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Reign of Terror


Matt is joined by reporter Spencer Ackerman, author of the new book Reign of Terror. Ackerman explains the ways in which America’s approach to domestic white terrorism differs from its approach to international threats. They discuss the treatment of Timothy McVeigh after the Oklahoma City bombing, and the way in which it primed the political and cultural response to 9/11 and the War on Terror. Ackerman also argues that the unlawful and immoral approach of the government laid the groundwork for Trump's presidency.


Reign of Terror by Spencer Ackerman (Penguin Random House; Aug 10, 2021)

The Jakarta Method by Vincent Bevins (Public Affairs; May 19, 2020)

"Second Inaugural Address" by George W. Bush (January 20, 2005)

State of Exception by Giorgio Agamben (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 2005)


Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman), author, reporter, and publisher of Forever Wars on Substack, contributing editor at the Daily Beast.


Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com


Ness Smith-Savedoff, Producer & Engineer

Erikk Geannikis, Producer, Talk Podcasts

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is advertiser content. Twenty twenty one is the twenty fifth anniversary of the Telecommunications ACT of ninety ninety six, the last comprehensive update to internet regulation. It's time for an update. That's why Facebook support updated regulations on today's key issues, learn more at about dot, F, B dont come so regulations allow welcome to another episode of the fleets of buxom Potass network. I met you Ecclesiastes my guest today, Spencer Ackerman is as good friend of mine, longtime, Fred Pilcher Prize winner, national matter.
In word winner, the author of an amazing new book. It is called a reign of terror. How the nine eleven era destabilized America and produced Trump he's begin some great reviews. It is brilliantly argued according to the New York Times. I also think it says it's like I want to say is a fun reed, but it's an engaging red, it's written with a lot of verve and flare as well as depth and knowledge. So welcome to the show Spencer thanks Man, I feel like I'm calling up to you from the basement of the house be working together. Yes, we will roommates lung go in there. the heyday really of the global war on terrorism, which is what this book is about, as we record were one month short of the twentieth anniversary of September eleven. But
I think that you do and in the book that I think is really sort of interesting move is you you can start the narrative with the Oklahoma City bombing, which is a regulatory economy moment in terms of how the United States, as a country as a society and as a government, thinks about terrorism. So you tell us what happened there in and what is it signify short? So I was fifteen years old when the Oklahoma City bombings happened- and you know for a very long time, my impression of Oklahoma City from want, you know it A teenager I wouldn't hear on tv and read in the press. Was that this was the result Of a survivalist, I term there, is really rarely defined in its implication, who had grown to believe the government had reached a kind
tyrannical over mightiness, that required in the universe extreme, but nevertheless definable traditions of people. I Thomas Jefferson founders of the nation who talk about you know replenishing the tree of liberty the blood of tyrants, in patriots, every generation or so, and that was for a long time how you know I and I think, a whole lot of people understood those and when you know I grew up and started in a reading more about them, it was pretty clear that what happened was that a white supremacist terrorist for reasons inextricable to his white supremacy, killed a hundred and sixty eight people, including nineteen children, that it turns out he wrote about why he did this in quite great detail and nevertheless,
It was pretty serious. We obscured- and you know when I started writing this book. One of the first things that I kind of saw in my mind that I knew the book had to accomplish was to see the whole war on terror to see not just the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were the drone strikes or that the obligation of Libya, Pakistan, yet in Somalia, and share Molly in a really on an odd but also see the aspects of the war in terms of mass surveillance in terms of immigration. Suppression Inter
of the demon, is Asia and of Muslims. But in order to see all of that, we have to look not just at what happened when the war on terror was constructed. But what happened when there was an anti seed, an event with terrorism committed by a white person and then understand retroactively what didn't happen? The ways in which the construction of a war on terror? against white extremists who see themselves within the lineage of the american founding, how none of those kinds of punitive measures those violent measures that was coercive measures, end up I have no structure in terms of system. Utility is set up for them and while it is set up exclusively,
for non white people. All of that infrastructure not only continues to exist but grows in strength. So big, may I mean essentially is I mean he's. Of course, punished is taken seriously. People think it is bad to murder these people, but its handled into deflation three way right, like, as you say, the ideological motives or common downplayed relative to this is like a strange guy, his connections, Their people are not viewed as necessarily all that interesting and we don't have this kind of construct of like a big ideological problem that needs to be tackled and he's put on trial in a conventional court system. Right, I mean it's a big deal as some trials are, but it's like a normal try or, within the normal, bound
