Bush counts on the war without end
mstainsby at tao.ca
Tue Feb 12 01:57:06 MST 2002
(it's things like these that make me willing to investigate who
did what on 9-11).
The Toronto Star February 5, 2002
Bush counts on the war without end
By Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star
The war against terrorism is a brilliant construct. It may not have been
started by George W. Bush, but it certainly works to his advantage.
It has provided oomph to the sagging U.S. economy and a new raison d'etre
for the alliance of politicos, defence contractors and security specialists
who make up what former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower christened the
What makes this war so superior, in political terms, is its vagueness. Since
the terrorist, by definition, can be anyone the man in the next apartment,
the person lurking on the subway platform we can never be sure who the enemy
is. More important, we can never know when we've won. As a result, this war
has the capacity to go on forever. It will be called off only when those in
charge choose to do so. And why would they?
Thanks to the war, Bush has been transformed from a figure of fun into a
national icon. Before Sept. 11, the U.S. president was viewed as a slightly
moronic frat boy mocked even on prime-time television. The very legitimacy
of his election was in question.
Now the frat boy is a war president, every patriotic American's
commander-in-chief. Those who mock Bush now - those who even dare criticize
him - do so at their peril.
For Bush, an end to the war against terrorism could spell political
disaster. Look what happened to his father. George Bush Sr. was an immensely
popular president when he was waging war against Iraq. But as soon as the
fighting stopped, his ratings tumbled. Without war to focus their attention,
Americans remembered why they disliked the elder Bush and threw him out of
the White House.
By contrast, Bush Jr. has discovered the perfect way to avoid his father's
fate war without end. The war against terror can go on indefinitely because,
unlike the Gulf War, or World War II or even the Cold War, it involves no
measurable criteria of success.
Is Afghanistan defeated and its former Taliban government in chains? No
matter, says U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Afghanistan is small
potatoes, the Taliban mere tools. The terrorists, we are told, live on. They
are everywhere, part of the international conspiracy known as Al Qaeda.
Yet even Al Qaeda escapes definition. Each time its alleged leaders are
identified, we are warned that more are hiding in the shadows. And whenever
the world's attention flags, a new discovery is made. A notebook found in a
bombed-out house in Kabul proves that Al Qaeda is planning a nuclear attack.
A videotape found in Singapore demonstrates that Al Qaeda is preparing
another terror bombing.
Luckily for us, these fanatic anti-modernists make plenty of videos. They
video each other plotting, video attack plans, video their dinner parties,
then leave the videos lying about.
Luckily also, they write down many of their schemes in English. In November,
for instance, journalists searching through a Kabul home said to be an Al
Qaeda training centre found hand-printed plans, in English, on how to
manufacture a multi-million-dollar, homemade stealth bomber.
Other reporters found jars of "foul smelling liquids" and notebooks filled
with equations, all of which were taken as evidence of an Al Qaeda germ
Even when the New York Times reported that the most well-publicized find
plans for the manufacture of a homemade nuclear bomb had probably been
cribbed from a hoax website, the thunder of fear and condemnation continued.
Not since novelist Ian Fleming invented SPECTRE, the shadowy force of evil
dedicated to eliminating 007 agent James Bond, has the world's imagination
been seized in quite the same way. Is there a rebellion in the Philippines?
Al Qaeda is responsible. A plot in Malaysia? Al Qaeda again.
Like Fleming's SPECTRE, Al Qaeda has access to unlimited funds. Its leaders,
like the villains of Bond movies, live in vast underground complexes staffed
by fanatical minions.
Even the occasional intervention of reality has no effect. In Afghanistan,
the underground complexes turn out to be cramped, primitive caves rather
than sumptuous subterranean cities. No matter. All it proves is that the
real Al Qaeda headquarters are somewhere else perhaps Yemen or Somalia.
In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, the enemy of the state is
personified in Emmanuel Goldstein. Goldstein is the Osama bin Laden figure
of the novel, an elusive figure who is never seen, never captured but
believed by all patriotic citizens of Oceania (Orwell's fictitious state, an
amalgamation of North America and Europe) to be an evil genius bent on their
Since Goldstein is never captured, Oceania's battle against him must never
cease. Sometime it wages war on one country said to be aiding the nefarious
Goldstein, sometimes on another. The battleground may change but the war
never ends. It cannot. The government's very existence depends upon it.
In the contradiction lies the hope.
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