Posted by: Harold Knight | 08/21/2010

“The Terrorism Industry” – Your Right to Be Scared

Fortunately for me, the U.S. Constitution guarantees me—

the Constitution does not “grant” rights; the First Amendment guarantees the rights James Madison and the vast majority of the citizens of the United States believed are mine absolutely by virtue of my being a creature of the natural world. The Constitution does not grant me these rights; rather it guarantees them in perpetuity. “Granting” and “guaranteeing” are different; what is “granted” can be taken away—

freedom of religion, speech, and press. Unfortunately for you, if you expect coherent or well-documented speech or writing here, you will be disappointed. My freedom is to be incomprehensible.

This writing is born of my anguish.

We Americans have fallen into the habit of accepting pernicious nonsense as truth. Nonsense  immobilizes our political processes. Until Wall Street brought our economy to a standstill, our over-riding nonsensical belief was that we were about to be destroyed by “terrorists,” a code word for “Muslims,” whom Americans openly and without apology despise. We are living out that nonsense in a pogrom to deny Muslims their Creator-endowed right to worship. (With the Harvard-MBA-induced near destruction of our economy, most Americans are worrying about the economy rather than “terrorism,” but it lurks just behind the economy in people’s minds.)

The root of this Xenophobia is September 11, 2001. Since that day in the American collective conscious and unconscious, no Muslim can be trusted, no Muslim is good, and every Muslim is a terrorist dedicated to the destruction of our society.

The seeds of this hatred were planted long ago. The first growth came in hatred of Palestinians—hatred going back to the Munich Olympics of 1972—to the terrorists who murdered the Israeli Olympic team. How, the world asked, could terrorists be so evil, so brazen? I ask the question myself. I am no terrorist-sympathizer (I have been accused of that). Terrorism, Palestinians, Muslims—the progression is clear to Americans. The United States government has obliged the growth of that mentality by declaring one representative of the Palestinian Muslim population a terrorist organization. Everyone knows the evils of Hamas. I don’t know one person who supports the violent activities of Hamas.

The problem is that the reality of the Palestinian struggle for statehood is far more complicated than Americans want it to be (as is nearly every international struggle, particularly when one party is struggling to the death for its freedom). When situations on the ground get messy and intractable, the American people simply listen to the rhetoric that is easiest to understand. Since 9/11—or since September 5, 1972—that rhetoric has conflated Palestinians and all other Arabic peoples and, in turn, conflated both groups with “terrorism” and enmity of the American Way of Life. It seems impossible for the vast majority of Americans to comprehend a complicated struggle for freedom as in any way justified.

Now I have to make one of my frequent disclaimers. I am NOT saying that all terrorism is born of a struggle for freedom. Nor am I saying I approve of terrorism. Good grief what kind of idiot or monster does anyone think I am? Please, if you’re reading this, read what I’m writing, not what you want to believe. If I had standing to be speaking in any public forum or for anyone besides myself, what I have said so far would be enough for me to be pilloried and investigated. And all of the pillorying would be unfair and all the investigating would be pointless.

While I do not approve of the tactics of terrorists (no, let me say what I feel: I abhor the tactics of terrorists), neither do I approve of the irrational fear-mongering for political gain of the military-industrial-bureaucrat-political-party complex that runs our nation (into the ground, one might add). We live in a culture of fear, fear, fear, and more fear. We are afraid of our shadow and, even more, of the shadow of anyone who has “that look” about them. We see terrorism where there is none. “I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing,” said Robert Muller, Director of the FBI in testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence, in February 2003 (1).

Some will say I am, ostrich-like, burying my head in the sand. What about the Times Square would-be bomber? What about him? He harmed no one. He was (is) a disturbed young man, not bright enough to figure out how to build a bomb. “But he could have,” you say. He is, therefore, proof that we should be concerned about what we are not seeing. I draw no conclusion about that.

Americans cannot escape the “endless yammering in the media about terrorism.” I suppose Anderson Cooper either purposefully or accidentally attracts crackpots. Even for the sensationalism of CNN, this yammering is sensational:

“I was talking to a retired FBI agent, who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to . . . have young women, who became pregnant, who would get them into the United States to have a baby,” [Texas Republican Congressman Louie] Gohmert said on the House floor on June 24. “Then they could return, where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then, they could return, 20 or 30 years in the future because they realize how stupid we are being in this country,” he added (3).

The evening before Rep. Gohmert spoke on 3600, Texas Republican State Representative Debbie Riddle, “said her office is getting information on the so-called terror babies from former FBI officials” (4). The next evening the former FBI Assistant Director Thomas Fuentes said, of course, it was absurd. He did, however, go on to explain how “radicalized terrorists” from Europe can come to this on passports without visas. Of this sort of terror-mongering, Professor Mueller says,

Threat exaggeration is encouraged, even impelled, because terrorism bureaucrats have an incentive to pass along vague and unconfirmed threats to protect themselves from later criticism should another attack occur (5).

No doubt, we have witnessed arrests (and convictions) of would-be terrorists lurking in the United States. The most recent is a group of Somali-Americans arrested for trying to support an “insurgent” group in their home country. What the definition of insurgency in Somalia is, or who is the good guy and who the bad is not clear. It is clear whom the United States has chosen as ally. But why? It is that kind of complication that Americans seem to be unable to accept or sort out.

In 2009, a Muslim leader in Dallas whom I am honored to call friend said to a Fox News reporter, “. . .you can only blame Hamas for so long. It takes two to tango. And I think, you know, that what we’ve heard for a number of years is this terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, was not just Hamas.” Hamas, even with its “terrorist” actions, is not to blame solely and continually for the disruption of peace in the Middle East since at least 1900 (Hamas has existed only since 1987). This, again is a kind of complication that Americans seem to be unable to accept. His words now appear on a “terrorism watch” website.

The demonization of Muslims is pernicious. Not to Muslims only, but to our way of life. It will destroy us because “fear-mongering and scapegoating ‘the other’ has no rightful place in a nation that strives to be a beacon of hope for all those seeking opportunity or escaping persecution” (6).

My distress is that, as Americans  agree together that the Constitution “grants” rather than “guarantees” rights for one group in our society so those rights can be taken from them, Americans will decide the same for other groups—or agree to accept the same about all of our rights.
(1) Mueller, John. “Fear Not: Notes from a Naysayer.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists March/April 2007. Web. 21 Aug 2010.
(2) idem.
(3) Cooper, Anderson. “’Terror Babies’ Taking Aim at US?” AC 3600. August 11, 2010. Web. 20 Aug 2010.
(4) idem.
(5) Mueller, ibid.
(6) Faith in Public Life. “Top Religious Leaders Denounce Growing Anti-Muslim Sentiment; Express Support for NY Mosque, Community Center; Challenge Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin to Stop Exploiting Fear.” Faith in Public Life. August 11, 2010. Web. 19 Aug 2010.


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