Propaganda, hysteria, ultra-violence and imperialism, as usual
“A people unaware of its myths is likely to continue living by them.”
– Richard Slotkin
Frankly, to even mention terrorism without putting it into context, is irresponsible in the extreme. It indicates, either a profound ignorance of history and what is happening in the world, or a profound lack of honesty and moral courage. So we will not deal in commentary and “analysis” by way of sound-bites and jingoism. (We are not news readers, but news makers, not sheep or pawns, but collective world-shapers.) In stark contrast to the ever plummeting norms of Western journalism, academia and political “leadership”, we will instead ask the deeper questions that need to be asked. That is the only way, in this or any other subject, that any clarity, and hence, any effective response, is at all possible. Otherwise, we are simply flapping our gums wildly, and parroting what we have been told (or scripted to say) and nothing good will come of it.
Our response to the horrors of terrorism is not only a moral question, but also a strategic one. If, in our rage, our fear, and our pain, we seek to destroy the terrorists, we should not go about it in ways that also destroy ourselves. But that is precisely what we are doing. Worse, we are destroying the foundations of our civilization, in the attacks on human rights, civil liberties, equality, democracy and freedom, while sowing even greater suffering and misery for both ourselves and others, and increasing the volatility, danger and instability in the world, and while further inflaming and escalating the levels of terrorism world-wide. These are the actions of madmen, not leaders. This is patently insane.
Bombing for peace is a failed strategy, both morally and also in terms of its results, as Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other examples should have taught us by now. But we are repeating the mistakes of history gleefully, like Pavlov’s dogs reacting to the sound of a bell, and we wonder why the violence in the world keeps rising, and the world becomes more unstable and dangerous, and not less.
The war-mongers like to talk about “bombing them into the stone age” – well here is news: we are bombing ourselves into the stone age. Our response to terror has been terrifying and terrible – that is, terribly insane and counter-productive. But we seem intent, and hell-bent even, upon repeating the same failed strategies, presumably, until we destroy every shred of our civilization, or at least all of the best and most noble parts and foundations of it: such as our freedom, our civil liberties, our democracy, our human rights, and our very humanity.
Bravo for Dr. Strangelove. He is in power in Washington, London and Paris, and in many other nations as well, and the world is in a horrible state precisely because of it.
I have been too horrified by the predictably violent and insane reaction of the Western powers to the violent and insane attacks in Paris to delve deeply into them until now; but I have been watching the global trends closely since 9/11, and long before, and I knew immediately what direction and what response the West would take. We are moving rapidly in precisely the wrong direction.
We are confronting a man with a flame-thrower, and our response is to throw gasoline on him, and immolate ourselves as well as our adversary in the process. This is hardly intelligent behaviour. This is categorically insane.
Our patterned response of bombing for peace is predictably disastrous, and everyone who has any sense of history or recent events knows it, or should know it, very well. We are not only shooting ourselves in the foot – we are burning ourselves to the ground.
A very thoughtful friend, commenting on the attacks on Paris, summed it up this way. Civil liberties and freedom are dead in France – and if they are dead in France, they are dead in Europe and the Western world. This is far more ominous than even the most heinous of terrorist attacks – this is the destruction of our civilization, by our own hands.
But let’s get right to the heart of the matter, shall we? We bemoan terrorist attacks in Paris, but commit our own terrorist attacks on a weekly basis: with routine drone strikes, extrajudicial summary executions and kill lists, and by routine “regime changes” – that is, coups – along with mass bombings of civilian populations. This is disgusting behaviour, and hypocritical in the extreme, but typical of those presently in power, and the majority of those that have been in power in most nations for a very long time. And of course, such heinous and extreme acts of violence on our part, not only fail to halt terrorism, but in fact further inflame it.
Real change is needed, and urgently so. And it will not come from bombing campaigns, but from democratic revolution – at home.
Terrorism is always horrific and cowardly – so we should stop participating in it, and stop funding it; and stop pretending that bombing civilians is a reasonable response to the bombing of civilians, or that our response is anything other than another, and larger form of terrorism.
“It’s not a pretty picture of western humanity in crisis. Narcissism is not a wholesome trait. The West feels righteous in bombing; it doesn’t seem to know what else to do.”
– John Grant, Learning How Not To Rule The World, November 17, 2015
“French delusions aside, pitiless counterism is a stupid doctrine. If an insane person attacks a town, the answer is not for the entire town to become insane. If one hundred persons are killed, the remedy is not to kill a hundred thousand people. If a building is razed, the solution is not to erase an entire village. Firing bullets to alleviate pain is quack medicine. Sometimes, absorbing pain is indispensable for restoring well-being. Sometimes, even a proportionate counterforce is counterproductive. Wisdom has rarely been the forte of the war-addicted West.
Two eyes for one eye and all teeth for one tooth is the manual of sick minds. The human species cannot be surrendered to vengeful masters of any race, religion, or national anthem. We need no fiends to show us the way.”
– L. Ali Khan, Sick Over-Reactions to Islamic Terrorism, CounterPunch, November 19, 2015
“It is a cliché, of course, but there is no doubt about its truthfulness: for every terrorist we kill, ten others take his place.
Unsurprisingly, the agitators now beat the drum of war more than ever before. They argue for more violence, ‘until the last terrorist is eliminated.’ But the last terrorist is a fiction; the system will always breed new ones.
