September 11th of 2001 was a day of utmost tragedy. On a seemingly normal morning, two commercial airliners crashed into the United States of America’s World Trade Center, killing nearly three thousand Americans (CNN, 2015). A third plane made its way to the US’ Pentagon, yet failed to reach its target due to the bravery of its passengers. On that day, the world mourned for America. 9/11 was, understandably, an atrocity which must be rectified. Fortunately, the group responsible for these terroristic attacks quickly made themselves known: The extremist, Islamist organization al-Qaeda declared their victory through all channels available to them, inciting outrage throughout all corners of the United States.
Al-Qaeda’s action was a direct attack at of one of the globe’s most powerful states. An act which would bring about monstrous consequences to the Middle East. Under the presidency of George W. Bush, the US launched an immediate campaign of retaliation; seeking to purge any and all sorts of terrorist groups—be they independent, state-sponsored, or otherwise—in the name of justice. The methods employed to do so, of course, were militaristic.
Drone strikes, assaults on terrorist compounds, abductions of suspected terrorists, and many more exploits were undertaken. At times, these maneuvers resulted in civilian casualties, yet the US continued their—now dubbed—“War on Terror” with supreme fervor, rarely pausing on their vengeful path.
Throughout the War on Terror, an estimated 1.3 million Middle-Eastern civilians have been vanquished by the hands of the US military (Lazare, 2015). To compare this plethora of deaths, to the total lost on 9/11, points to a rather disturbing detail concerning the US’ crusade. The number of Americans who have died at the hands of terrorists are minuscule, when compared to the defenseless who have died from US conduct. Terrorists pose less of a threat to the lives of innocents than the US actually does, especially when considering that the likelihood of dying from acts of terror are less than the fatality rates of mundane things such as falling (Pinker, 2010).
Terrorism presents minimal threat to both US citizens, to US survivability. And it would be naive to think that US politicians, strategists, kindred executives are unaware of this particular factoid. Hence a question needs to be raised, “Why would the US pour billions upon billions of Dollars, not to mention the lives of its soldiers, on fighting something which could not possibly endanger it?” There are numerous answers to this question, ranging from a desire to seek justice at all costs, to simply wanting to showcase US military might. However, the writer disagrees with these propositions, and chooses a supposition rarely mentioned: That the US’ War on Terror is a military campaign, designed to strengthen its grip throughout the globe with the full consent of its own people.
To accuse that the US is itself manipulating the minds of its own people, for the sake of bolstering US power is perhaps a reckless deed. Therefore further elucidation is required to justify such a claim, as supported by publicly-accessible data, alongside the judgments of analysts who spent countless hours scrutinizing the War on Terror. Hopefully, the evidence gathered by the writer can be perceived as worthy, and supportive of his hypothesis in the eyes of the reader.
Let us begin by reviewing certain US actions in recent memory, specifically those that antagonize singular items. During and after the Cold War, all sympathies for Communism was tarnished. The US invaded states which it claimed harbored Communist sentiment, funded rebellions against suspect governments, did all it could to shatter the governments of its targets. Despite the unsettling reality that a number of these targets were in actuality democratic, supportive of human-rights, accommodating to labor unions, essentially reflective of American “values.”
However, US citizens were largely unaware of the details regarding the containment of Communist influence. US media did not accurately portray how many civilian casualties were caused by anti-Communist policies, and how gruesome some of these deaths were. Communists were painted as the enemy, the villains who craved for a world without accepted morals. Although nothing could be as black-and-white as such a depiction.
Thereafter was the “War on Drugs,” a campaign which sought the eradication of illegal narcotics; an endeavor which unfortunately increased the flow of suchlike drugs between Mexico and the US; enriching Mexican cartels, debilitating the Mexican government, allowing power to be gripped by the country’s underworld. Though the likely irreparable damages spawned by US are numerous and are almost exclusively suffered by Mexico, mainstream US media proceeded to generate tales of why the crusade was an absolute necessity (Chomsky, 2011).
We can see a unifying theme in the aforementioned US policies and the exploits they spawn: demonizations of specific targets via mainstream mass media. Yet what is the purpose of these campaigns? The efforts do seek and succeed at catching the eyes of the many, but this is not their primary purpose. Rather, the goal of the US media crusades is to attain justification in the eyes of the public, for questionable US actions. But why does the US look for this approval from their citizens in the first place? Because it needs to maintain the image of being a full-fledged democratic state in its own lands, and on the international stage.
The enemy of the US has to also be the enemy of its people. Should the US assault targets that its citizens do not approve of, then its credibility of being a democracy would be directly harmed. Such an event would not bode well for the US, as its government’s authority would be doubted by its masses, with its claims and deeds called into question by its allies and rivals. Moreover, it would lose the ability to act as a supposed representative of democracy, spiraling its reputation—a necessity to conduct itself in the way it does—downward. Thus the requirement for the consent of US taxpayers.
How the US acquires its people’s consent isn’t difficult. The political thinker Noam Chomsky wrote in intricate detail how much control the US government wields over US mass media channels. Reports, testimonials, expert analyses, no matter how provable or unprovable they might be, will be featured on television programs, front pages, news reports and are repeated endlessly as long as they fall in line with the then-operative US policy. Essentially, the US masses are bombarded with messages of what is “right” and “wrong” from sources perceived to be trustworthy. Due to the plethora of channels available to the US government and their credible status, the US’ citizens are more often than not complacent to stick with the biased rhetoric of US executives. After all, the most popular and sensible of the conduits—CNN, TIME, NBC, et cetera—see no problems with sticking to the stories designated by US officials. Relaying official statements gather more viewers, readers, and listeners than questioning them. As a consequence, the few and little that deviate from the path are buried beneath the prestige of mass media giants (Chomsky, 2002).
