Our Adjustment to Conquest

CNN reports (Friday, 1 February 2013) the bombing at the United States embassy in Ankara, Turkey that “killed a Turkish security guard and wounded a journalist.” The attack follows a handful of other deadly assaults on American embassies in northern African back in September.

As we might expect, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, got to work forthwith, churning out the kind of Newspeak we associated with Minitrue (the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984). Recapitulating the now fairly rote scare tactic, Royce calls the attack a “stark reminder of the constant terrorist threat.”

As an alternative to the Orwellian PR emitting from the government and corporate media, we might ponder the attack as the reverberation of a larger system of war and global politics. We might ask what kinds of political relationships produce the results we have, whether the “official truth” handed down to us from our leaders is worthy of our confidence.

Whatever those “truths” proclaim, there is another narrative, a radical alternative, that competes with the one trumpeted by the establishment voices. Market anarchists understand the fundamental and enduring relationship between the quest for empire and the institution of the state itself, a relationship that manifests itself continually through history and current events.

Indeed, we oppose the state on the whole for many of the same reasons stated by those who oppose war and empire specifically — namely, that war (as instantiated historically) represents not defense but aggression, not retaliation but conquest. If we suspend the mythology cloaking war for just a moment, we see at once that particular economic interests drive it forward, elite interests completely detached from those of the population at large.

As explained by Frank Chodorov: “The state is historically grounded in conquest. The purpose of conquest is exploitation. Exploitation is any means of getting goods and services without rendering an equivalent in exchange . . . .” Chodorov’s work describes war as the “complete denial of freedom of the market,” arguing that war and conquest — which we have adjusted to over the years — are the modus operandi of the state both domestically and abroad; the principle of invasion defines both in the same way.

War is thus inseparable in practice from what we have come to identify as “terrorism,” both designating unjustifiable, invasive hostility against innocents. Americans in particular have been conditioned to regard terrorism as something separate and apart from traditional warfare, a heinous crime committed by lunatic extremists obsessed with random carnage.

Pointing out the fact that war is tantamount to terrorism is met with indignant shrieks and accusations that you’re defending terrorists. This is, however, exactly the opposite of the proper way to approach the argument that war and empire are the equivalent of terrorism. Instead of regarding this argument as a way to elevate terrorists to the moral footing enjoyed by the U.S. military, we ought to see it as showing that we are wrong about “national defense” – that traditional militarism must be lowered in our minds to the moral space inhabited by terrorists.

Anarchists do not stand up to be heard on the side of the terrorists’ defense, but rather stand to assist in dissolving the warped propaganda that has served to whitewash war for centuries. Contemptible attacks like the one in Ankara are the desperate attempts of a hopeless people, of individuals — mostly young men — whose visceral anger at foreign occupation makes them easy targets for just the kinds of brainwashing that the American state uses here at home.

Next time you hear a politician, or defense conglomerate CEO, or cable news anchor talk about a terrorist attack or U.S. military missions overseas, listen closely. Underneath the polished account presented, there is a frightening truth about the nature of empire and of the state, one they don’t want you to hear.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory