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Like asteroids and sharks, terrorists are not new

Like asteroids and sharks, terrorists are not new

Reaction from fear, from loss, from shock, is as natural as jerking up a hand to ward off a blow, or striking back when struck

And despite our horror at the recent killing of more than 6000 [NOTE: This number proved to be about double the actual toll], mostly non-military, citizens by a group of mostly unknown zealots, the number is not a staggering death toll at this moment in history. The overwrought reaction that has been pumped up by government officials from the president on down, and amplified by news media eager to sell papers, magazines and advertising on the airwaves and Internet, is really no different than fear of sharks or fear of large rocky objects in space. It is trumped up fear, packaged and sold for gain.

If violent death of innocents deeply offended us there would have been a hue and cry over our well-documented intentional bombardment of unarmed Iraqi soldiers and civilians who were retreating after the Gulf war. (They were headed home along a road our military had instructed them to follow.) If gruesome death offended we would have reacted viscerally to reports of U.S. Army bulldozers burying Iraqi soldiers alive as they tried to surrender in that same conflict. This is to say nothing of the estimated million deaths caused by our sanctions against that country, which former Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright stated, “are worth the cost.”

Terrorist acts against Americans are not even new

Then too, if killing of innocents per se stirred our hearts, America would have reacted in horror to the U.S. sponsored coup in Indonesia in 1965 that resulted in the murder of over 800,000 people, and the 1975 massacre of over 250,000 innocent people in East Timor by an Indonesian regime fully sanctioned by President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Authoritative estimates of the number of innocents killed directly due to U.S. policy since World War II run to at least 8 million, including as many as 2 million in Vietnam. The six thousand killed on September 11 are six thousand too many, and terribly sad, but not very many in the big scheme of things, and the merest drop in the bucket containing the world’s tears.

Of course an attack on the homeland is keenly felt. It could have been any one of us aboard those hijacked planes, a member of any of our families in those buildings. But who benefits from fanning of the flames, the turning of sparks into fires of self-righteous wrath?

Surely and obviously the news media make hay of any calamity. The longer they can make a story work, the higher they can raise alarm, the better for sales. This is in no wise different from sharks and asteroids, or Monicagate and O.J. Simpson. Trussed up in red, white and blue and predicated on a heinous crime, it can look wonderfully patriotic, but the motive remains the same.

The one person with the most to gain from the fanfare is President George Bush, and corollarily his close associates. Nothing could serve his political aspirations better than a chance to rail against foreign enemies, assume a posture of tough presidentiality, and to be handed a scapegoat for anything untoward that befalls the economy. A distinctly lackluster president is suddenly reborn as a white knight on a war horse, with the implication that we must all answer his call. Every plan he offers, every word he speaks, needs to be read through that prism. The terrorist attack is being, and will be, used to justify all manner of programs, concentrations of power, and stifling of criticism in the name of nationalism and patriotic duty.

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