[Mb-civic]    Stop Thinking, and See What You're Told

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 29 16:40:30 PDT 2004

  Stop Thinking, and See What You're Told
  By Steve Weissman
  t r u t h o u t | Perspective

  Wedndesday 29 September 2004

Part I: Trucking with the Terrorist Devils

  Did fear do it to us? Did the horrific attacks on the Pentagon and World
Trade Center so scare the American people that many of our fellow citizens
can no longer see that the emperor has no clothes?

   Only in part.

  Naked in his eerie isolation, the resolute Mr. Bush clearly uses the great
fear to blind us to his "catastrophic success" in Iraq, a land destined to
become at best Iran-Lite, if not our very own West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Watch it nightly on Arab TV: "Americans Kill Again. Blood at 6 and 11."

   Mr. Bush sells himself with psychodrama, pushing us to relive the
nightmare of 9/11 - and deny today's reality. He plays the wartime leader on
TV, and no one breaks out laughing, at least not in public. Indeed, nearly
half the country seems truly to believe that he has made them safer.

  Beyond our borders, most of the world takes his "War on Terror" as
American hyperbole. Europe, in particular, has known waves of terrorist
attack at least since the 1880s, and has finally learned to deal with the
problem without all the fanfare. European police agencies quietly warned our
hapless CIA and FBI of preparations for the 9/11 attacks in good time to
intervene, and have continued to break up Al-Qaeda cells with some success.

  As for Mr. Bush himself, most European pundits and those who are polled
tend to see him as a dangerous lightweight who lied his way into war,
blundered the occupation, and now hides his eyes from the chaos he has
created. Even the conservative <i>Financial Times</i>, the Wall Street
Journal of Europe, charged last week that Bush and his team "systematically
refused to engage with what has happened in Iraq."

  In the FT's opinion, the administration made too many "mistakes" and
"handed the initiative to jihadi terrorists," giving them "a new base from
which to challenge the west and moderate Islam."

  Those who back Mr. Bush angrily reject this view as liberal rhetoric,
disloyalty, or treason. They just will not face the facts.

  Fear alone cannot explain such hysterical blindness. Fear got Americans
going, but never told us how to view the terrorists who caused our fear.
Someone had to fill in the blanks.

  Who should we most fear - Osama or Saddam, Chirac or Sharon, radical
rag-heads on their prayer rugs or blue-eyed, born-again fundamentalists
waving the Red-White-and-Blue?

  Do we rush with rockets rattling to kill or capture every terrorist we
can? Or do we fight them in ways that do not encourage thousands more to
join their ranks?

  Do we tar Islam as the enemy, creating the clash of civilizations that
Osama wants to provoke? Or do we try to understand why hundreds of millions
of Muslims, if we force them to choose, will side with the terrorists rather
than us?

  To frame their answers, Team Bush drew heavily on conservative
counter-terrorists and colonial counter-insurgents, most of whom had honed
their way of thinking years before 9/11 became even a gleam in Osama's eye.
Their worldview perfectly matched Mr. Bush's gut instincts - and extensive
view of the world:
    €      Deal with terrorists primarily as a military threat, or at most a
matter for the police and secret services.

    €     Don't take their political grievances seriously or change your own
policies and practices. If you do, the terrorists will see it as a sign of
weakness, a political victory, and a vindication of their terrorist methods.

    €     As for their potential supporters, and our winning their hearts
and minds, leave that to the psychological warriors, communications
specialists, and assorted shmear artists in what Washington calls public
diplomacy. ("We're here to liberate you," reads the psy-war leaflet. And
that's why we're bombing you and your brothers.)

  To these simplistic precepts, Mr. Bush added a touch of genius. He further
branded the terrorists as pure evil, the spawn of Satan, which made them
anathema to most God-fearing Americans. Sound familiar? Have no truck with
the devil, neither in the guise of Godless Communists, nor as Islamic

  Faith-based anti-terrorism, as Bush and his people package it, is now
bidding to replace anti-Communism as America's all-consuming political
ideology. Focusing fear, it blinkers what terrified Americans see - and what
they do not see - when they look at Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel and Iran,
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, or at the threadbare Mr. Bush.

  Caught up in a holy war against the ultimate evil, the pro-Bushies see no
means too vile to defeat their foe, from torture and sexual humiliation to
bombing where people live.

   Forbidden the weakness of human empathy, the pro-Bushies never understand
that many Iraqis are doing just what we would do if a foreign power occupied
the United States - fighting for their country's independence.

  Embedded in a military mindset, the pro-Bushies never realize how their
winning battles recruit far more terrorists than they kill, while polarizing
a huge portion of the world's Muslims against the United States.

  Blinded to political realities, the pro-Bushies honestly believe their
fearless leader when he tells them that our enemies hate us for who we are
rather than for what we do, whether in supporting Saddam in the 1980s,
forsaking the Iraqi Shiites after the first Gulf War, backing Sharon against
the Palestinians, or propping up the oil-rich Saudi princes.

  Anti-terrorist ideology such as this only helps the bin Ladens and
Zarqawis. It also helps Mr. Bush. Without it, clear-eyed voters -
Republicans as well as Democrats - would run him out of office on a rail and
trash his scary, know-nothing approach to radical Islamic terror.

   Next time, Part II: The Israeli Example



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