America's Excessive Fear of the World
Editor’s Note: As the fear of al-Qaeda finally recedes, the new neocon tactic is to make Americans afraid of domestic Muslims, claiming that they have a secret plan to subvert the United States and subjugate Americans to sharia law.
The conspiracy theory may be a racist lie, but it seems to be working in some quarters to keep Americans excessively frightened and thus pliable, much as the original 9/11 attack did, as Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution notes in this guest essay:
The question of whether America is safer today is sort of strange, for two reasons.
First, the U.S. is unquestionably the safest country that's ever existed.
I don't say that to diminish the terrorist attacks nine years ago — I lived about a mile north of the World Trade Center then, and was on Seventh Avenue watching when the north tower collapsed. Let me tell you, Osama bin Laden & friends really put the "terror" back in "terrorism."
But the sad reality of life on Earth is that horrible things happen all the time. What was unusual about the terrorist attacks wasn't that they happened, but that they happened to us.
We have two giant oceans on either side of us; two weak, friendly neighbors; and the most powerful military in the world.
As awful as that one day was, what was true before is still true afterward: No one has less reason to be scared than Americans. Wondering whether we're safer is a little unseemly, like Yao Ming wondering whether he's ever going to get taller.
Second, making Americans safer is not a serious goal of the people who run the United States.
Now, I'm not saying Dick Cheney doesn't care about us at all. If he made a list of his top 100 priorities, whether we live or die might be as high as #96. It's just that other things are far more important to him. And if us staying alive conflicts with priorities 1 through 95, well, we've got to go.
This can be clearly seen in the U.S. response to the September 11th attacks. Behind the scenes, even the Bush administration understood it had nothing to do with "our freedom." It was about U.S. foreign policy.
As a senior Bush official once explained, without American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, "bin Laden might still be redecorating mosques and boring friends with stories of his mujahedeen days in the Khyber Pass."
But obviously Bush & company weren't going to change our foreign policy (the only thing that could truly make Americans safer in the long run). On the contrary, they saw it as a tremendous "opportunity" to launch the invasion of Iraq — even though the world's foremost experts on al-Qaeda were telling them it "would intensify Islamic terrorism, not reduce it." Which it did.
And not much has changed today. Our current president apparently finds it hilarious to joke in front of Washington high society about killing people with predator drones. Meanwhile, at almost exactly the same moment, Faisal Shahzad was trying to set off a car bomb near Times Square in retaliation for U.S. drone strikes. Ha ha ha.
So to use another Yao Ming comparison, asking whether we're safer is like asking: "Has Yao gotten thinner since he started his new diet of ten Big Macs a day?" Well, no. How could he?
Of course, as a 7'6" professional athlete, he could probably get away with it. However, if they get unlucky, even pro athletes can be felled by sudden heart attacks.
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