Terrorism as a political tool exploited by the alleged victims

November 10, 2006 | By | 12 Replies More

It should now be clear to everyone (though, sadly, it is not) that the threat of terrorism has been drummed up for political gain by neoconservatives.

In the past, politicians often offered us hope. In recent years, they have found it more useful to claim that they are protecting us from nightmares. Thus, they often claim that they are rescuing us from horrible dangers we cannot see, by conducting their wars on “terror” and immorality.

In reality, they have been offering us dark illusions and fantasies. Until two days ago, those politicians with the darkest imaginations had become the most powerful.

For those of you wondering how this insanity came to be, consider viewing the BBC’s superb documentary: “The Power of Nightmares: The Shadows In The Cave.”

Here is a taste of this gripping three-part documentary (If these links don’t work, try this link to Part I – III. 

There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas, and who will use the techniques of mass terror – the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear.

But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organisation waiting to strike our societies is an illusion.

Wherever one looks for this al-Qaeda organisation, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the “sleeper cells” in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy.

But the reason that no-one questions the illusion is because this nightmare enemy gives so many groups new power and influence in a cynical age – and not just politicians.

According to this first rate BBC series, the nightmare of the threat of terror was conceived by the Neocons as a dream that was necessary, though completely untrue, in order to convince citizens that they were locked in a battle between good and evil.

Two philosophical (and eventually political) movements combined to get the world to the polarized and dysfunctional place where it is.

Regarding the Islamic extremist element, credit is given to the teachings of Sayed Kotb (sometimes spelled Qutb), an Egyptian man who spent time in Colorado as a young man. Kotb became convinced that the individual rights and liberties of Americans thoroughly corrupted human beings. In their lust for material goods and carnal pleasure, Kotb perceived that people isolated themselves to the point where shared social bonds where destroyed. The quest for material goods thus trapped people in their own animalistic desires. Even though people felt “free” pursuing their individualistic needs and wants, they weren’t. They were decaying from the inside out.

The documentary finds the seeds of the American neoconservative movement planted by the obscure University of Chicago philosophyer, Leo Strauss. Struss believed that the tendency to question freely destroyed shared social value–the end result would be that nothing was sacred. The solution was to assert powerful unifying myths through government and religion. This would enable leaders to assert a fantasy that America was destined to battle the forces of evil across the world. Doing this would restore power and authority to government leaders. Incidentally, Strauss’ favorite TV show was Gunsmoke, where the government baldly and often violently asserted itself in its quest to obtain the moral order.

These two men took on small bands of followers, bands that eventually grew and rose into the higher echelons of government power. One can trace their respective ideas all the way up to the current leaders of the neocon and radical Islamic movements.

In America, the neocon ideas have been pushed hard by the government and media outlets that refuse to raise obvious questions. The resulting ubiquitous claims of moral certitude have thus caused many Americans to believe that any country that obstructed the U.S. was literally Satanic. Post WWII, the cold war presented neocons with a terrific opportunity to assert their violent version of governance. This documentary asserts that, in the eyes of neocons, the “war on terror” picked up right where the cold war left off.

Our politicians became so utterly convinced of this fairy tale of a largely unsubstantiated outside threat that any means of “defense” was justified, even waging a bloody war against a country that was not a threat. Even the U.S. government’s bashing of patriotic citizens who dared to question or dissent. Even depraved torture conducted in the name of the United States.

As demonstrated in “The Power of Nightmares,” Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Bin Laden can all be seen as accomplices contributing to a perverted, devastating and unnecessary polarization that will require decades of political healing.

Following in the footsteps of Strauss, the neocons have intentionally concocted their myths (as well as the “evidence” in support), all for the supposed higher good. Especially disturbing was the section of of the documentary (toward the end of Part I) concerning the Neocon attempts the crucify the allegedly morally repugnant Bill Clinton, as well as the eventual conversion of David Brooks, earlier one of Clinton’s most vociferous detractors.

The three parts of the documentary can be viewed on-line: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

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Category: American Culture, Bigotry, Civil Rights, Consumerism, Good and Evil, History, Iraq, Military, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Religion, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Erich writes, "Until two days ago, those politicians with the darkest imaginations had become the most powerful."

    Case in point: President Bush. Even after the election, he is *still* talking about our need to stay in Iraq to protect America from "the terrorists," even though Iraqis are killing each other at a rate more than ten times the death rate of American troops. It is hard to imagine more compelling evidence that the violence in Iraq is an *insurgency* bordering on *civil war,* not a bunch of global terrorists seeking jihad against America, but of course we've seen for years that facts-on-the-ground mean little to our Idiot-in-Chief. At least terror-meister Rumsfeld is finally gone, but I wonder if Bush will ever get out of his head the fantasy that Iraq is "the front line of the global war on terror."

    Interested readers might enjoy one my own posts about how Repubicans have used this "war" for their political gain: http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=426.

