Now, what is victory? I say that victory is persuading the American people and the rest of the world that this is not a quick matter that is going to be over in a month or a year or even five years.
Donald Rumsfeld, September 20, 2001
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the reputation of George W. Bush is undergoing a concerted resuscitation. The primary rehabilitators are the liberal Democratic establishment. Bush himself is also playing a role, rebranding as a conscientious defender of American decency against the depredations of Donald J. Trump, whose four years in the White House represent a supposed aberration from hallowed US political traditions. At about the middle mark of Trump’s single term, a once-disgraced Bush emerged to denounce a series of easy targets: “bigotry in any form”; “bullying and prejudice in our public life”; and “conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” These words were intended as a slight against Trump in a grand last stand of an old party loyalist against an infiltrating scoundrel. It was a performance, a victory of etiquette over substance. More crucially, it showed a new point of convergence between the Democratic and Republican Parties: namely their use of Trump as a convenient bogeyman against whom every sin and transgression could be forgiven.
It cannot be forgotten: Bush’s presidency was terrifying – for the people of the US and the world. The terror hinged on the events of September 11, 2001. What followed that day was a new offensive that shredded through civil liberties and rights in a campaign whose intensity was in some ways unparalleled in history. New categories of “suspicious people” were watched, rounded up, deported, and imprisoned without trial in the United States and abroad. Effectively, the United States implemented martial law globally, granting itself legal jurisdiction just about everywhere in what could be called “imperial sovereignty.” Wars of both high and low intensity followed, advanced through all manner of fabricated ties to the events of 9/11. The state, along with the corporate press, is now dedicated to vanishing any serious memory of this, an endeavor in which Trump has proven to be a valuable asset. Antidotes to this coerced amnesia are sorely needed, and for a genealogy of 9/11 itself, few books are as important as Peter Dale Scott’s much-neglected The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (2007).
The role Scott’s book can now play is more substantial than feeding the usual left-liberal rebuke to Bush amnesia, which is to claim that the problem with Bush was simply that he “gave us Trump.” It is not useful to imply that the Trump years were appreciably “worse” than the Bush era, nor is it instructive to insist the Bush presidency was simply a warm-up for Trump. More helpfully, Scott’s book provides a serious political history of how the long-term institutions of US rule were unleashed in new ways during the Bush presidency. His work on 9/11 can thus help us to place that era into a broader historical timeline of US imperialism.
The Strange Trajectory of the “Deep State”
Among the strangest developments of the Trump years has been the appearance of the term “deep state” in popular culture. This phrase has become a bugbear for corporate journalists, who tend to view its use disdainfully, treating it as a sign of substandard intellect marred by conspiracy thought. What’s amusing is that its use began on the political left. Peter Dale Scott – a poet and longtime English professor who also served as a Canadian diplomat between the late 50s and early 60s – has, at least since 2007, frequently used the phrase in his explanations of the workings of US imperialism, including his argument for how and why 9/11 and its repressive aftermath took place.
Scott himself adopted the phrase from an earlier source: the Turkish left, which needed a language to describe the networks undergirding the secretive, fascist paramilitaries the state used to repress, terrorize, and destroy Turkish Communists and the Kurdish national liberation movement.1Some sources trace the initial use of the phrase “deep state” to Bülent Ecevit, the social democratic former Prime Minister of Turkey who got his start in politics with the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Book-length studies have contributed empirical evidence of the activities of these networks in both Turkey and Western Europe, along with analyses of their raison d’être.2These include Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe and Paul L. Williams’s Operation Gladio: The Unholy Alliance between the Vatican, the CIA, and the Mafia. That is, as the postwar US sought to secure its supreme military and financial position in the world, it increasingly safeguarded its grip on vital resources and trade routes from Communist and working-class threats through covert, extra-legal, and manifestly violent means.
A common left riposte to speculations about the “deep state,” especially since the term entered the lexicon of the right, has been to argue that there is no deep state, only a bourgeois state, or a capitalist state, or an imperialist state – choose your preferred argot. This response, however, eludes the main point, made by Scott and others about how political repression in so-called “democratic” systems functions. While it could be argued that the right’s use of “deep state” has made the phrase more trouble than it’s worth, it still remains necessary to name and analyze the vast infrastructure in an empire such as the US that remains hidden from public view and immune from even the pretense of democratic accountability.
