The Modern ‘American Inquisition’ *
by Michel Chossudovsky
Today’s “Global War on Terrorism” is a modern form of inquisition. It has all the essential ingredients of the French and Spanish inquisitions.
Going after ” Islamic terrorists”, carrying out a Worldwide preemptive war to ” protect the Homeland” are used to justify a military agenda.
“The Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT) is presented as a “Clash of Civilizations”, a war between competing values and religions, when in reality it is an outright war of conquest, guided by strategic and economic objectives.
The GWOT is the ideological backbone of the American Empire. It defines US military doctrine, including the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against the “state sponsors” of terrorism.
The preemptive “defensive war” doctrine and the “war on terrorism” against Al Qaeda constitute essential building blocks of America’s National Security Strategy as formulated in early 2002. The objective is to present “preemptive military action” –meaning war as an act of “self-defense” against two categories of enemies, “rogue States” and “Islamic terrorists”, both of which are said to possess weapons of mass destruction.
The logic of the ”outside enemy” and the evildoer, allegedly responsible for American civilian deaths, prevails over common sense. In the inner consciousness of Americans, the attacks of September 11, 2001 justify acts of war and conquest:
“As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.” (National Security Strategy, White House, Washington, 2002)
The legitimacy of the inquisition is not questioned. The “Global War on Terrorism” justifies a mammoth defense budget at the expense of health, education, and virtually every single category of (civilian) public expenditure.
The “Global War on Terrorism” requires “going after” the terrorists, using advanced weapons systems. It upholds a preemptive religious-like crusade against evil, which serves to obscure the real objectives of military action.
The lies underlying 9/11 are known and documented. The American people’s acceptance of this crusade against evil is not based on any rational understanding or analysis of the facts.
America’s inquisition is used to extend America’s sphere of influence and justify military intervention, as part of an international campaign against “Islamic terrorists”. Its ultimate objective, which is never mentioned in press reports, is territorial conquest and control over strategic resources.
The GWOT dogma is enunciated and formulated by Washington’s neoconservative think tanks. It is carried out by the military-intelligence establishment. It is embodied in presidential speeches and press conferences:
“We’ve been warned there are evil people in this world. We’ve been warned so vividly. … And we’ll be alert. Your government is alert. The governors and mayors are alert that evil folks still lurk out there. As I said yesterday, people have declared war on America and they have made a terrible mistake. … My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers,” (George W. Bush, CNN, September 16, 2001, emphasis added)
An understanding of fundamental social and political events is replaced by a World of sheer fantasy, where “evil folks” are lurking. The objective of the “Global War on Terrorism” launched in September 2001 is to galvanize public support for a Worldwide campaign against heresy. In the eyes of public opinion, possessing a “just cause” for waging war is central. A war is said to be Just if it is waged on moral, religious or ethical grounds.
The Demonization of Muslims and the Battle for Oil
The US led war in the broader Middle East Central Asian region consists in gaining control over extensive reserves of oil and natural gas. The Anglo-American oil giants also seek to gain control over oil and gas pipeline routes out of the region. (See table and maps below).
Muslim countries possess 66 percent of total oil reserves. (Michel Chossudovsky, The “Demonization” of Muslims and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, Jannuary 4, 2007). In contrast, the United States of America has barely 2 percent of total oil reserves. Iraq has five times more oil than the United States.
Demonization is applied to an enemy, which possesses more than 60 percent of the world’s oil reserves. “Axis of evil”, “rogue States”, “failed nations”, “Islamic terrorists”: demonization and vilification are the ideological pillars of America’s Inquisition. They serve as a casus belli for waging the battle for oil.
The Battle for Oil requires the demonization of those who possess the oil. The enemy is characterized as evil, with a view to justifying military action including the mass killing of civilians. (Ibid)
Historical Origins of the Inquisition
The objective is to sustain the illusion that “America is under attack” by Al Qaeda. Under the American inquisition, Washington has a self-proclaimed holy mandate to extirpate Islamic fundamentalism and “spread democracy” throughout the world.
