[The full-length version of this story can be found here.]
Ten years ago this Sunday, 9/11 produced a spasm of blind rage in America. It arose from a pre-existing blindness as to the way much of the world sees us. That in turn led to the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan again, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- in all, a dozen "shadow wars," according to The New York Times. From Pentagon think tanks came a new military doctrine of the "Long War," projecting U.S. open combat and secret wars over a span of 50 to 80 years. The taxpayer costs of this Long War, also shadowy, would be in the many trillions of dollars. The deficit spending on the Long War would invisibly force the budgetary crisis now squeezing our states, cities and most Americans.
Besides the future being mortgaged in this way, civil liberties were thought to require a shrinking proper to a state of permanent and secretive war, and so the Patriot Act was promulgated. All this happened after 9/11 through democratic default and denial. Only a single member of Congress, Barbara Lee of Berkeley-Oakland, voted against Bush's initial Sept. 14, 2001, request for emergency powers (war authorization) to deal with the aftermath of the attacks. Only a single senator, Russ Feingold, voted against the Patriot Act.
Were we not blinded by what happened on 9/11? Are we still? Let's look at the numbers we almost never see.
Fog of War
As to American casualties, the figure now is beyond twice those who died in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., on 9/11. They are broken down into three categories by the Pentagon and Congressional Research Service.
There is Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan but, in keeping with the Long War definition, also covers Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Second, there is Operation Iraqi Freedom and its successor, Operation New Dawn, the name adopted after September 2010 for the 47,000 U.S. advisers, trainers and counterterrorism units still in Iraq. The scope of these latter operations includes Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
These territories include not only Muslim majorities but also, according to former Centcom Commander Tommy Franks, 68 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and the passageway for 43 percent of petroleum exports, another American geo-interest that was heavily denied in official explanations.
A combined 6,197 Americans were killed in these wars as of Aug. 16, 2011, in the name of avenging 9/11, a day when 2, 996 Americans died. The total American wounded has been 45,338, and rising at a rapid rate. The total number rushed by Medivac out of these violent zones was 56,432. That's 107, 996 Americans. And active-duty military suicides for the decade are at a record high of 2,276, not counting veterans or those who have tried unsuccessfully to take their own lives. In fact, the suicide rate for last year was greater than the American death toll in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has long played a numbers game with these body counts. There was a time when the Pentagon refused to count as Iraq war casualties any soldier who died from his or her wounds outside of Iraq's airspace. Similar controversies have surrounded examples such as soldiers killed in non-combat accidents.
The fog around Iraqi and Afghan civilian casualties will be seen in the future as one of the great scandals of the era. The United States and its allies in Baghdad and Kabul have relied on eyewitness, media or hospital numbers instead of the more common cluster-sampling interview techniques used in conflict zones like the first Gulf War, Kosovo or the Congo.
Sticker shock of war
Among the most bizarre symptoms of the blindness is the tendency of most deficit hawks to become big spenders on Iraq and Afghanistan, at least until lately. The direct costs of the war, which is to say those unfunded costs in each year's budget, now come to $1.23 trillion, or $444.6 billion for Afghanistan and $791.4 billion for Iraq, according to the National Priorities Project.
But that's another sleight-of-hand, when one considers the so-called indirect costs like long-term veterans' care. Leading economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes recently testified to Congress that their previous estimate of $4 trillion to $6 trillion in ultimate costs was conservative. Nancy Youssef, of McClatchy Newspapers in D.C., wrote recently that "it's almost impossible to pin down just what the United States spends on war." The president himself expressed "sticker shock," according to Woodward's book, when presented cost projections during his internal review of 2009.
The Long War casts a shadow not only over our economy and future budgets, but our unborn children's future as well. This is no accident, but the result of deliberate lies, obfuscations and scandalous accounting techniques. We are victims of an information warfare strategy waged deliberately by the Pentagon.
David Kilcullen, once the top counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, said this military officer's goal is to achieve a "unity of perception management measures targeting the increasingly influential spectators' gallery of the international community."
This new "war of perceptions," relying on naked media manipulation such as the treatment of media commentators as "message amplifiers" but also high-technology information warfare, only highlights the vast importance of the ongoing WikiLeaks whistle-blowing campaign against the global secrecy establishment.
Consider just what we have learned about Iraq and Afghanistan because of WikiLeaks: tens of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq never before disclosed; instructions to U.S. troops not to investigate torture when conducted by U.S. allies; the existence of Task Force 373, carrying out night raids in Afghanistan; the CIA's secret army of 3,000 mercenaries; private parties by DynCorp featuring trafficked boys as entertainment; and an Afghan vice president carrying $52 million in a suitcase. The efforts of the White House to prosecute Julian Assange and persecute Pfc. Bradley Manning in military prison should be of deep concern to anyone believing in the public's right to know.
The news that this is not a physical war but mainly one of perceptions will not be received well among American military families or Afghan children, which is why a responsible citizen must rebel first and foremost against The Official Story. That simple act of resistance necessarily leads to study as part of critical practice, which is as essential to the recovery of a democratic self and democratic society.
Read, for example, this early martial line of Rudyard Kipling, the English poet of the white man's burden: "When you're left wounded on Afghanistan's plains and the women come out to cut up what remains/ just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains/And go to your God like a soldier." Years later, after Kipling's beloved son was killed in World War I and his remains never recovered, the poet wrote: "If any question why we died / Tell them because our fathers lied."
Tom Hayden, author and lifelong peace activist, wrote this piece exclusively for publication by members of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. A longer version can be found on the website of the Sacramento News & Review.