Tag Archives: John Stewart

Aspects of Terror 3. 1945 to 2015.

Laws and customs are useless without fear.
Niccolo Machiavelli, Il Principe, 1532.

In 1987 President Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”. Though history gave Ronnie credit for the wall’s fall, it had been obvious for years that Communism was a lame duck, an empty threat. When Gorbachev did as he was told, we took to calling him “Gorby”.  Anyway, after more than four decades of bloviating politicians, nuclear threats, military posturing and armed engagements, everybody needed a break. The US had suffered major shocks of its own after World War II and was in need of some psychic R and R.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) had unified the United States. But then came the military stand-off in Korea (1953) and the assassinations of President John Kennedy (1963) and five years later, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Richard, “Tricky Dick”, Nixon’s criminal Presidency and the defeat of U.S. forces in Vietnam in 1975, topped off consecutive seasons of discontent. These successive traumas gradually undermined America’s self esteem and raised doubts about a future world order. All the while, allies of the U.S. continued to expect the US to confront and pay for any global conflict, arising anywhere, at any time. Talk about Schaden Freude!

–  All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.          ….Thomas Paine

At the time of  Reagan’s Berlin speech, religion had ceased to be a significant moral force in many western cultures. But, still gripping the heartland of America was a deep Christian belief in the wrath of God, the fear of death and its aftermath.

Then came 9/11, 11 September, 2001, when hijackings of four US commercial airplanes by Jihadists galvanized the US, bringing terror back to the heartland and providing political opportunists a ready made bandwagon. Before a joint session of Congress in January, 2002, George W. Bush used 9/11 to unveil  what became his presidency’s slogan, “Axis of Evil”, a not very subtle allusion to our II World War enemies and Biblical admonishments.  “Axis of Evil” and “Weapons of Mass Destruction” paved the way for a March, 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

– 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          …H. L. Mencken

Tragically the War with Iraq, as it came to be known, was unnecessary.  Provoked by Dick Cheney, and justified by Gen. Colin Powell who, in February 2003, presented the United Nations with seemingly unimpeachable proof of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US invaded Iraq, dragging its allies behind it. But Colin Powell had been set up.  When Dick Cheney’s proof later proved to be fabricated, world wide condemnation of the US followed.

US tactics have been useless against individual acts of terror and so called Mid-East Jihadists. Those tactics, for there is no evidence of an intelligent strategy, have only exacerbated Mid-East problems. The institutional chaos among today’s Muslims is comparable to the Reformation in northern Europe when Catholicism splintered into multiple Protestant sects. Then as now, the conflicts have more to do with power than religious doctrine. Finally exhausted from years of carnage, Europe began to sort things out, sort of. The Mid-East must do the same.

It’ll take time, probably a long time, but that’s okay. Let’s leave the ball in their court and while they’re figuring out which strain of muslimicity is the purist, we can keep busy at home, shedding our ethnocentricity and recouping the losses we’ve suffered during our attempts to impose our brand of capitalism and democracy where it’s unwanted. Oh yes. We can also deal with the crooks on Wall Street. [1.]

Meanwhile, the Cold War has morphed into the War on Terror. According to current political cant, it will take years, perhaps generations to defeat terrorism. Now everyone can breath easily. No need to confront national problems, simply fixate on terror. However, proponents of a long term engagement with terror would do well to remember the fate of the French in Viet Nam, the Russians in Afghanistan, Napoleon in Russia, the Brits in America twice and the US in Viet Nam. Terror is part of the human condition. It will never be defeated by war. It can be sublimated, but that’s something our politicians seem willing to avoid.

For people saturated with terrorism, perpetually trapped, as it were, inside an Iron Maiden with an adolescent suicide bomber, I suggest the following remedies. Frequent and liberal doses of sarcasm, mockery, laughter and ridicule would certainly help. And read up on some terrorists from back-in-the-day. History will reveal contemporary terrorists to be merely tawdry exhibitionists.

Their kidnappings, beheadings, bombings, burnings and mass murders, constantly talked about, reported on and analyzed, will pale into insignificanse when compared to the exquisite terrors inflicted byTimor Lane, Pope Innocent the IV,  Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. These sadists did not wear masks nor seek publicity. They were confident of their missions. Leave all this Mid-East stuff to the Mid-East, the entire Mid-East. They’ve started killing each other, a good sign, so leave them to it. As Jon Stewart said, ” It’s all Bull shit”. So let’s start cleaning the shit off our boots. They’ve been on the ground for far too long.

