It's no longer possible to rely 100% on ads to keep our organization going. If you believe in why Films For Action exists, we hope you'll become a supporter on Patreon. A monthly donation of $1, $3, $5 or more per month will really help!
Let's Not Get It Wrong This Time: The Terrorists Won After 9/11 Because We Chose to Invade Iraq and Shred Our Constitution
We destroyed ourselves with our dumb 9/11 overreactions. It's essential not to make the same mistake again.
Let's Not Get It Wrong This Time: The Terrorists Won After 9/11 Because We Chose to Invade Iraq and Shred Our Constitution
By Bret Weinstein / commondreams.org
Nov 17, 2015

What is terrorism? Many are convinced that the word is inherently so vague as to be meaningless. I have never understood this. To me the definition seems singular, and obvious, and it would appear that simply understanding it is the key to avoiding terrible missteps in the aftermath of an attack like the one in Paris.

Terrorism is a tactic in which the primary objective is to produce fear, rather than direct harm. Terrorist attacks are, first and foremost, psychological operations designed to alter behavior amongst the terrorized in a way that the actors believe will serve them.

The 9/11 perpetrators killed about 3,000 people, and did about $13 billion in physical damage to the United States. That’s a lot of harm in absolute terms, but not relative to a nation of 300 million people, with a GDP of almost $15 trillion. It was a massive blow to many families, and to New York City. But to the nation as a whole that level of damage was about as dangerous as a bee sting.

You may find that analogy suspect because bee stings are deadly to those with an allergy. But what kills people is not the sting itself. It is their own massive overreaction to an otherwise tiny threat, that fatally disrupts the functional systems of the body. And that is exactly what terrorists hope to trigger—a muscular and reflexive response on the part of the victim-state that advances the perpetrators’ interests far beyond their own capacity to advance them.

The 9/11 attack was symbolic. It was not designed to cripple us economically or militarily, at least not directly. It was designed to provoke a reaction. The reaction cost more than 6,000 American lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than $3 trillion in U.S. treasure. The reaction also caused the United States to cripple its own Constitution and radicalize the Muslim world with a reign of terror that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians.

The return on the terrorists’ investment was spectacular. Assuming the official story is right, then Al Qaeda got $7 million of effect for every dollar it spent on the attack–$7 million, to one. The ratio of harm inflicted on U.S. targets by the 9/11 attacks, to the financial harm the U.S. inflicted on itself reflects the same amplification. For every $1 of damage they did to us, we did $231 to ourselves. For every American that was killed in the attack, we sacrificed more than two on the battlefield. And that is all before we consider the instability we brought to the Middle East, the harm we did to our own freedoms, and the spectacular cost to our reputation abroad.

The lesson, of course, is that above all else a nation should refuse to do what everyone will expect it to do in response to an attack. And if there is a silver lining, it is that one does not need to be sure of the identity or intent of their attackers to respond intelligently.

Terrorists do not engage in terror attacks because they are strong. They engage in these attacks because they are weak. The gruesome spectacle of terrorism is a cost saving measure in which the fears of the victims and onlookers amplify the resources that the terrorists themselves are able to deploy.

Reacting reflexively is inherently self-defeating. If a nation wishes to make itself an unappealing target, then it should get its primordial fears under control.

We are not made safe from terrorists by helicopters, or missiles or boots on the ground. Nor is it drones, torture or digital dragnets that protect us. What makes us as individuals safe from a terror attack is the staggering probability that we will be elsewhere when one occurs. Accepting a tiny chance that we will die at the hands of terrorists is a bargain price for freedom. Reconciling oneself to it is very much like accepting a small chance that one will die on the highway, in exchange for the ability to travel at will.

There is much we do not know, and much we many never know about ISIS and its objectives. We can, however be sure of this: ISIS would like the citizens of the West to surrender their liberties, while lashing out blindly into the dark.

This time, let’s not.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Bret Weinstein

Bret Weinstein is a professor of evolutionary biology at The Evergreen State College. He can be reached at bretweinstein@gmail.com

3.5 ·
1
Featured Films
The Staging Post: Courageous People Never Give Up! (2017)
61 min The Staging Post follows two Afghan Hazara refugees, Muzafar and Khadim. Stuck in Indonesia after Australia 'stopped the boats' and facing many years in limbo, they built a community and started the school which inspired a refugee education revolution. A real-life...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our...
Within Reach (2013)
87 min Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than looking in a traditional neighborhood, they...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document firsthand our modern industrial world and the...
The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction; financial instability and unemployment. There...
Trending Today


Love Films For Action? Become a Patron!

Our Patreon campaign is now live! We hope you'll be among the first to support this new direction for Films For Action. The goal is to go 100% ad-free by next year and become 100% member supported. A monthly pledge of just $1 -5 per month x a few thousand awesome people will ensure we can continue our work and grow our impact across the world. Click here to join.

Join us on Facebook
Let's Not Get It Wrong This Time: The Terrorists Won After 9/11 Because We Chose to Invade Iraq and Shred Our Constitution