The tenth chapter of the video documentary series can be viewed here. The series can also be viewed in its entirety on Netflix, or purchased directly at untoldhistory.com. Below is our transcribed text, written by Peter Kuznick, Matt Graham and Oliver Stone.
narrated by Oliver Stone.. For most Americans 9/11 was a terrible tragedy. For George Bush and Dick Cheney it was that plus more, a chance to implement the agenda that their neoconservative allies had been working up for decades. The Project for the New American Century’s recent report had said the process of transformation is “likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor.” Al Queda in their mind had given us Pearl Harbor, and within minutes of the attack the Bush team leapt into action. With Bush in Florida, Vice President Cheney and his legal council David Addington took charge, arguing that the President as a wartime commander-in-chief could act virtually unfettered by legal constraints. On September 12th, already looking past Al Queda’s Osama bin Laden group in Afghanistan, Bush instructed Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke: “See if Sadam did this, see if he’s linked in any way.”
Clarke: “All he [Bush] was, ‘Iraq, Sadam, find out, get back to me’…Donald Rumsfeld said when we talked about bombing the Al Queda infrastructure in Afghanistan, he said ‘there were no good targets in Afghanistan, let’s bomb Iraq’. When we said, but Iraq had nothing to do with this, that didn’t make much difference’”.
Donald Rumsfeld had already on September 11th ordered strike plans for Iraq. “Go massive” he said, “sweep it all up, things related and not”. Within a matter of days Bush announced before a joint session of Congress that the United States was embarking on a global war.
Bush: "from this day forward, any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism, will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
At home, twelve hundred men were quickly arrested and detained; another 8,000 sought for interrogation, mostly muslims. Bush rushed a 362 page USA Patriot Act through Congress; Senators had no time to read the bill, let alone debate it. Only Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconson voted against it, insisting: “preserving our freedom is one of the main reasons that we are now engaged in this new war on terrorism. We will lose that war without firing a shot if we sacrifice the liberties of the American people”. Bush cloaked White House deliberations in an unprecedented veil of secrecy and in 2002 empowered the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless wire taps and monitor U.S. citizens' emails on a massive scale, in violation of legal reviews required by legislation passed in 1978 in reaction to intelligence abuses of previous decades. The administration barraged the public with constant alerts, heightened security and a five-tier system of colour-coded warnings; the system was at times being politically manipulated by Rumsfeld and Attorney-General John Ashcroft, and in 2005 Tom Ridge, under pressure, felt compelled to resign.
Potential terror targets jumped from 160 sites in 2003 to over 300,000 in the next four years. Amazingly, Indiana led all states with 8,600 potential targets by 2006. The national database included petting zoos, donut shops, popcorn stands, ice-cream parlours, and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia Tennessee.
The unreality of the time continued to heighten. At the start of World War Two Franklin Roosevelt warned "war costs money, and that means taxes and bonds and bonds and taxes; it means cutting luxuries and other non-essentials". Bush, instead, cut taxes on the wealthy and told Americans, "Fly and enjoy America's great destination spots. Take you families and enjoy life." Ironically it was arch cold-warrior Zbigniew Brzezinsky who in 2007 decried Bush's "five years of almost continuous national brain-washing; where is the U.S. leader ready to say 'enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia?'; even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense, let us be true to our traditions". Terrorism, Brzezinski stressed repeatedly, was a tactic, not an ideology, and declaring war on a tactic made absolutely no sense.
But the real weight of Bush's global crusade would be felt abroad. Less than a month after the terrorist attacks the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, ostensibly to destroy some of the same Islamic fanatics the U.S. had helped arm and train to defeat the Soviets two decades earlier. Critics of the war would later point out that no Afghans were among the nineteen 9/11 highjackers, fifteen of whom were Saudi, and that U.S. bungling allowed Osama bin Laden and other Al Queda leaders to Pakistan in early December. The CIA did round up thousands of suspects in Afghanistan and beyond. Although the U.S. had always considered its humane treatment of prisoners of war a sign of its moral superiority, the Bush administration branded detainees as "unlawful enemy combatants", waved the battlefield hearings required, and placed them outside the conventions of treatment mandated by the Geneva Convention of 1949. When foreign governments criticized his position Bush backed down on the Taliban suspects but refused to change his policy for the Al Queda fighters. Bush said, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we're gonna kick some ass!"
