Saturday, September 02, 2006

The terror campaign

George Bush is making speeches around the country saying that the War on Terror is "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century." So here we have our President, a deeply thoughtless man, believing, or pretending to believe, as he reads the teleprompter and nods and smiles when it tells him to do so, that terrorism is a creed, like Communism.

But terrorism is a method, not a belief-system. Mr. Bush does not want to dwell on that fact. If you are an apologist for partisan murder you will quickly realize that you need to find a way to speak of terrorism as the other guy's murders, not your own. If terrorism is someone else's ideology, then by definition your own murders are, well, not terrorism. Thirty thousand+ civilian dead in our Iraq war are, by such definition, something else. (The better estimates are well over a hundred thousand civilian dead, but not even the most committed Neocon denies the 30,000 as a minimum figure. So let's use that.)

The trouble is, at this point it becomes very tricky to even use the word meaningfully. These 30,000 people were innocent of any crime. Some of them were killed by the civil war we have brought them. Some were killed directly by our own military actions. Very few were killed by our soldiers with the outright purpose of murdering civilians to terrify those who remained alive. Thus, by the terrorism-as-method standard rejected by our President, we have certainly killed far fewer civilians for terroristic purposes than Osama did, and, if nothing else, we could be exempted from accusations of terrorism.

But if terrorism is an ideology, our effort to exempt our own butchery, a butchery which springs from Republican ideology, seems, well, arbitrary. Any objective person who accepted Bush's definition but not his frame of reference, would have every reason to consider us far greater terrorists than Osama was, or is. By a factor of ten, at a minimum.

None of this enters into Mr. Bush's head. His motives are simple and his goals are clear. He reads his words. He relies on the public not to closely examine those words. Exactly like the al-Qaida terrorists he derives so much benefit from, Mr. Bush, under the tutelage of Karl Rove, is doing everything he can to further the seepage of fear through our population, and he does so for the simplest of reasons: it benefits the Republican Party, or at least it has up until now.

Every reflexive shudder of horror at the unfathomable wickedness of our adversary becomes a reflexive Republican vote, in Mr. Bush's view. It has worked for five years, and Karl Rove likes to stick with the tried-and-true.

I hope my optimism that the public is finally catching on to this is not premature. When the President and Don Rumsfeld go around the country insulting the 60% of Americans who now have some doubts about the Iraq war, you'd think the effect of this would not be to bring them back in the fold, but to drive them further out of it. We'll see, I guess.

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