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later, a survey showed that six times as many young South Koreans feared the United
States as feared North Korea.38

Returning to 1999 and its new "threats"”in August a new National Security Council
global strategy paper for the next century declared that "the nation is facing its biggest
espionage threat in history."39

A remarkable statement. Whatever happened to the KGB? Any Americans now past 30
had it drilled into their heads from the cradle on that there was a perpetual Soviet dagger
aimed at our collective heart in the hand of the spy next door. Thousands lost their jobs
and careers because of their alleged association with this threat, hundreds were
imprisoned or deported, two were executed. Surely Senator Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar
Hoover are turning over in their graves.
Meanwhile the drumbeat warnings of a possible chemical or biological attack upon the
United States grow louder with each passing week. Police, fire and health agencies go
through regular exercises with all manner of sophisticated equipment. Active-duty Army
and Marine Corps personnel are engaged in the same. The FBI has an extensive
hazardous materials unit ready to rush to the scene of an attack. And now the National
Guard has joined the frenzy, outfitted in full-body protective suits with air tanks. The
General Accounting Office (GAO) has argued that the National Guard units are
redundant and their mission poorly defined. The Washington Post reported that "In fact,
some critics regard the [Guard] teams largely as an effort to find a new mission for the
Guard and help it avoid deeper budget cuts in the post-Cold War era."40 As noted, the
same can be said about other elements of the National Security State.

In October 1999, ABC's "Nightline" program ran a five-part series in which it simulated a
biological weapons attack on a large American city, featuring a squad of terrorists
releasing anthrax spores into the subway system, complete with panic, death and rampant
chaos. Ted Koppel made the explicit pronouncement that such an attack was bound to
take place in the US at some future time. As one would expect, the programs were long
on sensationalism and short on science. This was spelled out later by the director of the
Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies.41 Ironically, the fact that such a
center exists is another sign of the ("threatening") times.

Shortly after this the FBI announced that the Washington area had become "the number
one target in the world" for possible terrorist attacks. How did they know? Well,
"downtown Washington receives three to six suspicious packages a day". Anything
actually terroristic in any of these packages? Apparently not.42

All this in response to actual chemical, biological or radiological weapon attacks of”at
last count”zero. But there have been many false anthrax reports, no doubt largely
inspired by all the scare talk; talk which never gives the public a clue to how extremely
difficult and unpredictable it actually would be to create and deliver a serious anthrax
attack, particularly over a wide area; scare talk that also makes more credible and
acceptable the US 1998 bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant on the (false)
grounds that it was making chemical and biological weapons.

Air travel is another area where the "threat" mentality looms larger than life, and common
sense. A flight from Atlanta to Turkey, August 4, 1999, that was about to take off was
halted by the FBI; all 241 passengers were forced to leave the plane, some of them were
questioned, one man was detained; all the luggage was unloaded and each piece
painstakingly matched to a passenger; bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive experts were
rushed in, and the flight was held up for more than four hours. The reason? The FBI had
received word that one of the passengers might be "a potential threat to national security".
And the reason for that? The man had paid for his ticket in cash.43

Three weeks later, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, a man was seen running the wrong way
into a passageway normally used by those exiting the terminal. He disappeared into the
crowded concourse. Neither he nor anything suspicious was found. For all anyone knew,
the man had simply forgotten something somewhere or had a very urgent need to get to
what he thought was the closest bathroom. Whatever, as a result of this "threatening"
situation, 6,000 passengers were evacuated, at least 120 flights were canceled, and air
traffic was disrupted across the country for several hours.44

With all the scare talk, with all the "threats", what exactly has taken place in the real
world? According to the State Department, in the period of 1993-1998 the number of
actual terrorist attacks by region was as follows:

Western Europe 766, Latin America 569, Middle East 374, Asia 158, Eurasia 101, Africa
84, North America 14 45

It is now well known how during the Cold War the actual level of Soviet military and
economic strength was magnified by the CIA and Defense Department, how data and
events were falsified to exaggerate the Russian threat, how worst-case scenarios were put
forth as if they were probable and imminent, even when they failed to meet the demands
of plausibility.46 One of the most enduring Soviet-threat stories”the alleged justification
for the birth of NATO”was the coming Red invasion of Western Europe. If, by 1999,
anyone still swore by this fairy tale, they could have read a report in The Guardian of
London on newly declassified British government documents from 1968. Among the
documents was one based on an analysis by the Foreign Office joint intelligence
committee, which the newspaper summarized as follows:

"The Soviet Union had no intention of launching a military attack on the West at the
height of the Cold War, British military and intelligence chiefs privately believed, in
stark contrast to what Western politicians and military leaders were saying in public
about the "Soviet threat".