The U.S. flew an unknown number of detainees to secret black sites around the world in such places as Thailand, Poland, Romania, Morocco, where torture and other harsh interrogation techniques were implemented. Hundreds of others were imprisoned at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At its peak in May of 2003, the prison held roughly 680 men aged 13 to 98. Five percent of these were captured by U.S. troops; more than 80% were turned over, often for cash rewards by a combination of Afghan warlord militias, and both Afghan and Pakistani bounty hunters. Government sources showed that only 8% were Al Queda fighters; six hundred have been released, six convicted and, according to the government, nine have died, most from suicide. As of 2012, 166 men from more than 20 countries remain in Guantanamo. The Bush administration encouraged the CIA to employ 10 enhanced interrogation methods that were the product of decades of research into torture honed by allies in foreign countries.
In February 2004 Major General Antonio Taguba reported that his investigation had turned up numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant and wonton criminal abuses" at Abu Graib prison in Iraq. [He continued] "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes". Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a former Kennedy aid, said this torture policy was the "most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history. No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world - ever".
Although the security situation in Afghanistan worsened over the next 7 years, and the U.S. presence grew from 2,500 to 30,000 troops, Afghanistan was a distraction to Bush. His attention was focused on toppling his father's old adversary, Saddam Hussein.
Bush: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Queda."
As had Bill Casey in the 1980s and Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, Bush used false intelligence.
Bush: "There's no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he's been developing weapons of mass destruction."
UN inspectors searched high and low, visiting sites identified by the CIA. They found nothing, but Bush insisted the WMD were there. Bush told Bob Woodward of the Washington Post around this time "I do not need to explain why I say things. I don't feel like I owe anybody any explanations."
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."
These were extraordinary times. Words took on new meanings, fulfilling George Orwell's prophesies of double speak in his novel 1984. First they steal the words, then they steal the meaning - words like 'axis of evil', 'war against terror', 'regime change', 'simulated drowning', 'preventive war'. Civilians killed were now 'collateral damage'. CIA kidnappings were now 'extraordinary renditions'. And that most patriotic concept, 'The Homeland', grew into a gargantuan new federal agency as labyrinthian as the Pentagon. The French philosopher Voltaire in the 18th century observed "those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities".
U.S. media beat the drums of war. MSNBC, which was owned by General Electric, cancelled Phil Donahue's popular prime time show three weeks before the invasion. Officials feared the show "would provide a home for the liberal anti-war agenda at the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity". And wave the flag they did - CNN, FOX NBC paraded over 75 retired generals and officers, almost all of them were later revealed to be working directly for military contractors. Pentagon officials gave them talking points, portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. Major newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, advanced the same message. One Bush insider told journalist Ron Suskind that Suskind represented the "reality-based community, but that's not the way the world works anymore - we're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality".
When France, Germany and Russia, as well as most of the Security Council, refused to support the U.S. position Bush, was furious and Rumsfeld sneered...the U.S. would act unilaterally and pre-emptively to overthrow any government deemed a threat to U.S. security. Cheney had declared, "if there is a one-percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Queda build or develop a nuclear weapon we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." [Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, wrote The One Percent Doctrine in response and opposition to this so-called 'Cheney Doctrine'.]
Sixty countries made it onto Bush's potential hit list, with Bush calling for a moral crusade saying that "the United States must defend liberty and justice, because these principles are right and true for all people, everywhere".
Bush: "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and every place."
