Forever Wars Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer: Was Al Qaeda a Bush Boogeyman?

[Alexey Sidorenko / CC BY-NC 2.0]

By Robert Scheer / Los Angeles Times

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2011, This 2005 opinion piece by columnist Robert Scheer was found among hundreds of pieces of reading material seized during the 2011 raid by Navy SEALs in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.” Now, as the U.S. makes a chaotic departure from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years, it’s worth revisiting the ScheerPost Editor in Chief’s prescient piece.

Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist?

To even raise the question amid all the officially inspired hysteria is heretical, especially in the context of the U.S. media’s supine acceptance of administration claims relating to national security. Yet a brilliant new BBC film produced by one of Britain’s leading documentary filmmakers systematically challenges this and many other accepted articles of faith in the so-called war on terror.

“The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear,” a three-hour historical film by Adam Curtis recently aired by the British Broadcasting Corp., argues coherently that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism “is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media.”

Stern stuff, indeed. But consider just a few of the many questions the program poses along the way:

* If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than 40 countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this administration failed to produce hard evidence of it?

* How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only 17 have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda?

* Why have we heard so much frightening talk about “dirty bombs” when experts say it is panic rather than radioactivity that would kill people?

* Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim on “Meet the Press” in 2001 that Al Qaeda controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and U.S. military forces later found no such thing?

Of course, the documentary does not doubt that an embittered, well-connected and wealthy Saudi man named Osama bin Laden helped finance various affinity groups of Islamist fanatics that have engaged in terror, including the 9/11 attacks. Nor does it challenge the notion that a terrifying version of fundamentalist Islam has led to gruesome spates of violence throughout the world. But the film, both more sober and more deeply provocative than Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” directly challenges the conventional wisdom by making a powerful case that the Bush administration, led by a tight-knit cabal of Machiavellian neoconservatives, has seized upon the false image of a unified international terrorist threat to replace the expired Soviet empire in order to push a political agenda.

Terrorism is deeply threatening, but it appears to be a much more fragmented and complex phenomenon than the octopus-network image of Al Qaeda, with Bin Laden as its head, would suggest.

While the BBC documentary acknowledges that the threat of terrorism is both real and growing, it disagrees that the threat is centralized:

“There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas and who will use the techniques of mass terror — the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear. But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion. Wherever one looks for this Al Qaeda organization, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the ‘sleeper cells’ in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy.”

The fact is, despite the efforts of several government commissions and a vast army of investigators, we still do not have a credible narrative of a “war on terror” that is being fought in the shadows.

Consider, for example, that neither the 9/11 commission nor any court of law has been able to directly take evidence from the key post-9/11 terror detainees held by the United States. Everything we know comes from two sides that both have a great stake in exaggerating the threat posed by Al Qaeda: the terrorists themselves and the military and intelligence agencies that have a vested interest in maintaining the facade of an overwhelmingly dangerous enemy.

Such a state of national ignorance about an endless war is, as “The Power of Nightmares” makes clear, simply unacceptable in a functioning democracy.


  1. How do you wake up the rest? These musing are without a doubt mostly true but how do we wake the rubes up

    1. If you are already awoke from this nightmare, then you know it is and never was real. How do you wake someone up from something that doesn’t exist?
      Show them not the nightmare, show them how to re-connect with their true essence. Their true love, peace and joy. For that to occur one must be very still in the heart and mind.
      The nightmare you speak of is only a fragment of a much larger nightmare most don’t realize even exists.
      Most are trapped in their very own nightmares.

  2. “Such a state of national ignorance about an endless war is, as “The Power of Nightmares” makes clear, simply unacceptable in a functioning democracy.”

    Which is clearly something we don’t have.

  3. Whoa Mr. Scheer. Prescience is not a good enough word! Where is this documentary available to watch?

    1. This is another BBC doc by Adam Curtis. I stopped watching this in less than 10 minutes, because it began to sound like “I can’t get you out of my head.” I hated that doc. Curtis blames individualism as the root of the nations faults, not capitalism. I’m not ready to throw the baby (individual rights) out with the bathwater of liberalism. Whatever you think of Shoshana Zuboff, she provided an excellent defense of individualism in “Surveillance Capitalism.” What Curtis is doing conciously or not is legitimising aquisence to the hive mind cultivated and directed by Silicon Valley CEOs. You won’t find that analyzed, let alone mentioned in any of his docs, though.

