By David Olive, Toronto Star, May 11, 2011
It’s impossible with certainty to know how deeply Osama bin Laden reached into his pocket to finance the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. The consensus estimate is $500,000, or less than the current average house price in Vancouver.
The estimated cost to the United States from its reaction to those attacks range from $4 trillion (U.S.) to $6 trillion, a “return on investment” unsurpassed in the annals of terrorism.
And the Americans did this to themselves.
Transfixed by the television images that morning, I kept thinking of The Day of The Jackal. What this called for was an intelligence operation to hunt down the perpetrators.
Instead, America over-reacted, beyond Osama’s most ardent hopes.
Osama’s goal was to bankrupt the U.S. In his earlier role in helping reverse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Osama did his part in bankrupting that 73-year-old empire. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, scarcely three years after the chastened Soviets gave up their decade-long failed effort to “pacify” Afghanistan.
“We are continuing this policy of bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy,” bin Laden said in a 2004 video dispatched to news outlets. Any hint of another al-Qaeda attack on U.S. assets at home or abroad, bin Laden was convinced, would “make generals there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.”
There is a link between over-arching paranoia and over-arching pride. As opposite sides of the same coin, and as defining book-ends of American culture, the dual dynamic continues to play itself out in American politics. Just this week, after nearly ten years of bankrupting military and intelligence activities “to stop terrorism,” the U.S. Congress is continuing to wrestle with budget cuts to the most needy and vulnerable, without casting even a glance at stopping the war in Afghanistan. And both the pride, and the profound paranoia are driving the U.S. treasury into such a deep debt-hole that it could be argued China is now more in control of U.S. National Security than the U.S. itself, given the percentage of U.S. Treasury Bills owned by China.
By the first week of August, 2011, the U.S. will have to extend its debt ceiling by an act of Congress, in order to avoid shutting the government down.
The U.S. cultural and political discourse almost completely disavows any discussion of the Shadow side of the collective unconscious. A good analogy for this crops up each time Len Goodman tries to offer a negative criticism on the popular “reality” TV show, Dancing with the Stars, and the studio audience invariably utters loud boo’s burying his comments with their loud rejections. In political debating terms, Standard and Poor’s announced that the U.S. was in danger of seeing its credit rating drop from triple A to much lower, if the Congress did not address both the debt and the deficit. For at least a decade, in direct response to Al-Qaeda, the U.S. has roamed the world with hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and air-force personnel committing mayhem in Iraq, and then in Afghanistan, “so that the whole world will hear us” as George W. Bush so proudly and brazenly put it standing on the rubble of the Trade Centre Towers, a few days after the deadly event.
Where is the “political equivalent of “Dr. Phil” who can and will tell the U.S. government and through it to the American people, “You are addicted to power and dominance you will do anything, literally anything, to sustain that addiction, including destroying your country!”?
That voice would be considered “un-American” just as the five oil executives who told the Senate Finance Committee yesterday that for it to consider removing the tax subsidies from their industry, in the face of some $34 billion in profits for the past quarter, a 42% increase over last year, and the equivalent of $379 million in profits every day, not to mention $4.00/gal gasoline at the pump, that such a move would be “un-American”.
Henry Kissinger, in a recent NPR interview, pointed out one difference between the U.S. and China that seems to fit here. China, according to Kissinger, sees all events in patterns, where the U.S. sees each event “on its own merits” without being part of a pattern. Also the U.S. looks to the future for solutions to its problems, while China looks to its past. In refusing to look to its past for solutions, the U.S. is in serious danger of denying its own hubris and falling into the trap of bankrupting itself while keeping up appearances around the world. This reminds one of the tech executives in Silicone Valley who, after they lost their jobs in the dot-com bubble, purchased motor homes with a few of their buddies in the same tragic fix, took their showers and dressed in their suits every morning and “went to work,” to those motor homes parked in the parking lots of the establishments from which they had been fired only days or weeks ago, without informing their spouses of their tragic fall, because to do so, they believed, would prompt those same spouses to leave the marriage in divorce.