9/11. The number still rings in the mind as if chosen to act as a Pavlovian trigger: Outrage, anger, paranoia, retribution. A shadowy band of religious zealots fly not one, but two commercial airliners into the heart of America’s financial community while others deal a deadly blow to the Pentagon. It was a Hollywood movie, an act of war rivaling Pearl Harbor. Why did it happen? Who would do this to Americans, to America? How could a band of ragged terrorists plotting from a cave in faraway Afghanistan have accomplished such a complex task given the size and pervasiveness of the largest and most expensive military/intelligence apparatus in the history of the world? And even more curiously, why would Islamic radicals give the ideology-driven neoconservative administration of George W. Bush exactly the pretext they needed to launch a bloody invasion and further occupation of the Middle East?
According to the official narrative, 9/11 was an attack on everything American and in so doing changed everything about America. Like Kafkaesque characters who’d suddenly found themselves on the other side of a Cold War “Iron Curtain” mirror, Americans would now have to “watch what they say and watch what they do,” open up to questioning or face jail when prodded by squinty-eyed border guards and forsake any hope of privacy or dignity in a new world of electronic spies and full body scans. Former National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program would be enacted and a preexisting “Patriot Act” would be signed into law to clamp down on dissent and real or imagined domestic terrorism.
Some careful observers like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times had already noticed the bizarre coup-like changes coming over Washington in the months leading up to the attack as the George W. Bush administration inaugurated radical shifts in domestic and foreign policy that seemed un-American and alien to anything that had gone before. But those concerns would soon be forgotten in the race for revenge.
9/11 would ultimately give President George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisors all the public approval they needed to transform America and invade Afghanistan and Iraq to cleanse the world of evil in an endless “war on terror.” In the end it would turn America’s reputation for racial and religious tolerance, military invincibility and economic dominance on its head.
Looking back on the carnage of the last ten years it’s easy to see how the psychology of 9/11 changed America. What’s not easy to see is how a long standing campaign of covert psychological warfare built up since the early days of World War II had made the slow destruction of American democracy and the ascension of rule by secrecy inevitable, long before the planes ever left the runway on 9/11:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Dr. Joseph Goebbels (more...)
What the world looks like, through American spectacles: