Better than anyone to date, the Media Education Foundation has quietly and accurately documented the most important history of 21st century thus far in their recent video and DVD release, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of American Empire.
Hijacking Catastrophe is powerful, understated, straightforward and educational. In a single meticulously organized hour of evidence and analysis, viewers are treated to a thoughtful explanation of modern American empire, neo-conservatism as a driving force for the current Bush administration, and something I have not seen before, a real economic analysis of what is driving some of our current "global war on terror."
The film examines the Bush Administration’s investment in neo-conservatism, and the early, and already horrific, results. While past performance is no guarantee of future earnings, Hijacking Catastrophe shows exactly why America’s "new conservatism" is a pyramid scheme of inhumane proportions.
The film examines eight aspects of the current situation of American foreign policy. The film provides an explanation for the obvious continuity between Cold War policies and those of the present. It examines long-term neoconservative thinking and how this peculiar version of Jacobin utopianism ascended from its rather inauspicious political roots. The film explores the dangerous territory of how the post 9-11 national shock was carefully cultivated by neoconservatives in Washington to support their own long-held objectives in the Middle East.
Hijacking Catastrophe then documents the Pentagon and White House process of disinformation, exaggeration, and media-supported propaganda between 9-11 and America’s March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It describes the neoconservative vision of military dominance over a supine, energy-rich Middle East, not only for its own sake, but as a warning to other potential international rivals.
Hijacking Catastrophe describes the cost of empire in a way so comprehensive that it becomes clear that neo-conservatism, as a foreign policy guide, comes with a very real moral, political and financial garnishment of every American, and of American children yet unborn. The cost is shown not only as a current financial outlay or in lives unlived on the part of soldiers and marines, but in terms of an alarming debt burden, loss of domestic freedom, the growing and invasive state, a permanent tattering of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
There are some critical darts thrown in the film, but the few that can be discerned relate to the facts. For example, the general lack of military experience among neo-conservatives is discussed in the context of their most interesting fascination with the use of military force, and their unbelievable disregard for the horrific cost of war both physically and psychologically, on our soldiers, on the purported battlefield enemy, and upon the countries in which they reside.
Unlike the Michael Moore treatment in Fahrenheit 9-11, where images of the Deputy Secretary of Defense combing his hair with fresh spittle cheapen our horror while turning our stomachs, Hijacking Catastrophe is a working man’s treatment of 21st century American foreign policy — what it is, where it comes from, what it wants, what it costs, and how Americans might deal with it. In this regard, the final segments of the film focus on the need to fight fear domestically by engaging in a public debate on the war in Iraq, post 9-11 policies in general, and engendering a real national discussion about what America stands for and how she might more wisely relate to the world, and solve problems instead of creating them.
Hijacking Catastrophe, in my view, has only one weakness, and that is the possibility that those who follow commentary may incorrectly conclude, because Noam Chomsky and Immanuel Wallerstein are among those interviewed, that this exposé of the war in Iraq and neo-conservatism is from the political left.
In a day and age when ex-Trotskyite democratic socialists, big government-huggers and naked empire-worshipers find a safe and happy home in the Republican Party — a party once popularized as advocating small decentralized government at home and non-interference and trade abroad — one might wonder if left, right and center are not passé. But for old-timers, the libertarian right, the American center, the military backbone, academia and economists are all represented, with interviews of Scott Ritter, Dan Ellsberg, Chalmers Johnson, Stan Goff, Ben Barber, Shadia Drury, Norm Mailer and Stan Goff and many others. I’m there as well.
When the video team came out to the farmhouse to ask me some questions, I didn’t expect the net result of their work would be so informative, fair-minded, and at times, poignant. Parts of the film show my former military colleagues in Iraq questioning the unsound military strategy and absurd neoconservative political vision, yet dutifully following their orders, killing and dying, and holding ground until the rest of the country wakes up. The White House insists that the occupation is about American values and patriotism and the public good. Hijacking Catastrophe shows straightforwardly how those Washington-elite fantasies scuttle on the ground around the feet of our soldiers and marines like so much garbage.
When Hijacking Catastrophe was completed, 600 Americans and probably 20,000 or more Iraqi civilians had been killed. Today we approach an American death count of 1,000, and each day it seems more Iraqis give their lives and sacrifice their freedom for "American democracy." Instead of learning from political mistakes of 2003, we recently invaded and destroyed much of the Shia holy city of Najaf, alienating much of the remaining Iraqi population that still clung to the idea that we were there to help. We have emplaced the second-rate thug Allawi as Prime Minister, following in the real American tradition in the Middle East and proving our critics abroad to be absolutely correct about our true intentions. America’s decline as a respected and influential world power continues, while at home Americans increasingly seem to feel oppressed and apprehensive. Incidentally, the ingredients are all in place for an American version of National Socialism.
Thankfully, fear, panic and stupidity are for sheep and lemmings, not people. Hijacking Catastrophe does a great service in gently reminding us of this liberating fact. Yet, the film does far more than remind. Like the Rosetta stone, it contains a necessary and crucial key for translating Washington’s mystical and symbolic description of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and it will guide future generations as well as our own.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.