Monday, February 15, 2010
Hold Onto Your Underwear
Hold Onto Your Underwear by Tom Engelhardt
One of my favorite thinker/writers, Tom Engelhardt makes a great case that, basically, all we have to fear is fear itself.
He puts into context the actual history of the results of the terrorism everyone is so afraid of - versus what has actually happened, and the point he's making is extremely clear: we've been duped.
There is a giant caveat, though. There is a very real threat that can't be countered by Tom's excellent analysis: biological weapons. A handful of strategically placed terrorists armed with nothing more then vials and a carefully planned attack has the potential to make 9/11 or even Hiroshima look like a warm-up exercise.
But we can't connect the dots between the perceived and the real threat, so we spend mountains and mountains of money protecting airplanes and we willingly give up huge chunks of our civil rights - to show how paranoid we really are and how quite willing we are spend our hard earned money on protection schemes, even if everyone knows that each new protection only further depletes our freedoms. Full body searches, Internet, computer and communications taping, road blocks, helicopters overhead and every other initiative in the war on terror have cost us dearly in money and quality of live and civil rights.
The barons at the top of the "news" chain, the few who control it's overall editorial Big Messages of the day (selecting the topics we talk about and those we don't) love the fear factor. At the very least it sells newspapers and keeps people glued to the TV screen in proportion to the degree of fear they're able to puff given any situation.
So here we have a situation where people have been whipped into fear frenzies over and over, spending their homes, savings, retirements in any and every effort to fight the war on terror. If it looks good, we pay for it. And in the background, we have the media barons stoking the next reason to keep the fear going.
So we're in a frenzy, with the "news" fanning the flames every time someone farts in our name. Tom Engelhardt's analysis is spot on, and now, after some 9 years, we have people like Tom talking noticing what he talks about in this article.
Here's the crazy part: we should be afraid, after all. But not because airplanes might be vulnerable against some new form of attack. Maybe someone (or a hundred someones) with a grudge and a shoulder fired missile is waiting behind thin veneers of roofs in buildings near runways, to be next in line?
Is that the threat we should be worried about today? Will something like this become the next 9/11? The attack everyone has been waiting for?
Whether this or some other scenario is actually played out only time will tell. Tom is saying that we've way overplayed the 9/11 hand, and he's totally right. People are afraid of the wrong things, and the "news" is throwing gasoline all over every fire.
Okay, what's the real threat? What is something we should be so afraid of that, if we were aware of it we would actually re-think our whole approach to foreign policy and the terrorism it has spawned (like it or not, believe it or not, the terrorists have reasons for hating us, not the least of which is that we have allowed key ingredients of concepts like justice and freedom to be put aside).
The real threat is something like a biological weapon.
We know what the plague did to Europe centuries ago, and we know what anthrax did here only a few short years ago. Some have read stories about the weapons that scientists have created in labs on all sides in the name of defense. We kinda know these weapons exist and are, for national security purposes, the most hush-hush of all. We remember the breakup of the Soviet Union and the possibility of their vast supply of terrible biological weapons being sold to, essentially, the highest bidder. We've seen what, apparently was just one, disgruntled person in one of our own labs can accomplish.
We've seen the numbers of our enemies grow exponentially after the invasion and theft of control over their land from Palestine to Iraq and others in progress to satisfy our rulers lust for authority in the region. We've also seen that our enemy has no problem at all recruiting people willing to sacrifice their lives for their cause.
Now let's assume that it would only take from ten to a hundred people, each with a vial or two, strategically placed in locations throughout America, with instructions to break the glass all at once at a certain time.
Boom. There goes all the money and civil rights you've given away in the name of security, and there goes our last hope for peace on this planet in our lifetime. The Neocon gang, maybe with a new name, and their media baron friends will seize the moment to whip the people into the biggest frenzy of all time, and they will relish every minute of it.
Of course they will have us retaliate, because that's how they think. They wouldn't outright call it an eye for an eye, they'll have a new catch phrase that spins the same concept in a brand new way. Whatever the words used, you can count on this: the response will not be to turn the other cheek.
So, we have the perceived threat, which we've spent our wad on, and Tom's article pointing out the folly of it all. But Tom leaves it at that, when he should go on to the next step in the progression: the real threat.
Imagine that there are biological weapons in vials that can be carried by individuals into a densely populated areas of several cities, with instructions to wait for a diversionary event, which the media barons are dispensing on a regular basis to sell newspapers. But a blizzard or hurricane would work. Just so long as they wouldn't be noticed as the go where they are instructed to go.
Do such weapons exist? Yes.
Are there people who would gladly die to deliver them? Yes.
Are there thousands of miles of porous borders into the US? Yes.
I could go on with this list, but I'll jump to the part where we realize that the more killing and destruction we rain on people, the more likely this will happen.
What to do?
How about we put Bush on trail for murder, and let that begin the process of unraveling the power structure who took control of American foreign policy and our information supply, and got us into this mess in the first place?
How about we transform our military into a giant Peace Corps dedicated to wiping out the scourges of mankind? How about we work very hard to make amends with the millions of people we have delivered so much misery into the lives of?
How about we make friends instead of enemies? Novel concept, huh? I can hear them laughing at me because I don't understand anything.