The article I'm about to quote and comment about comes from a publication called the Progressive Populist, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the viewpoints contained therein. But such things can't be left to stand on their own; they must be coutered with fact. The piece is entitled "How Osama Bin Laden Won" by a gentleman named Wayne O'Leary. So...
Osama bin Laden has not won, of course. Not really. In a conventional sense, his terrorist offensive against America has been an abysmal failure. Yet, in another sense, he has been spectacularly successful, and whether he is dead or alive, he continues to inflict pain on his adversary long after Sept. 11.
How can this be? you might reasonably ask. After all al-Qaeda is an operational shell of its former self, and Afghanistan has been pounded into rubble by our vaunted high-tech military. In addition, the mastermind behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is now only a shadowy presence on grainy, smuggled videotapes. Consider, however, the changes bin Laden has wrought in this country; the United States is not the same place it was prior to last fall.
Not much to say thus far, except to note that you can almst see the sneer on the author's face with the phrase "vaunted high tech military".
For one thing, there is a pervasive sense of foreboding that permeates American life. Americans are not exactly afraid, but they are exceedingly jumpy. A train derails in Florida, a boiler-room explodes in a New York building, a private plane crashes into an Italian skyscraper, and suddenly it's Sept. 11 once more; the stock market falters, television news obsesses, and we hold our collective breath. Terror, in short, has been implanted in the national psyche.
That's because we're human beings. We are atacked without warning, and it scares people. Human beings get frightened, especially of threats they cannotpredict, control or guard against. This is not news, and it is not a new, bold masterstroke on Bin Laden's part.
A lot of this can be traced to the Bush administration, which has a vested political interest in keeping the country on edge.Between Tom Ridge's color-coded alerts and John Ashcroft's doomsday scenarios, it's hard to avoid a mindset of eternalvigilance and endless global conflict. Lest we forget (and the Bushies won't let us forget), we are "at war" and will be, it appears, for the rest of our natural lives.
I don't like the "eternal war" idea either. But what would the author have the government do? Pretend all is well? Not report threats and warnings? This is a situation of being damned if they do, and damned if they don't - especially when, as the author clearly is, you hate the current government to begin with.
Every step the administration has taken since "9/11" has dragged us deeper into confrontation with the Third World, especially the one-fifth of humankind that is Muslim. The list of countries with an anti-terrorist American military presence is steadily growing: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Colombia. Terrorism has now replaced Communism as the paranoid fear du jour, and the fabled Military-Industrial Complex is back in business with a vengeance after a decade-long hiatus following the Cold War. All of the resultant frenetic activity-global military commitments, homeland defense, ramped-up intelligence operations must be funded. So, bin Laden has already won a considerable fiscal victory over the American taxpayer above and beyond his psychological victory on the anxiety front.
We were in confrontation with the Muslim world all along. Look at what they say about us - even before 9/11. It's nothing new. Hatred of America (and Israel) is used to deflect the people in Muslim nations from the sorry conditions in which the populace is forced to live. And the reason they are third world nations is that they're run by criminal thugs who squander the resources they do have and operate medieval-style economies and social systems. That is not our fault, but it does lead inevitably to conflict with us.
He's also scored a triumph by prompting Americans to begin surrendering their civil liberties in the name of national security. The USA PATRIOT Act and various moves by the Bush Justice Department to curtail selected judicial and privacy protections historically enjoyed by our citizenry has weakened the Constitution and made this a less noble and less admirable society, as well as one with fewer individual freedoms. By indirectly inflicting the narrow, mean-spirited Ashcroft view of the world on us, bin Laden has done more fundamental damage than his plane hijackers did on Sept. 11.
I don't like a lot of what the administration has done, fair enough. But it isn't different really than what former Narcissist in Chief Clinton did after Oklahoma City, nor is it different than what other Presidents have done in wartime (wholesale constitutional violations such as Roosevelt's internment camps or Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus during the Civil War). This is not new, and it is not unprecedented, and it is a stupid and historically ignorant attack.
