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Commentary Last Updated: Sep 20th, 2006 - 01:17:08

The Decider says boo
By Hal O'Boyle
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Sep 20, 2006, 01:14

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The Decider is trying to scare the crap out of me again. The Leader of the Free World made a speech from his office in Washington on September 11 that was clearly designed to scare me, scare you, scare our friends, our relatives and everybody we know. His speech, and, in fact, the president�s entire career since 9/11 has been dedicated to proving H.L. Mencken was right when he wrote:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.�

Mr. Bush�s 9/11 remarks were a masterpiece of fear mongering with a heavy sprinkling of noble mission and self-importance. In it he tried to cast himself and his government as noble heroes in an epic battle between good and evil. The war on terror, according to the president, is �the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation.� It�s a �struggle for civilization,� he said.

If you define civilization as the ability to rain steel death from the skies, the U.S. is clearly the most civilized nation in history. By more traditional definitions, however, civilization would require the renunciation of barbarism, murder and terror to dominate others. By that standard, Mr. Bush�s government is hardly more civilized than that of Attilla.

If this speech is any indication, we are not nearly scared enough. Heavier doses of fear are now necessary to keep a generally peaceable American public on board Mr. Bush�s worldwide freedom train and to keep us in step with his ambitious effort to �rid the world of evil.�

Ratcheting the evil intent of the evildoers up a notch, he tells us that the forces of Islamic terror are �determined to bring death and suffering to our homes.� Maybe so, but that�s a pretty big job, one that has proven nearly impossible so far.

The real terror alert level in most American homes has never even come close to the much more tangible fears of a falling real estate market or an IRS audit. The real dangers of terrorism are in fact vanishingly small. More people die in car wrecks in the U.S. every month than died in the destruction of the World Trade Center. You are many times more likely to be killed by an armed government agent than by a terrorist.

Nevertheless, Mr. Bush compares the struggle against a few hundred desperate Muslim fanatics to the global conflicts of WWII and the Cold War. So desperate is the president to assume the role of hero that he compares himself to popular wartime Democrats of the past, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

The battle is global and possibly intergenerational said Mr. Bush, �If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.� To which we might reply, �So what?�

A Middle East overrun with religious fanatics intent on mutual destruction will not affect the lives of Americans in any meaningful way. Gas may become more expensive, but there are worse things than that, including the sacrifice of every last civil liberty you�ve ever known. When Mr. Bush is not scaring us he never tires of reminding us of the great struggle between tyranny and freedom. Tyranny and freedom are certainly engaged in a struggle as they always will be. What is not clear is just who the tyrants are.

Mr. Bush seems to hold the transfusion theory of freedom, where by draining all the freedom from Americans he can somehow infuse it mysteriously into Iraqis lucky enough to survive the efforts of the U.S. military. To get us to lie still while our own liberties are drained from us, he liberally applies the anesthetic of fear. The president, counting on fear for support and hoping to shine in the reflected glow of heroism from Franklin Roosevelt, neglected to mention one of FDR�s most famous remarks, �We have nothing to fear but fear itself.� Terrorists will only succeed if we become terrified enough to destroy ourselves.

Mr. Bush has been wrong about pretty much everything involved in his military adventure in Iraq, from the terrible WMD to the open-arms welcome the GI�s were going to get from �liberated� Iraqis. In a call for further support for the debacle he warns, �Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone.�

I am willing to see if he is also wrong about that.

Hal O�Boyle writes from barrio Jesus in Costa Rica. His articles are archived at He answers email at

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