Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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5.3 Domestic critics of US power

During the same year, in fact, the dangers of unwise statesmanship arising from imperial hubris were fully demonstrated in the view reportedly expressed by a senior Bush advisor that ‘we are an empire and when we act we create our own reality ... we are history’s actors and it is left to others to observe and study what we do’ (Suskind, 2004, p2). This was the kind of outlook that helped create a context in which the wisdom of the policies pursued by the Bush administration was critically challenged by many politicians and concerned citizens outside the US at the time of the invasion of Iraq. President Bush enjoyed a high level of domestic support in the early stages of the Iraq War and received little criticism from the Democratic Party as the formal opposition.

Different positions were, however, taken outside the political mainstream. Noam Chomsky is an eminent linguist, psychologist and philosopher. Since the nineteen-sixties and the war fought by the US in Vietnam, he has also been a major political figure and vehement critic of US foreign policy. His views on Iraq were equally pungent.

Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and company are committed to an ‘imperial ambition’, as G. John Ikenberry wrote in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs – ‘a unipolar world in which the United States has no peer competitor’ and in which ‘no state or coalition could ever challenge it as global leader, protector and enforcer’.

That ambition surely includes much expanded control over Persian Gulf resources and military bases to impose a preferred form of order in the region.

Even before the administration began beating the war drums against Iraq, there were plenty of warnings that U.S. adventurism would lead to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as terror, for deterrence or revenge.

Right now, Washington is teaching the world a dangerous lesson: If you want to defend yourself from us, you had better mimic North Korea and pose a credible threat. Otherwise we will demolish you.

There is good reason to believe that the war with Iraq is intended, in part, to demonstrate what lies ahead when the empire decides to strike a blow – though ‘war’ is hardly the proper term, given the gross mismatch of forces.

... The potential disasters are among the many reasons why decent human beings do not contemplate the threat or use of violence, whether in personal life or international affairs, unless reasons have been offered that have overwhelming force. And surely nothing remotely like that justification has come forward.

(Chomsky, 2003)

While there may be no easy answer as to how the hegemonic power of the US should be exercised, many Americans would agree with Cohen that ‘wise statesmanship’ is a sound prescription – although by no means all would share Chomsky’s view.

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