“Going after Bin Laden” is part of a consensus. Fear and insecurity prevail over common sense. Despite the evidence, the White House, the State Department, the two Party system, cannot, in the minds of Americans, be held responsible for a criminal act (9/11/) resulting in the deaths of American civilians.
What we are dealing with is an outright and blind acceptance of the structures of power and political authority.
In this regard, the American Inquisition as an ideological construct, is, in many regards, similar to the inquisitorial social order prevailing in France and Spain during the Middle Ages. The inquisition, which started in France in the 12th century, was used as a justification for conquest and military intervention.
Initially it took the form of a campaign in southern France directed against the Cathars and Waldensians, which challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathar movement was a religious sect which was protected by the regional feudal order in southern France, against the dominion of the Catholic Church and the French monarchy in Paris. “The Cathars believed they were the true Christians and the Catholic Church was a false church, founded by the devil.”
In the early 13th Century, “Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against the Cathars” at the behest of the French royal family. The crusade was in fact a war of conquest under the disguise of a campaign against heresy.
The Inquisition directed against heresy was intended to consolidate the Monarchy’s territorial control. It provided a pretext to intervene militarily in south and southwestern France, using the authority of the Catholic Church as a façade.
The inquisition became part of a political consensus, carried out by the Church’s inquisitors, imposed by the ruling feudal order and supported militarily. Its purpose was to maintain and sustain the social and political order, extend the powers of the central State, subjugate regional powers in France, using the campaign against heresy as “a justification to wage war”. Sounds familiar?
Today’s Inquisitorial Order
Anybody who doubts the legitimacy of the American inquisition (9/11 and the “Global War on Terrorism”) is a heretic conspiracy theorist or an accomplice of the terrorists.
The American Inquisition is part of a Bipartisan Consensus. Both the Democrats and the Republicans support the American Inquisition.
“Going after Osama bin Laden” is part of the election platform of both political parties. In fact it is the central component of the election campaign:
I [Barack Obama] argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights (Barack Obama, Acceptance Speech, National Democratic Convention, Denver, August 2008)
We have dealt a serious blow to al Qaeda in recent years. But they are not defeated, and they’ll strike us again if they can. (John McCain, Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention, St Paul, September 2008)
There is an “outside enemy”. The Homeland is under attack. Islamic terrorists “threaten our way of life”. “We must defend ourselves” preemptively against Osama and his lieutenants.
US Northern Command (Northcom), with headquarters at the Petersen Air Force base in Colorado was established in early 2002 to protect America against a terrorist attack. It was presented to public opinion as a response to the 9/11 attacks. The real strategic objectives of Northern Command using sophisticated aero defense weapons including nuclear warheads, are not mentioned.
The mouthpiece of America’s inquisitorial order is the Western corporate media.
People who question the validity of any of these statements or who have doubts about who is behind the 9/11 attacks, are considered to be accomplices of those who threaten the American Homeland.
In 1232, Pope Gregory IX set up a system of special religious courts called the inquisition. The Dominican friars were sent out to find and question heretics:
“Heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed and … their defenders and [supporters] are destroyed, and this is effected in two ways: … they are converted to the true catholic faith, or … burned. (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, p. 535, 1887)
Those who refused to recant, which means give up their heresy, were burned alive.
Today’s Patriot Act, the military courts, the Guantanamo concentration camp, the CIA rendition camps, Abu Ghraib, etc., are part of an advanced inquisitorial system. Terrorist suspects are held incommunicado. They are tortured, tried by military courts and sentenced. They are not given the right to recant.
The objective is not to “make the World safer” by putting the terrorists behind bars.
The show trials of the alleged terrorists perform an important social function. They are an integral part of Pentagon’s disinformation campaign. Quite concretly, they give a real face to the enemy. They sustain the illusion, in the inner consciousness of Americans, that the ”Islamic terrorists” constitute a real threat.