It was a bold statement of American exceptionalism. Bruce Bartlett, who served in both the Reagan and first Bush administrations explained, "this is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Queda and the islamic fundamentalist enemy; he understands them because he's just like them; he truly believes he's on a mission from God; the whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence".
Bush: "I have a sense of calm, knowing that the Bible's admonition 'Thy will be done' is life's guide."
In early October, 2002, Congress empowered Bush to go to war, against Iraq, on his own authority, whenever he deemed it appropriate, using whatever means - including nuclear weapons - he felt necessary. The resolution drew a direct connection between Iraq and Al Queda. Among those authorizing this were Senators John Kerry and Hilary Clinton. This would cost both of them dearly in their runs for president. Not all were fooled; "escalating this war and expanding this war does nothing in terms of our national security; it puts us more at risk; Iraq was not a haven for terrorists as it is now; again, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and Al Queda, there was no connection, and we have to dispel that notion so the American people know the truth."
Millions of protesters hit the streets around the world - 3 million in Rome, a million in London, hundreds of thousands in New York. Time magazine surveyed several hundred thousand Europeans - 84% thought the United States the greatest threat to peace, 8% thought Iraq was. Bush sent Secretary of State Colin Powell, the most respected member of his administration before the United Nations to make a case for war. Powell spoke for 75 minutes; it was a thoroughly shameful performance, promoting false intelligence that Powell later called a low point in his career. But the speech, although it fell flat oversees, had the desired impact on U.S. public opinion; support for the war jumped from 50% to 63%. The Washington Post pronounced the evidence "irrefutable".
The U.S., without a Security Council resolution, was moving inexorably towards war. The truth was even darker. For Bush, Iraq was only the appetizer - after devouring Iraq, the neocons had their eye set on the main course; Pentagon officials foresaw a five-year campaign with a total of seven targeted countries beginning with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, the biggest prize of all, Iran. It would be a war to remake the world, the neoconservative way. Talk of "empire" abounded; the New York Times' Sunday Magazine cover for January 5, 2003, read: "American Empire - Get Used To It". Bush clearly was a man with a boldness of vision. He'd always exhibited an outlaw side as a younger man. Now he would outdo his towering father by going beyond the laws of nations.
The eight-year war became the debacle critics predicted. Iraqi society was rent asunder. Like Vietnam, it warped America, polarizing it even further as costs and casualties mounted on all sides. Yet, remarkably, Bush won the 2004 election with a naked appeal to even more fervent patriotism. By 2008 when Bush left office with the most dismal poll ratings since Harry Truman, he had not only thoroughly mismanaged two wars, as well as the federal relief efforts for New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but most importantly in the eyes of the public he mismanaged the economy of the country which nearly collapsed in 2008 and ensured the presidency to the Democrats.
His successor, Barack Hussein Obama, at 47 became President of The United States, evoking great hopes for change. His words and demeanour attested to the other side of America - constitutional, humanist, global, environmental. Obama had spoken out strongly against the Iraq war. Financed by the internet's multitude of small contributors, he stunned the heavily favoured and financed Democratic Party choice, Hilary Clinton, in the primaries. He now confronted an ex-military man, conservative John McCain in the national election.
The wind was at Obama's back. Perhaps not since Roosevelt in the early 1930s was there such populist anger at Wall Street and the unnecessary wars of empire. But then an unexpected thing happened. Obama betrayed his earlier promise and became the first candidate to run in a general election to reject public financing in favour of private financing without limits. McCain, who took the public option, was badly outspent 2 to 1. In this period Obama turned quietly to Wall Street funders with deep pockets, like J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, as well as General Electric and other defence contractors, computer giants and the pharmaceuticals industry, Big Pharma, which reversed years of supporting Republicans, giving Obama three times as much as McCain. Few of Obama's supporters complained at the time. His victory in the national election was applauded across the world. A new America was here.
Though conservatives would absurdly decry Obama as a socialist, by far the biggest winner in the election turned out to be Wall Street. Obama brought back the same economic team that under Clinton had done so much to deregulate the economy. The New York Times referred to them as a "constellation of Rubinites", acolytes of the most powerful treasury secretary in decades, Robert Rubin.
