War on terrorism: the easiest war in town

August 21, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

After reading the Cato report about terrorism, I suddenly realized why Republicans have been so gung-ho to declare “war” against terrorism: because it’s the easiest war in town. The odds that any American will die from a terrorist attack are microscopic, so what better thing to declare “war” against than something that is extremely unlikely to happen anyway? It’s a bit like declaring war against fatal tooth decay or war against bathtub drownings.

Much, much harder (politically, socially and scientifically) is to declare war against the things that actually kill Americans in large numbers: cigarettes, obesity (heart disease, stroke, etc.), auto accidents, drunk driving, cancer, etc. Unlike terrorism, many of these causes of death, though significantly more lethal than terrorism, have many large and powerful corporations advocating (and paying very large bribes…er, I mean, political contributions) on their behalf: tobacco companies, fast food and soft drink companies, auto makers, liquor distributors and tavern owners, etc. Compared to getting tobacco off store shelves, McDonalds to serve more healthy food, or drunk drivers off our roads, declaring “war” against a tiny number of terrorists in Third-World countries is trivially easy. Plus, as an added benefit, foaming up nationwide fear against a mostly fictional threat enables the Republican-controlled Congress to vacuum obscenely huge amounts of public money out of social programs (i.e., Democrat pockets) and pour it into defense programs (i.e., Republican pockets). And if it disrupts the oil supply and drives oil company profits through the ceiling, so much the better.

No wonder Republicans claim to be winning the war on terrrorism despite every objective measure of failure: from the standpoint of what they have personally gained politically and financially, they have exceeded their wildest dreams. No wonder they were so eager to enter this war.


Tags: , ,

Category: American Culture, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. ThinkingMeat | September 2, 2006
  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Grumpy: I'm not disagreeing with your conclusion. I did want to point out a substantiated connection between dental hygiene and death, however.

    In an article titled: Brushing Your Teeth May Reduce Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack, one can read that

    A new study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center provides the most direct evidence to date that preventing gum disease could significantly improve your chances of avoiding vascular problems . . . According to Dr. Desvarieux, one possible explanation for the link is that the bacteria that cause the gum disease may migrate throughout the body via the bloodstream and stimulate the immune system, causing inflammation that results in the clogging of arteries.

    In short, dental hygiene could be serious business, potentially capable of saving more lives than the currently-construed war on terror.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    To Erich's comment: thank you for bringing this to my attention. I did not intend to trivialize the danger of tooth decay. Indeed, if dentists and hygenists had the lobbying power of Halliburton and Bechtel, America would undoubtedly now be at war against the deadly scourge of gum disease instead of insurgents in Iraq. Instead of "staying the course," Bush would be giving impassioned speeches about "brushing and flossing."

    Of course, Americans might then have to face an even greater horror than the infinitesimal risk of being killed by an international terrorist: the certainty of going to visit the dentist. But one thing is certain: $300 billion would buy a lot of complementary tooth brushes and sample-sized tubes of Crest, and probably wouldn't bring condemnation (and likely future terrorist attacks) from the world's Muslim extremists. The folks who make Polident denture cleaner probably wouldn't be very happy about it, though.

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    Cigarettes, drinking, obesity…

    Not to quibble, but it seems we are enveloped in wars on these things, and the courts have beaten the living daylights out of Big Tobacco in the last ten years. Now we've got the fast food franchises scurrying to introduce normal-portioned, low cal alternatives, and we've been doing research on cancer since forever. We're doing those things.

    But it all takes time and maybe the one factor you've overlooked is the "sexy" aspect to a war on terror and the way it's spun to generate heroes.

    At the turn of the 19th-20th century, the West was gripped by a series of senseless public killings and assassinations by a group (or groups) known collectively as The Anarchists. It's interesting to look at the profiles of some of these folks. Middle class, well-educated…disaffected and impatient. Bombings, stabbings, shootings…real terrorism.

    And then it just stopped, like it had been a bad cold and we got over it.

    It was treated as a matter of law enforcement, though, not a war, even when the Anarchists themselves tried to make it look like war.

  4. Mr. TMOL says:

    I was trying to watch the "news" on 9/11/06, but all I got was "olds", being re-runs of 9/11/01. Allright already. It's all a replay. And I think we all saw it the first time around. But what I don't get is why 3,000 people dying on 9/11 is bigger news than this article from the Journal of the American Medical Association:

    "Smoking vs Other Risk Factors as the Cause of Smoking-Attributable Deaths Confounding in the Courtroom," by Michael J. Thun, MD, JAMA. 2000;284:706-712.

    The surgeon general estimates that more than 400,000 deaths are attributable to smoking annually in the United States. The tobacco industry has criticized the surgeon general's estimates because they do not control for the lower educational and socioeconomic status of modern-day smokers.

    Huh? what does that last sentence mean anyway???

    That's over A THOUSAND TIMES the number of people killed on 9/11. For each person killed on 9/11, a thousand people die every year because they because they smoke.

    So, what I don't get is this: how come they don't show over and over on the news people dying from smoking?

    I was waiting to get my car fixed this morning and the guy who runs the little repair shop was chain smoking. I told him, "You're gonna kill yourself. Did you ever try to quit?"

    He said, "Yeah, a hundred times, but the problem is I always smoke when I drink so I have to quit drinking to quit smoking. [gasp]"

    Maybe this is what the tobacco industry refers to as "lower educational and socioeconomic status." They did fix my car, though.

    Go figure.

Leave a Reply