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Posts Tagged ‘war on terror’

Benazir Bhutto‘s assassination is, as everyone has figured out, bad news. Bad for Pakistan. Bad for its enormously unpopular leader Pervez Musharaff. Bad for the population, which, having experienced everything from a devastating earthquake to a recent outbreak of bird flu, finds itself once again hopelessly trapped between a weakened dictator and the press of Al Qaeda extremists without a moderate in sight. Bad for the United States, which continues to funnel money to a shaky regime with nuclear capabilities as part of its “war on terror” strategy.

I’m watching CNN and the analysts are suggesting foreign policy will once again assert itself as a major issue in our Presidential race. Well and good. Unfortunately, this incident gives candidates an opportunity to bring up the war on terror in a way neither helpful nor substantive, only inflammatory. See Rudolph Giuliani’s statement on the Bhutto assassination, particularly his reference to the “terrorists’ war on us.” I suppose by “us” he means “democracy supporters everywhere” but I’m not sure I want to put Pakistan’s current President in that category.

Frankly, I’m sick of the concept of a “war on terror.” It’s become an easy slogan. It’s vague and meaningless. It reduces everything to “us” versus “them.” It precludes any nuanced discussion of cultural, political, economic realities. It shoves potential friends to the margins and into a vaguely defined “them” category and puts us in bed with military dictators and unpopular leaders. It conflates facts and ignores details. It’s a dangerously simplistic way of looking at the world. It can also be fatal.

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It’s the time of year when we get geared up to artificially scare each other in the annual and peculiarly American festival known as Halloween (although Parisians have taken the fete to heart, what with costumes and parties and pumpkins in and around its most venerable monuments. As Parisians have also taken to riding bicycles in and around their city en masse, I will overlook their odd choice of American pastimes to emulate). This year, there is an added contretemps attending the festival having to do with what the hanging corpses signify, or are meant to signify or have come to signify. It’s all about the noose, which, having been appropriated for the purpose of intimidation at both a high school and an esteemed university, is, for the moment off-limits. Honestly, I don’t think the vast majority of people who include hanging corpses in displays that also feature tombstones, haunted houses and headless horsemen straight out of a mid- nineteenth century novel have been thinking about the offense that particular image may cause. But they are now.

Not so with the politicians who are also seeking to scare us, courtesy of a growing proliferation of nuance-free catchphrases that were previously the province of rabble-rousing talk shows. In keeping with the spirit of the season, I’m going to list some of those vying for the title of most frightening. I’m not suggesting that these issues don’t need to be addressed, only that perhaps the phrases are getting thrown around for the purpose of frightening rather than educating the public. Feel free to scream or at least, depending on how long your memory is, to go out and buy lots of duct tape.

Illegal immigrants: undocumented would-be citizens or criminals and potential terrorists who are stealing our services, lowering our wages and affecting our quality of life?

War on terror: a battle of good and evil or a misapplied fight against fear?

Islamofacism: a movement whose adherents seek to take over the globe or a simplistic, not to mention insulting catchphrase that happens to roll off the tongue?

World War III: well sh-t, who wouldn’t be ready to bring on the bombs; never mind diplomacy?

Global warming: no question we’re screwing up the planet but can we move into solution mode instead of crisis mode?

Scared yet?

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