Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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September 11th Is a Good Day to Remember Our Priorities

Jeffrey Goldberg made the case earlier this week: “The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary. The nuclear destruction of Lower Manhattan, or downtown Washington, would cause the deaths of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; a catastrophic depression; the reversal of globalization; a permanent climate of fear in the West; and the comprehensive repudiation of America’s culture of civil liberties.”

Martin Amis, speaking of biological weapons, made the same point last month: The paths of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction “are visibly inclined, like the sides of a tapering spire. Their convergence is guaranteed by the simplest of market forces. Marginal costs will fall; and demand will climb.” Terrorism could, at any moment, “could go from nothing to everything. After an untraceable mass-destructive strike on one of its cities, what political system would ever know itself again? And all other states would be unrecognizable too, as would relations between them.”

And Benjamin Wittes makes it today: “Eventually, we will face another major attack, because killing large numbers of people is just so much easier than stopping all efforts to kill large numbers of people. . . . [As] hard as it is to remember the reality of the enemy after seven years, it will grow only harder still until the day it all comes rushing back, and we chastise ourselves anew for complacency and failing to heed the warnings that today seem so far-fetched.”

After the Irish Republican Army bombed the Brighton hotel in 1984, killing five people but not their intended target, Prime Minister Thatcher, it issued a statement that summarized the remorseless terrorist’s tactical advantage: “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.”

Discussions - 3 Comments

Our priorities should be reverential silence for the dead, but also a turning off of the screens and a renewal of critical awareness of the public construction of grief and the manipulation of fear for political ends. There were no further actual attacks, nor was there ever really a threat, but the psychic impacts struck again and again because they were too politically expedient to prevent. Thus the safest country in the history of the world simultaneously had housewives cowering from terrorists in Nebraska. The war-profit machines were jump started, and the media cooperated in saturation coverage of a viral, tele-presence of terror, with multiple prostheses and interfaces, and created the terminal american citizen, the permanent-terrorized subject, the figure of whom has lost any means of intervening in the electronic environment but is re-activated in color-coded terror-alerts and 9/11 memorials. His fate is handed over to the capacities of receivers, sensors, and detectors that turn him into a placeholder subjected to machines with which he is in pseudo-participatory dialogue. Bush's own terror-fear on that day, September 11th, was transmitted perfectly, if unwittingly, to the creation of an american interior identity of trauma, a consensual hallucination of fear that is enforced rather than thought.

STERTINIUS, do you think that fear has no place in policy discussions?

What then of that Athenian who tried in vain to warn the citizens of Athens of the predations of Phillip of Macedon, ------- by dwelling upon the dangerous designs of Phillip of Macedon? A clear case of resorting to fear. Was that beyond the pale too?

Was fear not present in Chruchill's great philippics, during his Wilderness years?

Was fear not used when The Committee for the Present Danger tried to rouse Americans to look to the state of their defenses, in the Carter years?

The point here of course is that fear has always been used, and what's more, often SHOULD be used. The position that since fear is being used, it must, ipso facto, be used for deleterious policy choices isn't just strange indeed, but flies in the face of all human experience.

War profit machine?

We're spending less now, as a percentage of our GDP, on defense procurement and our military operations, then we did during the Reagan years, which were ones of peace. If anything, we need to start building a new Navy, and we need to start procuring the F-22 and the F-35 in the numbers that we need.

Media cooperation?

What were they supposed to cover, ----------- global warming, {which advances by what method.............. scare mongering}. What story were they supposed to cover in lieu of 9/11, and America's military response thereto. What story dwarfed America's response to the greatest terror act in human history?

The permanent terrorized subject?

Americans aren't subjects, nor are Americans "permanently terrorized," certainly not by present enemies. You're confusing robust Americans for cowering Europeans.

STERTINIUS, you need to get out more often. You can do better, and you know it.

Fear of commies brought the nazis. What a great asset to the tyrant an external tormenter can be.
The entire tone of the article is very troubling. This man seems to be saying that the fear comes after the act. Which is exactly how the manipulation of people works in our currnet system. An act occurs that in and of itself is no threat to liberty of those not directly involved, however, the reactionary politics aimed at preventing another act are. He is calling for increased worry and more fear mongering or else we will get attacked again and the fear will be even worse. What about the idea of just choosing not to be afraid. After all, who has benifited from terrorism. I can make a list that includes banking cartels, military contractors, and anyone in the United States who felt we had a little too much freedom. Its hard to say that the terorists benifited considering two of their havens have been destroyed. Are we to believe that the terrorist is a sort of comic book villian like the recent portrayal of the joker who simply wants to see the world burn? And if not, and we think they want to change the world over to their ways then they are winning, but not with master plans hatched in caves but the reactionary politics of western governments that increase the police state and curtial liberty.
I recently saw an interview of a women in England who said people should give up their liberty for freedom. This is the sort of double think being advocated here. We have to give up our liberty or we will have it taken. In the end what is the difference.

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