November 12, 2010


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By Philip GiraldiThere is every indication that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will support an open ended policy to “win” in Afghanistan, whatever that means, giving President Barack Obama a free pass to pursue any option he chooses, even if it entails an endless series of escalations. The Republicans would also support extending the war on terror to include the most recent bête noir Yemen and the perennial favorite Somalia. The only fly in the ointment is the presence of a substantial bloc of Tea Party Republicans in the new majority, a group that might be inclined to reflexively support American imperialism in all its glory but will almost certainly be opposed to paying for it through higher taxes and an expansion of the military to actually do the fighting.

Before actually voting on any continuing resolution or new budget, it would behoove the Tea Partiers to do some loss versus gain budget analysis on the nine years of war on terror. The Obama Administration has recently revealed that it is budgeting $80 billion for intelligence programs for 2011. That figure is almost certainly too low, probably by at least 25%, as many programs are hidden in other budgets or secretly funded because of their sensitivity.
And it is reasonable to assume that the intelligence budget has been at that elevated level since 9/11, meaning that something close to a trillion dollars has been spent. If one also includes part of the defense budget, which has doubled since 2001 based on the terrorist threat, the numbers are staggering, with Washington spending a minimum of two to three trillion dollars countering the terrorist menace, creating a massive governmental and private sector infrastructure ostensibly dedicated to keeping Americans safe.
And now, in the wake of a series of letter bombs which did not explode and did no damage, the call is for increased security, almost certainly costing many more billions of dollars which will enrich former senior officials like Michael Chertoff. Chertoff, who headed the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, now is a partner in a company that sells security equipment for airports.
He has been on television frequently since the first letter bomb was discovered, recommending better and more intrusive security without revealing in any way his own ties to the industry that provides the necessary equipment. He is not alone. Security has become a vast and lucrative enterprise for those in position to cash in. If America’s visible empire is its string of hundreds of bases and deployments worldwide, the hidden empire is the military industrial complex with tentacles into nearly every congressional district that supports the endeavor.
And what about the terrorist threat itself? To note that it has been greatly exaggerated would be the understatement of the century. Most Americans would be surprised to learn that no US citizen has been killed in the United States since 9/11 by an actual member of any of the groups that the State Department defines as “terrorist.” Recent attacks were carried out by “loners,” individuals who wanted to get even for US attacks on Muslim civilians worldwide, not members of militant groups or motivated by any desire to convert the world to Islam. As Ron Paul has noted, they have attacked us because we are over there, in foreign lands killing civilians.
If, as FOX news pundits frequently claim, terrorism is all part of a worldwide “Islamofascist” conspiracy to establish the Caliphate and kill unbelievers, it is all pretty lame. Underwear, SUV, and letter bombs have all failed to explode and experts are divided on whether they can work at all given the limitations of the technology.
If I were a terrorist wannabe, I would be laughing all the way to the bank as the US and Europe prepare to pour more money into preventive measures in response to chemical bombs that are often mixed together in somebody’s kitchen. Usama bin Laden once predicted that he would break the United States economically and it now appears that he understood very well that every American response to even the most minor threat would be a massive overreaction and overkill, eventually bankrupting the country.
And the Tea Partiers should look at both sides of the balance sheet before casting their votes on a continuing resolution to continue the war on terror. Assuming that Washington has spent some trillions of dollars against terrorists, it is important to note what the actual threat is and to evaluate what has been accomplished. It is undeniably safer to fly today, but identifying other areas in which national security has been improved continues to be elusive in spite of the expenditure of vast amounts of money. The fact that both Democratic and Republican administrations have been able to repeatedly cite “terrorism” to justify nearly everything should suggest that either there are millions of terrorists running loose or that the policy to restrain them has failed.
In spite of the most intensive manhunt in history, Usama bin Laden might or might not be still alive, but even if he is dead it has not been due to any effort by Washington to kill him. And the money poured down a vast pit called government has not exactly hit the target. The terrorist groups operating in 2001 are still around, possibly by design to justify spending still more money in a never ending cycle until the cash runs out.
The Tea Partiers should be asking themselves what exactly all the money is buying and should begin to question the bipartisan national security policy that has the United States invading and occupying country after country in an attempt to fix other people’s problems.
They should begin to ask just what would happen if the American voters were to finally demand that the Pentagon close its seven hundred bases overseas and bring our people home as part of a policy of non-intervention as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Would the so-called terrorists rally and follow our soldiers home to wreak havoc? Somehow, I just don’t think it would work out that way. America might then become free to be a hegemon based not on military might but on values and good example. Just imagine what that would be like.
Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served 19 years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992, was designated as senior Agency officer for support at the Olympic Games, and served as official liaison to the Spanish Security and Intelligence services. He has been designated by the General Accountability Office as an expert on the impact of illegal immigration on terrorism.

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