The War on Terror is a Racket

You probably first became aware of former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren when he became disgusted by the debt-ceiling fiasco, quit his job, and went public with a scathing tell-all article at Truthout.org in September 2011.

To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.

Lofgren made news with this rhetoric chiefly because of his Republican pedigree. He began as a staffer for Rep. John Kasich in the early 1980’s. Kasich is now a two-term governor of Ohio. From there, Lofgren built his career focusing on military matters for the House Armed Services Committee and the budget committees of both the House and the Senate.

He followed his Truthout article with a 2012 book: The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. I think the title is self-explanatory.

In the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, Mr. Lofgren writes about the war on terror and James Risen’s new book: Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.

Lofgen doesn’t pulls any punches in this review, as you can tell with his opening:

When I was a congressional staffer, I became acutely aware that elected officials choose issues to put at the top of their agendas mainly for their ability to shake money out of the purses of contributors. The subsequent histrionics in the House or Senate chamber are pure theater for the benefit of C-SPAN and the poor recluses who watch it. Behind every political cause is a racket designed to privatize the profits and socialize the losses.

Lofgren concludes that the War on Terror is ultimately this kind of racket, too.

It is difficult to read Pay Any Price and not come away with the sick feeling that the Bush presidency—which, after all, only assumed office by the grace of judicial wiring and force majeure—was at bottom a corrupt and criminal operation in collusion with private interests to hijack the public treasury. But what does that say about Congress, which acted more often as a cheerleader than a constitutional check? And what does it tell us about the Obama administration, whose Justice Department not only failed to hold the miscreants accountable, but has preserved and expanded some of its predecessors’ most objectionable policies?

Partisans may squabble over the relative culpability of the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as that of Congress, but that debate is now almost beside the point. If Risen is correct, America’s campaign against terrorism may have evolved to the point that endless war is the tacit but unalterable goal, regardless of who is formally in charge.

You definitely want to read the whole thing. Over a 28-year career in Congress working on defense issues, Lofgren gained the kind of perspective you can’t get any place else.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.