Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Real Terrorist

The terrorist who has done the most damage to the United States is George W. Bush. I am well aware that Bush did not plan 9/11, nor do I believe that he had any advance knowledge of the plot. On the other hand, George W. Bush is primarily responsible for the terror that has needlessly gripped this country and changed it so dramatically for the worse since September 11, 2001.

Terrorism is a tactic usually employed by those who, like bin Laden, know that they cannot win a conventional war. Rather than trying to do physical damage, the terrorist tries to inflict emotional or psychological damage on his enemy. The clever terrorist does not attack military installations, but rather seeks to kill civilians while they go about their regular lives, on a bus or plane, or working in an office building. (Bin Laden is not a very effective terrorist. He attacked one spectacular target, feeding his own ego, rather than hitting many smaller, random targets -- the best way to scare the daylights out of a population).

It is all but impossible to physically protect oneself from a terrorist. There are simply too many targets. On the other hand, terrorist do not really do that much damage. Human society suffers from all sorts of risks that are far more lethal, even in the most terror-ridden countries on earth. Cancer and car accidents being two obvious examples.

The best way to address terrorism is to think rationally about it. In an important sense, it is a tragedy when even one person dies, whether of cancer or an accident or an act of terror. But those three deaths are all deaths, one no different from the others. We should pay attention to the lethal risks in proportion to the actual damage they do, not based on how spectacular they are. In societal terms, physical damage from terrorism not very that important, and it does not deserve to take up that much of our attention. In the end, it is somewhere between lightening strikes and shark attacks. Yet, it gets more attention and causes more fear than many far more substantial risks.

Enter George W. Bush. Bush, along with his cronies, used 9/11 to create as much terror as possible in this country, for their own political advantage. They used it to justify their invasion of Iraq, and to get Bush re-elected. They used it to destroy our constitution. Bush claims to be prosecuting a "war on terrorism" and to be a "war president," meaningless phrases used to keep the American people terrified and submissive.

Terror is a psychological tactic, and the man who has terrorized this county is not bin Laden, but rather our own pathetic president.

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