And already, a rather sinister theme is being woven into the heroic narrative of his campaign triumph. I'm in the "Homeland" at the moment, with a rare full exposure to the blisteringly stupid television news. And within minutes of the first word of Hillary Clinton's suspension of her campaign, I saw talking heads reaching out and giving America a big ole hug of self-congratulation for Obama's victory. "I think this speaks very well of us as a people," said one earnest commentator, a no-doubt "progressive" academic eagerly supplying a soundbite through his neatly-trimmed beard. "I think it makes us look great!" enthused no less an expert than Jim "Ace Ventura" Carey, who was collared at some sort of green consciousness event and asked his opinion of the historic development. The conventional wisdom "takeaway" was already solidifying: America is uniquely great and divinely special, because we've allowed a black man to win a presidential nomination -- and he's still alive! That's the kind of people we are. USA! USA!
But a more accurate picture of "the kind of people we are" can be found in an excellent post by Bernard Chazelle at A Tiny Revolution. As Chazelle notes, vast swathes of Americans have shown themselves to be eager, avid supporters of terrorism -- as long as it's terrorism that works, terrorism that gets the job done quickly and efficiently without getting all bogged down in complications and stuff that sometimes clutters up the teevee. You should read the whole article, but here are some excerpts:
The point of this post is not that attacking Iraq was bad (though it was); it is not that Shock-and-Awe was terrorism (though it was). It is that Bush, for once, did not lie. He asked us with utter clarity and no ambiguity whatsoever: do you want to be a terrorist? And America said yes. The question "Shall we do Shock-and-Awe?" does not mean "Do you want to avenge 9/11?" or "Do you want to liberate Iraqis?" or "Do you want to remove a WMD threat?" If it did, it would be phrased differently. There is no need to invoke terror for any of these purposes. But Shock-and-Awe explicitly appeals to the intention of terrorizing. "Do you want to do Shock-and-Awe?" means "Do you want to be a terrorist?" For this one time, the US government told the truth and called its own terrorism by its name. America understood, and America cheered....
When you plan a bombing attack on a major city and you call it Shock-and-Awe, you quite clearly intend to cause horrendous fear in the population. That would be the standard interpretation of anyone with minimum fluency in the English language: shock, awe, bombs. What else could it mean?- Advertisement -
Indeed, the meaning of "Shock and Awe" has always been clear. Chazelle goes on to quote from the two military scholars who first clearly explicated the doctrine:
Shock-and-Awe is explained in great detail in a 1996 book written by its two architects, Ullman and Wade. The authors explain in it that the goal is to control "means of communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure." The objective is to cause
the threat and fear of action that may shut down all or part of the adversary's society.- Advertisement -
One seeks to shut down, not the military infrastructure, but the adversary's society. Am I putting too much emphasis on just one unfortunate choice of words? Let's hear Ullman elaborate on the subject:
"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."
It's unambiguous. The goal is to use violence to inspire fear in a way that will shut down all or part of society. The objective is the same as that of 9/11: bring a society to its knees by using terror. (The Ullman-Wade book even mentions Hiroshima approvingly as an example of Shock-and-Awe.)
Shock-and-awe is factually, conceptually, and morally equivalent to or worse than 9/11. Factually: Iraq Body Count estimated the death toll [of the initial "Shock-and-Awe attack at the beginning of the war] at more than 6,000, which is twice 9/11. Conceptually: The means are terrorism, i.e., the goal is to achieve political ends through violence and fear against innocent people. Morally: this was not self-defense or even retaliation; it was premeditated murder of thousands of innocent civilians (including many more children than on 9/11).
When people tell you Americans can't understand "Islamofascist terrorists," tell them that Americans, in fact, are uniquely qualified to understand bin Laden.
Will Obama -- in the White House or on the campaign trail -- denounce the "War on Terror" for what it really is: a war of state terror, waged almost entirely against civilian populations? He has not done so; indeed, on his website he calls for fighting the War on Terror in a "smarter way". (There will be no inefficient, cluttery terrorism when Obama is on the job!) He wants an even bigger, more powerful, more "stealthy" military. He wants to go into Pakistan where, he says, there are "tens of thousands of terrorists" who have "made their choice to attack America." Think of that: a vast horde of terrorists just chomping at the bit to attack America. How can we, in good conscience, NOT attack those Pakistani badlands?- Advertisement -
Here Obama indulges in the favorite Bush-McCain pastime of equating every opponent of U.S. policy with an al Qaeda terrorist longing to hit the "Homeland." There are tens of thousands of supporters of the Taliban (both the Afghan and Pakistani branches) in the region, almost none of which have remotely "made the choice to attack America." (The original Taliban was against al Qaeda plans to attack the United States, and offered to turn bin Laden over to international justice after 9/11 -- but you won't hear Obama waxing lyrical on that theme.) Instead, he conjures up a whole new enemy -- "tens of thousands" of America-attacking vipers nursing in Pakistan's bosom -- to keep the Terror War going strong.
So here is the significance of Obama's nomination: More Terror War. More murder -- directly, by proxy, by remote control. More manufactured enemies. A continued military presence in Iraq (all "combat troops" withdrawn, eventually, maybe, but other troops left there to "target al Qaeda in Iraq"). No reparations. A bigger, faster, more far-reaching military wrapping the globe. No options taken off the table -- ever.
Hey, you know what? The novelty is wearing off already.