Empire of Reason Commentary No. 11

To: The People of the United States, September 27, 2021

9/11 is no Pearl Harbor

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of an attack on American soil commonly referred to as, 9/11. The accepted rendition is that of nineteen hijackers representing a variety of foreign nations, all of which were from the same neighborhood, who assumed control of four airliners on domestic flights, turning them into airborne versions of truck bombs. The basic premise here was the same, but with a distinct technological departure . . . airplanes.

The national makeup of these kamakaze Jihadists are recorded as such: Fifteen were Saudis, two from the United Arab Emirates and one each from Egypt and Lebanon. The largest contingent, by far, originated, not surprisingly, from Saudi Arabia, home of the radical Wahhabi school of Islam, an ultra-conservative view of one of the globe’s great religions; and, which holds alternative strains of worship—Islam or no–in abject contempt, and which in the end is a religious form of Fascism from a puritanical point of view that is so far to starboard it is to the right of Attila the Hun. The unbendable doctrine of a nation which in 1948, declined to ratify the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-authored by Eleanor Roosevelt.[1]

Yet beginning with Valentine’s Day 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, aboard the heavy cruiser Quincy (CA-71),[2] off Bitter Lakes, Egypt, where the two consummated the deal: U.S. military protection for the Kingdom versus preferential access to Saudi crude, and every president, be he Democrat or Republican has catered to that agenda ever since. This put us in league with a theo-Fascist state, after having been a partner in an Allied coalition that had defeated the Axis Powers which were comprised of Fascist states: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and militarist Japan. Sidling up to Riyadh showcased the course America itself was going to chart in the post-1945 era; or, as George Kennan observed:

The U.S. has about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism and world benefaction. We should cease to talk about such vague and unreal objectives as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. . .[3]

And this is precisely the course America will chart. A course which will see to the demise of the American Republic, as the Nation evolved into a Corporate State, a War Capitalist State. For nearly a half century after Kennan’s prophetic words, the Plan for the New American Century was promulgated, not so many years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Such was the agenda of the Neo-Conservatives, of which one, Paul Wolfowitz, penned the Neocons’ doctrine of preemptive war. 

 In 2000, with their study, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: A Report for the Project of the New American Century, Thomas Donnelly, principal author, outlined an agenda for America in the 21st century. Found in the “Introduction” is the following:

Cold War 21st Century
Security SystemBipolarUnipolar
Strategic GoalContain Soviet UnionPreserve Pax Americana
Main Military Mission(s) Deter Soviet expansionismSecure and expand zones of democratic peace; deter rise of new great-power competitor; defend key regions; exploit transformation of war.
Main military threat(s)Potential global war across many theatersPotential theater wars spread across globe
Focus of strategic competitionEuropeEast Asia[4]


The emergence of a more belligerent America was quite evident when reviewing the Cold War column versus that of the 21st Century. With the demise of the Soviet Union, a check on American power had been removed, resulting in a unipolar world. As is typical throughout history, when a void develops, another power attempts to fill same. And in this case, it was the United States.

9/11, then, provided that opportunity for the Neocons, who together with a made-for-order dupe, George Bush, Jr., not only invaded Afghanistan to effect regime change of the Taliban, but the encroachment of Iraq which was to see to the removal of Saddam Hussein. Justifications for the unprovoked aggression in Iraq, such as weapons of Mass Destruction and collusion by Saddam with Osama bin Laden for 9/11, were shown to be fraudulent. Bush, Jr. then resorted to the notion of Democracy, again another pronouncement lacking substance since the objective was to install Ahmed Chalabi or Iyad Allawi as the American satrap for the oil saturated former British colonial experiment that was the result of the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. 

This, of course, leads us to better understand another empty pronouncement by George Bush, Jr., comparing 9/11 to the Day of Infamy, December 7, 1941.

* * * * *

By September 2, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered, officially ending Man’s greatest industrialized, corporatized, commercialized war, 16,112,566 Americans were in a uniform.[5] This amounted to some 12.2 percent of the American population, which in 1941 was some 132,000,000. This also “represented one-third of the then male population of 15 years or older.”[6]

But from September 11, 2001 to September 2015, 2,774,000 American service men and women served 5,452,679 deployments.[7] This is less than one-percent of the American public. Bush, Jr’s reference of 9/11 as this generation’s Pearl Harbor was hardly the case, when viewing, of course, the tepid response of the American public. Not surprising when one understands that this is the America of 2001 not 1945. From an historical perspective, 9/11 is no Pearl Harbor as opposed to being what it was from the start, another “Remember the Maine.”

* * * * *

The Bush, Jr. White House, in response to 9/11 and the refusal of the Taliban to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States, lent support to the Northern Alliance of ethnicities against the Taliban comprised mainly of Pashtuns.[8]

Initial U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was hardly an invasion; rather the employment of CIA types, Special Forces and elements of American airpower. The bulk of the fighting would be done by the Northern Alliance, which enjoyed a decided advantage over the Taliban . . . American airpower. 

