For twelve years now the United States government paradoxically employs terrorism to justify its global “war on terror” before the domestic population. This war without end is continually rationalized through the government’s now routine manufacture of terrorism to warrant both the surrender of civil liberties at home and commitment toward unrelenting terrorism throughout the Muslim world. This contribution seeks to analyze and interpret the US government’s material and propagandistic uses of “terrorism” as a dialectical strategy for furthering its foreign policies via domestic control of personal thought and public opinion.
Media critic Edward S. Herman distinguishes between minor, “retail” and “international,” state, or “wholesale” terrorism, with “retail” signifying exploits of independent, non-governmental actors having specific political grievances. These include the purported acts of “Al Qaeda” against the West, or the Irish Republican Army’s exploits against Britain. “International” or “wholesale” terrorism involves overt state-sponsored or supported military maneuvers, such as Israel’s violent subjugation of the Palestinian people, America’s military takeover of Iraq, or NATO’s destruction of Libya. The Mujahedin-e Khalq would also fit the description of wholesale terrorism.
Unlike the scenario in Palestine, Iraq, or Iran, where terrorist acts are explicitly conducted against the civilian population, since the mid-1990s in the United States the US government’s technique of contrived retail terrorism has become a prominent and anticipated feature of American public life that legitimates premeditated wars of aggression abroad. Western corporate-controlled news media are the principal conduits for publicizing retail and wholesale terrorism alike. Their unquestioning, erroneous or censorial transmission of such events safeguards and perpetuates terrorism’s dialectical control of the American public mind.
Manufactured, or “false flag” retail terrorism might also be extended to acts of seemingly random horror, such as the numerous mass shootings in the US that have been inadequately investigated and explained. If such events are spontaneous and authentic one must question why the inquiries into them are typically shrouded in secrecy. These events serve to intimidate the public, extend the notion that random violence is ubiquitous, and thus subtly bolster the state’s monopoly on violence and control.
Such events require certain cultural and educational requisites to succeed. They are witnessed by a public already preconditioned through an array of popular television and filmic narratives that almost uniformly humanize European and American characters while objectifying or denigrating non-Western characters and cultures, a concern that was addressed at some length years ago in the MacBride Commission Report. Through such conditioning and a general obeisance to official authority a majority of the American public is predisposed to unquestioningly accept acts of staged retail terrorism at face value while remaining acquiescent or oblivious to the wholesale terrorism overtly committed by its own government.
What has been deemed false flag retail terrorism or events that pass as such has been reported in US news outlets almost reflexively as genuine acts of terror against the government and people. 9/11 is the most obvious example. Yet an important precedent to the 9/11 events is the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that was blamed on a single “lone wolf,” US Army employee Timothy McVeigh. A multitude of credible evidence indicates that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and perhaps other federal agencies had foreknowledge of or partook in the building’s destruction and presented McVeigh as a “patsy.” Early news reportage explained the detection and removal of undetonated ordnance in the structure. Yet federal authorities swept in to Oklahoma City, took the investigation out of the hands of local authorities and, with the help of President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno steered the emerging narrative away from that of a government conspiracy or botched sting operation and toward the preferred storyline of McVeigh blowing up the building with a truck bomb—a feat that defies basic physics.
The evidence and array of eyewitness testimony was so compelling that in 1996 the ABC news program 20/20 was producing the second of two special reports on the Oklahoma City bombing, according to the news magazine’s producer. The Department of Justice interceded and prevented its broadcast. Shortly thereafter, the one Oklahoma City television station that persisted in investigating the bombing, NBC affiliate KFOR-TV News Channel 4, was purchased by the New York Times Company; its station manager responsible for the exposés summarily terminated.
The federal government conducted an unreliable trial with many loose ends where McVeigh and his friend Terry Nichols were convicted of the bombing. Yet the most comprehensive investigation of the OKC bombing was conducted by Oklahoma City residents who formed the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee (OKBIC) with the evidence and opinions of various experts consulted all pointing to the terror campaign as being an inside job. Wholly ignored by corporate media, this document has had little impact on the official lone wolf narrative put forth in the wake of the bombing, and consequently most Americans maintain that McVeigh acted independently.
