Monday, March 26, 2007

Culture of fear and terror

Once in a while, i read an article that sums up what I think of things. Here is one example of this, and how the Conservatives in the USA have helped foster and create a culture of fear. This is from the Sunday's Washington Post .

Terrorized by 'War on Terror'

How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sunday, March 25, 2007; Page B01

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

» Robert D. Novak | In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd "security checks" that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital -- and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is "to blow up the building"? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such "security" procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to "Report Suspicious Activity" (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror "experts" as "consultants" provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded "terrorists" as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as "terrorist apologists" who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America's reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some -- even U.S. citizens -- incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is the author most recently of "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower" (Basic Books).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Chavez does Barbara Walters

Tonight, I had a chance to catch part of the Hugo Chavez interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20. To sum things up, I was impressed. Hugo Chavez comes across in this piece as a progressive socialist, who wants to fix the world. He even quoted Martin Luther King's I had a dream speech in his message to the American people.

What really impressed me about the interview was Chavez talking about his passion for eradicating poverty around the world. The use of his country's oil money, not to line the coffers of shareholders, but to help out those less fortunate. Though i did like some parts of the interview, i would have preferred if it was more professional as descended into a Barbara Walters interview about trivial things.

Such trivial topics included
-how many coffee's Hugo has a day?
-what its like to meet Saddam Hussein?
-does he hate America?
-will he stop selling America oil?
-does he love his family?
-will he get married again?
and a few others.

Now, these were amusing at the time, but I would rather hear about the medical deal with Cuba rather than whether Hugo is a coffee addict. I would have also liked to hear if the Venezuelans are trying to act against the Monroe doctrine, in terms of their influence in Latin America.
The Venezuelan government has become a lender to other states in South America, using their oil wealth to influence other countries. Thats just a few thoughts on this, as I have been suffering from writers block. Its good to be back blogging.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Musing on the Americas......

I remember in 1999, at the Republican convention, Condoleeza Rice made a rousing foreign policy speech about America returning to her backyard, and staying away from anything outside our hemisphere to the standing ovation of the kool-aid drinking neo-cons.

Well, lets just say that she never received the memo about the Middle East then.

Finally, the Americans' have realized that Latin America is just south of Texas and Florida, and full of progressive politics, and progressive technology. To the dismay of the Ne0-cons, the region is full of independent left-leaning leaders who no longer bow at the feet of the IMF and World bank. The 20th century left Latin America at the mercy of these institutions, and forced dramatic and destructive economic policy on the region as a whole.

So now, the Americans see Latin America as an asset once more. The Bush administration is paying attention to a region it long neglected, as Chinese interests have moved into countries like Mexico and Brasil. The amount of Oil coming out of Latin America is also an issue to be explored.

But with the American follies in the middle east, comes contempt and lack of respect for what formally used to be a visit of Cesar to the provinces. It's bad politics anywhere (except Israel) to play up the relationship with the Bush Administration. So, lets see if the FTAA ideas get anywhere, more like nowhere.

Lets hope Bush and co. enjoy the frosty reception and realize taxing ethanol imports from Brazil to the tune of 40 cents a gallon will get them nowhere fast in terms of finding a non-Arab source of oil. Western hemisphere relations are very important, and I think the current Canadian government has no real strategy in dealing with anything south of Mexico.

That's just a few of my musings on that part of the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


March came in like a lion, and the OYL AGM didn't. Being my first and only AGM, for the Young Liberals, I found the experience, heavy on the partying, and too light on the actual work.

First off, I found that debate was stifled on the constitutional amendments. That the Unlimited slate were telling people how to vote, and that in general the people addressing the issues were in essence only paying lip service to the true spirit of democratic debate. I thought that debate should have allowed people to talk for more than 30 seconds, as most speakers barely had time to state their name and riding in an introduction. I just like open debate, and had very little interest in the amendments, as I officially age out of the Young Liberals in August.

Another interesting point I thought of, was the total conflict of interest, in which the regional coordinators were taking a stance on the accountability amendment. I personally was in favour of the amendment for the reason that anything involving further Liberal Party accountability is good. Plus, I think there should be an accountability component for all the OYL executive, so they can't just sit on their titles and do bugger all.

Thirdly, I did enjoy my regional meeting, and found that it was a good session that involved real issues and gave me a chance to actually complain about a few things. I found my outgoing central region coordinator be receptive, and our incoming coordinator has my ear. So all in all, I hope that this meeting leads to more teamwork within the central region.

This region has a lot of potential, as the 905 and surrounding is underutilized in terms of the amount of seats we should hold. We all have the same suburban issues in terms of organization and issues. The Central region young liberals should hopefully have some good events this year (before September).

All in all, it was an interesting experience, and I felt that there was some good work done. But there is so much room for improvement in the organization, I won't exactly hold my breath for anything truly innovative or revolutionary to come out of the OYL this year.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Progessive blogs!

I would like to thank Progressive Blogs for adding me to their Blogroll! Its really a progression of my blog to the next level. I would like to encourage you all to make progress comments on this blog also


Thursday, March 01, 2007

OYL AGM tomorrow....

I just confirmed some travel plans for the OYL AGM in Kingston this weekend. Due to the fact I work till 3pm, I found that a lot of people who haven't yet entered the work force will be there a bit earlier. This will be my first and last AGM with the Young Liberals. Maybe I should use my blog to endorse some candidates.....


I am going to have to be impressed, I don't like slates, as I find them undemocratic and lacking purpose in a single party. I also don't like how bloggers whore themselves out to endorse someone like they are really that important. Especially for volunteer positions, within the young Liberals. I have had a few beefs with their lack of action in the past. Now we can get new people who hopefully can put up a better front now.

Only time will tell.....