War, Terror, and Our Fractured World System

Glen  T. Martin

1 May 2011

A BBC Documentary called “The Power of Nightmares, Rise of the Politics of Fear,” directed by Adam Curtis, points out that the global terrorist conspiracy, like the so-called Al Qaeda organization, has never been anything but illusions promoted by both the world’s ruling junta and by the desperate suicide martyrs who resist what they take to be the evil of the dominant system.

However, Adam Curtis and the BBC leave out the dynamics of the world capitalist system (intimately married to the system of so-called sovereign nation-states) that has moved into crisis mode now that it has become ever-clearer to more and more people that (1) it is a system of total domination through the use of immense violence, (2) it is a system perpetually eating and destroying the biosphere and portending the collapse of the life-sustaining climate of the Earth, (3) it is diminishing the natural resources of the Earth at an ever-accelerating rate (especially fresh water and arable land), (4) it is increasing poverty and misery worldwide at and phenomenal rate, and (5) it never was, nor can be, a genuine system of democracy and freedom.  By leaving analysis of the system itself out of their analysis, by not mentioning it, they place our fractured global disorder beyond the parameters of consciousness as well as criticism.

The documentary states that the Neo-Cons behind the war on terror and the national security state system in Britain and the U.S. were inspired by the philosophy of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), who argued that ordinary people had to be managed through “myths” created by their leaders, and that liberal democracy run by citizen participants was an illusion that could not work.  The documentary omits that Strauss, who taught at the University of Chicago, was a minion of the capitalist-nation-state system, as were his fascist predecessors such as Carl Schmitt (architect of the Nazi system), Joseph Schumpeter, and Friedrich von Hayek. It omits the fact that the massive system of capitalist-run, nation-state violence  necessary for keeping this system of exploitation and domination in place requires official enemies and a mythic struggle of “good” against “evil” in order to keep the subjected populations (especially in the imperial centers) in humble submission to the system.

As the documentary indirectly points out, this was the function of the illusion of the global Communist conspiracy that animated the Cold War, which was promoted as a cover for the overthrow, torture, and manipulation of countries throughout the empire.  In Part One of the documentary, they had already characterized Henry Kissinger and some others as being “realists” as opposed to NeoCon Straussian idealsists, as if these orientations were significant, when in reality they simply amount to arguments within the ruling class as to how best to maintain, extend, and solidify the empire.  One could point to the horrors that Kissinger unleashed, for example, in East Timor, Chile, and Cambodia.

Then the invincible evil enemy collapsed, a new global evil enemy had to be found, and (after some years of foundering concerning how to create a new mythic enemy) the minions of the ruling class came upon the global terrorist conspiracy, which, like Communism before it, had “sleeper cells” everywhere waiting to pounce on the innocent, unsuspecting, processes of goodness, democracy, and freedom.

The contradictions of capitalism, by this time, were so glaringly great that it was becoming time, as Chalmers Johnson put it in Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic, to cross the Rubicon and effectively end the pretence of democracy and freedom.  One thing Curtis notably leaves out is the “Project for a New American Century Document,” signed by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and other NeoCons who came to power with Bush, stating in effect that crossing this Rubicon would require another “Pearl Harbor,” another attack on American soil to mobilize the masses behind the project of global military domination and empire.

In other words, Curtis suggests that just as the anti-communists came to believe their own myth of a global Communist conspiracy, the NeoCons came to believe their own myth of a global terror network (he interviews that idiot Tony Blair as proof of this).  But this is making it look all too innocent.  These leaders, he says, influenced by Strauss (without mentioning the global capitalism-nation-state nexus that they really represented), creating a myth to morally unite their people (as if this was some sort of innocent concern for the well-being of their people), and then falling prey to their own myth. 

9/11 then becomes just a sort of miraculous, improbable accident that solidifies and appears to document this myth.   Now they invade Afghanistan and, low and behold, find no vast network of Al Qaeda conspirators.  The same with Iraq.   No mention that they already knew this to be a lie. No mention that the real motive of these invasions was the drive to solidify the empire worldwide under the guidance of the Project for a new American Century document, the miraculous convenience of 9/11, and perpetuating this myth of evil enemies.  

No mention of the intensification of exploitation, promotion of global free trade, and vast increase in poverty and other global crises that these wars cover up and hide from the public consciousness.  No mention of the crossing of the Rubicon in the service of a ruling class that no longer finds a need to perpetuate the illusion of democracy within the imperial center.  No mention of the proletariatization of the middle classes in the centers of empire through making their labor contingent and increasing the level of exploitation now that the ruling class no longer needs their political support.

And now they are bombing Libya on “humanitarian grounds.”  How clear does the picture have to be before people recognize its essential, structural features?  Apparently the propaganda system remains as effective as ever over the masses through the mass media, “terror alerts,” etc.   But on the internet, all hell is breaking loose.  Will the empire be able to survive the internet?    Well, they did manage to co-opt the “counter-culture” of the 60s, which, like the internet today, was telling some of the truth about the system.   We live, to say the least, in interesting times.