The arrests, trials and sentences of “Islamic terrorists” sustain the legitimacy of America’s Homeland Security State and its inquisitorial legal and law enforcement apparatus.
The ultimate objective is to instill in the minds of millions of Americans that the enemy is real and the US Adminstration will protect the lives of its citizens.
Washington does not silence its antiwar critics. Quite the opposite. The inquisitorial social order allows certain forms of dissent. It is politically correct under a “democracy” to condemn US foreign policy in the strongest terms.
What is not allowed is to question the inquisition.
Those who oppose the US Administration are not branded as heretics. Many “Progressives”, Liberals and Antiwar activists, led by prominent intellectuals, firmly believe that Muslims were behind the 9/11 attacks. “We are against the war, but we support the war on terrorism.”
The New World Order builds a political and media consensus (i.e. the GWOT) but at the same time it creates and moulds its own opposition. It establishes the limits of dissent. It “manufactures dissent”.
The presidential candidates in the bipartisan race are supported by powerful corporate interests including the oil companies, Wall Street and the defense contractors.
At the same time, these same corporate interests, through their various foundations (including Ford, Rockefeller, Gates, et al), support and finance a number of Liberal/Progressive organizations and alternative media.
9/11 is the cornerstone of the American Inquisition.
The lies underlying 9/11 are accepted by the mainstream antiwar movement.
US foreign policy is condemned, but the “Global War on Terrorism” is upheld. Wittingly or unwittingly, this endorsement of the GWOT by those who claim to be opposed to the US administration, provides a legitimacy to the inquisitorial order, which underlies the actual practice of US foreign policy.
On the other hand, those who have serious doubts regarding the official 9/11 narrative, including the 9/11 Truth Movement, are branded as heretics and nonbelievers.
The “Just War” theory
The “Just War” theory (justum bellum) has a longstanding tradition. It has been used throughout history to uphold the dominant social order and provide a justification for waging war.
In the case of Afghanistan, 9/11 played a key role in justifying the invasion. The war on Afghanistan was considered a “Just War”, waged on humanitarian grounds.
On September 12, 2001, NATO invoked for the first time in its history “Article 5 of the Washington Treaty - its collective defense clause” declaring the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon “to be an attack against all NATO members.”
Afghanistan was tagged, without a shred of evidence and prior to the conduct of an investigation, as the ”state sponsor” of the 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Afghanistan in early October 2001 was presented as a counter-terrorism operation directed against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their state sponsors.
Trade unions, NGOs and many “progressive” intellectuals endorsed the US-NATO led invasion. The events of 9/11 played a key role in gaining the support of various sectors of American society including the opponents and critics of the Bush adminstration’s foreign policy.
The war on Afghanistan was prepared prior to 9/11. War preparations were already in an advanced stage of readiness. The green light to wage war by the US and NATO on Afghanistan was provided within 24 hours of the 9/11 attacks.
The press reports failed to reveal a fact which is known and acknowledged by military analysts: a major theater war cannot, under any circumstances, be planned and carried out in a matter of 4-5 weeks.
9/11 was used as a justification to carry out a “humanitarian war”. Known to military analysts, the war on Afghanistan had been planned well in advance of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The Spanish Inquisition
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Inquisition spread to other parts of Europe. In Italy, the inquisition went after nationalist movements in regions like Lombardy in the north, Venice, or Sicily. It was used to suppress these political movements. In northern France and Germany, the inquisition used the pretext of small mystical sects, to intervene politically and militarily. Regional powers including local principalities refused to cooperate with the inquisition. In today’s world, this form of interventionism is carried out by sending in US special forces to “help governments” to combat terrorism.
