Almost two years ago, I first wrote that the "war on terrorism" would be a benefit to any national political candidate. I did not then, nor do I now, see much difference in the way the government would curtail civil liberties even if John Kerry were elected. Too much power--and money--is at stake to allow victory to be declared. Not that I think it ever could be, mind you, any more than one could declare victory in the "war" on drugs or "obesity."
The September 11 attack is the gift that keeps on giving and giving to George Bush. Once Bush convinced the country that we were at war all bets--and the rule of law--were off the table. Ad hoc legal process replaced the Constitution and the federal rules of criminal procedure; lies, fantasies and half-truths masquerade as truth; John Ashcroft continues to run amok, orchestraing his henchmen in trials that are remarkable for prosecutorial misconduct and lack of discretion; courts continue to defer to the president almost all the time; and, worst of all, the American media is working towards a lifetime achievement award for insuring that this most important of elections is reduced to bumper-sticker slogans and calls for the resignation of Dan Rather.
But at the center of all the madness is the so-called "war" on so-called "terror," which, as Bush promises, will be fought around the globe for a long time to come. Instead of stating precisely who the enemy is, which some believe to be Islamist extremism, Bush and Kerry are content to keep the enemy faceless and nameless. That makes it convenient to bring any person, country, or organization under the "terrorism" umbrella. Such was the case with Iraq. When no "weapons of mass destruction" were found, suddenly it became a battleground in the "war on terrorism."
It is not just political gain that is at stake for either candidate. Terrorism is big money. Every time a terror alert is raised a level, cash registers sing in corporations and lobbyists who make their killing on the killing threats. Former New York Major Rudolph Guililani, who achieved the status of sainthood after September 11, is one of the bright starts in the business of terrorism.
In the effort to find something intelligent to read, I have begun reading foreign newspapers and magazines available on the Internet. I came across this excellent opinon piece in Al Ahram, the Egyptian weekly newsmagaine.
In it (reproduced below), Gamil Matar stated precisely the essence of "terrorism" as political capital.
And Matar said it best--the war on terrorism cannot be won. There is too much at stake.
Here is the entire article:
It is quite likely that Bush will win in the US presidential elections. Recent developments, some of which have been particularly serendipitous for his administration, have helped improve his odds.
His is an administration that has played remorselessly upon the fears and patriotism of the American public, rendering opposition to its foreign policies virtually synonymous with treason. As a result demonstrators during the Republican Convention in New York and writers and documentary film makers criticising the extremist policies of the administration have, at the very least, been vilified as unpatriotic. Against this alarmist and chauvinist backdrop, not all of which is the product of the scheming of team Bush, there have been several incidents that the US public has taken as confirmation of the administration's claims regarding global terrorism. The attacks on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in France, explosions in Turkey, assassinations and booby- trapped cars in Iraq, suicide bombings of buses in Bir Shiba and the massacre in a school in Beslan in North Ossetia have all rained undreamed of blessings on the Bush administration and its re-election campaign.
These "fortuitous" events, from the perspective of Washington and Tel Aviv, mesh perfectly with the plans of Karl Rove, Bush's senior campaign advisor, to make terrorism the focal issue during the final phase of the campaign. To Rove goes the credit of ensuring that terrorism topped the American economy, domestic policy and Iraq in the American electorate's list of concerns, and terrorists the world over have worked overtime to help him achieve this aim, as though they, too, seek to confirm that terrorism is alive and kicking, and more viciously than ever before. Meanwhile, the neoconservatives have stepped up their relentless drive to control domestic and foreign policy decision-making centres and those bodies that influence them. The US Congress has become a bastion of Washington's hard line policies and has exhibited at least as much contempt for international law and the UN as the White House. American media magnates have joined forces to guard the Bush administration against the "excesses" of those oases in the media establishment that still cling to the principle of free opinion and expression, busily bolstering the barrier of silence they have erected to keep the American people from hearing the protests of nations and peoples abroad.
