Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Political Sleight of Hand

In this "post-9/11" world, terrorists are indeed plotting to destroy the US and the Middle East is filled with people thinking up ways to destroy Israel and any and all Jews that walk the Earth. Having said that, the fact is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There's little, if any, disparity between today's quasi-nuclear post Cold War fear of Islamic extemism than there was, say, in the early 1980's when a different yet equally facsist, ultra-nationalistic religious whacko headed Iran. Suicide bombers marched with hoods and suicide belts, brandishing AK-47's and rocket and missile launchers and chanted and prayed for the destruction of the US and Israel -- just as they do now, only then they didn't have internet access, broadcast capabilities and cheap, Japanese- and Korean-made vid-cams with which to do so.

The same thing is happening today, and the only difference is that instead of the potential to obtain high-end explosives like C-4 and Semtex, terrorists may one day obtain and use nuclear-based weapons. True, that's a big if, but the bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that as technology improves, that improvement benefits those who wish to kill on a mass scale as much as, if not moreso, those intent on preventing that from happening.

So each and every time I encounter that "post 9/11 world" phrase, I bristle on some subconscious level, if only because it suggests that the world, on that day, suddenly became aware of the capabilities and the extreme fervor spouting from that part of the world. On some level, I believe many in the West use the post 9/11 tag to describe a much more dangerous world; as I indicated above, I think that depiction, and that assumption, is foolish and incorrect. The world has always been dangerous, at least as long as there have been armies of brainwashed, uneducated, religious zealot low-life peasants pledging to die so they can achieve martyrdom and win their families the equivalent of $10,000 in post-martyr reward. In truth, those who describe our world in post-9/11 terminology to suggest merely that we now have witnessed a major attack on Western soil are probably a lot closer to getting it right.

The truth is, neither is really accurate in any particular sense; 9/11, to many, marked the change from ignoring the mission of Islamic extremists, regarding it as something to be concerned about only in terms of Europe or the Middle East. And of course, 9/11 demonstrated that that misplaced, distant worry should be amped up somewhat, if not a lot. So on some level, that term has some relevance. But mainly, when I hear some ultra-coiffed, empty-headed newscaster toss that term into the mix with as much alacrity and thought as a story about the extreme weather in North Dakota, it makes me wonder whether there is someone running the show -- whether at CNN, Fox News, or The White House -- whose sole job it is to keep America pacified and content rather than edgy, concerned, thoughtful and involved. The 9/11 stories we seem to hear most about focus either on Ground Zero and Larry Silverstein and the other major players in the redevelopment of the location or about the Bush Administration's failure to bury the constantly-spawning insurgency that claims more and more soldiers' lives each day. Rarely do they meaningfully explore what needs to be done to prevent attacks of equal or greater severity from happening again. Granted, a lot of that stuff remains behind closed doors, and it should; however, if guys like Thomas Friedman can narrow it down in two columns of text on a page in The New York Times with regularity, you'd think someone from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or Fox would get the hint. Disposable, sensational, ineffective, and moronic journalism have as much use as toilet tissue manufactured from sandpaper, and -- in my opinion, at least -- are less desireable.

Basically, it comes down to this: we ignore what's happening behind the closed doors in Iran, Syria, and even parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We focus on the daily body count of American soldiers killed the prior day or the prior week, or we focus on something stupid uttered by George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld or one of their missives. We lament the nation's CEO, bemoan the absence of Dick Cheney (or question it), and we bitch and moan and point our fingers at what's on our plate rather than question what's being left off it.

Until we acknowledge and change the fact that we're looking under the wrong shell for the pea, so to speak, this behavior -- and the behavior of those far beyond our borders -- will continue. As long as we repeat the same patterns, we can't pretend to not understand why others in this "post-9/11" world are doing the same.
"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government."
- Thomas Jefferson

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