After nearly wrecking the world economy with spectacular innovations in leveraging and speculation, several giant banks, insurance companies and mortgage lenders, prophesying the collapse of the world's economy if they went under (they were, in other words, 'too big to fail') eagerly accepted a $700 billion bailout on remarkably easy terms. In addition, the Federal Reserve board cut the interest rate for banks to zero percent. It became almost unpatriotic at the time to question the rightness of these rescues. But there were those who wondered, could not some of the sicker financial entities be let go and broken up? Could not these giants be confronted with the real market value of their toxic assets?
The public wanted revenge. It was a classic Depression back-room moment. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker urged Obama to act "right now, when you have your chance...you need to put a spear through the heart of all these guys on Wall Street who for years have been mostly debt merchants." But it didn't happen. The bailout was forced through a panicked Congress; the media applauded as the Treasury made no immediate demands that bankers make that money available in new loans to businesses or the public or, for that matter, cut their personal compensation. It made no demands that shareholders or bondholders absorb any losses. Taxpayers would fund the bailout alone. The biggest losers over time would be workers, pensioners, older people with savings, homeowners, small businessmen, students with loans, and those especially, African-Americans who lost their jobs to a surging structural unemployment problem. Many simply lost their tenuous grip on the proverbial American dream of joining the middle class. The myth of upward mobility was shattered.
The bankers, or "banksters" as they were nicknamed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, had talked of voluntary restraint, but received record compensation packages for the next two years. Whereas CEOs in Britain and Canada earned 20 times as much as the average worker in 2010, and in Japan 11 times, in the U.S. CEOs made 343 times as much as the average worker. The number of billionaires went from 13 in '85 to 450 in 2008. While the minimum wage stagnated at $5.15 an hour from '97 to 2007, the poverty rate was higher than at any time since the 1960s. The net worth of the average American family actually dropped almost 40% from $126,000 in 2007 to $77,000 in 2010. By 2011, the top 1% had more wealth than the bottom 90%.
Populist anger boiled over into the Occupy Wall Street movement, a kind of protest not seen since the 1930s. The right wing Tea Party expressed a different kind of anger, fuelled by advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity, largely funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. The [deliberately] confused American public, not knowing who to blame for persisting economic hardship, handed the Republicans a sweeping victory in 2010s mid-term elections. But only more gridlock and confusion pervaded Washington. Obama,who had swept to office amid such euphoria, now walked a fine line, avoiding fatal mistakes, but failing to deliver on hope, or change.
During the 2008 campaign the constitutional professor had promised transparency and the rule of law would be the touchstones of this presidency. Yet, in office, he refused to relinquish the expanded powers usurped by the Bush administration, as a passive population continued to consent to being stripped in front of airport screeners, permit eavesdropping on their communications, and paying for vast new security programs. It did not make political sense for Obama to ease this heightened state of alert in the risk that a single terrorist incident would certainly result in renewed media hysteria and a Republican 'I told you so' firestorm that could cost him his presidency.
Instead of fighting for transparency [as promised], however, Obama became a far more effective manager of the national security state. Like Bush, he repeatedly invoked the State's Secrets privilege in law suits involving torture, extraordinary rendition and illegal NSA eavesdropping. He blocked habeas corpus rights for enemy combatants, preserved Military Commissions and authorized without due process the killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen accused of having ties to Al Queda. Obama stunned civil libertarians when he took Bush era investigations to the next level and began prosecuting government whistleblowers and reporters, using the World War I ear Espionage Act. Only 3 cases had been brought in 92 years; Obama initiated 6 cases of dubious merit, most defendants claiming to have exposed unlawful activity in the government. Most prominent was Bradley Manning, the Army Intelligence Analyst in Iraq who leaked over 260,000 classified diplomatic cables and war reports, as well as videos, distributed by Wikileaks.
