Terrorism, “the War on Terror” and the Message of Carnage

Four decades later, the anti-terror rationale is not just another argument for revving up the U.S. war machinery. Fighting ?terror? is now the central rationale for war.

A key requirement of this righteous war is that all inconvenient history must be deemed irrelevant. ?By accepting the facile cliche that the battle under way against terrorism is a battle against evil, by easily branding those who fight us as the barbarians, we, like them, refuse to acknowledge our own culpability,? journalist Chris Hedges has observed. ?We ignore real injustices that have led many of those arrayed against us to their rage and despair.?

Voices of reason, even when they?ve come from within the country?s military establishment, have been shunted aside. In late November 2002, a retired U.S. Army general, William Odom, told C-SPAN viewers: ?Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It?s a tactic. It?s about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we?re going to win that war. We?re not going to win the war on terrorism. And it does whip up fear. Acts of terror have never brought down liberal democracies. Acts of parliament have closed a few.?

The president who lied his way into an invasion of Iraq is now exploiting Thursday?s atrocities in London to justify U.S. policies that are bringing daily atrocities to Iraq. Bush is intent on sending a message to ?the terrorists? by continuing the Pentagon?s war effort.

In his book ?War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,? former war correspondent Chris Hedges writes that he saw such transmissions up close: ?Corpses in wartime often deliver messages. The death squads in El Salvador dumped three bodies in the parking lot of the Camino Real Hotel in San Salvador, where the journalists were based, early one morning. Death threats against us were stuffed in the mouths of the bodies.? Hedges adds: ?And, on a larger scale, Washington uses murder and corpses to transmit its wrath. We delivered such incendiary messages in Vietnam, Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden has learned to speak the language of modern industrial warfare.?

Forty years later, with a ?war on terrorism? serving as the central theme of pro-war propaganda, the United States and its military allies are routinely sending lethal messages. It should not surprise us when such messages are returned to sender.

This article is adapted from Norman Solomon?s new book ?War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.? Book excerpts are posted at: www.WarMadeEasy.com

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