Spain, conquered by Muslims and in part reconquered by Christians in the 13th Century, was “religiously heterogeneous, and a tolerance had developed so Muslims, Christians, and Jews could live together in relative peace.” Toward the end of the 15th Century, coinciding with a period of political and territorial consolidation, “Spanish tolerance changed abruptly. Spain saw the rise of a form of inquisition more ruthless and disruptive than anywhere else in Europe.” (Bill of Rights in Action)
The Spanish inquisition was also characterized by a process of building a consensus, of going after the heretics and nonbelievers. The inquisition was used to support the process of territorial consolidation in the Iberian peninsula. The objective was to reinforce the absolute monarchy and the powers of the landed aristocracy against the Muslim and Jewish merchant classes.
The Spanish Inquisition was executed at the behest of Queen Isabel, Reina Catolica. In 1483, The Reyes Catolicos, Isabel de Castilla and Ferdinando de Aragon, established a Council to direct the Inquisition. Tomas de Torquemada, an advisor to Isabel become the first General Inquisitor. Torquemado had previously preached against the Jewish and Muslim Converts (Conversos). The objective was to repress the upcoming merchant classes. “One country, one ruler, one faith” became the mandate of the General Inquisitor.
The pope upheld the inquisition, the hidden agenda was the feudal order and the Spanish led colonial wars. The Spanish inquisition lasted for 300 years.
Today in America, the General inquisitor is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Legal Apparatus
The inquisition in the Middle Ages would collect accusations:
“If two witnesses under oath accused someone of heresy, the accused person would be summoned to appear. opinions, prejudices, rumors, and gossip were all accepted as evidence. the accused was never told the names of the accusers, nor even the exact charges.
Inquisitors examined the accused in secret. Anyone who refused to confess immediately was assumed to be guilty. Inquisitors were trained only in religion, and they would try to trap the accused with religious questions. For example, an inquisitor might ask, “Do you believe what the holy church believes?”
“I am a faithful Christian,” the fearful suspect might reply.
“So!” the inquisitor might shout. “We already know you believe in heresies! You’re saying your beliefs are the true Christianity and the church is false!” (Bill of Rights in Action)
No lawyers were allowed, because it was considered heresy to defend a heretic:
“They would torture those who refused to recant. During torture, the religious inquisitors would stand by as witnesses to record confessions or take down the names of other heretics. The government also carried out the final sentence of imprisonment or death.
Those who recanted immediately might receive a fairly light sentence — saying prayers, fasting, being whipped in public, or making a pilgrimage. Some who recanted were forced to wear a yellow cross of felt sewn on all their clothing. The cross marked them as a former heretic, and many people would stay away from them in fear.
Many who refused to recant right away were sentenced to prison for life. If they refused to recant at all, the Inquisition turned them over to government authorities to be burned alive. Some inquisitors were so thorough that they went after the dead. If a dead person was accused of heresy, his or her bones could be dug up and burned.
For most accused heretics, there was no appeal. A few rich or powerful people might beg the pope to change a sentence, but for most of the condemned, the sentence was final. The families of those sent to prison or to the stake lost their property.
Today’s legal system in America has all the essential features of an inquisitorial order. Torture is permitted “under certain circumstances”, according to an August 2002 Justice Department “legal opinion”:
“if a government employee were to torture a suspect in captivity, ‘he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the Al Qaeda terrorist network,’ said the memo, from the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel, written in response to a CIA request for legal guidance. It added that arguments centering on “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability” later. (See Washington Post, June 7, 2004)
“Even if an interrogation method might arguably cross the line drawn in Section and application of the stature was not held to be an unconstitutional infringement of the President’s Commander in Chief authority, we believe that under current circumstances [the war on terrorism] certain justification defenses might be available that would potentially eliminate criminal liability.” (Complete August 2, 2002 Justice Department Memorandum in pdf)
“The Spanish Inquisition was particularly terrifying because of its inherent characteristics. The accused never knew who their accusers were. Once arrested, the accused heretic’s properties were seized.”
