On February 26, 1993, terrorists detonated a truck bomb in the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. While the bombing did not bring down the Twin Towers, as the terrorists intended, it did kill six people and injured over a thousand. That terrorist attack was no different in principle from the one that would succeed in bringing down the WTC some eight years later.
One of the terrorists involved in the 1993 attack was a Pakistani man named Ramzi Yousef. In 1995, he was arrested in Pakistan and then extradited to the United States. Given that the terrorist attack on the WTC was a criminal offense under U.S. law, Yousef was tried in a U.S. District Court, convicted, and sentenced to two life sentences plus 240 years.
At his sentencing hearing, there was no doubt that Yousef was a very angry man. This is what he stated in part to the federal judge who was about to impose sentence on him:
You keep talking also about collective punishment and killing innocent people to force governments to change their policies; you call this terrorism when someone would kill innocent people or civilians in order to force the government to change its policies. Well, when you were the first one who invented this terrorism.
You were the first one who killed innocent people, and you are the first one who introduced this type of terrorism to the history of mankind when you dropped an atomic bomb which killed tens of thousands of women and children in Japan and when you killed over a hundred thousand people, most of them civilians, in Tokyo with fire bombings. You killed them by burning them to death. And you killed civilians in Vietnam with chemicals as with the so-called Orange agent. You killed civilians and innocent people, not soldiers, innocent people every single war you went. You went to wars more than any other country in this century, and then you have the nerve to talk about killing innocent people.
The Government in its summations and opening statement said that I was a terrorist. Yes, I am a terrorist and I am proud of it. And I support terrorism so long as it was against the United States Government and against Israel, because you are more than terrorists; you are the one who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars and hypocrites.
And now you have invented new ways to kill innocent people. You have so-called economic embargo which kills nobody other than children and elderly people, and which other than Iraq you have been placing the economic embargo on Cuba and other countries for over 35 years….
The federal judge, Kevin Thomas Duffy, had his own angry response to Yousef:
Ramzi Yousef, you claim to be an Islamic militant. Of all the persons killed or harmed in some way by the World Trade Center bomb, you cannot name one who was against you or your cause. You did not care, just so long as you left dead bodies and people hurt.
Ramzi Yousef, you are not fit to uphold Islam. Your God is death. Your God is not Allah….
You weren’t seeking conversions. The only thing you wanted to do was to cause death. Your God is not Allah. You worship death and destruction. What you do, you do not for Allah; you do it only to satisfy your own twisted sense of ego.
You would have others believe that you are a soldier, but the attacks on civilization for which you stand convicted here were sneak attacks which sought to kill and maim totally innocent people….
You, Ramzi Yousef, came to this country pretending to be an Islamic fundamentalist, but you cared little or nothing for Islam or the faith of the Muslims. Rather, you adored not Allah, but the evil that you yourself have become. And I must say that as an apostle of evil, you have been most effective.
Duffy was, of course, correct. In his terrorist attack, Yousef had retaliated against the U.S. government by killing and injuring innocent people — that is, people who had had nothing to do with the U.S. government’s killing of foreigners. That, in fact, is why we condemn terrorism.
The law of empire and intervention
But there is something important that Duffy failed to note: that what the U.S. government was doing in Iraq was precisely what Yousef did. U.S. officials were killing innocent people in Iraq, including children, as a way to achieve a political goal. That’s what Duffy was saying about Yousef.
Remember: That’s what the brutal sanctions against Iraq were all about. Their goal was to kill as many Iraqis as possible to induce Saddam Hussein to relinquish power, so that he could then be replaced by another U.S.-approved dictator. Recall U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement to “Sixty Minutes” when she was asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it. Speaking for the U.S. government, she stated that the deaths of those children were, in fact, “worth it.”
There is another point, though, that Judge Duffy failed to make: It wouldn’t have mattered if Yousef had attacked the Pentagon or the CIA instead of the World Trade Center. Duffy would still have held that the people Yousef killed were innocent. How do we know this? Because that’s what Mir Aimal Kansi had done! He had gone out to CIA headquarters and killed people who were working for one of the governmental entities that were killing those Iraqi children. Recall that he was condemned as a vicious terrorist and given the death penalty.
What people in the Middle East needed to learn was that the U.S. government wielded omnipotent authority to kill anyone they wanted, including innocent children. That’s what comes with being the world’s sole remaining empire. What people over there also needed to learn was that no one has the right to defend himself or to retaliate for what the U.S. government does to innocent people. If anyone does defend himself or retaliates, he will be condemned as a terrorist and either be incarcerated for the rest of his life, as Yousef was, or simply executed, as Kansi was.
In early 1998, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda issued a “fatwa,” or declaration of jihad, arising out of the U.S. government’s interventionism in the Middle East. Among other things, the fatwa pointed to the death and destruction arising from the U.S. war on Iraq, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, and the killing of Iraqi children with U.S. sanctions. The fatwa stated, “Iraqi children are our children. You (America), together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children.”
In that same year, al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Two years later, on October 12, 2000, a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer named the USS Cole, was attacked by suicide bombers while it was being refueled in Yemen, which is about 6,000 miles from American shores. Seventeen U.S. Navy sailors were killed and 37 injured. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack.
The big lie
Then came the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Immediately, U.S. officials announced that the terrorists had struck America because they hated our nation for its “freedom and
It was flat-out lie. U.S. officials knew full well why the terrorists had struck. After all, they understood fully why Ramzi Yousef had attacked the WTC some eight years before — because he was retaliating for the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy, including its continuous killing of innocent Iraqi children. They also knew why Mir Aimal Kansi had killed those CIA officials outside CIA headquarters — because he, too, was retaliating for the U.S. government’s killing spree in the Middle East. It was the same motivation that had driven al-Qaeda to attack the USS Cole and the U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, a former CIA analyst named Chalmers Johnson wrote a book called Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. In his book, Johnson warned that if the U.S. government did not cease its deadly and destructive interventionism in the Middle East, the result almost certainly would be a major terrorist attack here inside the United States.
