Scott Horton

Scott Horton

General notes:

Announce podcast subscribe at the middle of the show (everyone asks for 5-star reviews, but I think you should just ask for honest feedback)


The story of the US involvement in the middle east since Carter is a series of backing one side in a struggle, which later is deemed to be against our interests, and which we then have to fight using another proxy, which was previously our enemy...
The idea that "they hate our freedoms" is false. The people of Afghanistan and the Middle East have been much more enraged and radicalized by U.S. actions – including drone strikes, torture of innocent people, and meddling in their government affairs.
The 9/11 plot couldn't possibly have succeeded better, given the U.S.'s response - being drawn into a protracted war with no victory - overextending itself in the middle east and weakening its ability to exert real influence.


Scott Horton is director of the Libertarian Institute, editorial director of, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from He’s the author of the 2021 book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand:Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of the 2019 book The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,500 interviews since 2003.

In 2007, Horton won the Austin Chronicle‘s “Best of Austin” award for his Iraq war coverage on Antiwar Radio.

Scott’s articles have appeared at, The American Conservative magazine, the History News Network, The Future of FreedomThe National Interest and the Christian Science Monitor. He was featured in the 2019 documentary An Endless War: Getting Out of Afghanistan and contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, The Impact of War.

He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s.

Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton.

Scott’s blog StressTwitterYouTubePatreon.


To the American public, it may have seemed like the War and Afghanistan came to an abrupt end last month – a month earlier than the Biden Administration's self-imposed deadline of the 20-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. To those who followed the "forever war" more closely – like my guest this Sunday, Scott Horton – the botched withdrawal of troops from the country is just another in a long line of blunders in an even longer "War on Terror" that continues largely unabated. Foreign policy, like economic policy, seems to be bound by the same inextricable law of unintended consequences, whereby policy failures end up justifying further interventions, mishaps, and pretext for even bigger government programs. The only question is whether the US will learn from its mistakes this time, or set off on another damaging campaign.

The story of the United States' involvement in the Middle East is a long one, that dates back to at least the Carter Administration. Scott Horton, director of the Libertarian Institute and host of Antiwar Radio, has meticulously documented the long litany of errors and self-reinforcing planks of the misguided War on Terror in his writings, videos, and radio broadcasts over the years.

He joins me this Sunday to offer a one-hour retrospective on the War in Afghanistan, with an emphasis on the patterns and principles that have characterized our broader foreign policy failures over the past 45 years. From Scott, I've learned that the failures can be boiled down to one word: blowback. For the full story, you'll have to read two of his most recent books, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism (2021) & Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan (2017).

Don't miss this information-packed broadcast – LIVE, Sunday at 8am PACIFIC – and be sure to share the announcement with any concerned citizens

Links & Summary

Action-Reactions – Chapter Summaries from the Video Series summarizing "Enough Already"


Iranian Revolution was against American installed Shah.

Carter doctrine was total US supremacy over the Persian Gulf, to ensure that oil supplies wouldn't come into the hands of hostile governments. U.S. increased support for Saudi Arabia and began building bases around the Arabian peninsula.

Carter also gave Saddam Hussein greenlight to invade Iran, which lead to a brutal war between Iraqis and Iranians that resulted in the death of 1 million people, while failing to overthrow the new Shi'ite Iranian government.


The Mujahideen - cleverly installed by Reagan in the 80s to weaken the Soviet-puppet government in Kabul and by extension the whole Soviet Union - learned an important lesson from that episode in history: that they could bring down a powerful empire by luring them into an expensive, resource-draining war in the region of Afghanistan.


Iraq, formerly a client-state of the US under Reagan in their fight against the Shi'ite revolution in Iran, becomes the target of the next administration under HW Bush. American diplomats expressed that they had no interest in Iraq's border dispute with Kuwait, essentially giving Hussein permission to invade, and then they brought the hammer down when he tried to take over the whole country. Thatcher challenged Bush into that war, based on the UK's significant interests in Kuwait. Bush refused to negotiate with Hussein, and initiated Operation Desert Storm – a "short and easy" expedition.

