Sunday, September 11, 2005

The War on Terror: Mission Impossible

Yellowmix drew my attention to a fascinating article in today's NY Times Magazine: Taking Stock of the Forever War by Mark Danner. It's a long article, but worth every word.

Four years after we watched the towers fall, Americans have not succeeded in "ridding the world of evil." We have managed to show ourselves, our friends and most of all our enemies the limits of American power. Instead of fighting the real war that was thrust upon us on that incomprehensible morning four years ago, we stubbornly insisted on fighting a war of the imagination, an ideological struggle that we defined not by frankly appraising the real enemy before us but by focusing on the mirror of our own obsessions. And we have finished - as the escalating numbers of terrorist attacks, the grinding Iraq insurgency, the overstretched American military and the increasing political dissatisfaction at home show - by fighting precisely the kind of war they wanted us to fight.
If we were to compare the number of terrorist attacks that have been carried out since before and after Bush declared his impossible War on Terror, you'd have to wonder if we were working for the "good guys" or the "evildoers". Meanwhile, we have to be aware of how Bush twisted a nation's grief for his own gains, lying not only about Iraq, but about the very nature of al Qaida and their attack at the WTC.
The notion of "instigation," indeed, is critical, for the purpose of terror is not to destroy your enemy directly but rather to spur on your sleeping allies to enlightenment, to courage and to action. It is a kind of horrible advertisement, meant to show those millions of Muslims who sympathize with Al Qaida's view of American policy that something can be done to change it.
Every act of violence committed in the name of the War on Terror, every bill passed that diminishes the foundations of our own freedoms, is according to the design of the man in the cave. There is a place for mourning, a place for anger and remembrance, but if there is to be a War on Terror, we cannot continue to embrace this mission impossible; we cannot end terrorism -- for terrorism existed long before and will continue to exist long after Sept. 11th, 2001. Terrorism will continue to exist so long as there is one group that so oppresses another group such that all conventional forms of revolution are rendered powerless.
Fundamentalist Islamic thought took aim at America's policies, not at its existence. Americans tend to be little interested in these policies or their history and thus see the various Middle East cataclysms of the last decades as sudden, unrelated explosions lighting up a murky and threatening landscape, reinforcing the sense that the 9/11 attacks were not only deadly and appalling but also irrational, incomprehensible: that they embodied pure evil.
But as much as Bush has lied, as much as he has deteriorated what America could be and should be, it is our role as democrats, leftists, people of colour, women, gay, straight, oppressed, marginalized and Other-ized to struggle for change. It is easy to despise the man and criticize the country, it is harder to love the country and therefore appreciate the man. The other day, I read a Test of Morality, and was offended. I am Canadian; I hold no particular allegiance to the man in the White House, but just because a man like him is willing to let a man die for differing in opinion with the U.S., we should not allow ourselves to be the same. The War on Terror, as Danner writes, was a means of dividing the world into easy factions of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, white vs. black. As with WWII, Bush won support by redefining the enemy as universally amoral, fundamentally opposed to America, and inherently wrong -- everything that America was not. It frightens me how all those who claim to disagree with Bush's Mission fall into the same line of thought that fuels it, changing only the face of the hated. I do not hate Bush. I do not want him to die. If I saw him drowning, I would save him. If not, I am no better than him and his "evildoers". I believe our struggle against the War on Terror can be waged by proving the impossibility of categorizing the world in words of moral absolutism and universal right and wrong, by showing that a person does not deserve annihilation for his beliefs -- even if I only allow this outlook to exist within my own life choices. Four years from 9/11, that is my mission possible. Related Post: Four Years from 9/11


Blogger jose said...

Yeah, I tried to read the Test as a joke and responded as such, but knowing that the wish behind it is earnest makes it rather disturbing. Fantasy escapism isn't the answer here, anyway.

Every year has a 9/11, and it's my hope that it will continue to be a day of rememberance, but will also be more of a rallying cry against such absolutism.

9/11/2005 09:17:00 PM  

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