    Of course, the political lesson to be learned from all this is to not put all of your eggs in one basket. For most of the past five years, Republicans have made "fighting terrorism" the one-and-only plank in their campaign platform. That worked well for them as long as the "fight" seemed to be going well, but Americans finally realized that if 'fighting terrorism" was the only thing Republicans claimed to be good at, and if they turned out to *not actually be good at it*, then the country didn't need them. Thus, the mistake Republicans made was not just botching Iraq, but failing to have any other worthwhile planks in their platform to give themselves something to land on if Iraq went badly. They committed the political equivalent of investing all their money in Enron: something that worked fine for them when the stock was going up, but turned out very bad for them when the bottom fell out. The bottom line: if you are hired to do just one job, then you had better do that one job well.

  2. hogiemo says:

    I watched the BBC series referenced by Mr. Vieth. It appears others more wise than I had already reached the same conclusion as my recent post regarding fear and terror.

    It is apparent that across the world an unholy cabal of pompous celibates and apostles of ignorance have preyed upon the fears of peoples by cynically creating chimeras for control of the citizenry. As they have in the peaceful world of Islam, these have and will continue to fail in America. At their core, these radical ideologies display a profound mistrust of people and the people's ability to discern fundamental truths for themselves. While the fear may in the short term dominate the political landscape, it will be hope and community which will overcome fear and isolation.

    The right is driven with the fear of an imagined future, and their leaders come from their ranks which conjure the darkest fears and most extreme futures. To the degree the right uses theses darkest fears of an imagined future to "take innocents for political ends", they are the true terrorists of our times for they do not seek only to kill the dreamer but, to kill the dream to see that it does not last. May God have mercy upon their souls.

  3. "The three parts of the documentary can be viewed on-line: Part I, Part II, and Part III."

    The links don't work. Google can't find the videos. Any other sources?

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    How the neocons try to make use of Plato and his Republic. This is a probing interview of Simon Blackburn in Salon.com.   Blackburn traces it back to one of the fathers of the neocon movement, Leo Strauss:

    I think that [Strauss's reading] is very perverse. You have to ignore what seems to me the very obvious thrust of ["The Republic"]. The book is largely given over to Socrates, and Socrates was largely arguing against the kind of things that Strauss represents. So you have to really pick up little bits and corners and say, "Ah, that's where Plato's speaking in his own voice or that's the message he wants us to take away." I always find that kind of reading very perverse. You know, it's not much better than finding the name of the beast in the order of the letters in the Talmud or something.

     For the full interview, go here.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    The opening lines of this documentary are brilliant:

    In the past, the power of politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people.

    . . . Politicians were seen simply as managers of public life. But now they have discovered a new role that restores their apparent authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us . . . from nightmares.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Op-ed by Madeleine K. Albright in the NYT:

    I have attended a number of conferences designed to promote understanding between the United States and people who live in Muslim-majority states. According to Muslim speakers at such events, one fact stands out: When the cold war ended, America needed an enemy to replace Communism and chose Islam.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/opinion/03iht-e

  7. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Erich, I suspect the demonization of islam relates more to the premise in the movie "Wag the Dog", for choosing Albania as the enemy for their staged war.

    1 Most Americans knew nothing of the customs and beliefs of those people.

    2 They could easily be "educated" by the media to believe anything, no matter how absurd and outrageous the lies are.

    3 By portraying them as anti-American, they can be used as scapegoats and a distraction from the real enemies of the public (which I will add, are not always enemies of the state).

    My first encounters with Muslims and Arabs occured in the late 70's. I was impressed that they tend to place a high importance on friends and family. Most of the Muslims (about 90 percent) are Sunni, the mainstream sect of Islam, and value peace and consider religion a personal choice as well as a form of self discipline, not something to be forced on others.

    I dated an Iraqi girl in college in the late 70's. She was kind, caring, intelligent and and very practical. She was studying civil engineering on a full scholarship from the Iraqi government, to learn to designe road and bridges. (this shoots down one media lie about Iraq, that they don't permit women to have educations).

    She was also Sunni Muslim. No she did not wear the burka and veils, as portrayed on TV news. She and her sister preferred to wear blue jeans and pullover sweaters. (Another media hyped sterotype blasted)

    In the buildup to the first gulf war, the media bombarded us with a very biased portrayal of Iraq, and suddenly people who had previously though Baghdad was a ficticious place in Arabia with flying carpets and Genies, suddenly thought they had become experts on the place, its people and customs, because of the misrepresentation of the evening news.

    Due to a series of unfortunate events, I lost contact with my Iraqi girfriend in 1979, always wondering if she was safe, and where she was. Eventually I met another woman who was as kind and caring and determined to hold on this time, I married this woman, who just happened to be an Arab (Christian Palestinian).

    So I admit to being somewhat biased in my opinion of Arabs and Muslims. Not against them, but possibly for them.

    But something I have noticed. Most of the terrorism against America is actually directed against Corporations. The World trade center, to Americans represented the tallest building in the world, but to the rest of the world, the twin towers were seen as a monument to the power and greed of Corporations. Similar large scale attacks in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere targeted high profile companies.

    And our government decided to use military force to support the financial exploits of big business overseas, much like the British government elected to use military force to support the East India Company company throughout the world. including America and India.

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