September 11, 2001 has changed our world in many ways. Above anything else, it brought to the fore questions of what governments can and must do in order to prevent acts of violence. Answers were given, but they were the wrong answers. Limitless spying and surveillance of people, torture and imprisonment in Guantánamo and other places, such as secret prisons, and the unlawful drone killing operations led to the dismantling of the rule of law and our constitutional rights and liberties on a scale that was considered unimaginable and impossible thirty years ago.”
– Heiner Flassbeck, The Attacks in Paris and Our Responsibility to Work Toward an Open and Tolerant Society, CounterPunch, November 19, 2015
“Just as America learned to distinguish between nationalism and Communism in Vietnam, so it will need to learn the difference between nationalism and terrorism in the post 9/11 world. To win the fight against terrorism requires accepting that the world has changed, that the old colonialism is no more and will not return, and that to occupy foreign places will be expensive, in lives and money. America cannot occupy the world. It has to learn to live in it.”
– Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror
“There are two ways to do this [that is, to learn how to live in the world, and to respond intelligently, and not stupidly, to terrorism]. One, as in Vietnam, we can follow the tired old Rudy Guilianis and the young, energetic Marco Rubios and pursue a very costly 21st century military conflagration in which all parties fall prey to a learning curve that begins with terrorist acts like Paris and a relentlessly vengeful imperial reaction. Decades hence, after a great many dead and much destruction, Mamdani’s lesson will become fact for those who survive. And people will write books — like they do about World War One — on how tragically stuck in the past world leadership was circa 2015.”
– John Grant, Learning How Not To Rule The World
In our extremely short-sighted, and starkly delusional, militaristic response, we are invoking the worst and most disastrous of policies, both foreign and domestic. This alone should be enough to make us radically re-think and re-evaluate our actions, our utterly failed strategies, and our utterly failed response. But if we are to truly understand what is going on in the world, post 9/11, then we must look even deeper than this.
While Washington and its criminally complicit and morally bankrupt allies in Paris and London continue to undermine democracy and freedom around the world with covert and overt imperial warfare, as well as economic and financial terrorism (see Chomsky, Chossudovsky, Celente, Max Keiser and Paul Craig Roberts), they continue to support the neoliberal, neo-feudal imperial agenda of the corporate elite who rule the US, the EU and most of the globe. And while terrorism is real, and despicable, the “war on terror” is primarily a distraction, designed to keep the people looking elsewhere, while their nations, their rights, their freedoms, their civil liberties, their environment, their communities and their lands, their treasuries, and their futures, are systematically looted and destroyed by a rapacious and predatory corporate oligarchy, who despise democracy and care only about their own power, wealth and self-aggrandizement. This is the central fact of the matter, for all who care to see.
As Ralph Nader has said, the creeping corporate coup represents the biggest power-grab in history – and the people are being distracted from this most pressing and most threatening reality, by any means necessary or expedient. The shrill cry of terrorism just happens to be most expedient at the moment.
As Orwell knew, perpetual war is necessary for perpetual tyranny, for the people must be distracted from the real enemy at home, by a lesser enemy, or if necessary, a manufactured enemy, abroad.
(ISIS are gnats compared to the giant US military-industrial complex and its global reach, or compared with the predatory evil of Monsanto, or the giant vampire squid of Goldman Sachs, as Matt Taibbi accurately and graphically portrayed that company, to make just two comparisons from the ruling corporate elite, and a note as to their chief hired thug, which is the US military and intelligence apparatus. But hysteria and propaganda have so gripped the minds of the majority that, for the moment at least, they cannot possibly assess the dangers and threats in any remotely realistic fashion.)
The “war on terror” is the smoke screen and pretext, the justification and the cover, for on-going wars of conquest and empire abroad, and for a war on democracy and freedom, both globally and also at home.
The “war on terror” propaganda and cover must be revealed for what it is: a pretext for ruthless global hegemony and violent domination by the currently reigning corporate elite and their political servants, or prostitutes, in high office.
But if we insist on focusing on the (of course) very ugly, very horrible reality of “their” terrorism, and not our own, which dwarfs theirs many times over, then let’s at least try to deal with reality. As US intelligence agencies made clear before the invasion, occupation and mass bombing of Iraq, such actions of mass bombings, occupation and military intervention in response to terrorism (or so it was claimed to be the motive) will only increase terrorism. And this prediction proved to be entirely correct, as was absolutely predictable. Mass bombings tend to create hatred, and that fuels terrorism. You do not fight terrorism by fuelling terrorism. That much should be clear. Let us try to learn from history, shall we? Or do we wish to be forever doomed to repeat it?
“To repeat the same actions, expecting different results, is the very definition of insanity.”
– Albert Einstein
If we truly wish to deal with terrorism, and to reduce it, we will first have to begin by dealing with reality, and cease to flee ever more deeply into fantasy and delusion. That is step one. We can do nothing but harm ourselves, as well as others, until this most critical step is taken; and that will require the moral courage to look into the mirror, and to listen to the teachings and experience of history, rather than ceding our power to the dark forces of fear, vengeance and hate, and to habitual responses which have been proven to bring nothing but failure and mutual destruction.
Presently, we seem to have learned nothing from history, and so, to paraphrase Goethe, we are living hand to mouth, and worse, are sowing our own destruction. Clearly, we need to reflect deeply, and re-think our current presumptions, because every time we repeat the mistakes of history, the stakes grow higher and higher.
J. Todd Ring,
November 20, 2015
For further details and analysis see my recent articles:
Reality Check, and, Danger and Delusion: From ISIS To Ebola