of american constitutional government, but initially the suspicion was that this was the result of muslim terrorists right. The kind of fault view would know factual information was known was that you know this was earlier several years before nine eleven wipe it. The government and the media was primed to believe that Muslims were responsible for acts of terrorist violence, and that is part of the backdrop that sort of comes into play. When nine eleven happens. The nine eleven is the attack that the system was kind of waiting for, so to speak in looking at the
really flagrant stuff. That's Missy tribute id to American Muslims after Alcoa. Homer city really shows a very dark foreshadowing of what is about to happen in the United States, and this wasn't just the reaction of p. All who were considered a fringe or marginal? This was to use Eric Hobbs Vans term, for this were to use this term and Eric Hobbs bounds. Wait respectable people bourgeois people elites People like I'm forgetting the guy's name for a second biggest Dave Mc Treaty, but the democratic former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the people in the government who has the greatest access to national secure
these secrets, immediately comes out and blames Muslims for Oklahoma City. You have really respected liberal media columnists like MIKE righto from fishing. go tribute one of the leading figures journalistic we have liberalism in the late twentieth century, who writes a column that basically, just as like chick people out of country spy on them relentlessly edge than when you need to, and all of this needs to be said, occurs with zero factual basis. There's just act like a very easy recipe activity to the idea that if such an act of barbarism happened, white people couldn't have committed. It now remember what were really forgetting when something like this occurs, which is that white supremacist terrorism is the oldest bloodiest and most resilient form of terrorism in a man
history. Its potential adherents or orders of magnitude inside the United States, beyond what any form of jihadism could be, and that, as this episode really shows that form of stream is has in diluted, watered down ways quite a great deal of purchase, firms of generating apologies from elected politicians, important media figures in and so on. And only when we kind of look at that reaction. Can we proper, weaken text relies what happens when terrorism is it white and it shows us you know it helps in. I think of really important way kind of problem. The ties, I guess the academics would say the
action of the issue after nine eleven I mean we we know about the measure of Ghana, Stan Afghanistan in the news lately, a lot of things have been said about Iraq over the years, but I think the bigger thing that this book really drives home is that we construct the problem. After nine eleven in this very broad, but also a little bit hazy, but definitely like about Muslims kind of way, you were taking off all these countries can only share Somalia, Libya, all these things and what they have in common, is not like a specific institution or operational relationship to nine eleven. But the idea that these are countries where there are Muslims and also some bad stuff happening, and it gets kind of lump together right. There's this like Joe Hod issue, we use different terms for it over the years, but everything that sort of invite
of Muslims and violence somehow goes into this war on terror stew, even when it doesn't have any specific relationship to nine eleven when assessing the United States and all the construction of the war on terror from the start is the result of deliberately and precision. First of all, think of the name itself I understand and presented
book the term war on terror as a kind of social compromise. That, in part, because of both in part because of both the deliberate imposition of the Bush administration about from the enemy is so, which is you'd, have serving a specific purpose, which is to make the president in National Security affairs, something like an elected king, but also because the United States has very little interest in drawing these kinds of distinctions in this moment of horror. This moment of trauma and this moment of agony- and it is now respectable in that moment to say this is a war on Islam is not respectable to come up with some formulation where it's like. This is a war against a certain, the hazy, understanding of extremism amongst muslim
not all Muslims, but definitely just most ones like none of that really makes have, but went dies end up making sense as a euphemism. Is this praise war on terror, which is extremely evocative, which is theological almost really in the realm of metaphysics, which is not really a place you want. War is to be conducted, but you always her. threw out. You know the early years of the war on terror. The objection usually from well meaning liberals that, like come on this, isn't a war on attacked
this isn't a war against? You know in ancient form of warfare, but that I think, missed the point of law, which was to conceal the fact that we were constructing an apparatus of repression and death that was pretty much design to target those whom the president was permitted to decide the enemy comprised. You know, perhaps it's easier to see this by a kind of contradistinction, which is that, like it's, not the war against Al Qaeda right,
if there is a war against Al Qaeda, that also is still kind of question begging like what is all Qaeda. What does it mean to be a war against it, and also do we have to have a war in order to stop a threat from all tied up? What you know perhaps might be do instead, what do we not have to construct if this is an entity against a specific couple? Does in decision makers and then a few hundred foot soldiers? You know finance years and inheritance, and it also has the function of deferring. If not obliterating
