Some 13 years ago, shortly after President George W. Bush declared a war on terror, Monty Python’s Terry Jones asked: “How do you wage war on an abstract noun?” War on terror is an oxymoron. This war on terror was supposed to be a response to a barbaric act, but the first action taken was to invade a country that had nothing to do with it. The war began falsely and has been a fallacy ever since.
On Tuesday, France’s prime minister declared war against terrorism. The French people took to the streets in solidaires and bought up the new issue of Charlie Hebdo to exercise their right of free speech, and now they are poised to lose many of their other rights as the country transitions into another surveillance state.
What irony – the more we defend our rights, the more rights we lose. It might not be so bad if the people who make these declarations and defend our freedom just gave us some truth. But that gets lost in the shuffle, too.
Pope Francis says you should not “kill in the name of one’s own religion.” Well, that is precisely what folks have been doing ever since we invented God. But in this case, the war is only partly about religion. Maybe that’s always the case.
In the U.S., we are constantly going on about the troops, praising, thanking and honoring them for their service – but it’s not service, not really. I mean not like when people were drafted into the military. The truth is, it’s a job. Military employees are paid to do this work, which often puts them in harm’s way.
I don’t mean to suggest that our troops are not deserving of our praise and thanks. I just believe we need to see things as they truly are and have truthful discussions about it.
From day one we’ve been sold this war, and eager consumers that we are, we’ve bought it lock, stock and barrel. The patriotism the war on terror comes wrapped in is just a sales technique. So is the fear.
The war on terror is a business run by the terrorism industry and they are not above using fear tactics, which is just a form of terrorism, to keep it going by inflating national security threats, hinting that 9/11 type attacks are imminent. We have seen small attacks on this continent, such as the recent Canadian incident a few months back (that led to surveillance-expanding legislation and anti-terror laws), but what about 9/11 scale attacks? If the terrorists are “so demonically competent, why have they not done it?” asks John Mueller* in Foreign Affairs. He suggests that
One reasonable explanation is that almost no terrorists exist in the United States and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad. But this explanation is rarely offered.”
“Almost no terrorists” means few terrorists, mostly lone terrorists, and though their plots can be small, they can still be deadly. But we’re talking about big 9/11 scale plots, the kind the Bush Administration and the CIA lied about to justify torture.
The worst thing about truth is that it is so damn inconvenient at times, and complex.
In our public sphere discussions, we need to talk about this as a culture war. A revolt against modernity. Or, we need to talk about it more. Like climate change, too many people are in denial about the causes. I condemn terrorism, but I try to resist the temptation to paint terrorists simply as black clad evildoers with no reverence for human life. That may be true, but it is also true that most terrorists are disenfranchised young men, for whom Jihadist training in Iran or Syria somehow fills the emptiness in their lives and give them a sense of purpose no matter how warped. It’s something that needs to be addressed.
I’ve rambled. Probably have not articulated my thoughts very well. I wanted to make a point about how we have lost rights while defending them. I guess we didn’t notice we lost them. We were too busy with our eyes glued to our smartphones.
My biggest disappointment with Obama is he didn’t try to repeal the Patriot Act.
I am not saying we shouldn’t try to stop terrorists . . .
Just saying, to borrow from John Lennon, gimme some truth.
And gimme some rights back.
Speaking of rights . . . when will Israel give Palestinians the right to free movement? When will the Muslim world finally acknowledge Israel’s right to exist?
I feel that I should have written something positive, uplifting, possibly inspiring. I just don’t feel it today. I am pessimistic about the current state of affairs. I don’t have a good feeling for the future either.
We live in a cellphone world, and a surveillance state. Huxley and Orwell predicted this outcome.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.
– George Orwell, 1984
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* John Mueller is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University and the author of Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them. His article in Foreign Affairs can be found here.