In yesterday’s blog post, “Perpetual Fear under Empire,” I pointed out that fear is the coin of the realm when living under an empire. As the Roman citizens learned when living under their empire, imperial escapades in overseas lands always produce endless crises. Then, Roman officials would use the crises as the way to get Roman citizens all riled up and afraid, thereby making them more submissive to the ever-growing controls and taxation that the government was imposing on them.
But I wish to make something clear. When I say that it’s ridiculous for grown men and women to be cowering in fear over ISIS, that’s not to say that there isn’t a danger of retaliatory terrorist attacks here in the United States. On the contrary, I think the possibility of retaliatory strikes, especially here on American soil, is a virtual certainty. You cannot go out and bomb people and not expect that the survivors aren’t going to retaliate. And one of the ways people retaliate against powerful armies is by initiating terrorist strikes against their citizens.
After all, even though there are still people who recite the “They hate us for our freedom and values” mantra regarding 9/11, the reality was that the 9/11 attacks were in retaliation for what the U.S. government had been doing in the Middle East prior to the 9/11 attacks (and after the end of the Cold War).
Those U.S. actions included the Persian Gulf War against the U.S. government’s former partner and ally, Saddam Hussein; the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants with full knowledge of what that would mean to the health and safety of the Iraqi people; the brutal sanctions that were imposed on Iraq for more than 10 years, which impoverished the Iraqi people and contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement to “Sixty Minutes” that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions had been “worth it”; the deadly “no-fly zones” over Iraq; the unconditional military and financial support of the Israeli government; the stationing of U.S. troops near the Islamic holy lands of Mecca and Medina; and the support of brutal dictatorships in the Middle East.
Why would it surprise anyone that people in the Middle East would become get angry over such things?
Longtime supporters of FFF know that prior to the 9/11 attacks, we were publishing articles telling people that there was a good possibility of terrorist attacks on American soil. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with that analysis. It just took a knowledge of what the U.S. government was dong in the Middle East. We weren’t the only ones. That’s also what Chalmers Johnson’s said in his pre-9/11 book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.
Thus, with U.S. bombs falling on Iraq once again, I’d say there is a good possibility that the same thing is going to happen again here in the United States, either on some building, shopping mall, street, or other place where there are lots of people. As we learned on 9/11, people in the Middle East get angry when they see their friends and relatives are getting killed by some foreign power and they seek revenge.
But is that any reason for Americans to cower in fear?
For one thing, there is no possibility — none — that ISIS (or anyone else for that matter) is going to cross the ocean, invade and conquer the United States, and take control over the IRS, the DEA, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the rest of the federal government. If that’s what you’re afraid of, forget it. Neither ISIS nor anyone else (including Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Cuba) has the military capability to pull off such an enormous undertaking.
For another thing, the chance of being the among the ones who get hit by a terrorist retaliatory strike here on American soil are so remote that it’s not worth losing sleep or pacing the floors over. The odds against getting hit by ISIS terrorism are probably larger than the odds of winning the lottery. That, of course, won’t be any consolation to those who do get hit but because the possibility of being hit is so remote, it’s not something to live in fear over.
If you do want to live your life free of the possibility of terrorism on American soil, there is but one solution: dismantle the U.S. military empire, bring all the troops home and discharge them, dismantle the Cold War-era military-industrial complex, abolish the Cold War-era CIA, terminate all foreign aid, stop all assassinations, indefinite detentions, and torture, and end America’s foreign policy of interventionism.
There really isn’t any other way. But if Americans love their empire and want it to continue, then everyone should just understand that terrorist retaliation is a price of empire. (Financial bankruptcy is another price.)
The worst thing Americans can do is to encourage the government to continue the suspension of our liberties in the purported attempt to keep us safe from the dangers that the government’s policies have produced. That includes things like mass surveillance, indefinite detention, torture, and assassination of American citizens. The fact is that such policies don’t keep us safe. They only make the government more powerful and deprive us of ever more of our freedom. Better to live and die a free person, no matter how dangerous that might be, than to live life as a cowering, fearful serf, no matter how safe you might be.