the debate about what is necessary to do against those people. Instead, it keeps it on the realm of something that has to be done in order to instil a feeling socially of safety which can really be defined. However, those who are empowered to wage this war see fit in the book I described. This is kind of the conceptual moment that the war on terror is doomed, because you will always, after this point of definition, of deliberate in precision. Through definition, you will always have to have a kind of political clash over win. The task at hand is complete and very
factions, Kinchin ten, their various senses of why this task still remains even after operations ex wines. In its thing, I always think about in this right. You know I was in college when nine eleven happened and you know the university, I don't know they don't really know what to do. Like you know, classes were cancelled, but they put together at the Kennedy School, some kind of panel of like you know, famous people who they had hanging around. I went to cuz, I'm like kind of a nerd. The internet existed at this time, but old people really use it, and so information disseminated a little bit more more slowly than it does today and its
neither nine, eleven or or nine twelve did as one and David Gorgon who's. This link extremely establishment. Guy, but not like plugged into highest levels of american National Security, he's talking in a panel and he's saying what would quickly come to be seen as a very left wing view that, like I hope We don't start to see this as like a huge global military challenge. I hope we can keep this threat in perspective all this kind of stuff, and that's because, like he didn't know where the establishment view was gonna, go right like this. It just like one guy and he's like looking at this and he's like. Ok like I can see that there is a risk that it's gonna go in this direction, and I wonder what your view from your reporting of the years is like why? Why did the Bush administration take this in such a kind of grandiose kind of direction like? Why did they decide
they wanted a war on terror. Well, there are a couple kind of structural explanations for that, and then there are kind of specific you know. Historically, perhaps idiosyncratic you'd have reasons for that from a structural perspective, it's hard to understand the war on terror without reference to the cold war and the experience that the cold war played, not just in the growth expansion and justification of american power globally, but also the kind end of cohesion, eating toast with in America know he's politically, economically and socially anti communism became a way of life. There are some really excellent books about what that meant for America in terms of a kind of limitless appetite for inflicting,
essentially imperialist violence on people. I would really recommend listeners of this podcast if they haven't already check out Vincent is recent book the Jakarta method for a lot about how anti communism in the United States overseas he's right takes on a really terrifying elimination as character, particularly in the hands of the CIA and the assets that the CIA cultivates, weed out anti communism without the cold war, there is this enormous confusion in the ninety nineties about what the purpose of this empire that America finds itself to have cultivated. Now is the central rationale for it he's gone, there's no more soviet union. It appears to a lot
of intellectual elites that dear not only no longer exists competitor to the United States from a nation state perspective, but, more importantly, there is no fear radical alternative to what the United States is. Now this kind of boardwalk capitalism, that is, you, know now free and empowered to see add in unrestrained form of capitalism. You know we call it neo liberalism around the world and that this is basically the way allotted intellectuals and a lot of people who are kind of plugged into policy. Both you know, amongst liberals and amongst conservatives, could have come to understand what America kind of using does now, but what it lacks. It is kind of social satisfying way is a single enemy, an enemy around which all
of the architecture of not just you know, a lead cohesion can rally against, but also the purposes of american military and intelligence power, tat kind of unleash and all of a sudden. This challenge to the United States, that is, if you listen to Osama Bin Laden, you do not have to agree with some in London. You just have to understand why, in his own words, Al Qaeda did what you did. All of that is understood not as the specific grievances
He points out, we ve what the consequences of american power are for the muslim world which, in his telling and is not exactly wrong, is a tremendous amount of death in misery, nation extraction and repression in the muslim world. His pretty obvious. We, I think goes tremendously off the rails, but he is talking about something material and instead the United States, in all of its a weed formulations, both politically militarily journalistic, we and the intelligence services understand. None of that do not interested in any of that. What they are interested in instead is watching a kind of the other half of the critique the critique there.
applies what is happening to the muslim world in a pretty like messed up, spiritual interpretation, and once that happens, it is a lot easier to do two things. First, it much easier to pathology eyes the muslim world and, in particular the arab world that that particular Amelia that Bin Laden arises from and also that allows this kind of grand conception of a glow.
the struggle against a real challenger to America that might attract inheritance from over a billion people that makes it seem like the kind of grand and push uses. The word crusade at one point that we quickly unifying reason to regret. That is the sort of thing that Chin Marshall. This kind of Amerika is back sort of response. America has a rationale for this empire. There Besides having water go decided for really understandable or technical material reasons, it is better from the perspective of an imperialist of any variety to be the hedge harmonic power than to not be it, and the understanding of an alternative.