Scott argues that the US deep state was a postwar creation. The 1947 National Security Act merged the Department of War and the Department of the Navy into the National Security Establishment; created the Department of Air Force; and perhaps most significantly, established the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. It is important to note that Scott’s idea of the deep state transcends the formal bounds of the military and the national security establishment, such as the NSC, the CIA, and the Pentagon. Very often, personnel working within and through these institutions develop para-state relationships to procure the illegal movement of weapons, finances, and even narcotics.
For example, in the 1970s, after the United States began to “[oblige] the world’s central banks to finance the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit by using their surplus dollars to buy U.S. Treasury bonds,” Nixon’s treasury secretary, William Simon, “negotiated a secret deal so the Saudi central bank could buy U.S. Treasury securities outside the normal auction… Thus the biggest demand for dollars overseas [was] the need of oil-importing countries to maintain dollar reserves to pay for their oil.”3Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 36-37. As a result of the petrodollar arrangement, a number of other backdoor business relationships were initiated between members of the US and Saudi ruling classes, united by a common desire to turn profits and destroy nationalist and Communist challengers in the Arab region.
By mentioning connections such as these, Scott is making the point that the “parallel structures” that constitute the deep state largely escape public examination and make use of the state’s infrastructure while also extending beyond formal state institutions. There is an important US domestic component to the development of these forces as well. The 1960s marked a major acceleration point. The twin, interconnected specters of the Vietnamese and Black liberation movements deeply shook the US ruling class.4Scott points to Marine Colonel Oliver North’s belief that “the war effort in Vietnam was not lost on the battlefield; rather, it was lost in the streets of America.” Scott, 9. Engines of domestic repression were proffered, overwhelmingly in secret, as part of the total US war machine. After U.S. Army paratroopers launched war on Black proletarians in the streets of US cities like Detroit and Newark in the late 60s, Lyndon Johnson convened the 1968 Kerner Commission to diagnose the cause of the US’s so-called “civil disorders.” The Pentagon responded to the commission by putting together Operation Garden Plot, which granted permission for the U.S. armed forces “to respond to reasonable requests from the FBI for military resources for use in combatting acts of terrorism.”
By the 1970s, the open, publicly visible arms of the state moved to absorb and, in some cases, respond to popular pressure from below. Scott’s handling of the Watergate investigation shows that he does not treat the deep state as a monolithic bloc with its various branches in perfect sync. There is no single cabal here, as bad faith critics often suggest. There are, however, a number of contending alliances, often shifting. Scott describes the Watergate scandal as the outcome of competing factions vying for control of the levers of the state. Particularly important during that episode was the tactical feud between a broad faction, led by Henry Kissinger and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank David Rockefeller, which preferred an overall scale-down in Southeast Asia and a public détente with the Soviet Union in order to defeat Communism by more aggressive covert means, and another faction, “centered in but not restricted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” which aimed “to win in Vietnam and put an end to Nixonian plans for coexistence with the Soviet Union.”5Scott, 47.