Everything seems ideal for the Bush administration. It may have failed to reduce unemployment or revive the American economy, but that hardly matters. The American political process is now dominated by a single issue: terrorism, and its defeat, is the single criterion upon which everything is judged. When, on the eve of the Republican convention Bush said that the war against terrorism could not be won, it was merely a slip of the tongue. What he probably intended to articulate was that terrorism was the one enemy he could not do without.
The hysteria that has been carefully propagated around terrorism is a boon for any future administration in Washington, whether led by Bush or Kerry. Terrorism has served Bush so well in his first term that he would surely welcome more in order to capitalise on his "achievements", both at home and abroad, in combating it. Nor is it likely that Kerry will resent the unprecedented unanimity and allegiance terrorism has drummed up for the occupant of the Oval Office and his government. Fanatic patriotism, a unique national consensus and unprecedented levels of loyalty are an invaluable tool for any administration seeking to implement policies and programmes aimed at changing the face of America and the world.
We can anticipate that the war against terrorism will continue, just as Bush has predicted. Too many interests are now vested in this war and they will not fade over the horizon just because Bush wins a second term, or because Kerry becomes president. Nor is it logical for either Bush or Kerry and their respective coteries to pass up the golden opportunity to rally the American people behind them presented by this shadowy foreign enemy. Many commentators, particularly those who have followed developments in the US over the past two decades, expected major changes to take place in American society as a result of the pressures of globalisation, including a radical overhaul of the American immigration system and upheavals in demographic and class structures. And the only way to confront these challenges is through an ideological and political mobilisation intense enough to create the necessary framework of national consensus.
Terrorism replaced communism as the great enemy, and it became quickly apparent that it was going to be a far more cost-effective bogeyman. Certainly the Bush administration has succeeded, with minimal effort, in creating new breeding grounds for terrorism and in intensifying terrorist activity throughout the world. Its foreign policies, alone, were sufficient. Washington realised early on, even if it refused to admit the fact, that a heavy dose of inappropriate arm twisting and an even heavier dose of injustice would do the trick. It knows that terrorism is not just a matter of criminals, extremists and political delinquents and it is now more than apparent than ever that American arrogance and bullying in its dealings with other nations, peoples and cultures have created unprecedented levels of hostility towards the US and Israel. We know, too, that America's active encouragement of Israeli expansionism, of its incitement of international antagonism against Arabs and Muslim peoples and of its threats against Iran and Syria, will guarantee that anti-Americanism mounts.
The US and Israel have benefited, albeit indirectly, from terrorism. But once the pursuit of this benefit becomes active through the deliberate provocation of terrorism and the propelling of terrorists to even greater heights of brutality we must then address the subject of responsibility, if not collusion.
Many parties are responsible for stimulating terrorism, but certain forces within the US and Israel are guiltier than others elsewhere. These forces have discovered the enormous potential an outside enemy offers and they have persuaded the American people, and many other governments, of the magnitude of the danger of an enemy that is so easily spawned and used.
Maintaining the focus on terrorism will reap fundamental changes in American defence strategy and policies. Already there are changes in the system of military mobilisation with, for example, the decision to withdraw large numbers of US forces from abroad and to train other forces in rapid strike operations. The purpose is to avoid the direct military engagement of US forces on the ground, as in Afghanistan and Iraq. US military policies also appear to be tending towards a preference for long-distance strikes aimed at destroying the infrastructure of nations branded as terrorist. There is little doubt that the US will continue its campaign to topple regimes it classifies as uncooperative in the war against terrorism and to intervene in the affairs of those nations whose economic and cultural conditions it feels have made them breeding grounds for terrorism. The US will also continue to hurl charges of negligence or remiss in the fight against terrorism against this nation or that. The important thing is to keep the terrorist subject alive and hot.
During the Cold War the world was sharply divided between communist and capitalist camps. During Vietnam, the American people were themselves bitterly split. Today, in contrast, the world is virtually united against terrorism and the Americans are united behind their leaders in the war against this new enemy. This unity will not disintegrate if they get a new leadership. The indispensable cementing force behind this unprecedented global and American unity is to maintain the state of anti-terrorist alarm.
END OF ARTICLE