Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Problem(s) With Poorly Chosen Words

On Thursday, August 10, I awoke to the news that British intelligence had successfully foiled an Al Qaeda plot to blow up multiple flights traveling from the U.K. to the U.S. The British are to be commended for their excellent work in thwarting this plot and in saving lives. It wasn't long before President Bush was on CNN commenting on the situation and offering a telling and incorrect assessment of the issue.

"(The plot is) a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation".

There are several problems with the President's statement, problems that both incorrectly frame the issue and which frankly, exacerbate it:

  • We are not at war with Islam.
  • We are not at war with fascists.
  • We are not at war at all.
  • They do not wish to destroy us because we love freedom.

Issue One: We are not at war with Islam

While the individuals who we are fighting are in fact radical practitioners of Islam, it is irresponsible and dangerous to characterise this as a war with Islam. By doing so, the President shows just how deeply he doesn't understand the history of Christianity, Islam and the Crusades. He doesn't understand that some of the animosities and issues go back 1,200 years. By intentionally using the word "Islamic" in his statement the President seeks to galvanize Americans and demonize a group. It was a tactic very successfully used by governments that WERE fascist most notably Nazi Germany. In 1939, Adolf Hitler had this to say about the Jews:

if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

See any parallels?

Issue Two: We are not at war with fascists

It's easy to throw terms such as fascist around, but how many people can actually define it? That's the whole point, of course, so here's the Webster definition.

Fascism Defined:

Philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent.

Let's see, in order to be a fascist you must promote the primacy of the state over individual rights. OK, I might characterise the Taliban as fascist and they certainly were fundamentalists. However, Mr. Bush might want to take a good hard look in the mirror. It could well be argued that a government that spies on the communications of its own citizens without obtaining warrants, which holds people in detention without charges, that has no quibble with using torture has also eased on down the fascist road. And while he's at it, the President might do well to take a look at some of the nations that we are friendly with, most notably Saudi Arabia. Hmm....

Al Qaeda is most certainly a terrorist organization, in other words, a political organisation that uses violence to achieve a political goal. But fascist, no.

Issue Three: We are not at war at all.

As I pointed out in a previous post, saying that we are engaged in a war on terror is incorrect. Terrorism is a technique and a concept. You can declare war on a nation, but you can not declare war on a concept. We went to war against Afghanistan because their government harboured terrorists. That was a military situation. Once the Taliban was overthrown, we fought terrorism in Afghanistan. That is now a law enforcement issue.

The distinction is important. Not only should wars be rare, but they should have definable enemies, outcomes and benchmarks. The "war on terror" has few of those aspects.

Issue Four: They do not wish to destroy us because we love freedom.

I challenge the President to find me one verifiable quote from any major Al Qaeda leader stating that the reason for 9/11 or any of the other terrorist attacks of which they have been a part is due to the fact that they hate our freedom (or because we love freedom). This is not about hating freedom. This is about a feeling of oppression. In a 2004 tape believed by the Bush Administration to be authentic, bin Ladin was quoted as saying, "We fought you because we are free ... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours." He stated, "While I was looking at these destroyed towers in Lebanon, it sparked in my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women,"

There is no amount of persuasion that will ever make me accept 9/11 as a justifiable response to political disenfranchisement. However, it's damn time that our President and our government stop trying to stoke nationalistic fires and begin to understand the history and roots of these problems.

Pithy statements such as the one George Bush made on Thursday may fire up the Republican base in an election year. They will likely lead to the increased suppression of individual liberties. They probably will lead to more war and a large number of both military and civilian casualties.

But they will never, under any circumstances whatsoever, advance the cause of peace.


Blogger Rick said...

And now it has been learned that there is an American thumbprint on the slaughter of innocents in Lebanon by Israel (I have info on this on my blog). Great...another reason for the rest of the world to hate us.

Dubya is determined to wreck the credibility of the United States and ruin our military. As we sit here blogging, this administration is preparing for war with Iran.

It's a sad day when the Iranian president shows up on "60 Minutes" making more sense than the President of the United States. *sigh*

Hope you are well, John!

2:26 PM  

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