To finish the job, Bush Sr. encourages an uprising by Shi'ite majority and Kurds in Iraq to overthrow the government, but doesn't provide any support, and thus leads 100,000 to their deaths when he realizes that he has effectively reversed the Reagan policy of supporting the secular government of Hussein against the possibility of a Shi'ite alliance between Iraqi religious majority and the Shi'ite government of Iran.

Iraq War One never really ended – US implemented a no fly zone over Iraq's north and southern borders, launching planes from bases in Saudi Arabia that they had promised to close after the Iraq-Kuwait war.


Under Clinton, Iraq War 1.5 began. Continued sanctions - blockading trade to make the population so miserable that they would risk everything to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Instead the people are getting weaker and weaker compared to the Central Government.

The long-standing presence of the US in the Arabian peninsula motivated the Mujahideen and nascent Al Qaeda group to start plotting terror against the foreign occupation of their holy lands by US imperialists. Islamists view the region as one Islamic territory - not many divided Arab states. American support of Israel and various dictatorships in artificially created countries also contribute to the professed motivations of Osama bin Laden in his tracts against the "Zionists and Crusaders." Horton conceives of Al Qaeda as patchwork of right-wing Saudi Arabian and other Arab nationalists, who oppose US intervention in their Holy LAnd.

Bin Laden and Al Qaeda become more brazen in their attacks, including the 1981 WTC bombing (in which the US had an FBI informant, inside the terror ring, who left the case only to be replaced by the terrorist who made the bomb).

After the attack on the Khobar Tower by bin Laden's Al Qaeda, Clinton blamed the attack on Iran.

Al Qaeda strategy at this point was to provoke American into a long and costly war, like the Soviets, which would ultimately lead to their demise.

Sept. 11 and Afghanistan - very good short video

Bin Laden perceived Bush Jr. as more reactive and thus susceptible to the strategy of encouraging US blowback, like the bull that runs after the red scarf.

Americans were awakened from their slumber on Sept. 11, having thought of the 90s as "peace time" and knowing little about the long run-up to the hatred by the terrorists for US interventions.

"They hate our freedoms" was Bush's explanation.

Taliban offered to negotiate terms of Bin Laden's surrender in exchange for evidence of his guilt. Bush refused to negotiate, even when they offered to extradite him free of evidence to any country other than the US or Israel – countries which would have in turn extradited him to the US.

We had him cornered in Tora Bora, while military intelligence begged for reinforcements, but didn't get them. Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan, where the Bush administration refused to chase him. They decided to make a broader goal in pursuing the war in the middle east, including Iraq, while shifting the goal from eradicating Al Qaeda, to replacing the Taliban with a western-backed government in Kabul.


U.S. is obsessed with Iran mostly because of its independence from the west.

Neocons urged the overthrow of Hussein in Iraq as a pretext for a stronger position against Iran (even though Iraq was a primary bulwark against Iran).

The plan for regime change in 7 countries that had nothing to do with the attack on September 11 was hatched shortly after the attacks.


Bush Jr. picked up where his father left off, partnering with the Shias who had defected to Iran after the first Iraq war.

Plans to install US-backed government fell apart when the Iranian-backed Shia parties in Iraq flexed their muscles and demanded a Shia-backed government. They came to power over the old Sunnis in the "purple finger" election, sowing the seeds of civil war that would kill 1000,000 people including 45,000 US soldiers.

Sunnis fought hard against this US-backed "democratic" coup. Al Qaeda and terror networks then grow in Iraq starting around 2004, led by Al-Zarqawi. It was the same strategy of terrorism to provoke a response by the U.S.

