9/11 and the Treason of Empire

The fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has brought us mournful memorials,
declarations that we will “never forget,” and outraged realizations that nearly
a third of Americans
don’t recall what year that signal event occurred. All of this is quite natural,
but it isn’t what we need at the moment. Yes, anniversaries are a time for looking
back, but I want to do something quite different: I want to look forward, and
ask “Where are we now – and where are we going?”

But we can’t see where we are going without understanding where we have been,
and thanks to that miracle known as the Internet you can do that by reading
something I wrote fourteen years ago, in the Autumn of 2002: “Iraq: First Stop on the Road
to Empire
.” It is actually a speech I gave to the Washington University
chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, in which I gave a pretty thorough accounting
of the history that brought us to that day, September 11, 2001, as well as a
warning of what the future held.

While the fires ignited by the blast in lower Manhattan had been put out, I
warned that a fire had been lighted in the hive mind of our political class,
one that, to this day, still smolders and burns and fills our eyes with acrid

“There is something quite different about the prospect of this war that
sets it apart from all the conflicts the U.S. has entered in modern times. It’s
something new, and I think we all feel it, and know on it some subliminal level:
there’s a change in the air, an electricity that some find exhilarating and
others find ominous. I count myself among the latter.

“This new atmosphere was not created by 9/11, but certainly the explosion
that sent the World Trade Center hurtling to the earth spread it far and wide.
We are not just talking about war fever here, but of a lust for conquest not
seen in this country since the
. And plain old-fashioned greed. We had this debate back in the 1890s:
in response to the call of the War Party to annex the Spanish dominions a whole
movement arose, organized as the
Anti-Imperialist League.
It was led by what, today, would be called libertarians, and one
of its leaders, one Carl Schurz, had this
to say:

“’If we take these new regions, we shall be well entangled in that
contest for territorial aggrandizement which distracts other nations and drives
them far beyond their original design. So it will be inevitably with us. We
shall want new conquests to protect that which we already possess. The greed
of speculators working upon our government will push us from one point to another,
and we shall have new conflicts upon our hands, almost without knowing how we
got into them.’”

The shade of Schurz is surely haunting the conscience of our political leaders
as his prophecy rings down through the years….

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