Americans of late like to think of themselves as a particularly brave and patriotic breed. But is that really an accurate assessment of the qualities that we, as citizens of this nation, have exhibited since September 11?
By “we,” I am referring here to the purported 90% of Americans who think that George Bush is doing a dandy job of waging his ‘War on Terrorism.’ That, of course, assumes that the results of public opinion polls reported by the U.S. media are any more credible than the rest of the swill that the press tries to pass off as ‘news.’
Although the actual percentage is likely considerably lower than 90%, there are without question a sizable number of Americans who have wholeheartedly lined up behind our intellectually challenged commander-in-chief in response to the ‘terrorist’ attacks. And that, as far as I can see, makes us not a nation of heroes, but a nation of cowards.
We are cowards because we have chosen to follow the path of least resistance – blindly accepting the blatant lies that Washington and the media have disseminated since the September 11 attacks. Following that course requires no independent thought and, more importantly, causes none of what psychologists like to call ‘cognitive dissonance.’
Cognitive dissonance occurs when we are unable to integrate a new bit of information into our existing belief structure because the new information challenges or directly contradicts one of our most cherished beliefs. It can be the source of extreme psychological discomfort, for it can force us into the uncomfortable position of having to reevaluate some of our core beliefs about how the world operates and what roles are played by the various actors on the global stage.
It is, of course, far easier to simply discredit the source of the offending information, thereby making it a rather simple task to just toss out the new, incongruous facts and blithely proceed along in a Prozac-aided state of virtual consciousness.
For an American raised on a steady diet of propaganda painting the United States as a benevolent giant – a model to the world of those cherished principles of freedom, equality and justice – confronting evidence that tends to indicate that our esteemed leaders were directly complicit in the slaughter of some 3,000 native sons and daughters as a staged provocation to justify a long-planned war and mount a long-planned frontal assault on civil liberties … now that’s something that would likely evoke a considerable amount of cognitive dissonance.
How then to resolve the mental conflict? A simple task really … just deny, deny, deny. Deny that the source of the information has any validity whatsoever. Denounce the bearer of the news as a propagandist for the ‘enemy.’ Better yet, deny yourself the opportunity to even be exposed to the offending facts, pretending as though they weren’t readily available to anyone with an Internet connection and the desire to seek out the truth.
And whatever else you do, don’t ask any questions which might yield answers that you don’t want to hear. Choose instead to look away, to shield your eyes from the true evil that surrounds you, lest you be forced to reevaluate your basic conception of what America really stands for.
Don’t ask, for example, how it is that our intelligence community – far and away the largest and most insidious the world has ever seen – was so thoroughly caught with its pants down. And don’t stop to ponder that there were in fact numerous warnings that were received and seemingly deliberately ignored – as has been reported in various avenues of the press, most recently by the San Francisco Chronicle (Philip Shenon “FBI Ignored Attack Warning: Flight Instructor Told Agency of Terror Suspect’s Plan,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 22, 2001).
It is probably best that you also not ask why the nation with the world’s most advanced air defense system, with fighter jets on constant alert capable of being scrambled to any sensitive location within the U.S. in minutes, failed to respond in any way throughout the entire time that the attacks were in progress – giving the impression that an order to ‘stand down’ had been issued at a very high level.
It would likewise be best to disregard and/or deny the validity of the numerous media reports documenting the extensive connections between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. Don’t ask about Osama’s brother helping to finance George, Jr.’s Arbusto Energy enterprise in Texas (and soon after dying in a private plane crash there), or about George, Sr.’s visits to the bin Laden complex in Saudi Arabia, or his close ties to the family through the Carlyle Group.
And pay no attention to those reports stating that Osama has long served as an asset of our CIA, doing America’s bidding against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and later assisting in the recruiting, arming, funding and training of the KLA – whom our State Department can’t seem to decide whether to classify as ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters.’ And definitely don’t ask why it was that a CIA official visited with bin Laden in a Dubai hospital room in July of 2001, just weeks before the attacks and long after Osama was allegedly considered one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.