We have understood why the US requires and obtains the consent of its citizens. However, such reasons and endeavors would be utterly pointless should the US fail to benefit itself from public approval. Thus here we ask one more question, “What does the US gain from manipulating its own?” To answer this line of inquiry, we must examine with further thoroughness the actions it has taken in the Middle East.
Let us take a closer look at the US-led invasion of Iraq. The US’ primary justification for such an aggression is once more to purge state-sponsored terror (Muzaffar, 2008). The ouster of Saddam Hussein was at first justified by unfounded claims that he was planning or is already constructing weapons of mass destruction and would allow terrorist groups to utilize these armaments; when this was left unproven, US media concentrated primarily on the human-rights abuses conducted under Hussein. However, it is no secret that the country that the the US had battered is enjoying a hefty surplus of oil. A resource unquestionably desired by any industrialist nation, including the US. However, to point our fingers at oil alone would be somewhat hasty. There are other rationales at play.
Iraq was a threat to US interests. That is, the state of Iraq itself, and not the idea of WMDs or the possibility of it aiding terrorist groups. Iraq was once capable of challenging the authority of one of the US’ closest allies, Israel. Israel is perhaps the few capable of wielding regional hegemony over the Middle East. Furthermore, it has proven itself to be cooperative to US interests, whilst pre-invasion Iraq was beginning to reject US demands. Iraq and Israel meanwhile, were involved in a hostile relationship; wherein both have declared their mutual dislike yet have not escalated to armed conflict. With these facts glaringly visible, what should the US do to protect its stake in the Middle East? Obviously, invade Iraq.
Invading Iraq was a deliberate act of aggression. It was done not with the intent of protecting American lives, but that of US-Israeli interests in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein was once crowned as one of the most progressive—that is, in line with American values—Middle Eastern leaders in modern history. An honor granted despite his horrific human-rights record. Yet when he showed an uncooperative attitude towards US commands he instantaneously found himself a villain in the eyes of US citizens. For that sudden shift in attitude he has the US media to thank, as they broadcasted various “expert opinions” claiming that Hussein was building WMDs, exhibited his once—already known to the US government yet—well-hidden massacres, abductions, and crimes (ABC, 2006). A leader and a state that are of service to the US will be heaped with praises no matter the truth, but should they disobey they will suffer the wrath of the US government and the outcries of its people.
Palestinian freedom fighters—patent enemies of Israel—the government of Syria, even Africa’s Sudan are not unimpeded by similar US treatment. Palestinians who dared to oppose the Israeli regime, the latter of which has casually murdered the former’s unarmed peoples, were labeled as terrorists. Syria’s government—a key ally of the US’ rival, Russia—continues to be challenged by the US-supported Free Syrian Army—a critically destabilizing action that insults the notion of sovereignty—in the name of war against state-terror. Sudan’s internal conflict was oversimplified to be another black-and-white issue on US media, so that the US could easily alienate whichever sides did not support its wants and needs. Here we could see a disconcerting pattern of US policy: Give us what we want, or we will make you the enemy of not only our citizens, but of anyone who tunes in to our newsreels.
What can we learn from the paragraphs above? The US’ portrayal of the complex situations across the globe is tainted with extreme bias. It creates demons out of nothing, from people who fight for their right to live without estrangement, from governments that seeks sovereignty without the involvement of the US, from groups that pose little to no danger to American lives, so long as they do not fulfill the demands of America. The enemy is rarely an actual monster. Usually it is whatever state, organization, object, or ideology, that could jeopardize whichever US interest is presently significant.
In the case of the War on Terror, we have understood that it is not at all about fighting terrorism, but of building a regional hegemony controlled by a US ally. Terrorists are still less likely to kill an American than car crashes or unhealthy foods. Campaigning against it seems to be a massive waste of resources. But should the campaign be approved of by ordinary Americans alongside its allies, and if it makes happen certain goals of US policy that are obscured to the public’s eyes, then it will be launched.
Mainstream US mass media actively collaborates with the US government. It does not hunt for objectivity, it tells the stories the state wants it to. It gathers more viewers, listeners, and readers as violence sells. It heralded to be the voices of the ostracized, and active opposers of tyranny. Capital and credibility are handed to it voluntarily by the public. The media directly benefits from cooperating with the state, as its businesses thrive by following the latter’s instructions.
The state of the world is never entirely black-and-white. But it is convenient to say that the events of Earth aren’t gray, to paint one side as good and the other as evil, for justification could easily be gained from doing so. This is what the US and its media channels do on a daily basis. They conjure up harrowing tales that inspire fear and anger amongst the ordinary, for the cold purpose of getting permission to do whatever they want.
Should one seek to understand what is truly happening on our planet, then he or she must give heed to the few outcasts that dare to question the claims of the giants. Otherwise, they would fall prey to the tall tales of the US, see the world as it wants them to see it, and consequentially act in accordance with the prejudiced pictures subtly forced into their minds.
ABC News. (2006). List of Saddam’s Crimes Is Long. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/
Chomsky, N. (2011). How the World Works. California: Soft Skull Press.
Chomsky, N. & Herman, E. (2002). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.
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CNN Library. (2015). September 11th Fast Facts. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/
Lazare, S. (2015). Body Count Report Reveals At Least 1.3 Million Lives Lost to US-Led War on Terror. Common
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Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York City: Viking Press.
Muzaffar, C. (2008). The Global War on Terror – and the Prawn Behind the Stone. Vienna: International Progress
Salam, R. (2011). Costs and Benefits of the War on Terrorism. National Review. Retrieved from http://