"The Soviet Union will not deliberately start general war or even limited war in Europe,"
a briefing for the British chiefs of staff”marked Top Secret, UK Eyes Only, and headed
The Threat: Soviet Aims and Intentions”declared in June 1968.

"Soviet foreign policy had been cautious and realistic", the department argued, and
despite the Vietnam War, the Russians and their allies had "continued to make contacts in
all fields with the West and to maintain a limited but increasing political dialogue with
NATO powers".47

Subtlety is not the order of the day. In 1998, the Pentagon created a new bureaucracy: the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a budget already in the billions, personnel numbered
in the thousands, and "made up primarily of agencies founded to reduce the threat posed
by the Soviet Union".48 It's called recycling.

The Soviet threat, the terrorist threat, the new enemies, the same old same old, feverishly
fostered at home and abroad, the mentality that the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, et al.
have had critical, life-saving, catastrophe-preventing missions thrust upon them, here,
there, and everywhere, and we rein these saviors in on pain of national and world
disaster.. .working the old protection racket again.

"I think we are already at war," CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate in 1997. "We
have been on a war footing for a number of years now."49

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence,
clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most
of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken, 1920

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear”kept us in a continuous
stampede of patriotic fervor”with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has
been some terrible evil...to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by
furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never
to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.

General Douglas MacArthur, speaking of large Pentagon budgets, 1957 50

The political spectrum and conspiracies

It's ironic, but the far right in the United States is more open to believing the worst about
American foreign policy than are most liberals. This may be because those on the far
right, being extremists themselves, do not instinctively shy away from believing that the
government is capable of extreme behavior, at home or abroad. The radical left and right
share a profound cynicism about their government's very intentions. But those in between
the two poles do not naturally come by such views.

To many of the latter, the statements here about the United States not meaning well may
sound like an example of that frequent object of ridicule, the "conspiracy theory". They
hear me saying (snicker) that our leaders have gotten together, covertly, in some secluded
safe^house, to maliciously plan their next assault on everything holy, while throwing out
signals intended to confuse and to obscure their real intentions.

But if our leaders strive for unambiguous righteousness, is it not a conspiracy? Don't they
meet to plan how they're going to do nice things? Or perhaps they don't have to do this so
formally because since they all mean nice to begin with, it thus happens quite
automatically, naturally, built into the system”the government system, the corporate
system, the military system, the intelligence system, the government-corporate-military-
intelligence nexus.

But why, then, wouldn't it be the same with meaning bad?
It's not that Americans can't believe in any conspiracy theory. Witness the remarkably
long shelf life of the International Communist Conspiracy. It's still a highly saleable

"Conspiracy" researcher and author Jonathan Vankin has observed:

Journalists like to think of themselves as a skeptical lot. This is a flawed self-image. The
thickest pack of American journalists are all too credulous when dealing with government
officials, technical experts, and other official sources. They save their vaunted
"skepticism" for ideas that feel unfamiliar to them. Conspiracy theories are treated with
the most rigorous skepticism.

Conspiracy theories should be approached skeptically. But there's no fairness. Skepticism
should apply equally to official and unofficial information. To explain American
conspiracy theories...I've had to rectify this imbalance. I've opened myself to conspiracy
theories, and applied total skepticism to official stories.51

Like the cover up in Waco. In August 1999 we finally received official confirmation that
the FBI had fired incendiary devices into the Branch Davidian sect compound in 1993,
where 76 people died in a fire the same day. This, after six years of categorical official
denials, while "conspiracy theorists" and "conspiracy nuts", who insisted otherwise, were
ridiculed, or”the more usual case”met by the media's most effective weapon: silence.

Can the truth about the "October Surprise", TWA800, Jonestown, and Mena, Arkansas
under Governor Clinton be far behind? Yes, far behind. We'll likely never hear an official
admission about those events until well into the new century.

The First Watergate Law of American Politics states: "No matter how paranoid or
conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you

The Second Watergate Law of American Politics states: "Don't believe anything until it's
been officially denied."

Both laws are still on the books.

