The coin of the realm in any national-security state is fear. In order to induce people to surrender their rights and freedoms, officials have to inculcate deep fear within them. Thus, national-security officials are constantly coming up with official foreign enemies, opponents, rivals, and adversaries, as well as crises, to convince the citizenry that a national-security state is necessary to keep them safe and secure. Thus, during the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state after World War II, President Truman, who was presiding over the conversion, was told that he needed to scare the “hell” out of the American people.
The big official enemy that was used to justify the conversion to a national-security state was communism. After the defeat of the Nazi regime in World War II, U.S. officials convinced Americans that, unfortunately, they could not rest on their laurels. The reason was that America now faced an even greater danger, which was communism. U.S. officials told the American people that there was an international communist conspiracy based in Moscow — yes, the same Russia that still serves as one of America’s official enemies today. That conspiracy, they maintained, also encompassed Red China. The Red menace would ultimately spread to Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, and even to the United States, where officials went on a crusade to ferret out and destroy communist sympathizers here at home. There was even a movie made during the 1960s entitled, “The Russians Are Coming. The Russians Are Coming.”
Americans became deathly afraid that the Reds were coming to get them. That’s why they were more than willing to surrender the rights and freedoms they had had under a limited-government republic. Ironically, many of them did not notice that they were now living under the same type of governmental system that also characterized the communist regimes that were supposedly conspiring to take over the United States and the rest of the world.
The Cold War
With one exception, the Cold War against the Soviet Union, Red China, and the rest of the international communist conspiracy continued for some 45 years. The exception occurred during the presidential administration of President John F. Kennedy. In his peace speech at American University in June 1963, Kennedy effectively declared an end to the Cold War and announced that the United States would henceforth have a peaceful and friendly relationship with the Soviet Union and, implicitly, with the rest of the communist world. As I detail in my book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story, Kennedy took major steps in that direction, which, if continued, would almost certainly have led to the dismantling of the national-security state and the restoration of a limited-government republic.
However, Kennedy’s new direction for America didn’t last very long. After he was assassinated a little more than five months later, everything returned to where it had been before he took office. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, ramped up U.S. involvement in Vietnam to stop the Reds from taking over South Vietnam. The national-security establishment was assured of its continued existence and massive taxpayer-funded largess.
Most everyone naturally assumed that the Cold War would go on forever, and that the national-security state would become a permanent feature of American life, along with ever-increasing budgets for the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and their growing army of “defense” contractors. After all, the Soviet and Chinese regimes maintained strict gun control within their own countries and those they controlled through puppet regimes. How could people ever hope to bring an end to regimes that wielded omnipotent power, especially given that people lacked weapons with which to violently resist?
In 1989, however, the unexpected happened. Without any formal negotiations or a peace treaty, the Soviet Union unilaterally declared an end to the Cold War, much to the shock of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Soviet troops exited East Germany and Eastern Europe and returned home to Russia. The Soviet Union was dismantled.
Suddenly, the justification for a national-security state was gone. To be sure, Red China was still in existence, but the big scary Cold War bugaboo had always been the Soviet Union and the supposed international communist conspiracy based in Moscow. Some people were surely going to start asking why Americans couldn’t have their limited-government republic back. In fact, many people immediately began asking about a “peace dividend” consisting of major cutbacks in military spending.
Panicked, Pentagon and CIA officials suggested that they could continue playing a valuable role in America’s governmental system. They said that they could help win the war on drugs and also help police with what they said was an unsafe world.
A new official enemy
But they knew that if they were going to remain in existence, they would need a new official enemy to take the place of their previous official enemy. Enter Saddam Hussein, the unelected dictator of Iraq. From 1990 until 2001, Saddam became the new official enemy used to strike deep fear within the hearts and minds of the American people. In fact, to make certain that Americans got the point, U.S. officials and their supporters in the mainstream press began referring to Saddam as the “new Hitler” who was bound and determined to have his army come to the United States, unleash weapons of mass destruction, take over the country, and subjugate the American people.
At one point, Iraq got into an oil-drilling dispute with neighboring Kuwait. Iraq claimed that Kuwait was slant-drilling into Iraqi land and therefore stealing Iraq’s oil. When Saddam mentioned the dispute to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, she responded that the U.S. government was indifferent to the dispute.