Watergate, combined with the popular protest of the Black liberation and antiwar movements, led to a series of Congressional reviews into the nature of covert operations. The 1975 Senate Church Committee publicly investigated the abuses of the CIA, NSA, FBI, and IRS. It had a counterpart in the House, the Pike Committee. These appraisals reconfigured the contours of the deep state, as hardline anticommunists in the intelligence agencies and national security apparatus now had to find alternative funding streams and novel means to destroy the Soviet Union. This search led directly to a set of new wars that would play a major role on the road to 9/11, namely in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The Deep Origins of Al Qaeda
Essential to Scott’s argument is the premise that Al Qaeda, despite its eventual all-purpose use as the purported target of the War on Terror, was a creation of deep politics. Its origins date back to Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was obsessed with destroying the Soviet Union. He hatched the idea that “an arc of Islam could be mobilized to contain the Soviets.”6Quoting State Department official Henry Precht. From Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 240 (as cited in Scott, 67). He was joined by a team of people “who wanted to keep Soviet forces pinned down in Afghanistan and thus to avenge Vietnam.”7Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal, (Oxford University Press, 1995), 33, (as cited in Scott, 68). Brzezinski enlisted the services of likeminded organisations including the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) and the Saudi International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO).8Scott, 72. The role of these agencies allowed the United States to outsource its war policy, something that had become more important in the wake of the war on Vietnam, the antiwar movement, and the ensuing Congressional reviews. In his own words, Brzezinski thought the “Islamic arc” strategy would offer the US “the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”
This war policy carried on and even expanded into the next administration under the directorship of Reagan’s chosen CIA head, William Casey, who used these right wing fundamentalists – essentially the contras of Central Asia – to launch offensive wars into Soviet republics. The Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), on which Casey had relied in the early stages of the Iran-Contra affair, provided a channel through which CIA-backed contras, including those profiting off the heroin trade, could hold and send money.9Scott, 99. US-based oil and gas multinational corporations played a role as well. Unocal, which had a large part in constructing the Trans-Atlantic Pipeline that ran through Afghanistan from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean, stood accused, by the French journalist Olivier Roy and others, of working with the ISI and Saudi-based Delta Oil to “finance the Taliban’s seizure in Kabul in 1996.”10Scott, 166.
The core of men who founded and led Al Qaeda did so under the policy of US support in Afghanistan. US intelligence agencies protected several of them for decades leading up to 2001. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the intimate, multi-decade business relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families through the Carlyle Group became nearly popular knowledge. Less known and understood are the backgrounds of several other major Al Qaeda figures such as Omar Abdel Rahman and Ali Mohamed. These men were involved in the Al Kifah Center at the Faruk Mosque in Brooklyn, which for years doubled as a recruitment facility for the US’s covert war effort in Afghanistan. The CIA specifically allowed Abdel Rahman, who got his political start as part of the anti-Nasserist fundamentalist movement in Egypt and eventually served as an inspiration to the 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center, to enter the United States even when he was on a State Department list of people with ties to “terrorist organizations.” The important point here is not to insist that the US should take a more hardline approach to its already militarized borders; it is to illuminate that US borders are controlled on a political basis, with decisions around entry and exit often made with specific goals in mind.
Ali Mohamed’s US connections were even more direct and more extensively documented. In 1981, “he completed a program for foreign officers offered by the Special Forces school at Fort Bragg,” where he “learned unconventional warfare – the same training given Green Berets.” At the same time, he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which would become absorbed into al Qaeda, to which he eventually offered the very training program that he received in the US Army. When one of his students was tried in court in 1995 for allegedly plotting a series of attacks on New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center, Mohamed’s presence was requested as a witness for the defense. He was allowed to avoid testifying for unknown reasons. What is known is that, in addition to working for the US Army at Fort Bragg, he served as a lecturer at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was an informant for the FBI, and in the 1980s worked as a “contact agent” for the CIA in Germany.11Scott, 152-153 He was eventually arrested over the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
Scott goes on to show that the forces the US backed in Afghanistan played an important role in Bosnia against Serbian forces and in Libya against the Qadhafi government. More recently, long after the publication of The Road to 9/11, the US tapped similar networks to carry out assaults for a similar covert war on Syria. The incredulity many self-described leftists showed in the early stages of that war – disbelief that the United States could be backing al Qaeda – only demonstrates how urgent Scott’s careful documentation remains, despite much of it having fallen from collective memory.
CoG, Rex 84, and the Patriot Act
The Road to 9/11 reminds us how 9/11 led directly to three interrelated and sustained US assaults on humanity: the Patriot Act, the Global War on Terror, and the invasion of Iraq. The new legal framework of the first in many ways facilitated the latter two. Scott highlights the Patriot Act as a breakthrough for the US ruling class, the culmination of a number of extreme anti-democratic attempts, trends, and systems that had long been present. It was, in other words, years in the making.