You know during the ninety ninety two that comes under a great deal of challenge, because it is seen as unacceptable to pull back. These imperial obligations and not be a global policeman, I mean there are real, specific, idiosyncratic things that happen with the Bush administration. For one thing, we still don't know a whole lot about things like Dick chinese August, two thousand one meeting with his fellow she executives, but these were oil man who ran the United States. government in all of its blossom, destructive, violent and extractive, keep it. Poverty and accordingly, they saw the world a certain way. What I'm getting at is not just that, but also they had come to believe that
During this period of unchallenged american power, there had not commensurately being an effort at more showing that power to sufficient. We entrench the prerogatives of the United States, against any challenger. But, like you remember that when Dick Cheney, his defence secretary, he's under secretary policy, the kind of person who sets policy for the Pentagon and accordingly, the military is also its who, comes up for Dick Cheney. We the rationale in ninety ninety two for what american power in a post, cold war environment ought to be, and that was about
during that no challenger of any sort ever emerged, and now here was essentially old ideas that flattered both ideological conceptions of what the Bush administration believed. The purpose of american power was but also direct material interests that they are seeking to advance husband and secure. All of that to gather kind of puts America Andy course that funnels us down this one, very Marshall, very expansive and very violent tracking, and there are also some like particular idiosyncrasies. You know, George W Bush, for reasons that I think it. Human beings in kind of like say, like sticking out his watch-
kill. My dear, I don't know, my dad, like such Adam Hussein, tried to kill my death like he has nothing to do with nine eleven at all, but it doesn't matter- and that becomes the western of how all of this coalescence that who the enemy is doesn't really matter from the perspective of enemy formulation. What matters is that the president gets to tell oh you who the enemy is, and that matters- and this is really the kind of like I mean if young people listening here like the temper of these kind of like high Bush years. This really very odd retrospect. This second inaugural address is like one of the craziest texts that you will ever see in american politics in part, because also the media coverage of Bush with so much kinder than the media coverage of Trump like when Trump would say something really weird that newspapers what I'll be like. I was pretty weird when push would do it, he would be taken very seriously right as
Ok, the flame of democracy, birds in the hearts of ban, and we are now going to overthrow every government in the world. I guess- and people would like taken. extremely seriously and it stems. They were all these anxieties floating around Pre nine eleven about right. This is like a big bill, crystal thing that you know you needed kind of enemy about the role of the american military in the war
old about what to do with the unipolar moment. The late Charles Crowd Hammer was like a big proponent of the view that we had to. I don't know what it's like sort of like kick as much as possible before the Chinese catch up or something, and it became this very wild sort of thing that dominated public attention. At the same time, I think there was less attention paid to the sort of domestic aspects of this, but you reported a lot in the sort of creation of a huge state of exception with regard to America's muslim citizens right. Why get this? What we didn't? Half witted Mcveigh,
This was like it was bad to kill all those people and he was like arrested by normal of restaurants and put on a normal trial in a normal court right in a state of exception, you decide, there's like an emergency and the rules don't apply right, and so you can do all kinds of stuff. That's outside the bounds and like one tunnel, is the ultimate version of that right. You decide after How can you some lawyers that there's like a weird loophole where this piece of land is like neither in the United States nor Cuba, so people can just beheld completely outside the bounds of law and then the reassurance to a normal American that like this, is not yet a people who like lose that shit about being asked where cloth mask were totally okay with one hundred bay, because there was a implicit understanding that only Muslims could ever be subjected to that kind of treatment.
they're, like you, wasn't really a slippery slope that could affect you. An important thing there underscore with the state of exception, is that like? Yes, there is dad. You know the rules don't apply here, but this state of exception, particularly Zaga Ben, defines it is always occurring under the cover of lawfulness that the law does in simply cease to apply in an armed this. What happens is that the protection of the law no longer applies to certain people and whatever previous we on stood as Wallace Action, whether its mass surveillance, whether its indefinite detention, whether its outright torture. The government seeks to visit upon such people. That is warrior it very heavily. All of the things you are talking. I particularly liked
this is one of them real, while their things that I encountered really early as rapporteur was finding that like when it came to what you want it to do to people in one automobile either to torture them or to deny them access to the judicial system. A flurry of contradictory legal interpretations held that guy honourable Bay was, and was not the United States, depending on what the exigencies of the circumstances you wish to inflict upon them required and all of those circumstances, Bush administration wires took quite great pains to clothe the garb of law and it would take contrary legal scholars to say like this, actually is unlawful, but most often particularly when liberals did this, and we see this quite consistently inside the Obama administration. They do the exact same thing. They just calibrated somewhat differently, but nevertheless preserve it
exception. So I think that's a great time to take a break and looks pivot to the Obama years. This is advertiser contact. The internet has experienced more than a few updates, since one thousand nine hundred and ninety six, but the same be said for internet regulations. Twenty one marks the twenty fifth anniversary of the Telecommunications ACT of nineteen. Ninety six, the land. comprehensive, update to internet regulation. Since then The internet evolution has created endless possibilities, and new challenges to Facebook supports updated regulations, set clear guidelines on today's topic. Challenges, including protecting people's privacy, misinformation reforming section two thirty in more but spoke, isn't waiting for regulation, their continuing to take action to improve and secured platforms, build you, privacy tools, tripling security and safety teams and working with tech