These revelations of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and U.S. support for dictatorial regimes in the region proved to be a significant catalyst for the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. Nonetheless, Obama's administration severely impaired the operation of Wikileaks and sought to [continuing to this day] prosecute its co-founder [Julian Assange]. These actions sent a clear message to all whistleblowers - commit war crimes like Bush and Chaney and you walk free; expose them and you risk careers and huge fines or, like Manning, you rot in jail.
This was a new shadow world. In 2010 the Washington Post called it an alternative geography of the United States, a top-secret America hidden from public view; almost a million and a half people had top security clearances; more than 3,000 government and private security corporations existed; 1.7 billion emails and communications were intercepted and stored every day by the National Security Agency. Political commentator and constitutional lawyer Glen Greenwald best described this truly radical change in our world when he wrote "The core guarantee of Western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the U.S. by the 5th Amendment to the Constitution: 'No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.'" He may well have added the 4th Amendment to the Constitution: "The right to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure." Without due process and the right to privacy each of us is essentially living at the mercy of surveillance state. All this in the name of stopping a terrorist threat blown wildly out of proportion.
Obama's foreign policy seemed more reasonable than Bush's, repudiating the unilateralism and preemption that had so outraged world opinion, but the goal - embracing U.S. global domination - differed little. And even the means were frustratingly similar. In 2011 Bush's former NSA and CIA director, General Michael Haydn took comfort in the powerful continuity between two vastly different presidents, saying that "Americans have found a comfortable centre-line in what it is they accept their government doing - a practical consensus."
His own experience in foreign affairs limited, Obama surrounded himself with hawkish advisors. Among them, Bush holdover Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, a hardliner from the Bill Casey CIA era of the '80s; Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State was equally hawkish. In an early speech, Clinton presented a version of American history steeped in unvarnished triumphalism and historical amnesia:
Clinton: "So let me say it clearly. The United States can, must and will lead in this new century. The Third World War that so many feared never came, and many millions of people were lifted out of poverty and exercised their human rights for the first time. Those were the benefits of a global architecture forged over many years by American leaders from both political parties."
It would be difficult to ask the millions killed over many decades of American interference in their countries what they thought - the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Philippines, Central America, Greece, Iran, Brazil, Cuba, Congo, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Chile, East Timor, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among others.
In Afghanistan, Obama, calling it a war of necessity, doubled down on Bush. Pressured in late 2009 into sending more troops he wavered. He was told by a military advisor "I don't see how you can defy you military chain here", meaning that his high command might resign in protest. CIA Director Leon Panetta told him, "No Democratic president can go against military advice, especially if he asks for it, so just do it, do what they say." When it came down to his decision, Obama did not show the courage of a John Kennedy.
In December he announced another 30 thousand troop increase, to reach almost one hundred thousand, about the same number the Soviets had deployed in their disastrous invasion of Afghanistan. He announced the troop increase at West Pointe, reminding the cadets that the U.S. had invaded Afghanistan because it had provided sanctuary for Al Queda, but he neglected to mention that most of the preparation for 9/11 took place not in Afghanistan, but in apartments in Germany and Spain, and flight schools in the U.S.; or that only 50 to 100 of Al Queda's 300 cadre were actually left in Afghanistan, and that most were in Pakistan, an U.S. ally.
That the president waging two wars would receive the Nobel Peace Prize that same month was surreal in the first place. But when the world heard Obama's defence of American unilateralism and preemption, the meaning of the prize had been diminished, as it had by Kissinger 36 years earlier.
Obama: "I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those who we fight."
Obama feared getting bogged down in Afghanistan, as Johnson had in Vietnam. What the backward, dirt poor, overwhelmingly illiterate Afghans needed was economic aid, education and social reform. The U.S. spent $110 billion on military programs in 2011, but only $2 billion for sustainable development. With big U.S. money floating around as in Vietnam, corruption reached epic proportions. Mistrust between the supposed NATO and Afghan allies soared. The U.S.-backed president, Hamid Karzai, announced he would support Pakistan if it should go to war with the U.S. By 2012 Afghan soldiers and police were killing U.S. troops with such increasing regularity that the forces had to be increasingly separated.