The Shi'ite majority still fought hard against the Sunni insurgency, which led to US-backed ethnic cleansing against the Sunni minority. The Iraqi army trained by David Petraeus came out of an Iranian-backed sect, the Supreme Islamic Council.

In 2007, this "surge" worked – by accommodating the Sunnis. The end result of the Iraq War was that an Iranian backed group came to power, while bin Ladenites are empowered in much of the country. This set the stage for further spread west - what started in Afghanistan was now moving through Mesopotamia into the Levant.


The troop surge of 2008-2009 in Afghanistan tried to foist a unified minority government of Tajik, Hazara and Uzbeks from the north west part of the country (combined 45% of Afghanistan), over the Pashtun people of the south (40% of Afghanistan), who are better represented by the Taliban.

In Pakistan, US CIA wages war by drone against remnants of Al Qaeda. This led to deaths of 10s of 1000s and creation of many more refugees – sewing more seeds of future terrorists, as innocent people are caught in the drone attacks.

"Living Under Drones" a Stanford report, on terrified woman and children – turning a whole generation against the U.S., which didn't have the courage to send actual pilots to bomb innocent grandmas, women and children.

Children are afraid of the sunshine, because it's only when the sky is blue that drones can see their targets.

Times Square bomber was motivated by this aggression. He was an Pakistani American citizen with an advanced degree, who was living the American dream. He went home to Pakistan and saw the devastation of a drone attack, which motivated him to give it all up to kill innocent Americans.

It's said that "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here." Horton says, "they're fighting us here, because we're fighting them there."

Trump tried hard to figure out terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan, but was up against entire military establishment - people like Bolton, who want a permanent presence to fight the new crop of terrorists, "ISIS-K."


Somalia was doing better with no government than when it had a government.

He enlisted warlords to help. They became more and more oppressive, and provoked more and more backlash. This backlash was used as the justification for providing more arms to the warlords, who eventually created a state. The opposition created its own state, provoking a bigger reaction from the US, using Ethiopia as its proxy. Ethiopia commits atrocious war crimes against Somalians.

Somalia collapsed, experienced famine, and quarter of a million somalis starve to death because of the chaos of war.

The rise of Al Shabaab – the youth fighters who fought the insurgency against the Ethiopians. Now the US sees a justification for presence in the creation of Al Shabaab "extremists." Trump didn't buy that we needed to continue to be in Somalia, but Mattis told him "you have no choice."


People forget that we had a year-long war in Libya, which continues to be a low-grade conflict.

Gaddafi had joined the effort against jihad, given up a symbolic store of weapons materials.

Gaddafi's opposition in his own country had fought with Al Qaeda in Iraq. Clinton's state department backed these "Libyan rebels" who had returned from Iraq, where they had fought against the U.S.

Obama claimed that Gaddafi planned to kill everyone in Benghazi, even though there was no reason to believe that. MIlitary and CIA were trying to stop the war while Clinton's state department was pushing for it.

Rebels committed mass gang rapes with American weapons pointed at the women's heads.

Obama calls it a shit-show that was the biggest mistake of his presidency. However, his only regret is that he didn't send actual U.S. troops.

People who criticize the biggest scandal, Benghazi, miss the main point that we should never have had a makeshift embassy in the eastern part (not the capital) of Libya. The reason it existed there was to funnel weapons on to the next war in Syria - "monitoring" the transfer of weapons.

John McCain famously poses with rebels who had formerly fought against us in Iraq.


"Oops, we gave Iranian friends Baghdad."

Iraq War II was fought on behalf of Supreme Iranian Council, which was supposed to give the US more sway over Iran. Instead it backfired and strengthened Iran's position in Iraq.

Now we have to find a way to make it up to Saudi Arabia, so they started backing Sunni tribes in Iraq, while starting to back Al Qaeda in Lebanon, Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and Marxist kurdist group in Turkey to hem in Iranian power.

Now they need to look for consolation prizes - looking for other ways to weaken Iran, like ousting Assad in Syria (even though this goal was being simultaneously pursued by Al Qaeda).

