Fear Is No Excuse

Are you scared of terrorism? Do color-coded days of danger make you anxious for your children? I’m not going to tell you that your concern is understandable but that attacking another country would be counterproductive.

No, I think it’s more important to tell you that your fear is shameful, that it is exactly what the terrorists want, and that acting out of fear is what can lead to acceptance of quick and comforting beliefs that prove counterproductive.

Let’s go to the root of the problem. With all due respect, if you’re scared, grow a spine. If you are keeping yourself out of a state of panic by means of comforting thoughts of the size of the U.S. military and the leadership of the President, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should not be panicking in the first place, because life is always dangerous, yours can always stop on a dime without warning, and cowardice is despicable. Be brave.

I know you want to talk about facts, and out of the blue I’m accusing you of fear. I’m about to accuse you of mysticism as well. The reason is that I think you’re intelligent. I think that if you were paying even the slightest attention to the facts you would have stopped all talk of attacking Iraq by now.

You fell in love with George W. Bush on Sept. 12, 2001, the same day you changed your mind about Rudy Giuliani. Recently you developed a serious crush on Chief Moose. I don’t think these infatuations have much to do with your analysis of facts.

If I showed you a corpse, it wouldn’t convince you that humans really die. You would tell me about your beliefs, but these beliefs wouldn’t involve facts that a nonbeliever recognizes.

If I show you the facts on Iraq, what will that accomplish? I’m willing to try it as an experiment if you are.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were committed by a group of Muslims largely from Saudi Arabia enraged by the United States’ military presence in the Middle East. Iraq played no role in these attacks. The U.S. military has now bombed Afghanistan and left it to suffer without any serious assistance. And U.S. military presence in the Middle East has only been increased. The United States has not tried to establish a democracy in Afghanistan, and despite its ability to enforce economic sanctions on Iraq for years (resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children) and to send in weapons inspectors, the United States has not even attempted to enforce fair elections in Iraq – which would likely produce the much talked about regime change.

Iraq has not threatened or attacked any other country since the Gulf War. Iraq has a pitifully weak military. President Bush claims to want to attack Iraq because Iraq wants to develop weapons of mass destruction. But the United States and many other countries already possess such weapons. North Korea, another country designated as “evil” by Bush, has just been discovered to possess nuclear weapons, and yet Bush has not proposed attacking it.

Millions of people filled with passionate, and even suicidal, hatred for the United States cannot all be prevented from committing serious acts of terror against Americans. Missiles in outer space will not save us from razor blades. Letting the FBI study your reading habits, or locking people up without a charge, or putting video cameras on lamp posts, or any other such solution can never save us from massive hatred. The first thing we need to protect our children is to decrease the hatred of this country. Everything else can be debated but is secondary to that.

Forcing foreigners to fear the wrath of this country will not save us from attacks. Iraq had been conquered, weakened, and suppressed with hunger, sickness, and death before September 11, 2001. Iraq can be no further subdued than it already is. It could, however, have a ruler more interested in enriching U.S. oil companies. And by attacking it further, the United States could create even more hatred of Americans.

Many Americans still don’t feel quite safe on airplanes. Do you think your president wants you to feel safe on airplanes and has failed to reach that goal, or do you think he’s perhaps succeeded in what he intended? Like you, he’s not the dummy he’s portrayed as.

I am convinced that a decisive factor in the popularity of Republican candidates in the 2002 election was religion, by which I mean the willful belief that George W. Bush has superhuman powers. This man’s popularity is based on the fear he encourages, the threats he promises to protect people from, and too many Americans’ irresponsible willingness to try to believe that Bush can protect them.

While too many Democrats have gone along with Bush’s war-making and roll-back of civil rights, even to the point of refraining from opposing him on completely unrelated issues, too many of those Democrats who have opposed Bush on Iraq have done so without opposing the scare and protection racket. These so-called radicals break with Bush while trying to acknowledge the appropriateness of people’s fear and concern.

Fear is not appropriate and excuses nothing, least of all acting in a way that increases actual dangers. Color-coded fear days and promises to protect us from unnamed but colored threats are rituals in a belief system that relies on blind Bush-worship.

Aren’t you ashamed to be taking orders from a spoiled rich kid who snuck out of military service but who is eager to send other people to kill and be killed to avenge his Daddy?

No? I’m being disrespectful of your President? OK. I apologize. But what about this: aren’t you ashamed of putting your children in serious danger for the sake of a quick and comforting belief?

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