“These properties were then administered at first by the Crown, and later by the General Inquisitor….
Even if the accused was now a devout Christian, he was tried as severely as possible because of his roots. The accused was also not allowed to have a lawyer or counsel for his defense, and the names of all witnesses were kept secret from him (Jason L. Slade, The Spanish Inquisition August 6, 1996)
Torture was the order of the day. The accused were not allowed to have a lawyer.
The torture methods applied by today’s CIA inquisitors bear a canny resemblance to the torture techniques used by the Inquisitors in the Middle Ages, including the water torment or aselli, commonly referred to in CIA jargon as “water boarding”:
“Because the trials were for spiritual matters, the Church handled them. However, the punishments were usually very much physical, so they were handled by the state. There were many means of this physical torture for confession. The two most famous or infamous were the strappado or pulley, and the aselli or water torment.(Jason L. Slade, The Spanish Inquisition August 6, 1996)
Water-boarding then and now
Alfred McCoy reports in the regard that the CIA:
“had often added to their no-touch repertoire physical methods reminiscent of the Inquisition’s trademark tortures — strappado, question de l’eau, “crippling stork,” and “masks of mockery.” At the CIA’s center near Kabul in 2002, for instance, American interrogators forced prisoners “to stand with their hands chained to the ceiling and their feet shackled,” an effect similar to the strappado. Instead of the Inquisition’s iron-framed “crippling stork” to contort the victim’s body, CIA interrogators made their victims assume similar “stress positions” without any external mechanism, aiming again for the psychological effect of self-induced pain… (Alfred McCoy, The Hidden History of CIA Torture: America’s Road to Abu Ghraib, Global Research, December 2004)
In Spain in the 16th Century, the inquisition was accepted. It was a consensus. The population was led to believe that it was a good thing and that torture “served to purify society”.
“A bishop came out and shouted out the names of the condemned. then the heretics were led out, wearing black robes decorated with red demons and flames. officials of the government tied them to the stake.
“do you give up your heresy against the holy church?” a priest would challenge.
anyone who repented would be strangled to death before the fires were lit. most, however, stood silent or defiant. the fires were lit, and the square echoed with the screams of the heretics and cheers from the crowd.” (quoted in Bill of Rights in Action, op cit)
Anybody who dared to question the validity of this “war on terrorism” was himself branded a terrorist and subjected to the anti-terrorist laws, which at the time, in Spain, was death.
In today’s inquisitorial environment, most people are skeptical regarding the official 9/11 narrative, but nobody dares question the validity of the “war on terrorism”.
“These are bad people, and we must go after them, take them out.” The discourse is almost the same.
The ultimate objective is to subdue the citizens, totally depoliticize social life in America, prevent people from thinking and conceptualizing, from analyzing facts and challenging the legitimacy of the inquisitorial social order which rules America.
The Big Lie becomes the Truth. Realities are turned upside down.
War becomes peace, a worthwhile “humanitarian undertaking”,
Peaceful dissent becomes heresy.
The objective is to create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, with a view to upholding the New World Order.
In the words of Monthy Python:
“NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise….
Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency….
Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope….
Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry… are such elements as fear, surprise….
I’ll come in again.” (Monthy Python, The Spanish Inquisition)
How to reverse the tide?
Undermine the Inquisition;
Reveal the lies behind 9/11;
Break the consensus;
Reveal the Crimes committed by those in High Office;
Unseat the inquisitors:
“Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of September 11.
Across the land, the image of an “outside enemy” is instilled in the consciousness of Americans. Al Qaeda is threatening America and the world. The repeal of democracy under the Patriot legislation is portrayed as a means to providing “domestic security” and upholding civil liberties.
When people across the US and around the World find out that Al Qaeda is not an outside enemy but a creation of US foreign policy and the CIA, the legitimacy of the bipartisan war agenda will tumble like a deck of cards… (Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism”, Global Research 2005)