Also avoid any questions concerning how the liars in Washington can claim that bin Laden has long been estranged from his family and yet simultaneously boast that our illustrious intelligence community has tapes of his private telephone calls to his mother. And, it should go without saying, don’t spend any wasted time wondering how it is that while our spooks have the capability to covertly intercept his communications, they nevertheless failed to glean any hint of the alleged planning that bin Laden was doing in preparation for the attacks.
Don’t ask how it is that – when imploding a building is such a highly technical process, requiring both extensive planning and knowledge gained through decades of experience to insure that the building is successfully reduced to rubble that all falls precisely into the structure’s ‘footprint,’ that there are only a handful of companies qualified to perform this type of demolition work – a band of ‘terrorists’ was able to replicate this rather amazing feat not just once, but twice – and simply by having a commercial jet strike the two towers at essentially random points.
A building being professionally imploded
It is also best, so as not to disturb one’s mental slumber, if you don’t ask why it is that – when almost all of the alleged hijacking suspects were Saudi nationals trained in Germany and the United States – it is the largely defenseless population of Afghanistan that is under siege. Or how it is that a pilot supposedly trained in a third-rate puddle-jumping school was able to, according to eyewitnesses, masterfully perform a complex aeronautic maneuver just before crashing into the Pentagon.
And speaking of the Pentagon, other questions best left unasked include how it is that a plane known to have been hijacked can penetrate the world’s most tightly controlled airspace without drawing any hint of anti-aircraft fire, and how it is that a surprise explosion and fire can take out a large portion of the military’s nerve center without killing or injuring any military leaders of any consequence.
If confronted with evidence of massive insider trading in the days immediately preceding the attacks on America – trading that clearly indicated advance knowledge of the precise nature of the impending attacks – denounce the publication of such information as indicative of the ‘liberal’ bias of the media – even if the purveyor of the information was the unabashedly fascistic Wall Street Journal.
And, finally, don’t ask why it is that even as our fearless leaders scramble about desperately attempting to fabricate evidence to justify the assault on the Afghan people after the fact – such as placing an obvious CIA plant, who appears to be the only foreign Taliban POW to miraculously survive the bloodbath at Jala-i-Qanghi prison, among the Taliban prisoners; or presenting a grainy, out-of-focus, and almost completely inaudible videotape of unknown origin as supposedly unimpeachable ‘proof’ of bin Laden’s complicity – there still has not been to this day a single shred of verifiable evidence released to the American people that existed before the bombings began.
We shouldn’t ask those sorts of questions because we very likely won’t like the answers that we get (assuming that we could actually get any straight answers to such questions). And confronting the truth about America’s role in the world, and about the true nature of the most fundamentally corrupt government on the face of the earth, requires something that is sadly lacking in this country – real courage.
So instead we choose to live in a state of deep denial, choosing not to rock our little boats – even as they are already rapidly taking on water – and choosing not to face up to the inescapable fact that the problems facing this country are too profound, and too deeply ingrained, to be fixed at the ballot box or through signing petitions or through endless letters written to our elected (and unelected) representatives.
The very real and very urgent problems that we collectively face, as a nation and as a people, did not arrive with the illegitimate Bush administration and won’t leave with him when his term expires (assuming, that is, that he plans to leave at some point in the near future). America has been steadily devolving into an overt police state for quite some time now. We have maintained a permanent wartime economy for decades, engaging in illegal and grotesquely immoral acts of war against anyone who stands in the way of U.S. global hegemony.
The assault on civil liberties and human rights may well have been stepped-up a notch or two, but that is, as anyone who has been paying attention is surely aware, simply a natural progression of the policies of Bush’s predecessors in the White House – as is the no-longer concealed attack on the rights of immigrants. The institution of an Orwellian surveillance state is also nothing new, but rather has been steadily progressing through several administrations.
The purported loosening of the restraints on the CIA and the FBI are really just a matter of openly acknowledging and codifying what has been U.S. policy since the inception of these abhorrent organizations. The CIA always has, and always will engage in assassinations, the recruitment of criminal elements, and domestic spying operations (not to mention drug trafficking, the violent overthrow of democratically elected governments, and various other nefarious pursuits).