here's to enable the safe and secure transfer of data between platforms, see facebooks price press on key issues, and what's next at about the F b dot com, slash regulations. So I sent you a lot of people. You know this is gonna, be in some ways the hotter takes in the book is actually the treatment of the Obama administration I mean after Obama becomes president, I would say, the warrant cherry gets. It gets a lot less crazy. I strongly disagree with what do I do? What I was saying to put it more precisely, the mood in the United States of America becomes a lot less crazy if you are not personally super invested in these topics. It receives from the headline sway the present It is not making wild assertions about what's going on, and there was a real effort made to sort of calm things down right, but would you detail
that really very little of this of in effect, lawlessness is actually dismantled in some ways it expands and it's mostly just sort of should a wised so that you now have an institution all by partisan, not on the front page day to day war on terror that just kind of happening in the background, even as like Dodd, Frank or whatever else comes the issue of the day? The war on terror is now just a reality, and not something Georgia be. Bush came up with one afternoon
its Brok Obama, who really makes the forever wars forever. Now I dont say that to suggest it like this is permanent and people do not if they organise, have the power to dismantle the war on to its in death and the right, it's not permanent, but it's in death and while in the same year, this is probably a little bit facile but like much as Bill Clinton ratifies Ronald Reagan, administration in the garb of posing an alternative to it, Brok does the same thing to George W Bush is war on terror, and I want to just challenge a little bit of the way you you said that up when you talk about kind of like the craziness receive
you don't during the Obama years? I know what you mean, but it's important to point out that you know the craziness never receives in the Obama years. It takes a different kind of tributary and that, in particular, is the subject of the chapter, the book that looks it the rights reaction to the way Obama wages, the war on terror. The crazy of the war on terror, basically just like separates itself somewhat from the operation of the war on terror and reaches a kind of cultural escape, velocity in which Parag Obama himself and this is the meaning of birth. The is the threat. Is the terror ease their jihadi waiting to undermine the United States. This is the same thing that we see when a Muslim Cultural Centre in Manhattan that sees itself is kind of the equivalent of
the J C C or ninety second street. Why you know something that for those prisoners who aren't new Yorkers am, I need to know, is basically just something that plays this kind of like cherish. intellectual role in the social life of New York City, that becomes something called the ground zero mosque and is viewed as like Mehmet the conqueror. You have taken Constantinople, unlike transforming our highest Sophia into a mosque, you're like something like that that craziness enemies, the response,
ass to the Obama years? Obama wants to take that temperature down. He wants that element of american politics that he understands is toxic native is and disgusting out of the kind of political bloodstream. The trouble is is that as long as you keep the war on terror, going as he did, you can't do that the politics of the war on terror are not separable from the functions of the war on terror. This is something that every single general intelligence Roll senior Pentagon Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security policy maker Whitehouse person involved in the war on terror of both parties that have interviewed for twenty years simply refuses to accept them.
there is any relationship at all between the functions that they husband did. They implement that they inflict on people and the rise of precisely This kind of aggrieved negativism that feeds off a kind of v honourable and perpetually innocent patriotism under siege in a bring we under licence to act violently. these things have any relationship at all, there's a moment, in particular when you know John Brennan Obama's, most important countered terrorism, adviser and later his third c. I a director makes a series of speeches that are designed to firmly p of it, the United States, away from any conception of waging a war on his work and the right there's absolutely insane about. As you mentioned Charles proud Hammer, he really flipped his wig on this.
cause, you started, they like they described themselves, is jihadi which interesting we enough. No one ever tried to say Is there anyone who practiced christian identity was a repository of true Christiana because, like that sounds very self, evident absurd to people who are familiar with the reality in a way that Americans are not made to feel familiar with a tenants of one of the world's great abrahamic fates. However, when you look at what breeding and threw him Obama husband, which was an apparatus, of lethal assault around the world unconstrained by time vice base only really constrained by what assembled bureaucrats in a closet legal, but never lawful process determine the proper scope of them to be. That gives a war on Islam every tool in every opportunity
it could possibly want, regardless of the intention of its architects, and that is what Donald Trump inherits is. What Barack Obama had an opportunity to dismantle in doesn't use this tremendous discourse, stirring Obama's in turn, in particular the life. Well, why won't? He call it radical Islam and, I think, the reason that gains steam right, I mean the reason it makes sense to people. Is that no matter what you call it right, like no matter how much you try to like distance this enterprise from Anti Islam? Politics like we do. I know what you're talking about right like when you a violent extremism or terror or whatever you want to call it, it's like we understand that you, in fact like do not mean some, shit going down between non Muslims in Honduras right here,
in the irish Young, you dont mean the irate you dont mean timid, re, read and like we know that, like oh bomber, didn't mean that Job Brennan didn't mean that these amendments are officials like they're trying to clean it up there like trying to do better politics, better messaging around it. Something like I move past bushy in. ambiguity, but this this concept moment of like come on man as a reaction to it, because it doesn't, it doesn't make sense detached from Islam, because the enemy is construed to include not just the Taliban but ISIS but Boca her but but I'll show Bob in Somalia, but also your name way well and eventually, the