The modern protocol for US “Continuity of Government” (COG) orders was hammered out under the Truman Administration to meet concerns around a “civil defense emergency” amid possible nuclear war with the Soviet Union. These orders established that the United States government would continue to run, and the stars-and-stripes would carry on waving, even after a nuclear attack. This continuity plan was actually activated after the September 11 attacks. Vice President Cheney and his team worked under the auspices of COG – dubbed a “shadow government” in the mainstream press – in the months after the attack, when they entered the secret compound of the Raven Rock Mountain Complex, an underground nuclear bunker located inside a hollowed out mountain in Pennsylvania. Scott suggests that this was likely the period when the details of the Patriot Act were discussed and enumerated – that is, a long distance out of public view.
Especially disturbing in The Road to 9/11 are the many listed instances when Cheney and his closest associates, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, expressed the desire, long before 9/11, to suspend the US Constitution, nullify the Bill of Rights, and find a pretext to gain public support for a major land war.12Here the specter of the Vietnamese Revolution haunts the US imperialist psyche once again: Cheney knew very well that the US public would be hard pressed to support another major war after what happened in Vietnam.
Cheney’s aspiration to invade Iraq preceded any public claims about “weapons of mass destruction.” A Judicial Watch release revealed that an NSC document pertaining to a review convened by a Cheney-led task force and dated February of 2001, contained a map of Iraq with the “Southwest… neatly divided… into nine ‘Exploration Blocks’” for Iraqi oil.13Linda McQuaig, It’s the Crude, Dude: Greed, Gas, War, and the American Way, (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006), 79-80 (as cited in Scott, 189). Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush’s advocacy for war on Iraq in fact dated back to their time as part of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in the 1990s, when they openly stated their desired “process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” As Scott puts it, “The Bush agenda, in other words, depended on 9/11, or something like it.”14Scott, 193.
This thought process of using a catastrophe for purposes of tyranny and war had deeper, more widely spread roots in US statecraft. Scott cites as precedent Operation Northwoods, a proposed false flag terrorist attack on US soil made in 1962 by the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff that intended to frame the Cuban government to manufacture support for a war on Cuba. (John F. Kennedy, the US President at the time, nixed the idea.) There was also the case of Rex 84, or Readiness Exercise 1984, which contained a plan to detain a large number of people deemed to be “national security threats” in the case of a National Emergency – potentially including antiwar activists in the event the United States carried out a direct invasion of Central America.
When the Patriot Act passed, it brought several aspects of the COG and Rex 84 frameworks to reality. The state’s use of secret evidence against Arab and Muslim suspects became the norm, as did indefinite detentions in undisclosed locations. Up to 1,200 non-citizens were rounded up without due process over the course of the six months following 9/11, to say nothing of the establishment of black sites across the world and the torture mill at Guantanamo Bay. This new legal regime heralded structural changes much more akin to a “coup” than the brief takeover of the Capitol building on January 6 2021. The Patriot Act should also be re-examined in light of the Trump Administration and its aftermath. Its passage into law demonstrates that it is not deep division, but rather consensus and unity that often foretell the most frightening structural changes in the US. Reflecting imperialist points of consensus, Trump entrenched Bush’s structural changes ever more thoroughly with his appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While much attention was justly brought to Kavanaugh for the credible allegations of sexual assault brought against him, less remembered at the time of his confirmation hearings was his role as an associate council for George W. Bush, when he assisted in passing the Patriot Act.
Empirical Imperialism Studies: Notes on Scott’s Method
Perhaps the most provocative chapters of The Road to 9/11 are those dedicated to the event itself. For some readers, Scott’s main contention about 9/11 will seem explosive: he makes the case “that Vice President Cheney is himself a suspect in the events of 9/11 who needs to be investigated further.”15Scott, 194. This contention, however, does not dwell on World Trade Center Building 7 or the possibility of controlled demolition. Scott demonstrates there is no need for anybody to play amateur physicist to reasonably doubt the US government’s official summation of events. He is focused elsewhere, on the glaring omissions, evasions, and cover-ups in the 9/11 Commission Report. He furthermore departs from other 9/11 researchers insofar as he does not claim the report was made purely of lies. Rather, he insists that the report is for the most part credible, well cited and researched. It is precisely this general clarity that makes its omissions so flagrant.
