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copyright Robert Jensen 2005
from the Hindustan Times (India), July 22, 2005
by Robert Jensen
Analysts of all political stripes in the
Right-wing forces argue (mistakenly, in my opinion) that the terrorist attacks prove we must stay the course of the Bush administration’s strategy of using military force to win the so-called “war on terror” until we vanquish the evil-doers.
Critics argue (correctly, in my opinion) that the
terrorism can’t be stopped through war. Left critics (again, correctly)
us that the policy’s inability to make anyone truly safer suggests a
motivation for the
My thoughts after the bombings, however, were
concerned not with
analysis of existing policy but speculation about what will happen in
I say “when,” not “if,” the next attack on
(A footnote, necessary when writing from the
Why am I pessimistic about the aftermath of
Although Sept. 11, 2001, allowed the government to expand police powers
marginalize dissent, in many ways the repression was relatively mild.
that hundreds of Arab and South Asian immigrants were rounded up and
of even minimal legal protections, and that systematic torture in
But, even with all those horrors, the reaction of the society was more restrained than many on the left expected. Domestic political dissidents were not systematically rounded up or silenced through force; instead, we were mostly ignored. And almost every mainstream politician made a point of saying the fight was not with Islam but with a particular segment of the Muslim world. Islam, we were told by the president, is a religion of peace (a claim about as true for Islam as for Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism, all of which have adherents who use religion to justify violence and domination).
But when the next major terrorist attack hits the
The progressive media advocacy group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting collected much of that commentary on July 7 and pointed out that a dominant theme was that the bombings should end criticism of Bush policies. In the words of one journalist on a FOX News show, “That debate is obliterated. …We’re back to the basics. We are at war.” (For more examples, see http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2575.)
In other words, when attacked there can be no rational assessment of administration policies. There can be no debate. The choice is either adulation of the glorious leader or silence.
When the attacks of 9/11 hit, the culture could
draw on a
climate of tolerance and respect for political dissent that had built
democratizing movements of the 1960s (including the new left, antiwar,
rights, feminism, gay rights). But throughout
First is the longstanding ideology of American
exceptionalism, the doctrine that the
Today that exceptionalism is often conflated with
increasingly triumphalist and fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
folks, it’s not just about inherent
Finally, the danger posed by this toxic
combination of God
and country is heightened by
When the next terrorist attack hits, we can be
the Bush administration (or its successor, Republican or Democrat) will
those ideologies to try to build support for more belligerent policies.
All that is
unknown is whether a vigorous anti-empire movement can forestall these
developments. That is not a matter for prediction but action. Those of
us who are
part of that movement have much work to do.
Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the
University of Texas at Austin, board member of the Third Coast Activist
Resource Center (http://thirdcoastactivist.org),
and the author of The Heart of
Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege
and Citizens of the Empire: The
Struggle to Claim Our
Humanity. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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