shoot her and that's, it would becomes it's like if it's not Islam like what could it possibly be liked, what senses it make and the other turn that could have been taken, I guess, would have been to declare victory after some of the modern is killed right to say you know, o bomber inherited a lot of this. You couldn't have just got rid of it on January, twenty first, two thousand nine, but then you have this moment where you could say our I. You know that was nine eleven we're moving up well, so first, oh bombers reaction is to get rid of the name war on terror, but not get rid of the thing and like that is a faithful decision. It is a cowardly decision, but it is also a characteristic of the strain of liberal complicity in the war on terror. That is also like a major subjects of the book. You make the point about radical Islam and why people
as you know, on the right, are attracted to the term. Well, the war on terror. As you point out, he is fundamentally euphemistic thing from the start and, like people aren't stupid, they understand perhaps sometimes in inchoate ways. that they are being told something that is in strictly true, that the name that is being attached to this thing that they are being told again began by their leaders and by the validated of their leaders in the media they choose to consume. Is that they face civilization or threats like the ways in which it was acceptable to just speak of this war, is just simply like. This is a struggle that will last a generation and believe that, to be a like Kennedy asked Kennedy asked ennobling enterprise that shows the United States can do hard things in the world. Still. You know that psychotic, but it is also entirely comment
all right with you know the saddler colonialism that established american dominion over it section of the continent and what radical Islam comes to me. Is it I think, like the way, a lot of people kind of interpreted it at the time, which is like this kind of crazy paroxysm of rights?
but what it really means is it's a declaration about who's terrorism matters and who terrorism doesn't and that's the work that terms like radical islamic terror perform. That's why Donald Trump is so aggressively interested in a certain that, because you understand that there is a chance to truancy for all of this, that is existed after nine Slash eleven, that tapped into something very primal about the american right and about frankly, White America, and that needs to hear that this is not a war on terror. This is a war against radical Islam. Many years before, white supremacy
were marching through the streets of Charlottesville talking about how they will not be replaced as white people, there was an effort, a plugin play bill. Writing effort in state legislatures across the country our style plugin play cut and paste billings reduction that sought out wash real war. Now, no one came up with any kind news explanation about how we, at once, that respecting muslim divorce, Rituals with under minor overthrow the constitution, but knowing needed to because it wasn't a bout. Sharia law is persecuting muscle. It was about ensuring that there is less and less of a public space to be an american Muslim, and that is what the term is really about, and that is Also what, on the one hand, the wages of you
amazing, the war and keeping it undefined, or, and also the wages of this fateful in tragic and uniform perspective? Morally rises, bold decision of the Obama administration to perpetuate it, as if keeping the war won't have the, responses that we saw a manifest all throughout the Bush administration, and an trumps Antonov genius is to really just say the thing right, free of euphemism, so its trump says. Well, what? If we didn't? Let any Muslims come to the United States like? Doesn't that solves the problem? And you know it's a good Adam. I say it's. A good idea is a good question. The right, like Trump puts on the table, the thing throughout the Bush no Obama years. Nobody in power wants to set, which is that if we need a civilization or mobilization against it,
and operational internal enemy and that enemy? Is Muslims like why? Don't we get rid of them right and now, like Obama, doesn't say that, because its horrify Bush doesn't say that because he like has a foot in respectable opinion when Trump says it, it's like people lose their shit in elite circles, but the base is very drawn to its logic, and it is a logic that is like really grounded in the idea that this jihadist threat is a generation all Guenaud, whatever whatever right like. If it's this important like, why not do the thing- and nobody has a good answer to that- I think because they dont want to say, will actually the whole
at a contract was kind of being ass. Well, the other element that feeds that, in its you know from affording I've done a kind of sense of an ex hale. You know on the far right that, like finally, someone has told us the truth about this thing, someone has brought into direct relief the thing that our leaders, in our opinion, validated cars, have told us four fifths. being years, we were doing but couldn't name because of you no name your constraint, usually this rapacious liberal culture. that insurers function away there, like these wars, continue in self worth, but that speaks to the kind of atmosphere that exists
around the time of trumpets. What I mean by that is that the war on terror by twenty fifteen, when shrub descends unit of the golden escalator is a disaster in everyone knows it elites, don't try and defended anymore. They are trying to render it less conspicuous while keeping the elements that they consider to be kind of non negotiable. Some of these are done for material reason. Some of these are done for bureaucratic reasons. Some of these, in the case of the Obama administration, are done for you, no political cowardice, But nevertheless, no one at this point by twenty fifteen is arguing any more that the war on terror. Is this glorious struggle that we have to maintain at all and then like we're, gonna win, and it's gonna be great. That's right in that. Instead, all it is his is disaster in pain. Why
I'll still keeping in mind that the rationale for all of this was this. Like sense of you, know american destiny, american exceptionalism having a moment of extreme cognitive dissonance and not being able, particularly in its more aggressive in in violent version. You see on the right people to really reconcile this moment and trot provides that reconciliation perfectly. He recognizes that at this point There is an enormous constituency to say that, like the wars themselves are disasters, but what follows from that? Isn't that we have to get out of
it's that we have to no longer listen to the people who gave us those disasters and those people are the respectable people in both parties and, in particular, the barons of the security services, and here it those a wheat, have no answer for that. No answer for that at all, because on that level, Trump is right. Those are the people who gave us this disaster. Those are the people who, once you kind of break the seal and say that this has gotten us like nothing but misery that you know the right understood.