Scott’s close reading of the report, alongside his attention to contradictory testimonies excluded from it, is much too detailed to recount here (he sums up his broad conclusions in this interview.) His objections to the report revolve around two basic areas. The first is about a Joint Chiefs of Staff instruction dated June 1, 2001. The order overturned a previous directive from 1997 regarding “Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) of Civil and Military Aircraft.” The revision insisted the National Military Command Center (NMCC) “forward requests for [Department of Defense’s] assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval.” This change meant that any attempt to intercept off-course airplanes (“intercept” does not necessarily mean to use force) had to be personally approved by Donald Rumseld first.
The other discrepancy, or rather long list of discrepancies, pertains to Cheney’s behavior and whereabouts on the day of September 11, 2001. Most disconcertingly, the Commission Report omitted testimony from Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, NSC member Richard Clarke, and even from Cheney himself that contradicted its own chosen story about which time Cheney entered the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) that day. These exclusions are not trivial. The time span in question would have been when two of the most important orders of the day were given: “a Stand Down order that got all the planes down on the ground… and a Shoot Down order, to shoot down any remaining hijacked planes.”
The issues with this part of the Commission Report only get more troubling from there, and readers are advised to approach these chapters from The Road to 9/11 with an open mind. Corporate media have worked tirelessly during the 20 years since 2001, aided by the all-purpose pejorative of “truther,” to make any questioning or skepticism about the official US story about 9/11 utterly radioactive to one’s reputation. Often times, left-wing and right-wing lines of thinking get lumped together as targets of a larger assault on “conspiracy theories,” which as a category has become shorthand uniting any and all forms of opposition to the US-led postwar order – or, as Twitter recently put it to justify one of its censorship sprees, those “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” If powerful sectors employ the term “conspiracy theory” loosely and consistently enough, along with kindred terms such as “trutherism,” anti-imperialist theories on one hand, and anti-Semitic and esoteric views on another, become equally condemnable under similar terms of engagement. The tactic ends up aiding the popularization of “the horseshoe theory” for the benefit of the very institutions chiefly responsible for the international inequality before us today.
The empirical record of the events of 9/11 remains pertinent on this front. In September of 2020, The Wall Street Journal linked “9/11 Trutherism” to “more recent conspiracist movements such as QAnon.” What is fascinating in this particular instance is the utter lack of interest in any of the specific details in question. Under these standards, it is enough that one doubts official truths. In what way one doubts those truths, and why, is treated as irrelevant. What The Wall Street Journal and its co-presses thereby offer is a rigor-free denunciation made in the name of rigor. By this very standard, many of the mainstream corporate newspapers would have to be censured for irresponsible conspiracy theorizing. For example, in March of 2002, The Guardian, which on the whole egregiously aided and abetted the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, published a piece mocking “Uncle Sam’s lucky finds,” rightly insisting that the US’s claim to have found Mohammed Atta’s intact passport in the post-inferno rubble of the World Trade buildings was plainly ridiculous. Twenty years of propaganda has ensured that even the self-described political radicals of today rarely doubt the US empire’s claims about 9/11 as brazenly as a liberal Guardian writer did at the time.
The question often arises as to whether establishing the truth of 9/11 is even important. Scott’s research method and intellectual project depends on the idea that, yes, the empirical record of what happened on 9/11, and other casus belli like it, very much does matter. Scott comes from a school of thought in which facts are deemed essential, even if they are not in themselves conclusive. Even figures such as Noam Chomsky, who worked with Scott on a collection about the Pentagon Papers, and Alexander Cockburn, both of whom would affirm in theory that empirical research is important in laying bear the record of imperialism’s assaults on humanity, have argued that some of Scott’s preoccupations constitute intellectual and political rabbit holes. This debate swirled before 9/11, around the topic of the JFK assassination, another one of Scott’s objects of inquiry. In the 1990s, when the debates about JFK reached a fever pitch, Michael Parenti harshly rebuked both Chomsky and Cockburn’s eye rolling:
What is so compelling about the JFK assassination is how nakedly the gangster nature of the state is revealed. It is an awakening. And to know the truth about the JFK assassination is to create a delegitimizing force that calls into question the entire state system and the entire social order it represents.
