It’s good to see something like a public debate taking place on the issue of American leadership in the world, and the harm done to that position of leadership by policies of the Bush administration.
It’s an indication of lame-duckism, I believe; Bush no longer has the same power to punish those who think out of line. Rove continues to threaten, and his threats are taken seriously; but the more he has to threaten, the more obvious his weakness becomes. These guys are on the way out, and they don’t scare people as much as they used to, back when their poll numbers were high and they still had an election to spin for.
Our friend and colleague Simbaud excerpts three articles out of Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle from a group titled “The War on Hype”. The articles talk about fear from several viewpoints, such as how much it can inflate the risks involved in special situations like disasters or attacks. For example, tens of thousands of people are killed every year in car accidents, but we don’t put warnings on the cars, or outlaw them. Rather than changing our policies to restrict them, we tend to see restrictions on use of cars as infringements on our natural freedoms.
But three thousand are killed dramatically and quickly, and the country is willing to give up its hard-won and -defended liberties to reduce the chance of a recurrance.
On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat.
Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over-reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden’s intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over-reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right.
Of course, many people are eager to take away others’ free-speech rights. In particular, the right-wing so-called Christians dream of a world in which ideas they dislike cannnot be expressed. This is in keeping with a certain strain of Christianity whose adherents believe they have eliminated their own dark side. Since they’ve eliminated their dark side, all the dark stuff must be coming from other people, who thus deserve any punishment they get.
This is the mind set that dominates the Bush lovers. They believe themselves to be good, their judgements to be accurate, and therefore their choices to be correct. Bush loudly claims to be a Christian, therefore anything he does must be good. Naturally these folks are not interested in examining the facts, which would disabuse them of their silly notions. They’ve been conditioned not to examine facts by their belief in miracles. If miracles happen, facts are irrelevant. If God controls the outcome of every event, there are no facts, only happenings. Investigation of events cannot possibly lead to understanding; only revelation contains actual truth. If God controls every event, and gets angry if a person says or thinks the wrong thing, then it’s vital to control what other people think.
Results in the real world?
Were I Bin Laden I could not have dreamt that the spirit of 9/11 would be so vigorous five years on. I have western leaders still parroting my motto that “9/11 alters everything” and “the rules of the game are changed”. I have the Taliban resurgent, financed by Europe’s voracious demand for oil and opium. I have the Pentagon and Scotland Yard paying me the compliment of a “long war” of indefinite duration. My potency is said to require more defence spending than was needed to contain the might of the Soviet Union.
Where’s the storied American courage under fire and knack for inventing a new solution?