Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The Devil's Bill

Yesterday’s shocking attacks had less to do with religious fanaticism than with a secular fundamentalism on our part which provokes acts of impotent (if spectacular) desperation in response. Predictably, root causes and the true nature of things will buried under a barrage of inflammatory invective against depraved and malignant “terrorists”. That much is to be expected. More troubling yet is my premonition that this already-announced “war on terror” will be used to undo what remains of civil liberty and stampede the populace into a police state.

At the outset, I think it is critical to avoid confusions between policies that have a true religious inspiration, policies that aim to enforce a religion and religion as an ‘inflammatory narcotic’ in the service of interests and policies that have non-religious motives and bases.

From what I can tell, Arab fundamentalists have no real desire to evangelize their religious beliefs and customs outside their own societies.  No doubt, the banner of The Prophet is often hoisted over a Pan-Arabist political and economic struggle that is regional in scope. But it is essential to take stock of what is afoot under the banner.  These so-called extremists do not hate the United States “for our way of life” but for our Government’s unilateral support of Israel and its imposition of client regimes that serve neo-liberal Western economic interests.

"The United States,” said Bin Ladin, “accustomed to acting in an ambience of arrogance, has today laid down a double standard. It wants to occupy our countries, rob us of our resources, impose agents to govern us insisting that we accept all of this even if it departs from what God has revealed as just and right. If we refuse to accept these unjust impositions, they brand us as terrorists.”

It is hardly news; but Bin Laden knows whereof he speaks.   The United States is as arrogant as it is powerful. Instead of applying itself to humanitarian ends, it pushes people around and feigns shock and indignation when they fight back. Indifferent both to their grievances and its own exploitative policies it disparages resistance as terrorism while engaging in its own ongoing wars of terror.

The greater part of so-called Islamic terrorism could have been avoided with even a bare modicum of balance in America’s Middle East policy.

In all events, this war against terrorism on which we embark today, like the war on drugs on which we embarked years ago, cannot be won. Today our politicians in all but chorus denounce the “heinous assault against civilization and freedom;” but just you wait, tomorrow they will palaver about the required “sacrifices” and “tools” needed to defend our homes and loved ones. What sacrifices? What tools? None other than the loss of the liberty supposedly defended.

This war is nothing that can be won with a handful of battles. On the contrary, it presupposes a continuous engagement. And who is the enemy? All Arabs? No.... not all.... The American militias? Perhaps, but not always. The Irish? At times. The Basque?  Could be. What the Government will have to presume is that everyone is at least a potential terrorist. In the most fundamental sense that is a presumption that is entirely antithetical to the concept of civil friendship, i.e., societas.

In present day England they have already mounted cameras on every corner in the country in order, it is said, to defend against IRA terrorism. But what this entails is that every movement anyone makes in public is made under the all seeing eye of the Command and Control Center. Worse yet, Control can zoom in and use high-def photography to snap, digitize and database your corneal imprint.

Such things are but the visible manifestation of what is in actuality a policio-military apparatus of espionage and control that is gradually being erected over us. Bit by bit, the denizens of this country have been led to accept incremental police measures, soothingly reassured at each step that -- the police being husbands and fathers themselves -- these powers will not be abused. Bit by bit, fear has been insinuated between government and the governed and, ultimately, between citizens and neighbors themselves. And, as always, fear goes shadowed with intolerance and hatred of anything different or unusual.

The most stupid thing about this new “war” is that the security it purports to achieve cannot be attained.   The problem presented by so-called terrorism is not the criminality of the act but the criminalization of the actor.  The difference between “lawful war” and “unlawful terrorism” is not that the former is in actual fact less terrorist, but that it occurs within a larger context of regularity and stability.  The unofficial terrorist, on the other hand, is like the ordinary criminal who, precisely because he is a nobody, has nothing to loose and is nowhere to be found.

To declare war against an unseen, amorphous, invisible enemy who is given no option other than implacable hate, is a gross stupidity which can only be explained by this country’s overweening arrogance and self-righteousness. For that pride the Devil will have to be paid.

©WCG, 2001

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