How Empires Justify War
Empires – almost by definition – fight imperial wars to gain land and resources.
But if they admitted to their citizens what they were up to, people wouldn’t be that excited in sacrificing their families’ blood and treasure to fight a series of wars.
So empires always pretend that they’re being attacked … and they are simply fighting to defend themselves.
The ancient Roman leaders whined, “But we have to protect ourselves!” And every empire has done it since.
Nazi leader Hermann Goering explained at his Nuremberg trial:
Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
The same is true in America today. For example, FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, a top constitutional and military law expert, Time magazine, the Washington Post and others have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”. Indeed, the former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge admitted that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.
The threat from Al Qaeda – while real – has been greatly exaggerated. Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski – also a top foreign policy advisor to President Obama – told the Senate that the war on terror is a “a mythical historical narrative“. (And statistics arguably show that many terror attacks are actually carried out by non-Muslims.)
Indeed, every empire exaggerates the mortal threat from its enemies. For example:
- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld made false claims exaggerating the threat posed by Russia’s weapons in the 1970s to justify huge increases in military spending.
- There is a mountain of evidence that government officials intentionally lied about Iraqi WMDs
- The U.S. Navy’s own historians now say that the sinking of the USS Maine — the justification for America’s entry into the Spanish-American War — was probably caused by an internal explosion of coal, rather than an attack by the Spanish.
- It is also now well-accepted that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which led to the Vietnam war was a fiction (confirmed here).
- Two lies were used to justify the 1991 Gulf War: the statement that Iraqis murdered Kuwaiti babies and the statement that a quarter of a million Iraqi troops were massed on the border with Saudi Arabia (see also this article)(technically, the statement about Kuwaiti babies did not come from the U.S. government, but from a public relations firm hired by the government).
Another common tactic for pretending the empire is being attacked is launching a false flag attack. If you haven’t learned about this 2,000-year old trick, you can’t even begin to understand empire and war.
Whipping up a state of hysterical fear is vital for the empire to manipulate its people. And a necessary part of process of beating the war drums is to demonize the enemy … and pretend he is a bloodthirsty beast.