Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Left VS. Left, OR, Fearing Fear Itself
Many people have recognized the many parallels between the "War on Terror" and the "Cold War"--in fact, the former is just a continuation of the latter, with a new ubiquitous enemy who we will be "at war with" [but not really] into the foreseeable future, an attack always imminent, you're either with us or you're with them, etc. etc.
And while there was a Soviet threat, in retrospect it seems pretty apparent that the notion of imminent armageddon was in large part a propaganda campaign and little more. (Granted, I wasn't even alive during much of this. But it's abundantly clear that the Red Scares were just that: fabrications intended to scare in order to control the population and coerce them into supporting whatever policies the government wanted to pursue. And it's not just "hindsight is 20/20" or any of that rubbish. It was deliberate and conscious deceit.)
Right now I think everyone should re-visit some Cold War propaganda--even if you feel that the "War On Terror" is somehow different, at least remind yourself that there is propaganda in America, and lots of it. Watch "Dr. Strangelove" (as Spike Lee said, if you don't see Bush and Rumsfeld in that movie, you're not looking). "Atomic Cafe"--while keeping in mind that this stuff was not perceived as propaganda at the time. Last week we rented "Red Dawn"--which I had never seen, but had read about (John Stockwell mentions it as a clear example of propaganda, in his book "The Praetorian Guard, and I think it's universally acknowledged to be propaganda at this point). Funny stuff.
But also disturbing. Because I don't know how funny people thought it was at the time. I mean, you watch something like "Atomic Cafe," and if you talk to people from that generation, they get a sort of nostalgic kick out of seeing it again, but it's not so funny--at least not in the blatantly-absurd-obvious-rhetoric-and-propaganda-type way that we see it as funny. And if you think about the fact that people of that time did not necessarily realize it was blatant propaganda . . . what might that tell us about right now?
But, again, there was a Soviet threat. They did invade Eastern Europe and etc. And, we were attacked on September 11th. Millions of people do indeed hate us (or at least our government, or at least our government's policies/behavior). So just how afraid should we be? How calm is too naive? And how afraid is too paranoid?
Yes, the "orange alerts" and duct tape and all sound Orwellian (or like "Duck and Cover," I should say). I'm not about to build a bomb shelter and stock up on SPAM and peanut butter or anything.
Yet Noam Chomsky, in his new book "Hegemony or Survival" (and in recent lectures), suggests that unless we do something fairly soon, the species may not be around much longer. The invasion of Iraq has succeeded where Bin Laden failed: in starting a Holy War between Islam and the West. Arab nationalists and "terrorists" have united together against a common enemy, and clearly that enemy (us) has no intention of leaving until we've "won the peace" (and controlled the region). And it's conceivable that, as resentment for the U.S. builds, terrorists may find more and more friends, some of whom possess nuclear or other destructive weapons, and use them against us--in which case, clearly, we'll respond in kind, but with far greater ferocity, and doomsday will indeed be upon us.
And as Arundhati Roy and others have pointed out: by treating war (and potentially nuclear war) as a viable response to terrorism, we've effectively given terrorists the power to start a nuclear holocaust.
Either way, we need to get these people out of the White House as soon as humanly possible.
But, see, that's going to be extraordinarily difficult because in the current climate of anxiety the Bush Boys have a win-win strategy, in a way. If the war ends, they'll brag about having overthrown a dictator and brought democracy to a troubled country. If the war is still a quagmire, they'll use the old "don't change horses in mid-stream" line; in other words, we've got to "stay the course" and "win the peace," to "finish the job," etc., etc., or things or only going to get worse. And the pressure will not be on Bush (though it ought to be) but on the Democrats to propose an exit strategy. (The assumption is that the Bush Boys got us into this, therefore they must have a plan to get us out of it--or, at least, will have more of an idea than someone outside the initial planning.)
Same with the economy. Never mind whether or not Bush caused the recession. If the economy picks up, people will vote for him since he "boosted/saved/rescued" the struggling economy. And if the economy is still in tatters, they can always (as they always have) blame it on 9-11 and homeland security--[never mentioning, of course, that the 150 billion or so we've spent on Iraq was unnecessary, or that the economy was lagging before 9-11, etc.]. They will never admit that the enormous tax cuts for the rich have been the problem, either; always they are the solution; and even if the economy is poor, they'll say that things would be even worse if it hadn't been for those generous tax cuts . . .
It's like the bloody "Patriot Act": if there are no more terrorist attacks, they'll say "See, it's working, we've got to keep it, it's an invaluable tool and it's working." If there are more terrorist attacks, they'll say "It's just not enough. It's good, but not good enough. See now, how petty you've been to cry about your 'civil liberties'? There are more important things than liberty. And if you hadn't objected so much to the Patriot Act, this might not have happened. Now we definitely need to keep it in place, don't you agree? Actually, we really need to expand it . . . How can you object to expanding it, when we've just been attacked? . . . What are you, 'Anti-American'? Are you some sort of Terrorist?? . . ."
"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party or any party?" . . . . .
The administration has a thin tight rope to balance upon. They must scare us and convince us that the "War On Terror" is ongoing and permanent, that we are never safe and must always rely on Big Brother to protect us, for our very lives are at stake; yet they must also convince us that their responses to terror are good and sound, that they're doing the right thing and "winning" the "war on terror."
It's much like the tight rope they had to walk before the war: basically, they had to convince us that Iraq was a heavily-armed war machine that could easily and quickly launch nuclear, chemical and biological strikes at will, killing multitudes; yet, in the same breath, they had to convince us that the war would be quick and painless, with very few casualties, and would not result in a nuclear war. (Has any attention EVER really been paid to this?--that is, they [mainly Britain] were saying that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack within 45 minutes, yet how much discussion did you hear about the fact that, if this were true and if it were true that Saddam was a raving suicidal madman, we were entering not merely a war but a NUCLEAR WAR?????)
(Incidentally, I recently learned that during the first Gulf War, American forces had 400 nuclear warheads armed and ready in the middle east; sound like an important detail that ought to have been widely reported and discussed? . . . .)
It has been pointed out, too, that what has actually happened in Iraq since the invasion has been worse than the "worst-case-scenario" considered before the invasion--mainly, the region has been turned into a haven for terrorism, civil war, and further widespread resentment of the United States.
Let's be realistic about how most of the world's muslims probably feel about us (even long before the Iraq invasion, of course, resentment was intense) . . . Now, let's consider the possibility that the world's muslims decide to unite against us . . . And remember that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Libya might also (though, apparently, they are giving up their defenses). . . .
If we have a president who feels the only solution is to "fight fire with fire," one whose first response to any threat is "Bring 'em on" . . . The "Eye For An Eye" approach could very easily blind us all. That is, destroy us all.
I, for one, will sleep well, knowing that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld will protect me from any Bogeymen that may appear. Good night.
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