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The threat to America from terrorism

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Viking, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. Viking Gems: 19/31
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    Now I may be more than a little cynical about this, as here in the UK a similar beat of the political drum is clearly being struck, where media hype fueled by politicians has people running scared. Why is this?

    Why does Bush think that people need to be protected in this way that undermines most other policy areas including the country's economy, civil liberty, justice and everything the US ever stood for in terms of freedom?

    The US is NOT under any real threat to it's fabric or nationhood from terrorism. One terrible and dispicable incident does not make this perceived threat reality. There simply is no threat to justify the actions over the last two years in terms of policy legislation or war. This is not to ignore the fact that a threat exists to us all from these things, it's just that the perspective is all wrong.

    So why do they want people to believe it? They want people to believe it so they can make political gain from 'protecting the people' and any relevant monetary gain you like from big business in the process. It has become a mantra of deceit which has resulted in human rights abuses, legislation that threatens the very fabric of freedom in the United States and by foreign policy also many other parts of the world.

    Let's look at some threats that are far more real to Americans, though at the moment you'd be hard pressed to believe they even existed.

    If we want to look purely in terms of numbers, some 42,000 Americans are killed on the roads each year. (NHTSA figures). Now this is nearly fiteen times the number killed by terrorists once, not every year. If you want to compare the figures for the last ten years, you are at about 3,000 still for terrorism, and at over 400,000 on the roads. Hmm, what is being done Mr Bush? A seatbelt campaign perhaps? (About 58% of all those people killed in vehicles were not wearing seat belts apparently.)

    OK, I appreciate the arguments against such a comparison. So lets take homicides which are violent deaths, though perpetrated by American citizens upon eachother. I'll only bring up the gun statistics as this compares quite reasonably with with other violent uneccesary deaths. 2002 BoJ figures: Just over 11,000. About 75% handguns, 25% other firearms. Yet nothing is being done to kerb the gun proliferation even though any US citizen is statistically actually near on infinitely more threatened from guns than terrorist attacks. What is being done Mr Bush? Gun control laws perhaps?

    As an aside from this before any NRA supporters tell me that it's not guns that kill people and that Europe isn't much better etc, I'll give you the UK figures as a comparison. 2002/03 81 deaths. 2003/04 68 deaths. (Home office figures). Here politicians are outraged at these deaths and are introducing more and more legislation to kerb gun crime. Shocking isn't it since if you extrapolate the numbers by the approximate difference in population we have the equivalent of say 500 and 400 deaths respectively, or less than 5% of the numbers in the US.

    Still not convinced that there are other far more real threats than terrorism? Well most observers agree that WAR is a threat. In fact, potentially a real threat to a country's economy, it's citizens, and blow me down if invasding another country is not likely to create a certain amount of dis-satisfaction amongst the people of that country.

    I suppose if we let our politicians (both over there and over here) carry on this way, perhaps they manage to make the threat they've been exaggerating so much about become real through their actions. Oh well.
     
  2. Morgoth

    Morgoth La lune ne garde aucune rancune Veteran

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    When people are afraid, they band together, making them easier to rule.
     
  3. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    Thats probably why there is so little complaint about the 'Patriot Act'. Even the very name makes people less inclined to question it.
     
  4. Lokken Gems: 26/31
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    Once I thought that the number of deaths should be reduced if possible and that necessary restrictions should be enforced to achieve this (I still do btw), and thought others would think the same way. Apparently, not all do.

    I remember having a long debate with Shralp in the chat some years ago about gun-law/control. And we ended up not agreeing on the matter, and the reason behind it was that there are quite a few americans that find the deaths involved in shootouts an "acceptable" price to pay for the right to wear arms. The difference may in majority lie in different ideologies, that life is not as valuable as right.
     
  5. Rallymama Gems: 31/31
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    Personally, I think that almost everything Bush has done since 9/11 has only reinforced the terrorists' innate concern: that America really does pose a threat to the Isalmic way of life. It was bad enough when they were riled up over the practices of American companies in a free market, but now the government is involved and has made a policy of "exporting Americanism."

    Even so, I'm well aware that I'm at a far greater risk of dying from a commuter's car than a terrorist's bomb in my 8-block walk to the train station every day.
     
  6. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    Thats true. While most people don't mind being 'Americanised' eg people here wearing clothing with the 'stars and stripes', other people like me don't like seeing good healthy and tasty eateries being closed down because yet another new fastfood chain.
     
  7. Bion Gems: 21/31
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    People aren't upset about road deaths because (Nader's good work aside) they see driving as being under their control. If they get into an accident, they'll either blame it on themselves or on the other driver. Generally road fatalities don't make it past local news. Contrast this with aviation fatalities, which get major national (or even world) coverage, so that people are often much, much more afraid of flying than of driving, even though logically one should be much more nervous about driving. This is because 1) aviation accidents, when they happen, are far more spectacular and horrific than auto accidents, and 2) airline passengers have absolutely no control over the flight of the airplane, and so feel powerless to avoid their fate. Somehow the control one has while driving simply makes people feel safer, like they'll have a chance if faced with an accident situation. And if an airline goes down, one has a number of big, faceless corporations to blame.

    Or, we could compare auto fatalities to violent crime fatalities, which are far less than driving fatalities, but like aviation accidents, tend to get more coverage. Again this has to do with control, blame, and status of victimization. Society is far more willing to accept driving accidents as facts of life, where violent crime, in having an obvious intent, perpetrator, and victim, elicits strong demands for justice or even revenge.

    Or, for those following baseball, the young woman who was killed when a policeman accidentally shot her in the eye with a crowd control "pepper ball" drew national news coverage, widespread condemnation of police tactics (and soon, no doubt, a multi-million dollar settlement), widespread condemnation of a local newspaper for publishing photos, etc. Had she been killed by a drink driver after the game, this might have barely been covered: somehow society seems one kind of death as far more tragic -- in being preventable, or in being blamable -- than another.