The Taliban quickly collapsed, December 2001. But the White House and the Neocons were interested in a much more lucrative prize, Iraq. In 2000, Saddam had taken Iraq’s oil transactions off the Dollar and put them on Euro. But in April 2003, Washington took Iraq’s oil transactions off the Euro and put them back on the Buck. Indeed, Dollar primacy has been a building block of American foreign policy since 1945. For finance as warfare conducted by monolithic finance is America’s trump card, despite the awesome power that can be unleashed by the armed forces of the United States. And what of the Neocons, who enjoyed the services of a dupe in the Oval Office, whose presidency was every bit questionable as the election decided by the Supreme Court on his behalf in 2000, as well as the premature and even puerile grandstand play on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), which saw Bush complete in flying kit and helmet announcing victory in Iraq, May 1, 2003; while Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, partaking in another orchestrated “Mission Accomplished” moment, announced the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. Both are dramas of arrogant belligerence by an imperialist power forging a fiction of invincibility to a population who, for the most part, have lost their taste for fighting. 

The Neoconservatives of the 1990s who opposed the Clinton administration on foreign policy, as well as the Republican establishment and those who favored isolationism, were “the second and third generations of intellectuals who had moved from left to right by the end of the 1960s. William Kristol was the son of Irving Kristol, the co-editor of The Public Interest and John Podhoretz, the son of Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz. Former Reagan administration official Richard Perle and former Reagan and Bush administration official, Paul Wolfowitz, who would join the new Bush administration, were proteges of first generation arms theorist, Albert Wohlstetter. Third generationer Douglas Feith, who would serve under Wolfowitz in George W. Bush’s Pentagon, was a protégé of Perle; and J. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who would be Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, had studied under Wolfowitz at Yale.”[9]

More than one hundred years before Paul Wolfowitz wrote his doctrine on preemptive war that would come to shape the Neocons’ agenda of empire, Alfred Thayer Mahan penned a game-changing treatise on military power, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660—1783. A selection which helped to spur on the Great Battleship Race, the globe’s first real strategic arms race among the imperialist powers. Indeed, by 1907-1910, seventy of these warships were in various stages of completion in the world’s largest ship yards.

As observed by Captain Mahan, “The word ‘defense’ in war involves two ideas, which for the sake of precision in thought should be kept separated in the mind. There is defense pure and simple, which strengthens itself and awaits attack. This may be called passive defense. On the other hand, there is a view of defense which asserts that safety for one’s self, the real object of defensive preparation, is best secured by attacking the enemy. In the matter of sea-coast defense, the former method is exemplified by stationary fortifications, submarine mines, and generally all immobile works destined simply to stop an enemy if he tries to enter. The second method comprises all those means and weapons which do not wait for attack, but go to meet the enemy’s fleet, whether it be but for a few miles, or whether to his own shores. Such a defense may seem to be really offensive war, but it is not; it becomes offensive only when its object of attack is changed from the enemy’s fleet to the enemy’s country. England defended her own coasts and colonies by stationing her fleets off the French ports, to fight the French fleet if it came out. The United States in the Civil War stationed her fleets off the Southern ports, not because she feared for her own, but to break down the Confederacy by isolation from the rest of the world, and ultimately by attacking the ports. The methods were the same; but the purpose in one case was defensive, in the other case offensive.”[10]

This was written in 1890; but the notion of blockading an opponent’s ports from a defensive perspective gave way to attacking ports, as did the United States at Vera Cruz in 1914. However, as intimated by Mahan, there was another use for sea power.

On page 83, Mahan wrote, “Colonies attached to the mother country, afford, therefore, the surest means of supporting abroad the sea power of a country. . . . having therefore no foreign establishments, either colonial or military, the ships of war of the United States, in war, will be like land birds, unable to fly far from their own shores. To provide resting-places for them, where they can coal and repair, would be one of the first duties of a government proposing to itself the development of the power of the nation at sea.”[11]

Contemporary Neocons developed their imperialist policy in the Age of the Technology Revolution. Yet their antecedents developed the rudiments of the American Empire during the Industrial Revolution; that is, with the expansion of the Hamiltonian notion of an America as an industrial/finance power.[12]

Mahan’s book took the world by storm. It was adopted by the imperialists, together with their economic and political justifications for American expansion; or, transforming Manifest Destiny from an agenda for continental expansion to that of a program for globalism. Hence the Spanish-American War. Frederick Jackson Turner, Benjamin Harrison, James G. Blaine who desired to expand trade overseas, Brooks Adams, Albert Thayer Mahan, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, . . . . all latched on to the expansion of American economic, political and military power.