But when Saddam decided to invade Kuwait to resolve the dispute, the United States was no longer indifferent. U.S. officials turned on Saddam with a vengeance and announced that this Hitler-like ruler needed to be stopped. That was when President George H. W. Bush went to the United Nations and rounded up an international force to invade Iraq and evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
The irony in all this was that throughout the 1980s, Saddam and U.S. officials had been close friends, partners, and allies. In fact, through most of that decade, U.S. officials were helping Saddam in his war of aggression against Iran. Why would U.S. officials be helping the “new Hitler” kill Iranians in an unprovoked war of aggression? The reason is that the Pentagon and the CIA were angry with the Iranian people for having ousted their brutal dictator, the Shah of Iran, in a violent revolution in 1979. The CIA had installed the Shah into power in a coup in 1953, when the CIA destroyed Iran’s democratic system by ousting the country’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from power and then installing and reinforcing the brutal tyranny of the Shah. Helping Iraq kill Iranians in Saddam’s war of aggression provided the Pentagon and the CIA with a modicum of revenge.
Once U.S. forces went into action against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, they began massacring Iraqi soldiers and killing countless civilians with a bombing campaign against the country. Even though U.S. officials had portrayed Saddam as the “new Hitler,” the fact was that Iraq was an impoverished Third World country. It was never any military match for the United States. The Pentagon and the CIA easily won the war, and Iraqi forces were forced to exit Kuwait.
However, in a fateful decision — one that would later bedevil his son when he became president — President Bush decided not to send U.S. forces to Baghdad to remove Saddam from power and replace him with another U.S. stooge. Instead, Saddam was left in power and made America’s new official enemy, a position he would maintain for the rest of the decade and beyond, until the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Throughout the 1990s, Saddam remained America’s official enemy. “Saddam! Saddam! Saddam!” Hardly a day went by for more than 10 years in which people didn’t express fear that Saddam was coming to get them and unleash weapons of mass destruction upon them.
Deadly sanctions on Iraq
For all those years, U.S. officials were bound and determined to correct the “mistake” that they felt President Bush had made in not removing Saddam from power through military force. The way they attempted to accomplish this regime change was through the use of economic sanctions — in fact, one of the most brutal systems of economic sanctions that has ever been imposed on any nation in history.
During the Gulf War, the Pentagon had ordered U.S. pilots to bomb Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants with the aim of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi populace. Once the war was over, the sanctions then prevented Iraqi officials from repairing those facilities.
The Pentagon’s strategy of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people was extremely successful, especially when it came to Iraqi children. Day after day, month after month, year after year, multitudes of Iraqi children were dying because of the sanctions. In fact, in 1996 when U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, was asked if the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it, she replied that they were, in fact, “worth it.” By “it,” she meant the effort to remove Saddam from power and replace him with another U.S.-approved dictator. The deadly sanctions on Iraq continued for another five years after Albright made that statement.
Albright’s mindset mirrored those of other U.S. officials, including her boss, President Bill Clinton. Most everyone within the federal government, especially within the national-security branch of the federal government, believed that the deaths of those Iraqi children were worth it. The idea was that if enough children could be killed, Saddam Hussein would be forced to abdicate and leave the country.
In fact, U.S. officials actually blamed the deaths of those Iraqi children on Saddam himself. They said that to end the death toll, all that Saddam had to do was resign his position. As soon as he did so, U.S. officials would lift the sanctions. The fact that he chose to remain in power meant that he, not the U.S. government, was responsible for the deaths caused by the sanctions.
Not surprisingly, not everyone shared the U.S. enthusiasm for the sanctions and the massive death toll that came with them. Three high UN officials, stricken by a crisis of conscience, resigned their positions with the UN. They said that they could not in good conscience participate in what they called a genocide against those children. U.S. officials mocked and ridiculed them, apparently because they were “soft.”
An American man named Bert Sacks traveled to Iraq and delivered medicines and other essentials to the Iraqi people. U.S. officials fined him $10,000 and then went after him with a vengeance in an effort to collect their money. To Sacks’s everlasting credit, he fought them every step of the way and ultimately prevailed. To their deep chagrin, U.S. officials never collected a dime of that $10,000 fine.