    So what does this have to do with terrorism? On one hand, it's hard to support the claim that dying by terrorist is equivalent to dying by an auto accident, as death by terrorists seems far more symbolic and tragic than death by car crash, and in that there was violent intent in one case and not in the other. One of the functions of society is to define and regulate the notion of "justice," and one case seems like a grand injustice, while the other is deemed almost acceptable.

    The flip side of this is that people tend to imagine themselves as likely victims of terrorism in a far greater degree than would actually be likely, just like with aviation accidents, and 9/11 was without a doubt the most spectacular single act of terrorism the world has seen. Was it in F9/11, where Moore interviewed people in some podunk small town in Virginia who thought they too could be victims of terrorism, and so needed to be vigilant? People saw images of this again and again and again in the days and weeks (and months and years) after 9/11, and as some psychologists have argued, many viewers suffered post-traumatic stress symptoms from the repeated televised images alone.

    Of course, this has obvious propagandistic value. But it still seems hard to compare to auto accidents.
     
  8. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    I strongly agree with Rally on that.

    IMO the as hysterical as false threat perspective of certeain US politicians, who seem to be believing that they are fighting the clash of the cultures, is generating in parts of the juslim population the feeling the west IS on a crusade -- this generating what they falsely believe to see already and thus prompting resistance against US actions and thus generating support for demagogues like Bin Laden.

    One has to get into his sights again what terrorism is -- a tool and a tactic. Fanatics sure don't care if they die, but they don't want to die in vain while scratching the armor of a superior enemy army. Considering the unmatched US superiority in warefare someone can hardly expect them to be so gentle -- the US military strength is thus inviting asymmetric attack as about the only enemy action with a realistic chance of success, survival even. That doesn't make it any better, but should at least makes us stop wondering about the "Why terror?"

    It's not because they are people who hate our freedom while we are people who love things.

    Terrorism is almost always a housemade problem. Terrorists don't bomb because they are evil or like to kill. They kill for a political goal. Israels terror has ultimately to do with their treatment of Palestinians since 1948. Arafat's second Intifada tried to replicate the success of Hezbollah in driving out Israel out of Lebanon -- it failed because in Lebanon the Israelis were not fighting on their homeland -- in the west bank they think they do. So they don't give in and fight. Putin's terrorism has ultimately and intimately to do with the russian opression of the Chechen nation for some 200 years. And Bin Laden's terrorism against the US has to do with their patronage for the monarchy of Saudi-Arabia, in his eyes heretics, and to a lesser extent for Israel. The terrorism against US troops in Iraq has to do with them being there in first place.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't say these parties don't deserve international help and cooperation against terrorists -- of course they do -- but the global terrism is just a global pattern -- the causes are local and have to be adressed locally. There is no solution to clobal terror, there is no magic formula. The concept of "GWOT" is pretty useless to both fight let alone understand the phenomenon of terrorism.
    The underlying roots -- that is: previous steps and mistakes in policy -- have to be taken into account and when they have been mistakes - corrected.

    The new radical Islamism is a success in the moral and psychological damage it has inflicted on the United States and its allies. But for the Islamic world it will inevitably prove still another failure. No great caliphate is going to be re-established. Even if all Islam were converted to the law of Sharia and the Taliban pattern of society, this would produce no great revival in terms relevant to the modern world.

    They don't have answers for the pressing social, economic and political problems of the region -- unemployment in growing population and poor ecomomic performance.

    Osama bin Laden himself has gone from being the patron or financier of the Taliban movement to a fugitive existence in Waziristan. His followers may blow up Americans in the Green Zone of Baghdad. They can reinforce an Iraqi nationalism that will eventually force the US and its allies out of that country, to their humiliation -- BUT the Islamist movement is moribund in moral terms, although its military and political energy is not yet exhausted. There is no way in which it seriously threatens the Western industrial nations, other than through sporadic acts of terrorism. And that is the sort of thing Britain endured for many years from the IRA, Italy and Germany during the 1970s and 1980s from their Red Brigades, and Spain from Basque separatists. We still live, even though we let our intelligence services and special forces handle the terrorists.

    This is the lesson the American people refuse to understand. They should try and adobt this Austrian bonmot as a philosophy: The situation is hopeless, but not serious. Champagne everyone?
     
  9. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
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    @ Ragusa:
    Damn... that was beautiful...

    @ Viking:
    I think a better topic of comparison is not just homicide, but the likelihood of being killed by any mass murderer of any nationality or race. Based on that, Americans are still more dangerous to themselves than anyone else is. Timothy McVeigh committed the worst act of terrorism on US soil pre-9/11. Overall, people everywhere are much more likely to die at a friend or family member's hands than anyone else, much less a homicidal mass murderer, even less a terrorist.

    Of course, getting people to see that is a lot more difficult than it sounds. No-one wants to believe that their lover, sibling or other relative will be (statistically) the number one suspect if they turn up dead. It's much easier to just externalise threat. Blame it on someone you don't like, who has any number of reasons to dislike you back. When they do something, it only proves you were right all along, irrespective of how much you've vilified them in the past.

    [Edit: Woooooo! New gem! /NS does the Fargo Strut]
     
  10. Cúchulainn Gems: 28/31
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    before Timothy McVeigh this tragedy was blamed on Arabs so it sounds like the govermnent had it in for the Middle East before the 11th of September.
     
  11. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Um... Yeah. The actual event for the U.S. having it "in" for the Middle East as you say, was the creation of Israel. Or was it the Middle East that had it "in" for the U.S. since that time?
     
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