Saturday, October 06, 2001

If any good comes out of the terrorism, perhaps it would be an education for some Americans as to the psychopathic nature of U. S. foreign affairs from the unnecessary atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 up to the present day. Some people are now saying that it is unfair to mention these things at this time. If not now, at a time when there is at least a limited audience, when? People like Chomsky have been talking about these issues for years, and are absolutely, completely and totally ignored. The enormity of the terror might be just enough to force some Americans to ask themselves just what the hell is going on. (Unfortunately, the oil jones of the multinational corporations means there is no chance that the American oligarchs will do the right thing.)
The other argument is that the fundamentalists are violent, freedom-hating, democracy-hating, woman-hating nuts, and nothing the U. S. could do (e. g., stop bombing Iraq, stop supporting repression of Palestinians, withdraw troops from Islamic holy lands, etc.) would make any difference. This argument resembles much wartime propaganda in that it depicts a sub-human, crazy enemy. The fact is that a small number of people in each society are fundamentalist religious psychos. These people plot and plan and fulminate, but require a certain political culture in order to have enough power to do real harm. If the culture is put under great stress (stress could be caused by being bombed every day or living in refugee camps or in poverty in a country with huge riches that only a few selected by the American oligarchs share in) the psychos start to obtain money and political support and to attract acolytes (some of these acolytes come from parts of the population that aren't necessarily subject to the worst conditions - interestingly, you can see the same pattern in the biographies of many early Christian martyrs). Most people, however, aren't crazy, violent, or fundamentalist. The 'clash of civilizations' argument is just a CIA fantasy, created to provide a replacement for the cold war (though I must admit that I am sometimes attracted to a Quigley-type argument that environmental stress can tend some cultures to take on ideas of militarism or patriarchy). In the current Hitchens versus the-rest-of-the-left debate, Hitchens seems to have opted for the general wartime propaganda clash-of-civilizations side, rather than the more nuanced view that the fundamentalists obtain some power to act due to stress imposed on their culture, at least some of which stress has been caused by the U. S. (it's particularly rich when American commentators make the point that the only Islamic state that is a democracy is Turkey, when achieving such a slate of dictators friendly to U. S. oil interests has been one of the tenets of post-war U. S. foreign relations). The more nuanced view would mean that you don't make an act of terrorism into a world war, with its concomitant vast amount of suffering imposed on the innocent, but simply ferret out the psychos, and start to take steps to relieve the stress which allows them to act.