In the process of turning America into a garrison state, replete with a military budget that is increasing exponentially, bin Laden has scored another signal success. Assisted by George W. Bush's tax cut for the wealthy, he has seen to it that our national life will be poorer in almost all material respects. The money that has disappeared down the tax cut/defense build-up rat hole won't be available to prevent a slide into deficit or bolster needed domestic spending. Next year's federal budget, for example, cuts job training, highway maintenance, and the Social Security surplus; new programs, such as a prescription-drug benefit under Medicare, won't even be considered. This doesn't bother the Bushies; they'd prefer not to have a serious domestic agenda anyway. What bin Laden has done is provide them with a convenient out. Their new war cry: Billions for defense; not one dime for anything else.
Exponentially? That's wrong and idiotic.
And of course he conflates the pre 9/11 tax cut with the post 9/11 defenseincreases, which have nothing to do with each other.
Bin Laden has won a few victories in the private sphere as well. Besides presenting the Bush administration with a rationale to cut all government services not connected to defense or homeland security, he's given American corporations an excuse to profiteer and exploit consumers. The example that jumps immediately to mind is the upward adjustment in premiums being planned by insurance companies in the wake of Sept. 11. Industry experts predict annual increases ranging from 15 to 30% for
auto, home, medical and business coverage, with 40% to 50% jumps not beyond the realm of possibility. Terrorist-related claims only partly account for this looming economic outrage; a more basic, underlying cause is the loss insurers have incurred over the past two years recklessly speculating in the stock market. Nevertheless, 9/11 claims will provide the justification for a fleecing of the American public aimed at recouping investment shortfalls. Score another for bin Laden.
"cut all government services". That's simply a lie.
And as for the insurance exapmle, he does admit that 9/11 related costs form at least a part of the expected increase in rates (which hasn't happened yet; it's a bit premature to say the sky is falling just now, I'd say).
Yes, 9/11 cost us a lot of money, in addition to the lives and the psychic toll. Does that make it a victory for Bin Laden? Hardly.
There is one final way in which the leader of al-Qaeda has worked his will, even if posthumously: He's succeeded in goading a foolish Bush administration into following a distorted and one-sided Middle Eastern policy. The diplomatic campaign accompanying the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism was supposedly designed to win over the "moderate" Arab and Muslim majority to our side. It's not working because of the Bush decision to, in effect, equate Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation
Organiza-tion (PLO) with bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The president appears unable to distinguish between a nationalist movement against colonial occupation and a quasi-religious criminal network opposed to Western culture and "infidels"; to the White House, it's all terrorism.
The PLO (actually, it's the PA now) is a "nationalist movement against colonial occupation"? If you believe that, well, that's where the problem is. They are a bunch of criminal terrorist thugs, and to pretend otherwise is absurd.
For reasons that smack of US domestic politics intertwined with an overall misreading of the situation, George W. Bush has bought into the extreme right-wing Israeli position regarding the Palestinian conflict. Arab moderates, who view things in a less simplistic manner, have been justifiably outraged by Washington's unbalanced approach. They see that Bush has met with Ariel Sharon six times since taking office, but has not met Arafat once. They hear his constant refrain that Arafat is untrustworthy and
not doing enough, whereas Sharon, the so-called Butcher of Beirut in the Lebanese civil war, is a "man of peace." They witness the American unwillingness to criticize Israel's heavy-handed military tactics or withhold any of its annual $3 billion in US aid, while calling upon the PLO to maintain law and order in its territories without a security force or infrastructure. They know a double standard when they see one and consequently reject Bush administration calls to enthusiastically join its ill-defined crusade against Third World terror.
"Arab moderates"? Which ones? The ones whose state media call all Jews "Pigs and apes" and spread the blood libel? The ones who claim 9/11 was the work of the Mossad, and that thousands of Jews knew and didn't g oto work in the WTC that day? The ones who jail or kill their own citizens for the slightest cause, or no cause at all?
There are no Arab moderates. There are only degrees of horrible, brutal and corrupt. The Monkey Boy administration has erred - in not going nearly far enough in support of Israel, and in giving any credence, respect or consideration at all to the deranged views of the Arab leaders.
All this bin Laden has achieved by inducing a diplomatically and strategically challenged American president to overreact to 9/11, adopt insufficiently-thought-out policy positions, and undertake precipitant and counterproductive measures, or (in the case of the Middle East) none at all. Somewhere in his cave, he must be chortling and thanking his lucky stars that Florida and the US Supreme Court provided him with such a perfect foil.
And in the end, we come back to Florida and the 2000 election. Of course.