He wasn’t the only one. Here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, we published op-eds before the 9/11 attack saying the same thing.
Of course, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict such a thing. All one had to do was to see what had motivated Kansi, Yousef, bin Laden, and al-Qaeda to engage in their pre-9/11 terrorist attacks.
Despite all the warnings, U.S. officials steadfastly stayed on course and continued bringing death to the Middle East all the way up to the 9/11 attacks. Those attacks turned out to be the biggest bonanza for the national-security establishment since the demise of the Cold War. The global war on terrorism would replace the global war on communism. Ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer money were now certain to flood, on an indefinite basis, into the coffers of the vast military-intelligence establishment and its army of “defense” contractors and sub-contractors. There would be no more talk of a post–Cold War “peace dividend,” much less talk about restoring America’s founding governmental system of a limited-government republic. The war on terrorism would be a permanent war. The national-security state was here to stay.
And woe to anyone who challenged the big lie and pointed out that the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with hatred for America’s freedom and values and everything to do with anger arising out of the U.S. government’s deadly and destructive interventionist foreign policy. When we pointed that out here at FFF soon after the 9/11 attacks, we were inundated with hate mail accusing us of hating and blaming America and loving the terrorists. When Ron Paul pointed it out in that now-famous presidential debate within the Republican Party, his opponents, the audience, and the mainstream press went after him with a vengeance. It was considered imperative that everyone continue hewing to the big lie and to continue acting like the U.S. government was innocent and that the terrorists had struck simply because they hated America for its rock and roll, its Christian churches, and its decadent lifestyle.
It’s worth noting that even though one of the 9/11 targets was the Pentagon, the attackers were still condemned as terrorists. Remember: Under U.S. national-security law, the U.S. government wields the authority to kill whomever it wants. If anyone strikes back, even against a military target, U.S. national-security law holds that he will be condemned as a terrorist and incarcerated for life or simply executed.
Gitmo’s kangaroo “judicial” system
After the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon and the CIA established a torture and prison camp at the U.S. government’s imperialist outpost in Cuba. The reason they chose Cuba was because they hoped to be able to operate without concern for constitutional constraints. Of course, that was a rather interesting aim, given that military and intelligence officials take an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
At Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon established its own judicial system for trying terrorism cases. Remember: Terrorism is a federal criminal offense, not an act of war. But instead of accused terrorists automatically being tried in U.S. District Court, as Kansi and Yousef were, the Pentagon would now have the option of putting them on trial in its own judicial system at Guantanamo Bay.
Never mind that the Pentagon’s system was a total kangaroo court, with military tribunals instead of trial by jury, coerced confessions, evidence acquired by torture, the use of hearsay, denial of a speedy trial, and many other violations of rights enunciated in the Bill of Rights. And never mind that the Constitution doesn’t authorize the Pentagon to establish its own judicial system for trying terrorism cases. In the post-9/11 era, none of that made any difference at all.
Forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
The 9/11 attacks were used to justify the U.S. invasions and forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both invasions were undertaken without the constitutionally required declaration of war from Congress, which made both wars illegal under our form of government.
The Afghan government refused to comply with President George W. Bush’s unconditional extradition demand for bin Laden. Bush ordered the invasion knowing full-well that there was no extradition treaty between Afghanistan and the United States.
Since the U.S. sanctions on Iraq had failed to bring about the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power, Bush used the deep fear arising from the 9/11 attacks to scare the American people into thinking that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash “mushroom clouds” on American cities. It was just another lie, one that succeeded in garnering the public support that Bush desired for his invasion of Iraq.
The constant stream of killings in Afghanistan and Iraq ensured that there would be a never-ending supply of terrorists who wanted to defend themselves or to retaliate. As I repeatedly pointed out, these two forever wars became the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history.
A renewed Cold War
Meanwhile, while Russia and China were under the impression that the Cold War had ended in 1989, not so with the Pentagon and the CIA. They were not about to let go of their Cold War racket that easily. Instead of dismantling NATO or simply leaving it as was, the Pentagon began using its old Cold War dinosaur to absorb former members of the Warsaw Pact. That enabled the Pentagon to install its forces and its nuclear missiles ever closer to Russia’s border, notwithstanding vehement objections, year after year, from Russian officials. When Russia repeatedly warned that Ukraine’s membership in NATO was a “red line” that would result in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon readily crossed the red line, knowing full well that this would restore the Cold War racket against Russia that everyone thought was over in 1989.
At the same time, U.S. officials have succeeded in reinvigorating their old Cold War racket against Red China, first by initiating a vicious trade war against China and then later by provoking China over Taiwan. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when the Pentagon and the CIA reprise their old Cold War line of how the Reds are coming to get us.
A perfect world
The national-security establishment now has its perfect world — a never-ending global war on terrorism and a renewed Cold War against both Russia and China, one that is now pushing the United States perilously closer to life-ending nuclear war.
At the same time, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA continue to wield omnipotent power over the lives of the American people, even as many Americans continue to thank the Pentagon and the CIA for keeping them free and safe.
Moreover, the national-security establishment’s voracious thirst for ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer money continues to play a big role in the out-of-control spending, debt, and monetary debasement that threatens to take our country down from within.
The question facing the American people is: Is this the kind of life you want? If it is, then just support the national-security establishment. If instead you want a different kind of life — one characterized by liberty, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world — then it is necessary to rid our nation of the national-security state form of government and restore our founding governmental system of a limited-government republic.
This article was originally published in the January 2023 edition of Future of Freedom.