FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mythical End to the Politics of Fear

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Nearly five years into the “war on terror,” it’s still at the core of American media and politics.

Yeah, I’ve seen the recent polls showing a drop in public support for President Bush’s “war on terror” claims. And I’ve read a spate of commentaries this month celebrating Bush’s current lack of political traction on the terrorism issue, like the New York Times piece by Frank Rich last Sunday triumphantly proclaiming that “the era of Americans’ fearing fear itself is over.”

That’s a comforting thought, hovering somewhere between complacent and delusional.

Reflexive fear may be on vacation, but it hasn’t quit. The “war on terror” motif is fraying — but it remains close at hand as a mighty pretext for present and future warfare.

The U.S. war effort in Iraq is, if anything, more horrific than it was a year ago. Back then, in late summer, Frank Rich wrote a Times column — under the headline “Someone Tell the President the War Is Over” — mocking Bush’s assertion on Aug. 11, 2005, that “no decision has been made yet” about withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Responding in print days later, Rich concluded: “The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We’re outta there.”

A year later, are we “outta there”? Only via the intellectualizing gymnastics of punditland.

More Americans are aware that the “war on terror” — as an umbrella excuse for making war — is a bunch of lethal baloney. But can anyone point to a falloff of active U.S. militarism as that realization has dawned? Did the Pentagon’s warfare dissipate in the slightest while disdain from mainstream anti-Bush pundits went through the roof?

Looking ahead, does anyone credibly think that Democratic Party leaders can be relied on to stand up against rationales for a huge air assault on Iran — in the face of predictable claims that a massive attack became necessary to forestall the development of nuclear weapons by a Tehran regime that supports the “terrorist” Hezbollah organization and has pledged the destruction of Israel?

In late summer 2006, all you’ve got to do is read the news pages of the New York Times to see systematic agenda-building for an airborne assault on Iran. Right now, in front of our eyes, the propaganda blitz is rivaling the kind of war groundwork laid by the same newspaper four years ago, replete with endless coverage of the U.S. government’s supposed “diplomatic” efforts.

“The era of Americans’ fearing fear itself is over”? Don’t make me laugh to keep from crying.

A war against a defined enemy can end; a war against an undefined threat can’t.

In late November 2002, appearing on the “Washington Journal” program, retired U.S. Army Gen. William Odom told C-SPAN viewers: “Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It’s a tactic. It’s about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we’re going to win that war.”

Continuing his heretical comment, Odom said: “We’re not going to win the war on terrorism. And it does whip up fear. Acts of terror have never brought down liberal democracies. Acts of parliament have closed a few.”

The Bush administration, of course, has bypassed — and frequently vilified — any such insights. Meanwhile, few Democrats on the national stage have gone near challenging the themes of the “war on terror(ism).” And while some journalists have grown to express skepticism about the nonstop “anti-terror” rhetoric from the White House and its supporters, the overall stance of news media has involved routinely embracing the assumption that the USA is at war with terrorism. Along the way, that means ignoring how American firepower has been terrorizing civilians — directly in Iraq and Afghanistan, indirectly in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

The movie “Good Night, And Good Luck” dramatized Edward R. Murrow’s decision to (finally) take on Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting tactics. For those who wonder why so many journalists hung back and declined to directly challenge those tactics, which ran roughshod over the American political process for years, we can look around the U.S. news media of 2006 and get a partial answer.

Yes, we can point to quite a few journalists who have gotten tough on Bush’s refusal to address substantive criticism without reverting to the anti-terrorism pitch to tar his critics. But on the whole — and most egregiously in routine news coverage on front pages and news shows — the reporting accepts and propagates the basic world view of the Bush administration.

Typically, under the headline “Number of U.S. Troops in Iraq Climbs,” an Aug. 23 story from Associated Press reported matter-of-factly: “No more than 2,500 Marines will be recalled at any one time, but there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service in the coming years as the military helps fight the war on terror.” But the assertion that the U.S. military is fighting a “war on terror” amounts to rhetoric, not fact.

Only as journalists stop cowering and start reporting on the basic flaws of the “war on terror” concept will the body politic benefit from the free circulation of ideas and information — the lifeblood of democracy. And only then will there be appreciable media space to really explore why so many people have become violently angry with America.

The paperback edition of NORMAN SOLOMON’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” was published this summer.

 

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail