Sunday, November 13, 2005

Unite against Criticism

Dubya hit back at his critics on Friday at an address to commemorate Veterans Day. Some people might think that such an event is highly unsuitable for political charged and controversial statements. George has no such concern. In fact, he's provided a splendidly clear example of the "we must unite against the common enemy" tactic I mentioned in the previous post. No-one does this quite as brazenly as Dubya; even Blair doesn't have the temerity to be so blatant.

Here's the full text of what he said. I've selected a couple of telling quotes.
The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century.
This is an extraordinary exaggeration. Without wishing to discuss the Cold War in any great detail it's pretty obvious that the threat today is very different. The "struggle against communism" was a struggle against a very large, very well funded nation state. In fact, it was a struggle against a superpower of almost equal strength to the US. The military capacity of the USSR was totally incomparable to the terrorist threat we now face. Millions of well trained, well equipped professional soldiers, backed by an enormous structured state apperatus compared to a group of extremists with limited funding and no superpower state backing. A huge arsenal of nuclear weapons constantly targetted at the US and ready to be launched at short notice compared to the possibility that a terrorist group might aquired and use WMD at some point in the future. In the fight againt communism, the US (and the world) faced the constant possibility of mutually assured destruction. The world as we knew it could have been destroyed at the push of a button. For every hour of every day, for very many years, the US was quite literally minutes from potential destruction.

While the incidents of September 11th were undoubtedly horrific, the idea that "in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle agaisnt communism" is basically laughable. In almost no way does this fight resemble the fight against communism. And yet, Dubya says that it does. It is as bold an example of scaremongering to keep the people in line as you're ever likely to see.

Well, that's not quite true. Towards the end of the speech, George goes even further.
While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began... The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.)
I doubt I have to spell it out, the message is clear: "We must unite against the common enemy." That means not criticising Bush where it hurts, no matter how unscrupulously you believe he behaved in the run up to the war. If you have doubts, button it. If you do not, you are aiding the enemy and threatening the very existence of the citizens and institutions of the United States of America. You are, in short, a traitor. It is astonishingly blatant. In the UK, Blair has to use the Scum to pursue such obviously manipulative tactics. In the US, the President appears to be able to do it without any help from friendly newspaper owners. I find this extremely worrying.

The real danger is that by exaggerating the scale of the threat, we end up with a self-fullfilling prophesy. I'd argue that this is already happening. Taking a "tough" stance on terrorism (by invading a country with no practical links to the terrorists for example) has increased the terrorists ability to recruit and carry out more attacks. The harder the squeeze, the worse the problem gets. The President then uses the increasing number of attacks to justify squeezing even harder and round we go again. Once that circle starts it is very difficult to stop.

In my next post, I'm planning to write about this from the point of view of the terrorist strategists. This will, I hope, help to further explain why I'm so worried about the President's approach to the "war" on terror.

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