that misery, not in terms of material misery, but in terms of humiliation in terms of America having gone to war, to showcase its might. These are things that Donald Trump contemporaneous. We supported every single turn, regardless of how he wants to reckon it later. What that leads to, instead is a sense tat, an argument that, like the wars are less necessary. Then the violence the wars were supposed to unleash and what? If we brought that violence in the direction that we believe it ought to have been brought to anyway, that is to say what's a rising the border beyond the militarization that occurs all throughout the world. Terror and even before mass deportations, Obama deports a really unforgivable number of people, and yet the right, you know, for obvious reasons,
never kind of credits yet with doing out in order to get to what oh bomb a very light, foolishly and cruelly decides is just like the cost of getting to a sensible immigration policy. All of this, instead just becomes the kind of you know: carbonized husk, of the war on terror, being cracked open, so like the native is, or at the centre of it can be properly. My but also the continuation of external violence- and I feel like this is of needs very misunderstood about Trump Arab Foreign Policy- that a lot of people, people on the left to an extent had been eager to give him credit for his criticism of, should have prolonged ground based military interventions abroad. But the inverse of that for Trump
was always bombed. The shit out of the right that, like the trump be an idea, is to eliminate d, like hubris elements of american global engagement, to eliminate the idea that, like we are good, to build a stable democracy. These abroad that we are going to liberate the women Afghanistan, that sort of sin people, shitty elements of it but like it is definitely not there. We're gonna. Stop the part where american missiles and bombs and aircraft patrol the world in a lawless and violent manner and all that stuff, intensifying Squire Bit during his administration. quite significantly and look. I tried on reporting stories out about how like trumps first, two years of drone strikes eclipse the drone
rights that Barack Obama watches in his first two years, which were the high water mark of the Obama aerodromes strike civilian casualties in Afghanistan, increase by one study, three hundred and thirty percent. You don't trump talk endlessly about how much of it faster. The Afghanistan worries, even in an amazing speech in August of twenty seventeen while escalating it. That is also something that, like is a feature the war on terror like starting with the real, like apocalyptic turn in the iraqi occupation, which is like a point at which, like a weeds You, like particular in the Bush administration like denied tonight, and I do not deny that this is a disaster until finally, disaster can be under
it is a rationale for escalation, and that is something the trump like really does pick up on and hears Trump talking about the wars in terms of imperial tribute we have to take the oil. It was offensive that we we invaded Iraq and we got nothing for we didn't even get the oil well look a whole lot of american hydrocarbon companies will kind of giggle with that. Because of the opportunities For investment in Iraq's oil, once Iraq is completely destitute, and rely on the United States that what's a whole lot different than what it was as an OPEC leader under Saddam Hussein. What trump really gets there is dead there isn't a constituency for the operations of the war on terror varies a constituency for a revenge on those who have frustrated the war on terror, but also
salvaging the righteous violence against in identifying all racial ized other that doesn't just exist abroad, but exists in the United States. All of that together says to me that Donald Trump is not an alternative to the war on terror, he's a lagging. indicator of the war on terror. You and I are forty year old, New Yorkers like as long as I think like You ve been like alive and paying attention to like local media, we ve known Donald Trump, and we ve known that Donald Trump is a con man like he does this without like We get a nod and movies like Donald Trump, great talent. manipulating reality for his benefit and like a lot of people, particularly those who are very you
The two are kind of superficial analysis of who is from a kind of distorting partisan perspective a proponent and who is an opponent of the war on terror. Donald Trump seems to scramble, and some people take that scrambling it away. They, like could potentially be useful to dear agendas, but they are not the ones using Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the ones using them. This is how Donald from always works. Nothing that Donald Trump does in power opposes the war on terror. It's only what he says. There is one exception to this end it come sort of after all else fails in that trunk deciding to negotiate not even negotiate trunk decides to sue for peace with the Taliban, because there's no other way out of Afghanistan. Referred, it is as the war
with our is act of his disgraceful presidency. So I think this is a good Afghanistan's, a good place to sort of close on your Joe Biden. He has always struck me over his career, there's, like really alike, paid a member of the national security conventional wisdom in really like a not great way at. I was surprised that he stuck with the Afghanistan withdraw that he continues to. You know, take a lot of flak like the think tank zone and all these kind of people about it, and it was just interesting to me- I mean I think it's the right thing. It strikes me as a sort of out of character. It obviously stems from what Trump did in
