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Ian Masters Headshot

The United States of Fear

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Before hyperventilating over President Bush's latest warning to take Bin Laden's recent threat seriously, it's worth remembering Franklin Roosevelt's admonition to America during one of her darkest hours that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." Apparently we have something to fear, we're paying "Homeland Security" fifty billion dollars for a color code that tells you what day a terrorist attack is more likely, but not what you can do about it. That presumably costs more. We're often told by our President it's hard work fighting terror, which must be why it costs so much. He also says they
hate our freedom? So America's a free country, they're free to hate us. Maybe we should retaliate by hating their enslavement? Whatever we do we shouldn't fall into the trap of being afraid we have too much freedom. Besides, that will just drive them mad. So why are we afraid of these men
in beards and turbans who taunt us on Al Jazzera with their video messages?

Al Qaeda says we're decadent, so instead of hating us, why don't they pity us? Maybe they do, but they're not free to say so because they don't want to look soft on the infidels. They want to kill us because we're afraid of death, while they're not. Why should they be, they get seventy two virgins
when they die? When we get to the Pearly Gates, if we're lucky, we're out of luck. Saint Peter doesn't tolerate post mortal sex, so we have an eternity of celibacy to look forward to.

They say we want their oil. They're right, we want it so bad we've fought two wars in a row for it. But at least Bush's dad got the Saudis and the Japanese to pay for the first one, junior's spending two trillion dollars to secure Iraqi oil he promised would pay for his war, that's either blown up or stolen.

So why do we need the oil so bad? Because we love big cars but hate paying more for gas, which is why GM is going broke while ExxonMobil is making record profits. But the oil companies are not happy because OPEC keeps raising prices, sticking it to the big guy who just hates to pass it along
to the little guy, but what can they do, they've got us over a barrel? The secret Dick Cheney's energy task force is sitting on is out! Although big oil can't wait to get beyond petroleum to slow down climate change, they know we're not ready to pay the price. So they're sacrificing the environment to save us from another oil shock, which explains why they're buying scientists to say global warming doesn't exist.

So how did the war on terror become the new "Red scare" without the "Evil Empire" to justify it? There has to be a better choice than an endless war against a tactic, terrorism? Unfortunately in an era of asymmetrical warfare, our President was mighty quick on the draw declaring war on al Qaeda. It's bring-it-on Bush who's feeding Bin Laden's delusions of power, it was W who promoted Osama onto the world stage with equal billing as a worthy adversary. Ladies and gentlemen, the world's only superpower versus a cave-dweller... It should be a slam-dunk, so how come Bush is making our
citizens live in fear of Bin Laden's next terrorist attack?

No question al Qaeda managed a spectacular surprise attack that killed three thousand innocents, but haven't we survived infinitely greater threats to our cities and populations? For forty years of the Cold War we lived under threat of annihilation from paranoid geriatrics with their trembling fingers
on the nuclear hair-trigger, with every city in the United States targeted to be vaporized in twenty minutes. Now a handful of religious nuts attack us and we retaliate by bankrupting ourselves? How come a thousand-dollar car bomb can wipe out billions on the stock exchange? Are we in a war FOR
our survival or WITH our survival?

Maybe this fear explains our distorted economic priorities where we are filling potholes in Iraq while much of New Orleans remains a waterlogged pile of rubble. It's a hell of a deal being the global Cop without pay, making Cheney's cronies rich from record high defense spending while getting poorer in our overall standard of living and quality of life? With our people motivated by fear instead of hope, anxiety instead of inspiration, what are we defending?

So far Bush's bone-headed "retaliation" against Iraq in the war on terror has recruited more Holy warriors than we can kill. As we dig ourselves deeper into his hole in the wrong desert, is the military the best way to fight ideas and religious passions? Could we get "more bang for the buck" by investing in the Peace Corps and humanitarian aid rather than writing another blank check for the war on terror? Could we make domestic spending a "defense" priority and come up with a new version of President Eisenhower's highway bill to get our crumbling infrastructure updated and repaired? The answer is yes, until the next terrorist attack, then fear takes over and we punish ourselves all over again.