Review of Scott Horton's Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism
The essential history of the War on Terrrorism
Scott Horton begins his book, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism with a quote of former president Bill Clinton, "Terror means killing and robbery and coercion by people who do not have state authority."
The words of Clinton should give us all pause. Is that how it works? Was Bill telling us the nature of state power? After all, if it is true, it kind of legitimizes the actions of state actors who were our enemies in World War II.
Enough Already is a few hundred pages that chronicle the actions of state actors who have been making a big splash on the world stage as they have continuously come up with the wrong answers. Actually, when we mention "state actors" we are almost exclusively speaking of the United States.
Scott Hortons book, short as it is, is a history of what is called the War on Terror. Not a historian, your reviewer feels it exhaustive and unless it can be surpassed, which would surprise me, it should be the text in at least an any undergraduate course that purports to be studying U.S. history in the current century, as well as what led up to it. One can only agree with Daniel Ellsberg that if you read only one book on the subject this year, Enough already should be it.
Enough Already has a lot of history that appeared in the news media, and there is a lot that is what the late Boston talk show guy Larry Glick called "the story behind the story." Most of it is accessible, but few want to put it all together. A lot of the media actors have good reason to want it to be forgotten.
Page 74 has a long and sorry list of war hawks who were aggressive at the keyboard and on news shows for the Iraq war. Among them were neocon stalwarts such as David Brooks, Bill Kristol and Max Boot. The ever-reasonable George Will was on board. Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity were present as was the late Rush Limbaugh to name a few.
Team left was not missing. The late superstar intellectual, Christopher Hitchens played his part, not without some controversy as to motive. He denied being neocon. There was Brookings sinecurista Michael O'Hanlon who is continuing his career of being wrong and still wants us to stay in the Graveyard of Empires. Cool guy blogger Matthew Yglesias was on the team.
PBS Newshour and National Public Radio anchors were there as were network guys Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw.
Many more were eager to have their say. There was little taking of responsibility for error afterwards save for honorable exceptions like Peter Beinart and Andrew Sullivan.
Horton details the lies and fabrications that the administration used to get us into war. The book dredges up memories of the drumbeat, and the feeling that they wanted the war and knew they could have it with just some tweaking of the formula.
The Bush team was going to say or do anything to get us there. You remember anthrax? Enough Already brings back the heady days when the administration was ready to throw anything up against the wall to see if it would stick.
Colin Powell shamefully got to be point man as regards chemicals including anthrax and what he is most known for, Niger yellow cake. Between the weapons of mass destruction and all the other hysteria, we can see why Scott asks the rhetorical question "Has a less convincing case for starting a war ever been presented?"
We went to war and it was a great victory. Well, no. As Scott points out, there was a winner, and it was not us, but Iran. By dethroning the Sunnis "...the U.S. handed Baghdad to the closest Iraq allies of our government's main strategic rival, Iran." In soccer, this would be called an own goal.
A genie was out of the bottle. Jihadis arose in places they had never been and it seemed Al Qaeda franchises popped up everywhere in the world other than Vatican City.
So, the whole sorry mess would meander on and on as it still does, but the most disgraceful aspect of the ongoing debacle has to be Yemen. Not that it deviated from the usual back a group then betray them practice as we did Saddam and the Taliban until we didn't.
In Yemen, the hapless Saudi ground troops regularly get beaten by the Houthi warriors, but they use the age-old technique of starving their enemy. It is murder most foul and the United States backs the Saudis.
Yemen had been a hotspot for a while and Americans remember the USS Cole bombing. Obama would start a drone war in Yemen that was not a bad terrorist recruiting tool.
Through a convoluted series of events, we have come to be enemies with the Houthis who were enemies of Al Qaeda. As they say in relationships, it's complicated.
The problem with the Houthis is they are great fighters and our best buddies aren't. We did have a relationship with them for a time, but Horton points out, Obama stabbed them in the back and re-allied with Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula.
The Trump administration was little better and would continue the support of the Saudis. It is, as Horton notes, "The Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World." As a last act of his presidency, Trump would add the Houthis to the State Department's international terrorist list." He did this over the objections of humanitarian organizations. Wouldn't hurt the Houthis, but it would make it impossible to deliver food to the starving. It is evil incarnate.
There is a lot to read and your reviewer likes to think of himself as having paid attention to the situation as it has unfolded over time, but there is so much he has missed that Enough Already is essential reading.
Having noted that, It is the final chapter, "A Choking Life," That is most important as It may not pull everything together, but it does show where it all falls apart.
The section Backdraft gives the lie to Fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em here. Ya got your Times Square bombing, your San Bernardino massacre, your Pulse Nightclub to name only a few.
The section, A Police State, highlights how Edward Snowden exposed the NSA that keeps records on all of us. Scott is not cheerleading for Trump noting the CIA/FBI crusade against the man. There is so much state power that existed before the War on Terror, but the vast increase since the start of it is breathtaking. His reference to Chalmers Johnson, "We either give up our empire or live under it ourselves" Is difficult to disagree with.
The Support the Troops mantra cites the near 7,000 who have who have been killed in the War on Terrorism, as well as the contractors with them. You really want to support the troops, bring them home. Who says that? Why, the troops or former troops. Polls and groups like Veterans for Peace give the lie to the think tankers and others that we can only support the troops by compounding the sunk costs of lost servicemen and women.
In War is Bad for the Economy, Scott looks at the Cost of War Project. Catherine Lutz has the figures for the last 19 years: $6.4 trillion. There is even more. His conclusion: "What is lost is not just the opportunities for productive investment, but all the new wealth and further capital for investment that would have been created instead of blasted into oblivion. You could also include all the wasted engineering and organizational skills and sheer manpower on this misbegotten mission. Six or seven trillion dollars is the least of it."
The Marxist term, correlation of forces is the relation of the different players that make up The Imperial Court. There is our relationship with the Saudis and other oil states wherein we prop them up militarily and they spend money on arms and recycle petrodollars.
The Imperial Court includes a lot of courtiers such as the pressure groups and so-called think tanks recycling tax dollars from defense firms. There is also a lot of defense firm lobbying money sloshing around D.C.
The bureaucrats, military and civilian as well as senators and reps all collude with the press to keep the game going. Truth is irrelevant, remember the Russian Bounty hoax. It is a sad dance.
As is the pretense that we are Spreading Liberty.
Scott begins the final section Just Come Home with "So, the U.S. got us into this mess by backing a massive Islamist terrorist movement, then enraging it and turning it against the American people with Iraq War I and the decision to stay in Saudi Arabia to enforce the blockade and patrol the Iraqi "no-fly zones" in the 1990s."
We make a dumb mistake and correct with another dumb mistake and compound them ad nauseum.
And who won? Not us. Scott quotes a humorous piece by Jeff Huber that Osama beat us by luring us in to the swamp.
Yet, we are told we can't go because we would create power vacuums. We could leave and let Bashir Assad deal with jihadis, but we won't.
We have to stay to deny safe havens, but is not that a myth? Per Scott, "Terrorist attacks can be planned in an apartment or a walk in the park."
You still have your Max Boots, David Brooks and Bill Kristols touting empire and national greatness, but when an early imperialist such as Zbigniew Brzezinski recognizes that it has all come a cropper, as he did before he died, what's the point?
Scott Horton has well made the point; we have defeated ourselves which is the very reason to Just Come Home. It’s been more than enough already.