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.

 

 

More articles by:

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
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail