Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Note on Language and Fact

The basic definitions and uses of words have been part of the political battlefield for some time now (decades? centuries?), and there's a few words I need to rip apart: Global War on Terror (GWOT). As many people have already pointed out, one can't fight a tactic or a feeling, so it is a dishonest phrase. There is a way that it can be made true by substituting "Al Qaeda" for Terror. The United States has fought Al Qaeda worldwide, starting (and continuing) in Afghanistan, since October 2001.

The United States has also been fighting a war in Iraq since March 2003. Our government says this is also part of the GWOT; I think this is also basically dishonest, since I believe nearly everyone (except our government & its most ardent supporters) recognizes that the proportion of non-coalition foreign combatants in Iraq is extremely low, less than 10%. In terms of casualties, it is almost completely a U.S.-Iraqi war, with the British in the sole featured roles and a few other countries literally playing bit parts.

So we're fighting two wars right now. One is in Iraq. The other is centered in Afghanistan (just can't seem to win anywhere these days, can we? We can take territory, but we can't hold it), but conveniently, the war is Global, so it can be anywhere, anytime. Soldiers and paramilitary CIA-types still get inserted here and there, but a lot of it is done by satellite, unmanned surveillance and missile or drone attacks--a sort of real-life 24-hour video game run from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, CA--in places like Yemen and Pakistan.

My point is, these being the facts, and given that we're not being asked to materially sacrifice for these wars, not subject to any of the usual privations, demands or inconveniences on the "home front"--why is it nonetheless necessary to strip us of so many of our rights, and to continue to eliminate so many more of them in secret? So far as I've been able to glean, there have been very few thwarted terrorist attacks on the United States. I don't think there have been enough to justify creating a proto-police state.


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