Meanwhile, bedraggled and demoralized U.S. forces left Iraq in December 2011. Almost 4500 U.S. troops would not come home, more than 32,000 wounded, many of them severely. Iraqi death counts range from 150,000 to over a million. Two million Iraqis fled the country. The irony was exquisite - in deposing the Sunni Hussein, the United States had turned the new Shiite dominated Iraq into a valuable ally of Iran, which ended up being the war's biggest winner.
Bush officials had estimated the war to cost $50 - $60 billion; Rumsfeld had called anything above $100 billion "baloney". By 2008 when Bush left office the U.S. had spent some $700 billion on the war, not including long-term care for veterans. Economists project long-term costs as high as $3 trillion.
Obama welcomed the troops home at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, insuring that the end of the war would be as dishonest as its beginning.
Obama: "But we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq. Unlike the old empires, we don't make these sacrifices for territory or resources - we do it because its right. Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11."
Thus sanctioning once again Bush's lie about the connection of 9/11 to Iraq. The words were barely out of his mouth before Iraq was rocked with a new series of deadly suicide bombings. To this day Iraq teeters on the edge of civil war.
Among the two wars fiercest critics were the nation's mayors who gathered in Baltimore in June 2011 and called for using $126 billion in savings from these wars to rebuild the nation's cities. The Mayor of Los Angeles was quoted as saying: "That we would build bridges in Bagdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City absolutely boggles the mind!"
For the American people, deadened to these wars, a single bright spot in this foreign miasma came in May 2011. A bold cross-border raid at night by Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, living comfortably in the shadow of Pakistan's premier military academy. In the euphoria the raid created in the U.S., celebrating the skill and the power of the Seals who had executed bin Laden vigilante style and dumped his body at sea, a new profile was created for Obama as, unlike Bush, an effective war president who would by any means necessary hunt down the enemy. In fact, really, a wolf in sheep's clothing. [Amidst the celebration] America's capacity for self-love was again in full flower, and there were no troubling discussions of bringing a wounded bin Laden for imprisonment and trial, as the United States had done at Nuremberg where the Nazi defendants were unmasked and diminished. But a trial was the last thing most Americans wanted, those who accepted torture could tolerate vigilante justice.
But who was the real victor here? After estimated trillions of dollars spent, two wars, hundreds of thousands of dead worldwide, an endless war on terror, the loss of civil liberties, and confidence in one presidency and the near collapse of the empire's financial structure along with it, it could be said by a neutral observer that at the least the U.S. had won a pyrrhic victory, in which its losses had made victory pointless: bin Laden, with his twisted vision of a new caliphate was dead, but had achieved far more than he ever dreamed; he goaded the largest most powerful empire in history to reveal its worst nature; bin Laden was gone, but what would the United States do now? Still tormented by its demons, it turned its gaze fully to China as a new threat, and persisted in treating Russia as an old one, as well as maintaining Iran, North Korea and Venezuela as regional threats.
Seeking to find a more efficient and leaner form of warfare, Obama in 2012 announced a 14% cut in future infantry strength to be compensated for by an increased emphasis in outer space and cyber space. [In keeping with this focus] the drone was now becoming the modern face of warfare and Obama's weapon of choice. He personally began selecting those on the "kill list". Prior to 9/11 the United States had opposed extrajudicial targeted killing by other nations, condemning Israel's targeting of Palestinians. But by 2012 the Airforce & CIA were deploying a 7,000 drone armada, used mostly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Obama expanded its usage to Yemen, [and later expanded attacks against] Gadaffi's Libyan supporters, Islamic rebels in the Philippines, and Somalia.
