Here’s a question for you:
If it helps, here’s some data:
And if the US government spent money on medical research that the private Big Pharma companies (which prefer to spend money developing cures for illnesses of the wealthy, like impotence) find unprofitable, like finding a cure for AIDS, or influenza, the number of lives that could be saved, and ruined lives made livable, is almost unimaginable.
The real brilliance of the horrific attacks of 9/11 was not their high death toll or visual spectacle, but their ability to provoke a knee-jerk reaction in American conservatives that a recurrence of those attacks must be prevented at any cost. That cost has so far included the bankrupting of the US treasury, a widening of the disparity in quality of life between the rich and the poor to a gulf, and the opportunity cost (what otherwise could have been achieved by peacetime spending) of over a quarter trillion dollars per year.
No amount of money, and no amount of security, can prevent a recurrence of 9/11 whenever it suits the next rich psychopath to launch it. Our society is simply too open and too global to defend against such attacks — there are just too many ways that anyone could launch them, as the Oklahoma City bombers demonstrated long before 9/11. But this reality of openness, of defenselessness, of powerlessness, is simply unfathomable and intolerable to the conservative mindset of father-figure-as-protector. The alternative to Bush’s futile extravagant spending and foreign adventures would be to do almost nothing, to admit that the liberals were right all along — and that the only way to prevent violence is to remove the causes of human misery that lead the unhinged to extreme nothing-left-to-lose actions. Bin Laden surely knew that Bush could not stomach that alternative, and that his actions would cause Bush to bankrupt the US treasury in an irrational attempt to defend against any conceivable future ‘terrorist’ act, thus rendering the US unable to muster forces to block Bin Laden’s plan to create a single Islamic fundamentalist state from West Africa to Indonesia.
The very fact that Bush has called it ‘The War on Terror’ betrays his awareness that the ‘enemies’ in this war cannot be identified, their location cannot be identified, their means of attack cannot be guessed at, and when and where they will attack cannot be determined. It is a ‘war’ that can never be won.
And the futility of this endless War has another cost besides its astronomical financial and human costs: It is turning the US into a police state: (“a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force, and considers itself above the law”). And what characterizes a police state more than the paranoia and fear that it indefinitely sustains is the loss of rights and freedoms it brings about. This was a bonus even Bin Laden probably never expected — that the very rights and freedoms that distinguished America from its ‘enemies’ would be curtailed and eliminated as incompatible with national security. This is a slippery slope that America has been sliding down since the Patriot Act and it is still continuing — we now know that Bush and Homeland Security consider the Internet a tool of ‘the enemy’ and intend to obtain “maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum” and gain the ability at any time to “disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum”.
If it sounds impossible that the US government could own and control (and destroy) the Internet, it isn’t. As Doc Searls has explained, the US telecom oligopoly is now attempting, using a corporate-friendly Congress, to get control of the Internet and put tolls on it. It’s a small step from there for the government to nationalize it ‘in the interests of security’ and do what they want with it. Welcome Big Brother. They recently demanded that Google provide them with logs of every search done by everyone on the planet in a two-month ‘test period’ using the Google search engine. The other major search engines complied with similar demands.
This lunacy is evidence of deep paranoia, a form of mental illness that sees menace behind every door and in every (illegally tapped) personal telephone conversation or e-mail. I would argue that this lunacy is the inevitable consequence of the confrontation between socially conservative thinking and the realities of our ‘global village’ world. Social conservatives believe that we are inherently weak, susceptible to the ‘temptations of evil’, and that it is the responsibility of paternalistic leaders to impose moral authority on us, and to teach us the values of ‘good’ behaviour and to make us fear the consequences of ‘evil’ behaviour. Such intimidation may work well enough in closed societies, but in the modern world there are many, highly conflicting views of what, and who, are ‘good’ and ‘evil’. When all social conservatives (including Bush and Bin Laden) are trying simultaneously to impose their values on their families, their citizens, their ‘consumers’, their congregations, while there is a constant intermingling of families, citizens, ‘consumers’ and congregations, and a simultaneous globalization of societies and cultures, the only possible consequence is perpetual war and ubiquitous paranoia. Social conservativism is simply incompatible with the modern world, an evolutionary throwback (it is no coincidence that social conservatives deny the theory of evolution) to a time when cultures were isolated and there were new frontiers for non-conformists to be exiled to, and its recent resurgence, both in America and in the Mideast, is a serious threat to the peace and perhaps even the survival of our civilization.
The irony is that economic conservatism, which is different from social conservatism, and which supports a laissez-faire, unregulated approach to economic management (“let the ‘market’ decide”), is the force most responsible for the globalization that has led to homogenization of our cultures and hence created the violent paranoia of social conservatives.
In the born-again Bush we have both social and economic conservatism. A socially conservative leader should be an isolationist, not an imperialist, and should be averse to free trade and other vehicles of globalization, since these inevitably weaken cultures and the ability of paternalistic leaders to command obedience and conformity to their definition of ‘good’ behaviour. In fact before 9/11 there was some evidence that Bush was an isolationist and not enamoured of ‘free’ trade.
But the neocons pulling his strings are extreme economic conservatives, and they have persuaded him (to advance their own personal economic interests) that globalization can be consistent with social conservatism provided that his, evangelical Christian values model prevails all over the globe. While the intermixing of cultures, and the spread of knowledge of other ways of living, are a great threat to the social conservative, the total homogenization of world culture based on evangelical Christian values could, after the inevitable horrific wars to the death of other cultures, produce a peaceful, undifferentiated, servile world population. Heaven on Earth for the winner, and the losers, as with all the cultural genocides in human history, are exterminated to the point their voice is no longer heard.
This was the objective of the original Crusades, and of the missionaries sent to ‘convert’ the ‘heathen’, violently or mortally if necessary, throughout our history. No cultural diversity means no more wars. The citizen is reduced socially to an obedient sheep, and reduced economically to a ‘consumer’ who, as Jerry Michalski famously put it “is nothing more than a gullet whose only purpose in life is to gulp products and crap cash”. It was not an accident that Bush used the word ‘crusade’ in describing his invasion of Iraq, and predicted his war would be a very long one.
Such a vision fills me with sadness, and the thought of the bloodshed its realization would require horrifies me. But I understand it. It is the apocalyptic conservative’s nirvana, a realization of ‘right makes might’. I don’t think I could live in such a dreary, controlled world. But maybe, if I was born into one, and if it were the only life I knew, I might think differently.
In the meantime, enjoy America while it is solvent, and your Internet before it is taken away. And getready for the next volley, the War in Iran — a neocon explains why, in social conservative thinking, it’s imminent and inevitable.
Thanks to Dale Asberry for the Internet and War in Iran links.