Cold War continuum

Though the putative "communist threat" has disappeared, the taxpayers still fill tractor-
trailers to the bursting with cash and send them off to what had once been known as the
War Department, then humorously renamed the Defense Department...That department's
research into yet more futuristic weapons and better ways to kill people en masse
proceeds unabated, with nary a glance back at the body fragments littering the triumphant
fields...Belief in an afterlife has been rekindled by the Clinton administration's new
missile defense system, after universal certainty that Star Wars was dead and
buried...NATO has also risen from the should-be-dead, more almighty than ever...Many
hundreds of US military installations, serving a vast panoply of specialized warfaring
needs, still dot the global map, including Guantanamo base in Cuba, and for the first time
bases in Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Hungary, Bosnia and Croatia...American armed
forces and special operations forces, such as the Green Berets, are being deployed in well
over 100 countries in every part of the world...Washington is supplying many of these
nations with sizeable amounts of highly lethal military equipment, and training their
armed forces and police in the brutal arts, regardless of how brutal they already
are...American nuclear bombs are still stored in seven European countries, if not else
where... And American officials retain their unshakable belief that they have a god-given
right to do whatever they want, for as long as they want, to whomever they want,
wherever they want.

In other words, whatever the diplomats and policymakers at the time thought they were
doing, the Cold War skeptics have been vindicated”it was not about containing an evil,
expansionist communism after all; it was about American imperialism, with "communist"
merely the name given to those who stood in its way.

In sum total, all these post-Cold War non-changes engender a scenario out of the 1950s
and 1960s. And the 1970s and 1980s. John Foster Dulles lives! Has Ronald Reagan been
faking illness as he lurks behind the curtain of Oz? Why has all this continued into the
21st century?

American foreign-policy makers are exquisitely attuned to the rise of a government, or a
movement that might take power, that will not lie down and happily become an American
client state, that will not look upon the free market or the privatization of the world
known as "globalization" as the summum bonum, that will not change its laws to favor
foreign investment, that will not be unconcerned about the effects of foreign investment
upon the welfare of its own people, that will not produce primarily for export, that will
not allow asbestos, banned pesticides and other products restricted in the developed
world to be dumped onto their people, that will not easily tolerate the International
Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization inflicting a scorched-earth policy upon
the country's social services or standard of living, that will not allow an American or
NATO military installation upon its soil...To the highly-sensitive nostrils of Washington
foreign-policy veterans, Yugoslavia smelled a bit too much like one of these

Given the proper pretext, such bad examples have to be reduced to basket cases, or,
where feasible, simply overthrown, like Albania and Bulgaria in the early 1990s; failing
that, life has to be made impossible for these renegades, as with Cuba, still. As Michael
Parenti has observed: "It has been noted that the cost of apprehending a bank robber may
occasionally exceed the sum that is stolen. But if robbers were allowed to go their way,
this would encourage others to follow suit and would put the entire banking system in

And this was the foundation”the sine qua non”of American foreign policy for the
entire twentieth century, both before and after the existence of the Soviet Union, from the
Philippines, Panama and the Dominican Republic in the first decade of the century, to
Peru, El Salvador and Colombia in the last decade.

Can we in fact say that the Cold War has actually ended? If the Cold War is defined as a
worldwide contention between the United States and the Soviet Union for the hearts and
minds of the Third World (for whatever motives), then certainly it is over. But if the Cold
War is seen not as an East-West struggle, but rather a "North-South" struggle, as an
American effort”as mentioned above”to prevent the rise of any society that might
serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model, and to prevent the
rise of any regional power that might challenge American supremacy, then that particular
map with the pins stuck in it still hangs on the wall in the Pentagon's War Room. (Said a
Defense Department planning paper in 1992: "Our first objective is to prevent the re-
emergence of a new rival...we must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential
competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."53 [emphasis added])

The current manifestation of this continuum, by whatever name, can be viewed as yet
another chapter in the never-ending saga of the war of the rich upon the poor. And with
the Soviet presence and influence gone, American interventions are more trouble-free
than ever. (Consider that US friendliness toward Iraq and Yugoslavia lasted exactly as
long as the Soviet Union and its bloc existed.)

There's a word for such a continuum of policy. Empire. The American Empire. An
appellation that does not roll easily off an American tongue. No American has any
difficulty believing in the existence and driving passion for expansion, power, glory and
wealth of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the
British Empire. It's right there in their schoolbooks. But to the American mind, to
American schoolbooks and to the American media, the history of empires has come to a
grinding halt.

The American Empire? An oxymoron.


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