The Nightmare of Terrorism

What a nightmare! Tossing and turning, I found myself besieged by images of strangers snooping through my home while I was out, of friends and neighbors disappearing without a trace, of some powerful, all-seeing entity building a database containing all the details of my personal life, and of some hideous little man in glasses reminding me that 'people need to watch what they say'' I dreamt that I was living in a nation descending into fascism.

Thank goodness for cable news. After I awoke, somewhat shaken, I tuned into the programming and was comforted. America isn't descending into fascism, you see, it's just that 'we are at war!' No, not with Iraq , that war ended two months ago ' 'mission accomplished,' remember? I mean the war against terror. The war that 'likely will not end in our lifetimes.' You know, the war to protect our freedoms.

A practical analysis of the war against terror is difficult for many people because it's an abstract war. There is no clearly defined enemy, no clearly defined objectives, and no physical battlefields to observe. For this war, nobody is manning the 'screenwriters' at Fox News, highlighting our progress on the map. Instead, the abstract war against terror is being fought on the battlefield of the American psyche. It's a proverbial war for the hearts and minds of the people. After all, what is 'freedom' but an ideal held and defined in our hearts and minds? What has the most obvious effect of this 'war' been, if not the drastic transformation of how many Americans define freedom, and its relative value compared to 'safety' from our enemies, 'the terrorists?'

Are the American people winning this war? You tell me. Are you today more or less 'free' than you were before 'we' began this abstract war against 'those who would see our freedoms destroyed?' Not only would it appear as though we are losing the war, we're losing it rather slowly and painfully. Comparatively speaking, Saddam Hussein posed 'an imminent threat to America ' (right?) and it only took three weeks to 'disarm him,' whereas our failing war against terror has dragged on for nearly two years now.

Perhaps America 's inability to effectively combat the terrorist agenda stems from a failure to adhere to that primary principle of warfare: Know thine enemy. Just who are 'the terrorists,' anyway? Reportedly1, the latest 'Al-Qaeda' boogeyman to be apprehended has been working as a 'double agent' for the FBI since his initial arrest (and release) several months ago, at one point living and operating in a safe house paid for by your tax dollars. It doesn't get much shadier than that, does it? How about the Palestinian 'Al-Qaeda cell' that turned out to be a Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) operation,2 or the FBI informant who was told by his handlers not to do anything to prevent the 1993 World Trade Center bombing?3 Perhaps our efforts to stamp out 'State-sponsored terrorism' need to begin a little closer to home.

But why scour the headlines for possible examples of the State's duplicity? This whole 'war for freedom' thing seems pretty cut and dried to me. When I awoke on Sept. 12, 2001, I still had a reasonable certainty that nobody would be snooping through my home looking for 'subversive materials,' that I wouldn't find myself behind bars without first committing a crime, and if I did, that I'd be able to phone an attorney and prove my innocence in a trial that would become a matter of public record. Murderous Middle Eastern fanatics didn't have the power to change any of that, no matter how many people they did or didn't kill. Only the State could change those things. Indeed, what few real liberties we had as Americans weren't taken from us by some invisible foreign enemy, they were taken from us by 'our' government. It seems fairly obvious to me that if Americans really want to win the war against terror, they'd better sit down and think long and hard about who's who first.

1. The Daily Telegraph, 6/23/03

2. Media Bypass, February 2003

3. Originally reported in The New York Times, 10/28/93 . Link to repost.

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Andy Henke's picture
Columns on STR: 11

Andy Henke is 27 and lives in East Tennesse.