Rational Fears and “Gut Feelings:” U.S. Policy, the Middle East and the Privileging of Hegemony Over Survival

“Security is an important element of human life, and free people do not give up their security. Unlike what Bush says – that we hate freedom – let him tell us why didn’t we attack Sweden, for example.”

- Osama bin-Laden, 2003


“I. guess while I was there [in Iraq], the general attitude was ‘a dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi.   You know, so what?”

- Jeff Englehart, former Specialist, Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, United States Army, 2006  





Like United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, I’ve got a “gut feeling” (Associated Press 2007) that the U.S. is going to get hit by a major terrorist attack.  


Unlike Chertoff, I don’t claim to get this feeling from any specific recent national security data or “chatter.”


I have no idea if Chertoff is right to say that the danger is especially strong this summer. 


I have no official information about which groups are most likely to attack or which U.S. facilities or structures or populations are most at risk.






And I have the distinct impression that Chertoff’s “feeling”and subsequent terror warnings from the executive branch   have as much to do with the politics of George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War as with any specific intelligence about escalated dangers.  As the New York Times’ editorial page observed in a piece titled “The Politics of Fear” last Wednesday:


“It had to happen.  President Bush’s bungling of the war in Iraq has been the talk of the summer.   On Capitol Hill, some of the more reliable Republicans are writing proposals to force Mr. Bush to change course.  A showdown vote is looming in the Senate.”  


“Enter, stage right, the fear of terrorism.”


“…The message, as always: Be very afraid.  And don’t question the president.”


“…The White House has never hesitated to play on fear for political gain, starting with the first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge , and his Popsicle-coded threat charts.  It is a breathtakingly cynical ploy, but in the past it has worked to cow the Democrats into silence, if not always submission, and herd Republicans back into the party line” (New York Times Editorial Board 2007).





My “gut feeling” is more general, basic, existential and longstanding than Chertoff’s.  It’s the same nagging sense I had long before 9/11.


I’ll have it next summer even if no attack occurs between now and then – unless the U.S. drastically changes its course of action regarding the Middle East.


The main “intelligence” source for my dread today is the same one that made me less than surprised when the twin towers fell in the late summer of 2001: a common-sense understanding that people from (and/or with allegiances to) the Muslim world and Middle East are being massively and dangerously incited by a U.S. foreign policy that privileges American global dominance over the security of the U.S. people (Chomsky 2003). 


Those who claim that “Islamofascist” hatred of western “freedom” and “democracy” was the driving force behind al Qaeda’s stunning jetliner attacks have little explanation for why Osama bin-Laden (OBL) et al. specifically targeted the United States for attack. If bin-Laden and his followers and supporters were motivated by loathing of “American freedom and democracy,” why were they on the side of the U.S. in the late 1980s, when America enjoyed at least as much domestic freedom and democracy as in the summer of 2001, if not more?


And if bin-Laden and the rest were so angry at the internal freedom and democracy of ‘”infidel” Western nations, why were Canada, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Switzerland – to name a few non-Islamic democratic states where democratic institutions were healthier and more developed – right to be much less worried about major attacks from al Qaeda during and after the 1990s?


Leave a comment