The repercussions of this style of warfare are yet to be experienced. The number of civilian casualties of these attacks are fiercely contested by the U.S. government and several human rights organizations. When the judge asked the Pakistani born Times Square bomber how he could risk killing innocent women and children, he replied that U.S. drones were regularly killing women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The cat was certainly out of the bag, and by 2012 more than 50 countries - some friendly and some hostile to the U.S. - had purchased drones. Israel, Russian, India and Iran claimed to have mastered manufacturing lethal ones, but the most dynamic one was China's. As with the nuclear bomb, a new arms race was on.
Bush had continued Clinton's expansion of NATO bases closer to Russia, breaking his father's promise to Gorbachev. Obama expanded NATO to Albania and Croatia and, despite abandoning 500 bases in Iraq, the Obama administration, in addition to an estimated 6,000 bases in the U.S., is maintaining close to 1,000 oversees bases that span the globe. The U.S. had, by late 2007, gained a military presence, according to Stanford's Chalmers Johnson, in 151 of 192 UN member nations.
In 2008, AFRICOM, based in Germany, was added as a sixth command responsible for growing U.S. military presence in Africa. SOUTHCOM, based in Miami, was reorganized in 2010 to increase U.S. military presence in Latin America with bases and surveillance systems, counter drug and counter insurgency programs, targeting "manifestations of 'radical populism'" as seen in Venezuela. The Fourth Fleet was reactivated in 2008 for the first time since World War II; the Navy now has 10 carrier strike groups patrolling international waters: "America's Navy, a global force for good."
In 2011 the U.S. sold an astonishing 78% of the world's arms. During the Bush years Pentagon spending more than doubled to $700 billion. Although the real Pentagon budget blurs into secret functions and different departments of the government, by 2010, according to the National Priorities Project, the U.S. actually spends an estimated $1.2 trillion out of its $3 trillion annual budget on military, intelligence and homeland security - a full spectrum dominance of land, sea, air, space and cyber space.
In November, 2011, Secretary Clinton threw down the gauntlet on China: "As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a 'pivot point'". Calling this 'America's Pacific Century' she meant a substantially increased military involvement in the Asia Pacific region to contain China.
Beginning with Opium Wars in the 19th century China has been humiliated time and again by stronger foes [such as] Britain, Japan, Russia. It fought the U.S. to a standoff in Korea in the early 1950s. China is a proud nation, the world's second largest economy, a hybrid - part state owned, part capitalist - it has replaced the U.S. as Asia's main trading partner. But 1n 1996 Chinese leaders were humiliated, again, by U.S. nuclear missile rattling during another confrontation over Taiwan. And with its economic interests and shipping lanes to protect, it set out to modernize its military. Although it has only one foreign base, its hard line over disputed oil, gas and mineral rich islands and territories in the East and South China Seas have escalated tensions with its regional neighbours.
Internally, the government, communist in name only, remains politically backward, determined at any cost to modernize, and brutally willing to stifle dissent where its one party rule has been questioned. Western democracies,while doing business with China, have condemned these policies to little avail. But more ominously China has attracted the wrath of China-bashing American hardliners, whose animosity dates back to the McCarthy era. A new face-off is in the works.
The U.S. has returned to Asia, seeking new alliances, rebalancing its fleet, deploying its top stealth warplanes to bases within striking distance of China by 2017. It has strengthened military alliances with China's neighbours, particularly Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, [and] sending 2,500 Marines to Australia, the first long-term troop increase in Asia since Vietnam. The Chinese were deeply angry over the Obama administration's new arms sales of some $12 million to Taiwan in 2010 and 2011.
[The Chinese] have accused the U.S. of trying to encircle them. The fear of the U.S. by others cannot be underestimated. As the late conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington acknowledged in 1996: "The West won the war not by the superiority of its ideas, or values, or religion, but rather by its superiority in the application of organized violence; Westerners often forget this fact - non-Westerners never do."
