Terror at 1600

Let’s revisit the definition of terrorist again, shall we?

terrorist: adj : characteristic of someone who employs terrorism (especially as a political weapon); "terrorist activity"; "terrorist state" n : a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities

Someone who employs terrorism (“the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons”) especially as a political weapon. That’s very interesting.

Consider the recently uncovered email authored by Peter Wehner, deputy to political director and dark overlord Karl Rove:
The success of President Bush’s push to remake Social Security depends on convincing the public that the system is “heading for an iceberg,” according to a White House strategy note that makes the case for cutting benefits promised for the future.


“We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course,” the e-mail said. “That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness; it is the precondition to authentic reform.”
The minutiae of the Social Security system is not one of my competencies, but I have made it a priority to understand the reality of the situation as best I can. (Should you be interested in doing the same, Atrios and Paul Krugman are good places to start.) Rest assured, however, according to all the information I have been able to get my hands on (including analyses by conservative economists), there is no imminent crisis that requires the radical changes to the existing structure that have been proposed by the Bush Administration.

In fact, any remote threat to Social Security could have been avoided had the Clinton Administration-generated surplus not been obliterated by Bush and his GOP-controlled Congress, with their undisciplined spending and preemptive, never-ending war. A colossal fiscal crisis engenders not an urge to reform their own habits, but instead a drive to dismantle Social Security, an opportunity for which they have lusted since its inception.

Now they have seized on the idea that “searing” the idea that “we are on an unsustainable course” into the public consciousness, that we are “heading for an iceberg,” is the next step in their plan of attack. A strategy depending on breeding abject fear among voters handily satisfies two goals: deflect any responsibility for the staggering deficit by eclipsing reasonable discussion with apocalyptic prophecies, and scare the populace into submission—a fearful public is a compliant public.

And who knows this better than Bush and his crew, architects of the color-coded terror warning system that is surely a more accurate indicator of Bush’s need for headlines (or need to distract from bad press) than any credible threats to national security. Who knows it better than the team who won the election based on the fear-mongering premise that their opponent, a decorated war hero, had no interest in keeping America safe. Who could tell you more certainly than the perpetrators of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay that fear is a most powerful tool.

Calling Bush and his conspirators terrorists is not hyperbole. The archetypal terrorist in our collective consciousness may be a dark-skinned, bearded man in a turban with vengeance in his heart and Allah on his mind, and reducing terrorism solely to the threat of a radical Muslim is a construct the Bush Administration is only too happy to reinforce.

But suicide bombing is not the only kind of terrorism. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. Wielding fear like a weapon, plans to sear an erroneous idea into voters’ minds in an attempt to coerce them into supporting an ideological solution to a trumped-up problem—this is another, lesser, form of terrorism. So why are we letting it stand?

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