Anger and rage
Where most of the anger and even rage was concentrated, not surprisingly, was within Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, where people were seeing the death toll among the Iraqi children, many of whom came from Muslim families. But there was nothing anybody could do to stop the death toll. After all, the U.S. government had the most powerful military in history. How in the world were people in impoverished Third World countries supposed to stop the U.S. government from continuing its deadly system of sanctions that were killing those Iraqi children? Their helplessness that people felt contributed to their rising anger and rage.
Contributing to the boiling cauldron of anger and rage that was erupting in Iraq, Pakistan, and surrounding areas was the U.S. government’s unconditional support of the Israeli government, especially the way it was mistreating Palestinians. Making matters even worse was the U.S. government’s decision to station U.S. troops near Mecca and Medina, the most sacred lands in the Muslim religion.
In 1993, a 29-year-old Pakistani man named Mir Aimal Kansi was living in northern Virginia. He came from a fairly well-to-do family in a village in Pakistan. He was one of the people stricken with rage over what the U.S. government was doing to people in Iraq and the Middle East.
Attack on the CIA
On the morning of January 25, 1993, Kansi drove his car down Route 123, the road that leads into CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He figured that the people who would be turning into CIA headquarters would be CIA employees. He decided that he would try to kill as many CIA officials as possible. He began walking from car to car as they were waiting to turn into CIA headquarters and shooting as many men as he could. He left the women alone. He ended up killing two CIA employees and wounded three more.
Kansi’s reasoning for killing those people was this: The CIA and the Pentagon had killed multitudes of people in Iraq during the Gulf War. But their killings didn’t stop there. At the end of the war, they continued killing Iraqi people, especially Iraqi children, with their sanctions, but also with their so-called no-fly zones over Iraq. The reason they were killing those children was a political one — they were trying to oust Saddam Hussein from power and were targeting Iraqi children with death as a way to achieve that goal. Therefore, Kansi believed, he had the right to retaliate against the CIA by killing its officials, even if the officials he killed were not actually the ones who were doing the killing in Iraq.
Not surprisingly, however, that’s not the way that U.S. officials saw things. As far as they were concerned, they had the authority to kill whomever they wanted, including those children in Iraq, especially as a way to achieve regime change in Iraq. People in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East just had to learn to accept the death toll. No one, including Kansi, had the right to stop them or retaliate against them for killing people in Iraq or other parts of the Middle East.
After going on his shooting spree, Kansi fled the scene and caught a flight back to Pakistan. U.S. officials quickly determined that he was the killer. Interestingly enough, U.S. officials chose not to invade Pakistan in an effort to find him and kill him, as they would do to Afghanistan eight years later. Instead, they decided to wait until Kansi surfaced, which he finally did four years later.
Kansi was arrested and brought back to the United States to stand trial. He was indicted for murder and prosecuted in a Virginia state court. He was convicted and sentenced to die. On November 14, 2002, he was executed by lethal injection.
From the time he was arrested until the day he died, Kansi was very clear as to why he had shot those CIA employees. He was angry over the fact that U.S. officials were over there killing Iraqi children and others. One of the interesting aspects of this was that U.S. officials fully acknowledged Kansi’s motive. They said that his motive demonstrated what an evil, deranged person he was.
After Kansi’s conviction, four American oil executives were killed in Pakistan, presumably in retaliation. After Kansi’s execution, many people in his home village were angry. They considered Kansi to be a hero. About 150 members of his tribe in Pakistan marched in the streets of his hometown of Quetta chanting “Aimal is our hero.” The protestors also burned a U.S. flag. According to Wikipedia, his funeral was attended by the entire civil hierarchy of Kansi’s home province of Baluchistan, the local Pakistan Army Corps commander, and the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States.
Today, there is a plaque on Route 123 in Virginia near CIA headquarters in memory of the two CIA officials who were killed, which states: “In Remembrance of Ultimate Dedication to Mission Shown by Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency Whose Lives Have Been Taken or Forever Changed by Events at Home and Abroad. Dedicato Par Aevum (Dedicated to Service) May 2002.
According to Wikipedia, Kansi is memorialized through a mosque built in his name as Shaheed Aimal Kansi masjid (Martyr Aimal Kansi mosque) in the port city of Ormara in Balochistan.
As we will see, the Kansi episode was not the only instance of “blowback” from U.S. actions in Iraq and the Middle East.
This article was originally published in the December 2022 edition of Future of Freedom.