Progressive China experts fear the U.S. is once again employing Truman's 1946 playbook with the Soviet Union in an attempt to contain China. The same situation exists with Western revulsion for China's internal policies. But this time, holding $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury Bonds, the Chinese could imperil the U.S. economy in ways the Soviets never could.
Historian Alfred McCoy delineated the real stakes when he wrote: "As early as 2020 the Pentagon hopes to patrol the entire globe, ceaselessly, relentlessly, via a triple canopy space shield, reaching from Stratosphere to Exosphere, driven by drones armed with agile missiles. The triple canopy should be able to blind an entire army by knocking out ground communications, avionics and naval navigation."
But as McCoy cautions, the illusion of technological invincibility and information omniscience has failed arrogant nations in the past, as the fate of Germany in World War II and the U.S. in Vietnam attest. With tragic irony, McCoy reminds us that the U.S.'s veto of global lethality might be an equalizer for any further loss of economic strength, and that the U.S.'s fate might well be determined by which comes first in this century-long cycle - military debacle from the illusion of technological mastery, or a new technological regime powerful enough to perpetuate American global dominion.
Series Postscript As we close out this series, we must ask ourselves, humbly, in looking back at the American century, have we acted wisely and humanely in our relations to the rest of the world? A world in which the richest few hundred or thousand or couple thousand have more wealth than the poorest 3 billion? Have we been right to police the globe? Have we been a force for good, for understanding, for peace? We must look in the mirror.
"But if we have to use force it is because we are America, we are the indispensable nation."
Have we perhaps, in our self-love, become the angels of our own despair. Claims of victory in the second World War and justification for the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, though aimed at the Soviet Union, were the founding myths of our domination and national security state, and the nation's elites have benefited from that. The Bomb has allowed us to win by any means necessary, which makes us, because we win, right, and because we are right, we are therefore good. Under these conditions there is no morality but our own. As Secretary of State Madeline Albright said: "But if we have to use force it is because we are America, we are the indispensable nation."
Because we can and have threatened humanity with the Bomb our mistakes are forgiven [or perhaps not] and our cruelties justified as benignly motivated aberrations. But domination doesn't last. Five major empires have collapsed in the lifetime of a person born before World War II - Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union. And three more empires collapsed earlier in the 20th century - the Russian, Austral-Hungarian, Ottoman.
If history is a barometer, the United States domination will end as well. We wisely resisted becoming a colonial empire, and most Americans would deny all imperial pretensions. Perhaps that is why we cling so doggedly to the myth of American exceptionalism, American uniqueness, benevolence, generosity. Maybe in that fanciful notion lies the seeds of American redemption, the hope that the United States will live up to that vision which seemed within grasp in 1944 when Wallace almost became president, or 1953 when Stalin died with a new U.S. president in office, or JFK and Khrushchev in 1963, or Bush and Gorbachev in '89, or Obama in 2008. History has shown us the 'curve of the ball' could have broken differently; these moments will come again in different form. Will we be ready?
Can we not surrender our exceptionalism and our arrogance? Can we stop appealing to God to bless America over all other nations?
Seeing the world through the eyes of our adversaries - this way lies in sharing in the needs of other countries, with true empathy and compassion, trusting a collective will of this planet to survive the coming period, ending the threats of nuclear annihilation and global warming. Can we not surrender our exceptionalism and our arrogance? Can we not cut out the talk of domination? Can we stop appealing to God to bless America over other nations? Hardliners and nationalists will object, but their's has proven not to be the way.
Let us find a way back to respect the law - not of the jungle, but the law of civilization by which we first came together, and put aside our differences to preserve the things that matter. Herodotus wrote in the fifth century BC: "The first history was written in the hope of preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have been." And for that reason the history of man is not only one of blood and death, but one, also, of honour, achievement, kindness, memory, and civilization. There is a way forward, by remembering the past, and then we can start, step by step, like a baby, reaching for the stars.
[Voice-over of John F. Kennedy] "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal."
NEXT, A Capstone to The Untold History - What is so nearly lost to us