 Senator Albert Beveridge from Indiana, of the imperialist persuasion, observed, “If any man tells you that trade depends on cheapness [of price] and not on government influence, ask him why England does not abandon South Africa, Egypt, India. . . The conflicts of the future are to be conflicts of trade—struggles for markets—commercial wars for existence. And the Golden Rule of Peace is impregnability of position and invincibility of preparedness.”[13]

* * * * *

“Remember the Maine,” was built upon a narrative of unsubstantiated attack by the Spanish; or, even an act of sabotage by Cubans attempting to get this nation into a war with Spain the imperialist power. The phraseology proved useful to elements of the press colluding with the imperialists to fire the nationalist passions of Americans by fostering the plastic patriotism required to pursue the agenda of empire. Such is what the neocons attempted in the wake of 9/11.

* * * * *


[1] The eight nations which refused to ratify the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights were as follows: Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. See page 933, 119. “Continuation of the Discussion on the Draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Report of the Third Committee (A/777), 183rd Plenary Session, Paris, 10 December 1948.

[2] Quincy was a Baltimore-class heavy cruiser, completed on December 15, 1943. CA-71 was named for the ill-fated CA-39, a prewar New Orleans-class heavy cruiser sunk in action against the Japanese at Savo Island, August 9, 1942. See page 269, “Baltimore Class,” Cruisers of World War II, An International Encyclopedia, by M.J. Whitley, for additional data.

[3] George Kennan, U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff, VII, “Far East,” PPS No. 23, Report by the Policy Planning Staff, “Review of Current Trends,” February 24, 1948.

[4] See page 2, “Introduction,” Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Thomas Donnelly, principal author.

[5] See page 1, “America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., November 2020.

[6] See page 1, “VA Fact Sheet: World War II Veterans by the Numbers,” Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

[7] See page 3, “Examination of Recent Deployment Experience Across the Services and Components,” Rand Corporation, by Jennie W. Wenger, Caolionn O’Connell and Linda Cottrell.

[8] “Northern Alliance—a shaky coalition of Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara Shi’ite militias who had failed individually to resist the Southerners’” (Taliban/Pashtun) “advance.” See page 72, Chapter 3, “Try Not to Hurt the People!: Kabul, 1996-1998,” Taliban: The Unknown Enemy, by James Fergusson.

[9] See page 168, Chapter Eight, “Bush, Clinton, and the Triumph of Wilsonianism,” The Folly of Empire, by John B. Judis.

[10] See page 87, Chapter I, “Discussion of the Elements of Sea Power,” The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, by Alfred Thayer Mahan.

[11] See page 83, Alfred Thayer Mahan.

 What Mahan put forth America has adopted. For as history shows, Pax Romana, Pax Mongolica and Pax Americana, could not and cannot exist without a network of bases with which to nit empire.

[12] Slavery, though an extremely significant aspect, was not the cause of the American Civil War; or, what the conflict truly was, the Revolt of the Planters. The Jeffersonian idea of the agrarian as the standard bearer of the Republic was finally overcome by the Hamiltonian notion of industrialization and finance. This difference in doctrines, arising with the foundation of the Republic, was decided on the battlefield, in a conflict which, by after Gettysburg, will become America’s first industrialized war. And the Hamiltonian notion, championed by the industrial and financial might of the North will win. Following 1865, the meteoric rise of American industrial and financial primacy will commence, creating an economic dynamo that will see, some eighty years later, the globe’s superpower.

[13] See page 178, Chapter 10, “Flag Follows Commerce,” The Forging of the American Empire, by Sydney Lens.

* * * * *


119. “Continuation of the Discussion on the Draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Report of the Third Committee (A/777), 183rd Plenary Session, Convened at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris, 10 December 1948, 9:00 PM, Mr. H.V. Evatt (Australia), United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner, www.ohchr.org/EN/Library/Pages/UDHR.aspx

“America’s Wars,” Department of Veterans Affairs,” Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., November 2020.

Donnelly, Thomas, Principal Author, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century, A Report for the Project for the New American Century, Project for a New American Century, Washington, D.C., September 2000.

Fergusson, James, Taliban: The Unknown Enemy, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2011.

Judis, John B., The Folly of Empire, A Lisa Drew Book/Scribner, New York, NY., 2004.

Kennan, George, U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff, VII, “Far East,” PPS No. 23, Report by the Policy Planning Staff, “Review of Current Trends,” February 24, 1948.

Lens, Sydney, The Forging of the American Empire: A History of American Imperialism From the Revolution to Vietnam, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, NY., 1974.

Mahan, Alfred Thayer, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783, Little Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1890.

Mann, Christopher T., “U.S. War Costs, Casualties, and Personnel Levels since 9/11,” In Focus, Congressional Research Service, April 18, 2019, www.crs.gov

Wenger, Jennie W. and O’Connell, Caolionn and Cottrell, Linda, “Examination of Recent Deployment Experience Across the Services and Components,” Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, 2018.

Whitley, M.J., Cruisers of World War II, An International Encyclopedia, Brockhampton Press, London, England, 1999. Originally published, 1995, Arms and Armour Press.

“World War II Veterans by the Numbers,” VA Fact Sheet, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., www.va.gov

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Mark Albertson

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