It makes absolutely no difference whether the White House is occupied by an administration identifying itself as Republican or Democrat, or whether the majority party in Congress chooses to place either of those labels on itself – as was evidenced most recently when Senator Jeffords’ much-ballyhooed ‘defection’ resulted in exactly no change in the agenda being pursued. Despite what the Washington propaganda mill would have you believe, it is not simply due to the fact that “everything changed” on September 11 that there has been an overwhelmingly ‘bipartisan’ consensus to enact the flurry of reactionary legislative measures that we have seen in the last few months.
The truth is that neither ‘party’ has any legitimacy, and neither of them speak for the people of this country, or even put much effort into pretending to. Our political leaders are merely actors (and not very good ones, in many cases) playing their assigned roles while doing the bidding of the wealthy and powerful. Your opinion means absolutely nothing. You are only allowed to go through the motions of trotting off to your assigned polling place every couple of years to cast your vote for either of the two designated candidates who have already met with the approval of the people whose opinion does matter.
Whether you opt to punch your ballot in the box marked “R” or the box marked “D” makes no difference whatsoever in the grand scheme of things. The policies pursued will be the same, though the propaganda used to sell them may differ slightly.
But we don’t want to face up to any of that. Instead, we cowardly avert our eyes, striving not to recognize, or to pretend not to recognize, that the greatest impediment to true freedom, democracy and justice in this world is the United States government. By doing so, we condemn ourselves, our children, and all the people of the world, to the fascist tyranny of a global superpower run amok. To do otherwise, to seek a fundamental change in the American ship of state, is what requires true courage.
But what, you may ask, of our men and women in uniform? Surely they display bravery and courage, do they not? If so, it is certainly not by performing the duties that they have been trained to perform.
America has fought all of its recent wars almost exclusively from the air. Waging war, from ‘our’ side, means flying high-tech aircraft well beyond the reach of our overwhelmed enemies’ defenses and opening the bomb-bay doors. Despite the frequent claims that our men and women have been put “in harm’s way,” it was claimed after Operation Desert Slaughter that soldiers serving in the Gulf had less chance of being injured or killed than their counterparts stationed elsewhere.
Far more U.S. servicemen are in fact killed every year in training exercises than in armed conflict (though it seems likely that many of those listed as killed in so-called training accidents are actually killed engaging in covert military operations in areas of the world where the American people are not even aware that our troops are engaged).
It wasn’t too long ago that waging war from the air was considered a cowardly and morally reprehensible tactic – condemned around the globe, most notably by our own leaders when the bombardment was being directed by the generals of Nazi Germany and Japan. Yet we are to believe that all of that has changed now, purportedly because we now have ‘smart bombs,’ so aerial warfare no longer means indiscriminately dumping explosive and incendiary devices on vast numbers of innocent civilians.
Nonsense. The only thing that has changed about aerial bombardment is the propaganda that accompanies it. Now we fly “sorties” to launch “surgical strikes” with “laser-guided” munitions that cause little or no “collateral damage.” Just as we caused only limited collateral damage in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – where collectively as many human lives were exterminated as in the Nazi concentration camps.
And just as we strove to minimize civilian casualties in Iraq – by deliberately creating conditions that can only be described as genocidal. The truth is that what we now like to call an “air campaign” is the same thing that it has always been – an effort to inflict death and suffering on a massive scale and break the will of a besieged population. It is a textbook example of the term “terrorist attack.” And it is a cowardly way to wage war.
Bill Maher, the marginally talented comedian who fancies himself to be a political analyst, said as much on his television show. It was perhaps the first sign of intelligent life that Maher has exhibited, which is precisely why it almost cost him his job – until he cowardly tucked his tail between his legs and displayed the proper amount of contrition.
Such is the power of propaganda though that when an L.A. street gang performs a drive-by shooting – an inherently cowardly and inefficient means of retribution that invariably results in ‘collateral damage’ – the American people are appalled, yet when the U.S. military performs a fly-by shooting – an inherently cowardly and inefficient means of retribution that invariably results in ‘collateral damage’ – the American people applaud.