OKC and 9/11 appear distinct given their unique retail terrorist narratives. Yet as Oklahoma State Representative and OKBIC founder Charles Key observes, the Committee’s Final Report came out shortly before the events of September 11, 2001.
As we put this report together, we had a lot of media that was waiting for this report. They were ready to give it some significant coverage. And our report came back from the book publisher about two weeks before 9/11, and one of the things that we said and some others said during that time frame—as before and after 9/11—that the reason that we did this is because if you don’t ask the questions and you don’t hold government accountable—in everything that it does, not just bombings like this, but everything—then you will have the same mistakes happen again, and they will get worse as time goes on.
Considered in this way, the OKC bombing was an important precursor to 9/11—the proverbial canary of terror in the coal mine of US public opinion that sustains itself on propaganda maneuvers alongside the credulity and blind faith of the citizenry. Lacking substantive criticism from major journalistic organs, the canary’s survival suggests the architects of terror raise the ante.
As the censorship experienced following the OKC bombing suggests, the intended effect of deliberate retail terrorism in the public mind cannot be achieved without the government and corporate media acting symbiotically. This notably extends to the prestige outlets that serve the more affluent and educated social stratum, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, or National Public Radio. Such news media are indeed essential in imbuing the authenticity of premeditated or staged terror events. As platforms for official political and bureaucratic voices, they instruct important opinion leaders throughout the nation not only on what and where of retail (and wholesale) terrorism, but more importantly how such events should be interpreted and understood.
The Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013 is a case in point. Here the New York Times and Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times Company, played pivotal roles in reporting what strongly appears to have been a mass casualty drill rather than the actual terrorist event eventually blamed on the two Chechens. The graphic account of the incident in the New York Times’ front page of April 16, under the headline, “BLASTS AT BOSTON MARATHON KILL 3 AND INJURE 100” includes the testimony from an ostensibly off-duty law enforcement official.
“These runners just finished and they don’t have legs now,” said Roupen Bastajian, 35, a Rhode Island state trooper and former Marine. “So many of them. There are so many people without legs. It’s all blood. There’s blood everywhere. You got bones, fragments. It’s disgusting … We put tourniquets on,” Mr. Bastajian said. “I tied at least five, six legs with tourniquets” … Deidre Hatfield, 27, was steps away from the finish line when she heard a blast. She saw bodies flying out into the street. She saw a couple of children who appeared lifeless. She saw people without legs. “When the bodies landed around me I thought: Am I burning? Maybe I’m burning and I don’t feel it,” Ms. Hatfield said … She looked inside a Starbucks to her left, where she thought a blast might have occurred. “What was so eerie, you looked in you knew there had to be 100 people in there, but there was no sign of movement.”
Yet these descriptions of profuse carnage could in no way be corroborated by the available photographic and video evidence that later emerged from the scene, wherein there are no lost limbs or similarly serious injuries observable that one would expect from a genuine improvised explosive device. In addition, authorities insisted the device was made from the powder derived from consumer fireworks—which cannot produce the effects described. Close analysis of still photographs of the immediate aftermath in fact suggests the use of actors and props to further simulate the semblance of a mass casualty event. Such observations are all but confirmed in the repeated violation of emergency response protocols in the wake of the Marathon bombing.
So is it also indicated by the personnel involved in the event. For example, Richard Serino, the former head of Boston’s Emergency Medical Services devised the elaborate mass casualty terrorist drill around the Boston Marathon titled, “A Tale of Two Cities and the Running of a Planned Mass Casualty Event.” In the primary document for the event Serino emphasizes “working with the media” to make sure they “get the right story.” In 2009, Serino was promoted by President Obama to become Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Mr. Serino was spotted in several still photographs of the Boston bombing aftermath apparently directing police and emergency response personnel.
As I have argued regarding the Sandy Hook school massacre and Boston Marathon bombing, the events were both likely “extreme reality capstone events” where the Department of Homeland Security oversees and directs federal, state, and local law enforcement and emergency response agencies around a mass casualty or natural disaster drill. In order to ensure that the exercise is as close to reality as possible, federal authorities contract “crisis actors” to play victims and even assailants in “live shooter” drills. Participants from police to ambulance drivers and medical personnel are required to respond, act and speak as they would during a real event, which potentially includes interactions with journalists. The frequent inability of physicians to provide thorough expert descriptions of their patients’ injuries at both Sandy Hook and Boston further suggests the probability of mass casualty drills presented by news media as real events.