  4. “…the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion”, an illusion for Al Qaeda perhaps, but not for the US surveillance agencies. It’s unfortunate that our society enables, through taxes, through budgets passed by congress, for the security complex to operate as it does. Perhaps as climate change ravages America the gov’t will have too many internal problems to deal with, and won’t be able to aspire to Empire.

  5. The only thing wrong with this columb is the question mark at the end of the title.

    1. I thought that the line ————“Of course…………………………………………….including the 911 attacks.” ————was a surprising, implicit and unfortunate legitimization and acceptance of the entire 911 lie by Scheer.

  6. “Was Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?”

    The resort to Boogeymen both internally and externally has been part of the attempts at sustainability since the Jamestown settlement in 1620, as have been various derivatives of “exceptionalism”.

    The evangelising of these notions both internally and externally was a component part of why some of those left behind after forays of the coercive social relation misrepresented as “The United States of America” ran to airports and fell from planes.

    To some degree those evangelising these notions have imbibed these notions and are almost “always surprised” by outcomes, and they hence attempt other “revolutions”/re-iterations of evangelising, including but not limited to “blaming” any others, since the frustration of “exceptionalism” is not exceptional but requires obfuscation.

  7. This article doesn’t go nearly far enough in questioning the “terrorist” fairy tales Americans swallow with apparently no questions at all. Anyone who believes the 9/11 story about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda either isn’t paying attention or doesn’t care about truth.

  8. I wonder if this didn’t simply stem from willful ignorance. The war-makers in Washington and elsewhere are used to combating monolithic entities. The idea of a loosely-knit collection of cells may be too much for those pathologically lacking in awareness to handle. Have to have someone to point at and say, Them.

  9. Zbigniew Brzezinski brought in Saudi Osama bin Laden and other Wahhabi fundamentalist mujahideen to Afghanistan in 1979. After the Soviets retreated, the CIA quit funding their deranged step-children (focusing more on Latin America). One would almost have to believe 9/11 was an inside job (with the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Israel playing major roles, trying to set up Afghanistan and Iraq for exploitation). Osama bin Laden was of course the most visible bogeyman, but was killed in 2011. Bush/ Cheney were counting their money, and Obama was President and good at killing folks at that time. No reason at all for the war on the Afghans to continue after 2011. I always thought the US Establishment LET bin Laden escape repeatedly, just to keep their rationale intact for the Money Pit.

    1. So all these decisions were only about making money. Putting profit before the health and well being of our people. Scare tactics, fear mongering, neatly couched with a story and a lie. That sums up the US in a nutshell. Sad? Yes, but its not too late to change things

    2. “One would almost have to believe 9/11 was an inside job . . . ” As far as I can tell from information gathered and considered, I do believe it was an “inside job.” The very best architects and engineer’s of large buildings, as well as the top firms in the world at demolishing tall structures say the official story is bogus. They offer very convincing testimony and video of the 911 building collapse as impossible. Yet, the official narrative is embraced and disseminated widely. Thank you m8888.

      1. This is a vast oversimplification of the expert testimony which is not nearly so united.

  10. It took me four years to wake up. After serving in the big “lie” of my era. South east Asia. The pattern of syncopation of war drum beats. As a guy said “the song remains the same. We really suck at being “We the People”.

  11. Americans are afraid of their own shadows – why do you think there are so many guns in this country? Of course Al Qaeda is a Bush Boogeyman – how else could he stir the pot of war-monger soup so that the population would swallow it? America, land of the shackled, home of the cowardly. It’s all yours – I want no part of it…

  12. BTW in case we forgot how some tried to warn us…

    “We are watching a poorly staged rendition of Wag the Dog , interpreted for the morbidly stupid and performed by the criminally insane.” – Jules Carlysle

    “How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.” – Gore Vidal

    Its here that the American dream decided it liked the taste of the vomit it was chocking on. Just rolled over on its back and screamed for more drugs. it didn’t die. – Warren Ellis

    Read more:

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