his kind of final months in office, but does it give us some some kind of reason for hope that there is at least a slinking away from this kind of bad period in american history? Well, I want it quits stress on the degree to which it is sweeping away, because with the Afghanistan withdrawal, when you start to poke added its less than meets the eye, I don't mean to say that, like this is a foregone conclusion but like to just look at the tail of the tape here, we ve got a troop withdrawal, like we have seen in previous war on terror, battlefields in particular Iraq in two thousand and eleven. We also see explicit statements from
Frank, Mackenzie, the general in charge and central command and Defence Secretary Lloyd, Austin. That says they reserve the right to survey Afghanistan, post withdrawal in vomit as necessary whenever they see you know, however, this will be defined and it will always be defined publicly. Deceitfully I'm gonna give you spoilers here for, what's it out to come, you know whatever they decide that it is necessary. However, they define that to bomb Afghans. and and were waiting to see whether this withdrawal actually sticks, or it becomes you, don't intolerable to the foreign policy establishment to see the town. and over run, Afghanistan. I think it is a very open question whether this withdrawal really forms a gesture Sure it, american foreign policy, or rather it Lord is more than a kind of state of continuity
whereby perhaps Afghanistan is not directly occupied by the United States, but the United States functionally dominates Afghanistan. You can read about this in writing edition of the forever Wars newsletter that I write and publish on substantial, but in addition to the pressures that we see a mess, human misery occur when these disastrous wars prompt American pull back. What were waiting to see how durable that pullback actually is and were often when discussing them, conceiving of the human disaster. This in a likely should the Taliban reconquer Afghanistan, as it just juncture from the war rather than the fruits of it. The Taliban in
Several two thousand one sue for peace with hybrid cars. I humming cars. I wants to take the deal. The Taliban say as long as more Omar can live in some kind of like house arrest in Kandahar, We are willing to weigh our weapons down demobilize and you know, started nation's on what Afghanistan's political future is guess what, with the exception of Moana Omar, those are the terms of Donald Trump's and Joe Biden and ratified two thousand and nineteen deal with the Taliban. We could have had exactly that. In December two thousand one and the Bush administration in Particular Donald Rumsfeld. It the Pentagon podium, says unacceptable and just this kind of like world war to ask demand for unconditional surrender from the Taliban, and the Taliban is basically like
with that, like do not remember who you're dealing with that white there from the beginning, my is the difference from. We need to get the guys who did nine eleven which, because they were in Afghanistan, require doing something with the Taliban, but then the Taliban is willing to cut them loose. So you can make a deal and Bobby which was a global war on terror right which so much more expansive right. It's not a bow, a practical issue like the location of specific allocate a member's. It has to be bigger right, innocent me so much bigger than like striking a deal with MILAN and let your locked into that lodge once you accept the imposition of a war on terror because, like you, have no rigorous basis didn't, say what were really interested in is like arresting you. Nobody would have said revenue
killing but like what we're really interested in doing is stopping Al Qaeda from doing the next thing and accordingly, ideal that takes away what is that it was its major territorial base of operations is like the right strategic thing to do, but even right, there you're substituting a strategic logic that, like the war on terror, does not yet until like you reach a point, Of like true undeniable disaster. What I'm getting at is dead the blood letting we are likely to see in Afghanistan is almost assuredly go, be defined and understood as the alternative to fighting in Afghanistan. Not the result of and that is a major major major mistake. That is american. nationalism junkies going into withdrawal, because they can accept that what eat me
to lose a war is that the enemy in this case winds and the enemy defines the terms of its victory after I'm gonna, let you go by aspects are active in the book is reign of terror. Everybody should by it the substance is forever wars eyes. A great red and went to subscribe am inscribed on substance spent specially this one, is excellent. So thank you very much thanks to New Smith's about our producer here, thanks for ways to our sponsors and the little boy, on Tuesday. This is advertiser content. Twenty twenty one is the twenty fifth anniversary of the Telecommunications ACT of nineteen. Ninety six, the last Comprehensive update to internet regulation, the internet has experienced more than a few update since ninety ninety six, but internet regulations have not that's why
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Transcript generated on 2021-08-13.