If these principles are then applied to 9/11, establishing a truthful, accurate record of the day’s events should only become more important, not less, especially in light of the magnitude of the wars launched afterwards. After all, exposures of the outright fabrications of the Gulf of Tonkin incident proved hugely important to the growth of the movement against the US war on Vietnam.
It is important for as many people as possible who notice official lies and spot signs of conspiracy to see that the political left is honest and courageous enough to acknowledge them. The state, after all, really does lie. The media do lie. Moreover, these entities conspire together. And the average person at least knows enough to know the media are liars. This is why anti-capitalist critique should never be limited to analyzing abstract processes. Individuals, specific institutions, and concrete plans and funding streams punctuate how people experience the rule of capital, just as they provide movements with strategic targets.
A Final Critique
It is possible for Scott’s findings to be misappropriated, as part of a larger phenomenon in which right-wing media obfuscate accurate reports of imperial conspiracy, a process wherein the principal targets of these conspiracies become recast as accomplices to them. Through this trick of reversal, what should be explained by class analysis instead becomes an attempt to promote racist hostilities.
For an example of how this phenomenon works, look no further than the radio show host Alex Jones, who went from the margins of public access television in Austin, Texas, in the 1990s, to being a nationally known quantity and invited press guest of the White House during the Trump presidency. For years, Jones propagated the idea that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was planning to imprison Americans in concentration camps after the US declared martial law in the wake of a national disaster or emergency. According to Jones’ variation on this theory, the targets would be people like him, “constitutionalists” and “patriots.” In his reference to “FEMA Camps,” Jones was in fact inverting a true story – one Scott details at the end of The Road to 9/11. With Operation Endgame, the Department of Homeland Security “envisaged a plan for FEMA to round up and detain four hundred thousand imaginary ‘refugees,’ in the context of ‘uncontrolled population movements’ over the Mexican border into the United States.”16Scott, 240-241. The plan was chartered in September 2001; it was ultimately co-organized with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), another creation of the War on Terror. In other words, the camps were real, and Alex Jones and his ilk became ardent defenders of them once Trump was their steward; the targets were to be the working class victims of US wars and plunder.
The answer to this problem cannot be to forego forensic probes into imperial conspiracy. It is important, rather, to add theoretical depth to the study of deep politics as it pertains to class. Scott is an honest liberal——and not a Marxist. He does attest that he over time became convinced that the deep state networks he was following were acting in the interests of private profit. Such an affirmation does not itself, unfortunately, adequately grapple with the classic questions around how profit is accumulated: surplus, use and exchange values; labor time; and resource and land use. This absence causes serious errors of judgment in both Scott’s descriptions and prescriptions of the US.
In terms of description, Scott’s suggested turning points, whether dated 1945 with the emergence of the National Security Establishment, or 1963 with the Kennedy assassination, are relatively late developments compared to the very establishment of the US involving chattel slavery and the violent eradication of the Native peoples. There are serious ramifications to such a slight, such as severing the connections between the modern and early US war states. The empire began with a war for land well before 1945. Consequently, the architects of the postwar national security establishment were overwhelmingly family beneficiaries of colonial industries. The Bush family, the object of some of Scott’s gravest charges, seized their primitive capital through the slave trade in the merchant-run northeast before re-establishing themselves as Texas oil cowboys.
These necessary criticisms of Peter Dale Scott’s work are more so suggestion for how it is best read: alongside Marxist theorists of imperialism and global value transfers such as Arghiri Emmanuel and Samir Amin; and anti-colonial and anti-imperialist theorists of revolution such as Amilcar Cabral and Walter Rodney. Otherwise, Scott’s corpus as a whole, but especially The Road to 9/11, serves as an essential anchor for any serious curriculum addressing the crimes of US imperialism, complete with the necessary courage to doubt and militantly rebuke state lies as they are being told. And his work is self-sufficient on at least one front: it provides all one needs to refute any propagandistic attempts to isolate the legacies of US presidential administrations from the other, or from the systems in which they all operate.
Patrick Higgins is a writer and historian living in Houston, Texas.