Friday, October 15, 2004

‘The Terror Myth’

This one has been building for awhile. American leftists can’t say it out loud yet, because the election is fast approaching, but you better believe they want to. They have been giving intimations toward this belief with their incessant howls of “fearmongering!” and open disdain for the terror alerts.

The thing is, you see, terrorism is a myth invented to scare you and me into supporting the current government. According to a TV documentary set to air on BBC2 Wednesday, “In an age when all the grand ideas have lost credibility, fear of a phantom enemy is all the politicians have left to maintain their power.” This Marxian formation of the terrorist threat—or, I guess I should say “terrorist threat”—will hit America’s shores in force after the election.

According to the article, the film is going to first make the perfectly valid point that dirty bombs are not that dangerous – something that I agree with, at least on the surface. They are not that dangerous in the absolute sense i.e. in that they would kill a lot of people. They are immensely dangerous, however, in the sense of civilian morale. If a dirty bomb went off in downtown New York and contaminated the city, even if the radiation didn’t outright kill anybody, it would have a devastating impact on the economy there, as well as the civilian psyche. The filmmaker seems to want to extrapolate from the over-hyping of this one threat that terrorism can do us no great harm.

The article said nothing about briefcase nukes, of which Islamists terrorists claim to be in possession of already (I claim which I doubt). I don’t know if the final film will delve into the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists or not.

Either way, the maker of the film seems to take comfort in this:

The Power of Nightmares [title of the film] seeks to overturn much of what is widely believed about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The latter, it argues, is not an organised international network. It does not have members or a leader. It does not have "sleeper cells". It does not have an overall strategy. In fact, it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence.
Exactly. Al Qaeda is very decentralized—which is why Bush doesn’t focus on mentioning it, or bin Laden, by name much anymore. Whether or not it has “sleeper cells” depends on how you define “sleeper cells.” There are many people within Western countries that support the terrorist cause financially and would be willing to offer other types of aid, but whether they are actively waiting –is it possible to actively wait?—for a secret signal to carry out pre-configured and elaborate attacks is another matter.

And does anyone take comfort from the fact that the terrorists don’t have an “overall strategy…except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence”? This is the very aspect of terrorism that frightens me: it’s apocalyptic, nihilist tendencies, completely irrational and carried out with a single-minded and religious fervor. There is no appeasing it, no possibility of détente, and certainly no surrender short of complete and utter destruction on either our part or theirs. In fairness, though, I guess that does leave "ignoring it away" open as an option.

The movie wouldn’t be complete, of course, without some conspiratorial “conservatives-as-puppeteers” angle:

Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going).
Wow, they both originated in the ‘50’s? Well, according to Wikipedia, “Brylcreem and other hair tonics [had] a period of popularity” in the 1950’s! I’ve always thought that the sinister nexus of hair tonics, conservatism and terror has gone underreported. Paging Mikey!

And “liberalism” as the common enemy of conservatives and Islamists alike? Liberalism is such an broad word; it means an entirely different thing to the Islamist that would have has wife permanently clad in a burkha and daily beaten into obedience, and the American conservative that is disturbed by society’s increasingly flamboyant and anomie-inducing hedonism. To equate the conservatives disagreement with liberalism to the Islamists disgreement with liberalism is a laughably simplistic and reductionist argument, as well as a textbook case of moral equivalency.

As for working with the Islamists in Afghanistan, there is a time when conservatives would have allied with Satan against the Evil Empire. It was definitely not out of some common ideological bond that we made an alliance with the Islamist crazies in Afghanistan.

Since the Ostrich Left has no real plan for fighting the War on Terror—besides some platitudes about alleviating root causes such as poverty—it’s much easier to just stick their head in the sand and ignore the terrorist threat away.

I want to believe that even if John Kerry wins the election America will stay strong in the War on Terror, but if the fringes of his party—which have been redefining themselves toward the center through people like Howard Dean and Michael Moore—grab onto this “terror-as-a-conservative-conspiracy" argument I rather doubt John Kerry’s ability to remain resolute—it’s not as if he has a great track record in the resolve department.


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