Cui Bono is not the rock musician who fashions himself mankind’s ambassador to the governments of the world. It is, rather, the question asked when an official was murdered in ancient Rome: "who benefited"? It is the question gullible minds have long forgotten to ask themselves following politically-motivated atrocities.
The state saves us the difficulties associated with asking and exploring such a question. Following the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, as well as the 9/11 attacks on the WTC, the political establishment locked most Americans into one explanation: "terrorists." It is amazing that, for all the criticism heaped upon so-called "intelligence agencies" for their "failure" to anticipate 9/11, federal officials were able to identify the alleged perpetrators of these crimes — complete with photographs of same — within hours after the attacks!
The state doesn’t want disquieting questions to be asked. In fact, it urges the public to "remain calm," and not be distressed by destructive events. The state will explain it all in terms that serve its ends, with no need for minds to be sidetracked by "cui bono" inquiries into other possible causal factors. Thus, one of President Bush’s first acts, following 9/11, was to remind people what their minds had already been conditioned to reject, namely, "conspiracy" explanations. That he immediately spouted conspiratorial theories of his own (e.g., "axis of evil," Al-Qaeda, Islamic terrorism) did not register, in the minds of most, as just one more of this man’s glaring contradictions.
I subscribe to the sentiments of a friend who said "I am not interested in conspiracy theories; I am interested in the facts of conspiracies!" Those who deny, outright, the existence of conspiracies, have a difficult time explaining the events of 9/11. Was there some kind of "harmonic convergence" that brought the nineteen hijackers onto these planes without any concerted intentions on their parts? Was it nothing more than fate — what Middle Easterners would call "kismet" — that brought these total strangers together that morning to bring about the unplanned orchestration of these deadly and destructive acts? Intelligent minds would reject such an explanation, leaving us to find causation in a conspiracy.
But Mr. Bush — and all the mind-setters in academia and the media — warns us to resist temptations to look to conspiracies for causation; that those who seek such inquiries are "paranoid" and probable hate-mongers. On the other hand, it is quite acceptable to embrace conspiracies identified by the state. We are to listen only to the booming voice of "the Great Oz," and to "pay no attention to that man behind the screen."
The question becomes, then, not whether conspiracies exist, but who has conspired to bring about massive acts of death and destruction? A beginning point is to ask the question instinctively posed by Romans: "cui bono?" Who has benefited from these various acts? Such an inquiry does not necessarily provide one with the correct answer but, like police investigators who focus upon the spouse of a murder victim as the initial suspect, it is a rational way to begin.
The facility with which politicians, media spokesmen, and other statists were able to inculcate gullible minds in the catechism of "Islamic terrorism," illustrates the dangerous nature of mass-mindedness. Efforts to contrast "terrorism" and governmental behavior only create distinctions without meaning. Each group uses terror — consisting of violence and the threat of violence — to accomplish their respective ends. American planes bomb Baghdad in a program named "shock and awe," while Iraqi insurgents retaliate with suicide bombers. Each effort is designed to terrorize the Iraqi people into obedience to one side or the other.
Intelligent minds — such as those who might have had a basic course in physics in their youth — ought to recognize Newton’s "third law of motion" playing out in all of this. If Al-Qaeda activists were responsible for 9/11, their motivation in having done so is more plausibly to be found in reactions to American foreign policy, than in some collective Islamic envy over the cell-phones, blue jeans, popular music, and Hollywood movies that represent so much of American culture. I have a difficult time imagining a suicide bomber crashing into his target with his last thoughts being "take that, Howard Stern!"
The statists, of course, don’t want you to understand how such forces of butchery are causally connected to each other; how they necessarily derive from the very nature of coercive power. You are expected to regard these competing influences of destructiveness as polar opposites — what President Bush so childishly labels the forces of "good" versus "evil." There is nothing new in the creation of such false dichotomies. America’s first King George doubtless regarded Jefferson, Franklin, Sam Adams, John Hancock, et al., as a cabal of "terrorists" (although "traitor" was more likely the adjective du jour). The practitioners of American "Manifest Destiny" looked upon American Indians as the equivalent of "terrorists" (i.e., "savages") for their active resistance to the 7th Cavalry’s efforts to slaughter and despoil them. The Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, and the members of the French resistance movement in Paris were likewise regarded as "terrorists" by the Nazi regime.
Such thoughts were rekindled as I watched the political class and its obsequious media describing today’s bombing of subways and a bus in London that has killed many people. The "terrorist" catechisms are again offered up for reaffirmation by the faithful; the bifurcation of "good" and "evil" are provided by President Bush who contrasted the "ideology of hope and compassion" with the "ideology of hate." Such infantile reasoning has played well to an American audience, so why would we expect this man to alter the script?
Other politicians raced to the television cameras to capitalize on this event. Tony Blair — with his fellow G8 Summit participants standing behind him (including George Bush in his Marshal Dillon stance) — repeated the party line with nary a break in meter that might otherwise have been occasioned by an awareness of the connection between this atrocity and Britain’s participation in the Iraq war. In a show of moral resolve, even New York Governor Pataki held a press conference to condemn the bombing of innocent people (i.e., in London, not Baghdad).
This is an opportune time for intelligent men and women to begin formulating their own questions, rather than continuing to internalize answers fed to them by those with an interest in conditioning their minds. Such an inquiry ought to include the possibility that some of these events might be the product of provocateuring (i.e., the political establishment engineering attacks in order to arouse public sentiment on behalf of expanded police powers and a war agenda). The very existence of the word admits of its historic role in matters political. The burning of the German Reichstag facilitated Hitler’s rise to power, while Roosevelt’s conscious efforts to bring about the bombing of Pearl Harbor made it possible for him to overcome public opposition to entering the war.
Those who might be inclined to consider such a possible explanation for 9/11 are invited to read David Ray Griffin’s book The New Pearl Harbor, in which he invites such an inquiry. To raise such a possibility as a question to be examined is not to make an accusation, but only to follow the "cui bono" question to embrace all who might have so benefited. If we are to understand the vicious nature of our world, we must follow wherever the evidence leads us; we must not foreclose any inquiry by political fiat.
So-called "Islamic terrorist" groups might also benefit from such attacks and must, therefore, be kept on the list of suspects to be examined. For the same reason that Americans coalesced around state authority following 9/11, "terrorists" who aspire to state power use such attacks — as well as American military attacks upon other countries — as a basis for recruiting followers of their own. To say, therefore, that state systems and "terrorist" groups each benefit from acts of violence upon others, is simply to identify the symbiotic nature of all politically-based systems.
And thus do we come to the crux of the matter. Nations that war upon other nations ignite angry responses from the victims of such attacks. Such reactions often take the forms we have witnessed in New York City, Iraq, and now London. Politicians and the more observant members of the media know what they do not want you to know: the way to end "terrorist" attacks is to stop having foreign policies that make other people angry!
None of what I have said is meant to justify what are called "terrorist" acts. What these groups do is every bit as indefensible as Americans bombing Iraqi cities and torturing Iraqi citizens. What I am urging is an end to the divisive thinking that underlies the mutually destructive nature of all political systems. The state — whatever its form — is terror, for it depends upon threats and violence to obtain obedience to its will. Americans need to understand that their government, as long as it persists in using offensive military power against others, is making America a most insecure place. The real "homeland security" is to be found in the United States announcing to the world that it intends to live with others by free trade, not by force of arms; that it will withdraw its military, its intelligence-agency operatives, and other perverse influences from the lives of others; and that Americans will, in the words of Lysander Spooner, "go home and content themselves with the exercise of only such rights and power as nature has given to them in common with the rest of mankind."
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law.