[1.] The financial crash of 2008 was another kind of terror. American’s awoke to discover their  investments and pensions had been electronically siphoned into Wall Street banks. Overnight, America’s middle class almost disappeared and to date, no bank financial officer has been prosecuted, much less put in jail. The nation’s unity, so prominent after World War II, was fractured into a corrosive cocktail of bewilderment, disbelief, cynicism, disgust and fear. In seventy years, the US has dwindled from the world’s richest, most optimistic and powerful nation, to third world status.

The question is, will it stay there?

Note: In 1945, I was 8 years old. I clearly remember VE Day. I and my fellow students were given small paper American flags and sang “God Bless America” as we marched en mass around our school.


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Current Events: An Email to a Friend.

Dear Ed,

For too long your numerous emails have begged a response from me. Therefore, this one will be a bit lengthy.

Firstly: I possess an 1840 edition of writings by Benjamin Franklin in 10 volumes, collected by Jared Sparks and published in Boston by Hilliard, Gray, and Company.  Attracted by their antique, leather bound look, a friend casually selected a volume and randomly opened it to a page containing a letter from Franklin to a friend in which he made a series of points, consecutively headed  “Firstly, Secondly,Thirdly, Fourthly” and so on until “Fourteenthly”. I think that’s pretty neat and it explains the Frankliness format of these responses to you.

Secondly: The New Yorker comes to my iPad every week, but it is in a somewhat reduced version. Only the major articles, the Talk of the Town and film reviews are in the audio version. There are no cartoons or satires such as your guy Borowitz, so I appreciate receiving them. (Flash: Eleanor just told me, McConnell and Boehmer have invited Netanyahu to criticize Obama’s foreign policy decisions in a speech before Congress. (If true, the State Department should refuse him a Visa.)

Thirdly:  A multitude of thanks for sending me Barry Levinson’s The Band That Wouldn’t Die. Nostalgia heaven, what a rush. I’m thinking of writing an appreciation to him. I don’t know how you found this, but it made my year!!!!!!. As you may know, I posted it on my web site as an addendum to an earlier posting about the NCAA final, final college football championship of the year. Moving on –

Fourthly: When I hear “Tea baggers” speak about the health of our republic, I have minor metabolic seizures and am tempted to overdose on my daily meds. Ingesting this recipe, I’d be dead within a day or two, but as each new blasphemy occurs, i’m beginning to believe death to be an acceptable alternative to life amongst the idiots now out screaming any reasonable vision of life in their United States.

Fifthly: I chortled while reading about the Alabama politicians who deeded their town to God. Actually, that’s perfect. If a liberal biblical scholar could be found anywhere in the Confederacy, they could shout chapter and verse before or after every new municipal Bylaw, proclaiming it in line with or contradictory to the word of God. Southern Christian seminaries might develop a course called Directing Civic Administrations with God’s Word. Of course, everyone would be expected to know which God was speaking. I don’t think that would pose a problem, at least for now.

Sixthly:  Thank you also for Borowitz on the continued accumulation of wealth by the sub atomic number of oligarchs and their complaints about not having enough. You must see the Daily Show from this past Wednesday. It may be on You Tube. His take on the State of the Union speech is priceless. The night before was also classic. John Stewart took on Mike Huckabee, Poor Schmuck.

Seventhly: Thanks also for the documentary about the Guantanamo prisoner. The rational behind political decisions is beyond me. What is it that puts enough fear, and insecurity in them to eradicate any sense of humanity or justice? A while back, during the most intense flare up over Gitmo, a small town in Michigan with an empty prison, offered to take in all the Gitmo prisoners, thus substantially boosting their town’s economy by providing jobs for locals. Obviously, they were not at all afraid of having suspected or confirmed terrorists in their midst, but their casual attitude did nothing to diminish paranoia in the nation’s capital.

Eighthly: Then I heard about the Davos economic summit and the 1,700 private jets the delegates used to avoid travel fatigue to Switzerland. Davos has been a coming out party for the oligarchs. I would never have thought to hear such honest expressions of greed and ego, on camera, from an otherwise secretive clan of monarchists. Perhaps the continuing show of strength from the Tea Party has given them a sense of security. If memory serves, all the televised Republican Party responses to the State of the Union Address were delivered by Tea Party cohorts.

Supporters of unfettered capitalism have managed,  without fear of reprisal, a public unveiling of the depth and breadth of their contempt for honest wage earners of the United States.

Perhaps our world no longer requires a middle class. Perhaps it needs only a few oligarchs to manage a global store, employing and discarding people as needs be. In Davos, James (Jamie) Dimon, current chairman, president and chief executive officer of  JPMorgan Chase, one of the four largest banks in America, looked benignly into the camera and said, “You need us”. I reject his thesis, but do not doubt his sincerity.

See: Andro Linklater: Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership, Bloomsbury, 2013, 496pp., $20

Ever hopeful, ever older. I remain



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