A leading British former counter-terrorism official says that his country’s “war on terror” has been an abject failure, alienated Muslims and increased the chances of terrorism.
The CIA’s former top counter-terrorism official claims that the use of contracting in the “war on terror” is a good thing and Washington’s post 9/11 posture has been one of allowing the CIA to run riot across the world.
So what’s on Masterchef tonight?
John Pilger on the sick culture that allows such revelations to slip into the memory hole:
The TV anchorwoman was conducting a split-screen interview with a journalist who had volunteered to be a witness at the execution of a man on death row in Utah for 25 years. “He had a choice,” said the journalist, “lethal injection or firing squad.” “Wow!” said the anchorwoman. Cue a blizzard of commercials for fast food, tooth whitener, stomach stapling, the new Cadillac. This was followed by a reporter in Afghanistan sweating in a flak jacket. “Hey, it’s hot,” he said on the split screen. “Take care,” said the anchorwoman. “Coming up” was a reality show in which the camera watched a man serving solitary confinement in a prison’s “hell hole”.
The next morning I arrived at the Pentagon for an interview with one of President Barack Obama’s senior war-making officials. There was a long walk along shiny corridors hung with pictures of generals and admirals festooned in ribbons. The interview room was purpose-built. It was blue, ice cold, windowless and featureless except for a flag and two chairs: props to create the illusion of a place of authority. The last time I was in a similar room at the Pentagon, a colonel called Hum stopped my interview with another war-making official when I asked why so many innocent civilians were being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then it was in the thousands; now it is more than a million. “Stop tape!” he had ordered.
This time there was no Colonel Hum, merely a polite dismissal of soldiers’ testimony that it was a “common occurrence” that troops were ordered to “kill every motherfucker”. The Pentagon, says the Associated Press, spent $4.7bn in 2009 alone on public relations: that is, winning the hearts and minds not of recalcitrant Afghan tribesmen, but of Americans. This is known as “information dominance” and PR people are “information warriors”.
American imperial power flows through a media culture to which the word imperial is anathema. Colonial campaigns are really “wars of perception”, wrote the present commander, General David Petraeus, in which the media popularise the terms and conditions. “Narrative” is the accredited word because it is postmodern and bereft of context and truth. The narrative of Iraq is that the war is won, and the narrative of Afghanistan is that it is a “good war”. That neither is true is beside the point. They promote a “grand narrative” of a constant threat and the need for permanent war. “We are living in a world of cascading and intertwined threats,” wrote the celebrated New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “that have the potential to turn our country upside down at any moment.”
Friedman supports an attack on Iran, whose independence is intolerable. This is the psychopathic vanity of great power that Martin Luther King described as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”. He was then shot dead.
The psychopathic is applauded across popular, corporate culture, from the TV death watch of a man choosing a firing squad over lethal injection to the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker and a new acclaimed war documentary, Restrepo. The directors of both films deny and dignify the violence of invasion as “apolitical”. And yet, behind the cartoon façade is serious purpose. The US is engaged militarily in 75 countries. There are said to be as many as 900 US military bases across the world, many at the gateways to the sources of fossil fuels.
But there is a problem. Most Americans are opposed to these wars and to the billions of dollars spent on them. That their brainwashing so often fails is America’s greatest virtue. This is frequently due to courageous mavericks, especially those who emerge from the centrifuge of power. In 1971, the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which put the lie to almost everything two presidents had claimed about Vietnam. Many of these insiders are not even renegades. I have a section in my address book filled with the names of former CIA officers who have spoken out. They have no equivalent in Britain.