts was the assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for Ronald Reagan. (We all know that the one-world socialist types in the Reagan White House were in the vice president’s office.) Paul Craig Roberts is a supply-sider – they’re not quite libertarians, but getting there. He’s for capitalism, national sovereignty, the Constitution, baseball, flags, moms, and all of that. Having said that, is it surprising to note that he also thinks George W. Bush is the worst president ever? He calls the invasion of Iraq the biggest strategic blunder ever committed by an American president. I’d say second after World War I, but it may be too soon to say. To listen to my radio interview of Paul Craig Roberts from July 9, click [stream] or [download].

Listen to Scott’s interview with Paul Craig Roberts


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While the long-term effects of invading Iraq can’t yet be known, it is increasingly likely that the people of this country and of our country’s allies will be paying the price for Bush’s lack of vision for a long time to come. The president’s pal Porter Goss has admitted to the U.S. Senate the sad truth confirmed by multiple CIA studies: The war in Iraq has made you less safe. There were those like Republican congressman Ron Paul who tried, before the war, to warn the government that bin Laden wanted us to invade Iraq, but the War Party and most Americans refused to listen. Following Fox News and CNN, like so many rats hypnotized by the flute, Americans bought a series of stories – from Saddam’s nuclear weapons program to the idea that somehow spreading “democracy” around the Middle East would stop people from wanting to be terrorists – that now sound so silly most people are embarrassed to admit they ever believed them.

The truth is that people did believe the hype about the supposed Iraqi threat. As a result, we have created a giant gladiator academy for those most inclined to kill Americans.

To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. To a man with a holy book, everything is a chapter in it. This is part of why many Muslims see violence against fellow believers far away, or even long ago, as an attack on Islam as a whole – and of course the more fundamentalist the believer, the more likely he is to seek violent revenge. This idea that the U.S. is on a crusade against all of Islam has been bin Laden’s theme, and the U.S. government seems to take great care to reinforce it at every opportunity. In February and March 2002, for example, when there was sectarian violence by Hindus against Muslims in India, the U.S. government failed to issue so much as a press release. According to Michael Scheuer, the former head analyst of the CIA’s bin Laden unit and the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror, this was a major propaganda coup for al-Qaeda shortly after 9/11 when they really needed it.

Like the jihadists, Americans on the Right also tend to be very collectivist. Often it is said and written that the danger to America is Islam itself. It’s a violent religion, bent on world domination, and only by turning over our money and liberty to the American State – so that it can “take the fight to the enemy” – can we defeat the evildoers. This is exactly what bin Laden wants to hear. It makes him seem “right all along” to millions. So why does the Bush team do it? According to Roberts:

“The neoconservatives’ goal is the same as Osama bin Laden’s – to spread instability in the Middle East. The neocons seek to foment instability in order to justify more U.S. invasions in an insane quest to remake the Middle East in the American image. Bin Laden seeks instability in order to topple the secular rulers and recreate Islamic rule. Bin Laden does not want U.S. troops out. He wants to suck America in deeper in order to create revolutionary insurgency throughout the Middle East.

“The Bush administration is moronic enough to oblige bin Laden.”

Scheuer, who has described the invasion of Iraq as a “hoped for, but unexpected, gift to bin Laden,” says in Imperial Hubris:

“U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.”

James Bamford, a former producer at ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and the author of the books The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets about the National Security Agency, says in his book, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies:

“Ayman al-Zawahiri argued that al-Qaeda should bring the war to ‘the distant enemy’ in order to provoke the Americans to strike back and ‘personally wage the battle against Muslims.’ It was that battle that bin Laden and Zawahiri wanted to spark [with the 9/11 attacks]. As they made clear in their declaration of war ‘against Jews and Crusaders.’ They believed that the United States and Israel had been waging war against Muslims for decades. Now their hope was to draw Americans into a desert Vietnam, with bin Laden in the role of North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh.”

Zawahiri has also been quoted as saying,

“We thank God for appeasing us with the dilemma in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Americans are facing a dilemma in both countries: If they withdraw, they will lose everything; if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.”

And bleeding to death is exactly what is happening. When the British planned to redeploy some of the troops now in Iraq to Afghanistan to reinforce the disaster there, Bush begged Blair not to go. The last pretense of stability would be gone, the game up.

In his speech last October, bin Laden called it the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan:

“All that we have to do is to send two mujahedin to the furthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaeda, 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 other than some benefits for their private companies.

“This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahedin, bled Russia for ten years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat... So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

Osama thought it was funny that his interests and Bush’s converged so closely:

“That being said, those who say that al-Qaeda 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-Qaeda is the sole factor in achieving those 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-Qaeda to achieve these enormous results.

“And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and us are playing as one team toward the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ.”

Although Osama bin Laden’s (quite successful) tactics certainly represent the fringe, it would be a mistake to think that his opinion of American policy does as well. His view of U.S. aims is shared broadly in the Middle East. The more violently the U.S. government behaves, the more people are going to join up with the suicide bombers. The benefits of our policy to jihad recruiters everywhere and the American warfare state are nearly endless. The new terrorists we’ve created help to justify the reach of the national security state into the pockets and lives of the American public. They also create pressure to allow the “former” radical intellectuals to have their creatively destructive world revolution, Bush his legacy, the Army their permanent bases, Ariel Sharon his undisputed role as regional hegemon, the oil companies their continued delay in bringing Iraq’s oil to market, and militaristic conservatives their feeling of toughness that comes with bombing faraway lands.

Osama bin Laden would love it if the Republicans invaded Iran. Take it from Paul Craig Roberts. He’s a Republican.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, and the editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,500 interviews since 2003. Scott’s articles have appeared at Antiwar.com, The American Conservative magazine, the History News Network, The Future of Freedom, The National Interest and the Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, The Impact of War. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.