Sunday, March 23, 2008

Terrorized by “War on Terror”

A scholar-
statesman
is critical
of America's
track
in the
21st century.





Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is the author most recently of “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower” (Basic Books).

Earlier this month, professor Brzezinski published a largely over-looked article criticizing the Bush administration’s use of the 911 attacks to stampede the American people into militarizing their foreign policy.

Here are the paragraphs which I have clipped from Terrorized by “War on Terror” which scream out to be featured in headlines:

The "global war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done - a classic self-inflicted wound - is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare - political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be thatthe vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "global war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own - and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war occupation in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable.

Snipping five paragraphs here. . . .

Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.
Zbigniew Brzezinski is a foreign policy advisor to the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, whose candidacy he endorsed last August.

8 Moderated Comments:

Blogger adynaton said...

Nice article.

Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare - political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

It's great that someone calls bullshit on this. These slogans the administration seems to be fond of are very powerful things. Making them appear as absurd as they are is a job that needs to be done on a much wider scale. Unfortunately, mainstream news also loves and perpetuates them because they are short and snappy and make great headlines and such. They are not going to do it.

3/23/2008 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

Yes, Adynaton, it is bullshit.

The damage these three words have done - a classic self-inflicted wound - is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own - and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"...


We are ruled by the terror entrepreneurs and the disaster capitalists.

3/24/2008 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

Asshole William Arkin asks 4,000 Deaths: Is It All About the Numbers? No, stupid, it's about the elective, capricious and frivolous invasion and exorbitantly wasteful and endless occupation.

3/24/2008 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Soros', The phrase "terror entrepreneurs" is exactly right. This is perhaps Bush's greatest achievement. Making fear mongering fashionable.

3/24/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

I always liked Zwbig. To bad we can't throw the press out of office and hire real journalists, and reporters. The press should not be embedded with anyone. Not the military and not the candidates.

Especially liked Proxy's comment, "we are ruled by terror entrepreneurs and disaster capitalists." Bravo!

3/24/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

The Bush gang took a page from Hitler and his henchmen who always preached that a frightened society is a malleable society. They also believed that the bigger the lie the more readily people will believe it.

3/24/2008 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts.

The only part I partially disagree with is that very little brainwashing was needed to rile up a populace eager to make someone pay for the 9/11 attacks (even those unconnected but convenient for other reasons) so they could get back to their lives. Real leadership would have kept us on the right track despite the neocon calls to bring democracy to the Middle East.

3/24/2008 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Stella said...

Madmike, unfortunately, it's true: "a frightened society is a malleable society."

In America in the mid-1940's, prior to McCarthy, the conservatives were already starting the Cold War in an effort to frighten people and diminish FDR's many social programs so people could be "protected from the Commies."

3/27/2008 11:00:00 AM  

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