Thursday, October 06, 2005

No act of ours invited the rage of the killers

This morning Bush gave what was billed as a major speech on The War Against Terror (TWAT), which turned out to be yet another attempt to redefine the enemy, to make terrorism more scary than if it were simply, well, terrorism, and to declare a counter-jihad. Shortly after 9/11 he got into trouble for using the word crusade. Now he’s trying to declare a crusade by the back door: it is a crusade, but they started it, he’s saying. He even used the obnoxious term Islamofascism, I think for the first time.

The speech attempted to construct an image of terrorists and terrorist acts as rational, part of a long-term strategy, “evil, but not insane.” “All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random and isolated acts of madness,” but they are not random he says, they are an attempt, using tactics “consistent for a quarter-century,” to create a “totalitarian empire” from Spain (Spain? are the Moors coming back?) to Indonesia, sort of like the Ottoman Empire (which he’s probably never heard of). Bush’s military have never been happy about fighting an enemy without a geographic basis, haven’t known how to do it, which is why the immediate response to 9/11 was to go after a nation, Afghanistan, whose government, while nasty, had only a peripheral relationship to it, and why Rumsfeld’s immediate reaction was to start planning to invade Iraq, which had no relationship to it. So now Bush is creating a fictional geographically based enemy. “They” want to force the US out of the broader Middle East, then “use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country,” you know, any old country, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Venezuela, Liechtenstein, whatever, and spread outwards like, I don’t know, dominos, to create this, oh call it the Bin Laden Empire since he seems to be speaking the Dread One’s name again, for some reason no longer embarrassed by the failure to capture him. The name Bush can’t mention any more is Saddam Hussein’s, since he can’t acknowledge that the most dangerous, terrorist-friendly vacuum is the one caused by Hussein’s removal from power and the introduction of an American presence.

Bush rhetorically positions the terrorists as non-human, engaged in a “war against humanity.”

Just as during the Cold War the belief in a monolithic enemy enabled Americans to ignore local conditions and history and to paint Khrushchev, Mao, the Viet Minh, the Parti communiste fran├žais, etc etc as identical, Bush justifies, even demands, a similar ignorance today. “The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution.” Since local and national grievances are only excuses used by people who are really advancing the cause of the Neo-Ottoman Empire, we can dismiss those grievances from our thoughts. Indeed, we can dismiss them with all the contempt inherent in those phrases “culture of victimization” and “someone else is always to blame,” phrases which demonstrate once again the inability of the rich and powerful to empathize with those who are neither. Thus, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the American military presence in Saudi Arabia, etc, are merely a “litany of excuses for violence,” not real grievances. “No act of ours invited the rage of the killers,” he says, and if that isn’t the culture of victimization in which someone else is always to blame, I don’t know what is.

Deploying even greater irony and lack of self-awareness, Bush goes on to disparage bin Laden as a rich kid “who grew up in wealth and privilege” [Kennebunkport], who now tells poor Muslims what is good for them [“[our] beliefs... are right and true in every land, and in every culture.”], “though he never offers to go along for the ride.” [Texas Air National Guard]. “[T]hey wish to make everyone powerless except themselves.” Pot, kettle, black.

Indeed, while he insisted that despite its petty disagreements Iraq is a perfectly healthy democracy because “that’s the essence of democracy: making your case, debating with those who you disagree, who disagree, building consensus by persuasion,” this is the man who ran scared from Cindy Sheehan.

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