While the US government and media are involved in the manufacture of retail terrorism spectacles, the wholesale terrorism carried out by the United States, Israel, and NATO is largely either excluded from the public or presented in such a way as to make it appear justified vis-à-vis retail terrorism. The wholesale terrorism committed against Afghanistan and Iraq was legitimated in the American public mind by the synthetic retail terror of 9/11. The alleged perpetrators of such retail terrorism, Al Qaeda, are presented as a symbolic construct of US intelligence and news media used to continue the “war on terror” and justify the loss of civil liberties. The typical punishment for questioning such artificial reality is being labeled a “conspiracy theorist,” which in fact denotes an unacceptable questioning of government policies provided for under our Constitution.
The Al Qaeda bogey is still shamelessly trotted out before the public as the US carries out drone aerial warfare on civilian populations and its allies recruit genuinely ruthless criminals en masse and unleash them on Libya and Syria. The wholesale terrorism committed by the US, NATO, and the mercenary forces operating under their direction against Libya was conducted under Obama’s alleged humanitarian zeal and nearly formalized “responsibility to protect” policy. The actual bloodbath on the ground was whitewashed from most major news media and when necessary attributed to Muammar Qaddafi’s unsubstantiated oppression of the Libyan people.
However, the extent of this terrorism and the US’s complicity was recently recounted by two US citizens, Jim and Joanne Moriarity, who were in Libya on business, had visited the country numerous times, and witnessed the August 22, 2011 NATO assault on Tripoli.
“What we saw was three Apache helicopter attack ships come in from the Mediterranean and mow down every man, woman and child on the street,” Jim Moriarty recalls.
They killed 1,300 people in the first couple of hours [and] wounded more than 5,000. From our hotel—we were on the 21st floor of the Corinthia Hotel which sits right on the Mediterranean—we could see two of [the Apaches] we could hear the third one, and they were just killing everything.
The aerial attack preceded the introduction of mercenary forces into the city. As Jim Moriarty recollects,
From the Corinthia Hotel we could see the Port of Tripoli. And after these two-and-a-half days of constant bombing and bombarding [by] attack helicopters these boat loads of these Al Qaeda types started flowing in from Benghazi into the port, and there was an unending stream of vehicles—pick-up trucks with large weapons mounted in the bed—just one after another after another. There were miles and miles and miles of these armed vehicles with bearded thug[-like]-looking guys off-loading out of that port. It was non-stop for a couple of days.
The Moriartys continue to describe how they were held captive by NATO mercenary forces and narrowly escaped being murdered and “chopped up” at the behest of one guerilla commander. The number of deaths and injuries meted out by NATO and its soldiers of fortune against the Libyan people are largely stricken from the record, even by seemingly trustworthy organizations. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, “The number of civilian deaths from NATO air strikes in Libya was low [72 fatalities] given the extent of the bombing and duration of the campaign.” Human Rights Watch conducted a study of eight sites throughout Libya where NATO bombing occurred. “Overall, NATO took a lot of measures to minimize civilian casualties,” Fred Abrahams, an advisor to the study. “The choice of targets, the choice of weapons, the timing of the attacks, but these 72 people did lose their lives.”
Whether contrived or sincere, such observations serve as public relations for NATO, particularly since they fail to acknowledge that Qaddafi’s regime was popular among the Libyan people. According to Joanne Moriarity,
The problem was Tripoli was the largest city in Libya—of two million people—and completely supported the government. So they were not going to bend over [or] open their arms to Al Qaeda coming in to their country. So NATO got tired of waiting, I guess, and just decided to kill everybody that was in the way. Not that they had been doing that before—they had—but this was a big attack.
