The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush
administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since
the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American
democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this
phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real
challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.
The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound --
is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical
perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in
distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a
geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a
technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of
But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was
deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant
reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It
stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason,
intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to
mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. . . .
To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a
false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling
prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles
against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi
Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda
neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case
for war with Iran. . . .
Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media
and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror
entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily
engaged in competition to justify their existence. . . .
The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV
serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab
features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public
anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in
newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly
reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college
student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently
oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and
religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the
Holocaust. . . .
Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become
of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting
intolerance against the few.
In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States
internationally. . . .