Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Phony War on Terror, Part 1

I'm still waiting for even one element of the mainstream media to have the honesty and integrity to expose the grand "War on Terror" ruse being perpetrated on the American public by the Bush administration. To understand why it is impossible to wage a war on terror one needs to be clear on what terrorism actually is. Terrorism is not war. Terrorism by itself cannot and is not intended to accomplish goals such as the capture of territory or the political/military conquest of a nation. Politically motivated violence is a tactic that serves a concept or an ideal. This tactic is typically aimed at accomplishing a specific political goal or goals. Terror is not a group, a state or a military entity that could be the target of warfare. Terrorism is used by groups around the world to address their particular political grievances. It is not a unified worldwide phenomenon. The IRA used terrorist bombings in England to force British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. The US government asserted that the Oklahoma City bombing was meant to avenge the deaths of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas. Palestinian terrorism against Israel is motivated by a desire to end Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians and to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. None of these groups that have used terror had any association with any of the other groups. Efforts to suppress one such group would have no effect on the others. Their political goals are independent of one another. What they have in common is the tactic of terror.

One cannot wage military war on a tactic, or on an idea. Thus, the War on Terror is nothing but a fiction. Ideas outlive people. One can kill a terrorist but not the idea that motivates him. One cannot kill terrorism. As long as a people harbor a grievance so powerful that it moves them to resort to a campaign of violence, as long as that grievance is not satisfied, there will be those who are willing to sustain that campaign at the risk of their lives. Recall that the American Revolution began with acts of terrorist violence by the Colonists against the British. The British were again the target of terror, this time at the hands of Menachem Begin and his Irgun in their struggle to establish the State of Israel. Throughout history terror has frequently been directed at the perpetrators of Empire. And it is no surprise. Empire, whether in the old form of conquest and political colonialism, or the new form of economic colonialism, nevertheless involves domination, oppression and exploitation. Not things that a population suffers passively.

President Bush asserts that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. and continues to threaten us because they “hate freedom” and our way of life. I find it hard to believe that no one in the media (not that I’ve seen) has looked carefully at this notion. The idea is absurd on its face. What can he possibly mean? That they think they can destroy our free society with a few bombs every few years? That they are going through all this trouble to punish us for being free? Please!

His assertion means nothing. It is blather meant to distract us from demanding an understanding of what really is motivating this terrorism. People don’t go to these extremes frivolously or for sport. Bush’s people want us to believe that the terrorists “do not value human life” (including their own?). They don’t want us to wonder deeply just why someone would sacrifice his life for an idea. We might then want to know what that idea is. And if we actually found out we just might start having some doubts about American foreign policy. But we have a head start. We already understand and accept the sacrifice that our troops are making. In reality, war is calculated suicide. By consenting to go to war a person knows that there is a real chance that she will not survive. In this regard, the difference between an American soldier and a suicide bomber is merely a few degrees of certainty. If we hail the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers as noble, how can we not believe the same of a terrorist? After all, it is only the motivating principle behind their acts that differs. Truth is our government has a dual standard when it comes to terrorism. When the violence is perpetrated against us it is terrorism. When our country perpetrates or pays for violence against others it is “defending freedom” or “supporting democracy”. When we pick up weapons to defend an idea we are acting in the proud tradition of America. When others with whom we disagree do the same they are subhuman, demonic fanatics.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Democracy Perverted

The alleged two party system that we have in this country is hardly democratic, in that the Republicans and Democrats have much more in common than not. What we have is de facto only one party with factions that represent different segments of the wealthy/corporate power elite. The recent presidential election only underscores the point. There was so little daylight between Bush and Kerry's positions on Iraq that people reasoned that they would stay with the "original" rather than risk going with a Bush's war wannabe. Is there really any other way to view the evenly divided electorate than that it represents two nearly indistinguishable candidates?

When I studied in Canada years ago I was struck by the fact that built into their parliamentary system was an Official Opposition led by the ranking minority party. Most important is that they are not a nominal Opposition but a real one that engages in serious struggle over important issues. I observed a qualitative difference in the way political differences were played out there as opposed to how the Republicans and Democrats do it here. There, one had the sense that real work was being done. Here, its hard to take Congress seriously. Our Congress in action resembles political theater.

The sitting House of Commons in Canada is made up of representatives from four of the country's 10--yes I said 10 registered national political parties (this does not include numerous other registered, so-called "third" parties) as well as two Independent members. There is a lot to say for diversity--in biology, culture AND politics. It only stands to reason that the more diverse the input into the governing process the better and stronger the product will be. Inbreeding yields defects both in organisms and ideas.

The recent Republican rout left that party in solid command of the White House, both houses of Congress and a majority of state governorships. It left the party so emboldened that they now believe that retaining this control permanently may be possible! So here we are in "democratic" America with one of our political parties drooling over the chance that they may be able to lock in their control over Washington, and thus the nation, indefinitely. These supposed champions of democracy are eagerly poised to install themselves as rulers beyond effective challenge as though it were OK. As though it didn't smack of totalitarianism. As though it wouldn't make the existing system an even greater mockery than it already is. Terms like chutzpah and cojones are too mild to describe their intent. Were that step to be accomplished even the charade of a two party system could not be upheld. Now I am not singling out the Republicans here. I have no doubt that if the Democrats saw the opportunity they too would jump on it.

Too many Americans are uninformed and complacent when it comes to how they are governed. To that extent, they deserve what they get. Trouble is, those of us that don't deserve it get it too. The uninformed and gullible voting in the people and policies that will damage us all. Now that's democracy perverted!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

First Post

I began this blog, perhaps like others, as a way of dealing with my powerful reaction to Bush's reelection. This included my discouragement, considering how much more damage he can do in an additional four years; my disappointment with all those misguided good folks who actually voted for him and my embarrassment at being part of an America that would elect George Bush twice despite the fact that he is sending the country down the toilet.

I was a pretty radical activist for social causes in the 70's and 80's. I guess I burned out over inadequate results considering the level of commitment and effort I sustained. Although my direct activism ended, my political sensibilities remained as acute. The cliche about how youth give of themselves and older people give money sort of fits. But now no amount I would give can salve the burning I feel when I think about the situation and what we are in for. That 70's and 80's part of me wants to get out into the streets again and take them on. Another, stronger part, to my shame, says no. Older people than I manage to take action. The resulting feeling of impotence is difficult to tolerate.

I have never kept a journal. Over the years, I have had a few commentary pieces published in newspapers and magazines but for every one of those there were many, many more that I wanted to write but did not. I have always believed that I had something worthwhile to add to the public conversation but self-doubt usually sabotaged that impulse. I have literally struggled with the "to write/not to write" issue for decades. As I am writing this now the struggle continues, albeit with a desirable outcome today. The question is will I be able to sustain it?

Taking these first steps feels very good and satisfying.