The mass killing by US-NATO forces continues to be unreported in US news media, and the Moriartys have yet to be interviewed by any major newspapers, commercial television networks, or even liberal-left “alternative” media outlets, such as Democracy Now! or MSNBC. Accounts of wholesale terrorism do not fit the preferred mythos that the US is a benevolent force of good in the world and, moreover, no one wants to be the first to call out the Nobel Peace Prize-winning war criminal and leader of the free world.
A similar scenario has played out in Syria, where for over two years the Syria people have experienced an intensive terrorist campaign waged by some of the same forces that ravaged Libya. Close to 100,000 have been killed and, much like the US media’s representation of NATO’s assault on Libya, the operation is depicted as a popular insurgency of “rebel fighters” against the allegedly brutal regime of Bashar-al Assad, a physician who in 2012 banned genetically modified foods “to preserve the health of human beings.”
The US State Department’s delisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq as a terrorist organization in 2012 is especially instructive to this discussion, for it signals the MEK’s transition under US and Israeli auspices to official the wholesale terrorist organization worthy of more overt funding and support from the US military and intelligence services. In this way the US now must acknowledge and take responsibility for the demise of at least 17,000 Iranians who have perished at the hands of the MEK.
The move nevertheless fits the retail-wholesale terrorism dialectic since Iran has been cast as a principal sponsor of Hezbollah, deemed by Washington as an international terrorist organization. The semantics are significant sine they serve to direct public awareness away from the wholesale terrorism of NATO, Israel and the US.
Terrorism requires definition and explanation to function as an instrument of political and social control. In the US and Europe acts of coordinated violence and destruction are presented and perceived as petty retail terror when in fact they are being carried out by state actors. The efficacy of such terror lies in the broader public’s inability to recognize or ponder whether such events have been perpetrated by agents of its own government.
Such a phenomenon suggests the tremendous achievements of a modern propaganda system comprised of what often masquerades as education, entertainment, and journalism in America. The overarching myth that government is a transcendent guardian of the people’s interests takes many years to instill and required continued cultivation via corporate media especially. The unfortunate reality is that much of the government remains largely unresponsive if not contemptuous of the people’s interests and concerns in lieu of those that serve prevailing financial corporatist designs.
As the wholesale state terror against Libya, Syria, Palestine and Iran ensues it is similarly carried out in stealth form against the American people, with their civil liberties being the most ostensible target. The militarization of our local police forces and the rise of the surveillance state has culminated in the theatrics of the Boston Marathon bombing that was used as a rationale to invoke full martial law throughout the Boston area that included people being expulsed from their homes at gunpoint, much like the US military acts in the countries it occupies. The local citizenry accepted this behavior, with some in fact cheering it on.
If the American public cannot recognize the state terror exercises occurring underneath its nose, it is difficult to imagine that it will be able to distinguish, understand and thereby act to prevent the forces that oppress those in foreign locales. We can only hope that further analysis of state terrorism in all its forms can inform and enlighten individuals who might develop the critical mass to contest such illegal acts and atrocities. As Martin Luther King Jr. observes, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. “
 Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, Brooklyn NY: Ig Publishing.
 Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network, Boston: South End Press, Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Threat of Global State Terrorism: Retail vs. Wholesale Terrorism,” Z Magazine, January 2002. Available at http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/Threat_Global_Terrorism.html.
 The MacBride Commission Report, Many Voices, One World: Toward a New, More Just, and More Efficient World Information and Communication Order, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003 (1980).
 A Noble Lie (documentary film), James Lane, director, Oklahoma City, Free Mind Films, 2011, at 20:18.
 A Noble Lie, James Lane (director), at 34:40 and 39:40.
 Charles Key, The Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, 2001.
 Interview with Charles Key, in A Noble Lie, James Lane (director), at 1:02:33.
 James F. Tracy, “Obama’s FEMA Director Planned Boston Mass Casualty Event in 2008,” Memoryholeblog.com, May 21, 2013.
 See, for example, Shannon Arledge, “Integrated Capstone Event Merges Four Mass Casualty Response Courses,” FEMA.gov, last updated May 28, 2013.
 Jim and Joanne Moriarty, Interviewed by Joyce Riley, The Power Hour, GCN Network, July 16, 2013.
 “Assad Bans GMOs in Food “to Preserve the Health of Human Beings,” Globe and Mail, October 18, 2012.