Obama knew it was a fantasy to try to empower the unarmed middle of the country to overthrow Assad, while keeping Al Qaeda at bay. The battle of course was led by the extremists.

McCain poses with a group of the so-called moderates who turned out to be the same group that kidnapped and murdered shi'ite pilgrims. CIA keeps giving weapons to horrendous terrorists.

While the U.S. focused on Syria, western Iraq was wide open for insurrection. Islamic State of Iraq starts to morph into ISIS with help from Syrian rebels, and take over western Iraq. Obama makes his famous "JV squad" comments about ISIS, just before they seize Fallujah.

Iraq War III

U.S. has been forced to back the Sunni forces they fought against in Iraq War II, against the new ISIS group created by the blowback from the wars in Syria and Lebanon.


Al Qaeda in Yemen was active in terrorist attacks around the world.

Obama launched drone war, and killed many innocents – recruiting many new people to Al Qaeda.

Large Arab Spring movement in Yemen demanding end of the US-backed Saleh regime.

Hilary Clinton put up Saleh's vice president in a one-man election, which Hilary hailed as the advent of Yemeni democracy.

Later, after recovering from Injuries, Saleh takes his army and marches against his replacement.

The U.S. coerces Yemen into shifting from food crops to cash crops like coffee, then puts trade blockade leading to starvation.

Costs of War

They will bleed the country of every cent in the name of a hoax at innocent people's expense.

We need to let the security state know that we don't support their terror war.

A review of prominent themes in the book, divided by sections of the book.

Iraq war was broadly popular. Few have admitted the mistakes.

Backdraft - terrorism in the US is a response to our activities over there.

Police State - war on terror has created vast new powers for the federal government.

"Support the Troops" – If you want to support them, bring them home - don't compound the sunk costs of lost life.

War is bad for the economy - the total cost of the wars over 20 years is estimated to be $6.4 trillion on the low side.

The Imperial Court - all of the special interests and courtiers pressuring politicians into war – from bureaucrats to defense contractors, etc.

Spreading Liberty - The pretext for the invasions

Just come home - "We make a dumb mistake and correct with another dumb mistake and compound them ad nauseum."


Book summary

“The real story of the disastrous U.S. war on Afghanistan must be written so that future generations may understand the folly of Washington’s warmongers. Scott Horton’s Afghan war history is an important contribution to this vital effort.” - Ron Paul, M.D.

Oscar Rickett, September 7, 2021

Do they hate our freedoms, or something else?

Publishing its findings ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the UK-based monitoring group concluded that at least 22,679, and potentially as many as 48,308 civilians, were killed by U.S. aerial strikes between 2001 and 2020.
Peter Van Buren, September 6, 2021
Those worst days highlight the long series of atrocities committed in Afghanistan (and Iraq, and Vietnam, and…) instances where our killing of civilians, whether accidental or purposeful or something smeared in-between, ruined any chance the U.S. could capture those hearts and minds and build a stable society in our image. We could hold ground with tanks but only achieve our broader national security goals via memory. That’s why we lost.
We miss the point again. Why have we not assigned blame and demanded punishment for the leaders who put those 20-year-old soldiers into the impossible situations they faced? Before we throw away the life of another kid or another dozen Afghans, why don’t we demand justice for those in the highest seats of power for creating such fertile ground for atrocity?
Anand Gopal, September 6, 2021

Interesting read, if you have time, of how "In the countryside, the endless killing of civilians turned women against the occupiers who claimed to be helping them."

Adam Ciralsky, August 30, 2021

Videos & Podcasts

With Jeff Deist

Horton joins Jeff Deist for a sobering look at American hubris overseas, along with the blowback and destruction it causes. You don't want to miss this conversation.

September 3, 2021

How many of Horton's predictions over the years have come true? they predicted that the Taliban would walk back into Kabul without firing a shot and were correct.


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