Another phony threat

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The war on terrorism is more like the war on drugs, or even the war on poverty. It is a public relations campaign. We are to be persuaded there is a threat, get worked up about a war against a noun, in this case, an abstract noun.

The war on terror is a phony war; there is no terrorist threat to go to war against. Washington, and its Canadian friends would have you believe the war on terrorism is legitimate: it is no such thing. It is a rationale to do things that would otherwise be considered illegitimate, such as invade other countries — Afghanistan and Iraq — creating fear and anxiety around the world.

The terrorist threat is the successor to the Communist threat. That was equally phony, but more plausible since there were Communist states, all with armies on parade, and some with nuclear weapons.

There was a worldwide struggle with the “reds,” but never a war on Communism, in the sense we are supposed to believe there is a war on terrorism. But there were wars with Communist states — first North Korea, under UN auspices, and later, North Vietnam. The first threatened to broaden into a war against China, and was ended by the former Allied Commander (Europe), Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he was elected U.S. president. The second one was lost by the U.S. military.

The war on terrorism is more like the war on drugs, or even the war on poverty. It is a public relations campaign. We are to be persuaded there is a threat, get worked up about a war against a noun, in this case, an abstract noun.

The terrorists we are supposed to fear, have organizations, not states. Their war-making capacity ranges from homemade bombs to armed militia. Cunningly, they are rumoured to be a threat at any time, in any place, without it ever being said precisely who they are supposed to be.

The terrorist threat is part of the arsenal used by governments to get others to do things. The exercise of power requires governments to justify what they have done. Terrorism is an all-purpose excuse for thuggery.

The latest U.S. gambit is to prepare bomb attacks against Iran on the pretext Tehran is making bombs for Shiite militia operating in Iraq, and supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon. This would have the effect of broadening the war in Iraq to include making war on Iran, as another part of the war on terrorism.

The American political system will be sorely tested to deal with such an outlaw action: the Democrats are timid. American allies will be called upon to support the further insanity of an attack on Iran. The Stephen Harper Conservatives can be counted on to lend vocal assistance.

The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled against the Harper government claim that so-called security certificates are necessary to combat terrorism, even if they remove the right to know why a suspect was charged, and access to evidence of what the charges entail. The court argued, in effect, throw out freedom in the name of national security, and you end up with neither. This was not particularly original, but it was certainly welcome.

The House of Commons has rejected a government attempt to renew odious legislation introduced by a previous Liberal government in the wake of September 11 that allowed preventive arrest of suspected terrorists, and required people to testify without their consent. Prominent former Liberal ministers John Manley and Anne McClelland supported carrying on the charade of making nice with the Americans. The American party in Canada can always be counted upon to do the right thing by Washington, no instructions necessary.

It is time to quit pretending that our NATO membership, or NORAD, or NAFTA, or whatever, requires Canada to participate in the war on terrorism. It would be infinitely preferable to announce that Canadians have no intention of living in constant fear, and that there is no such thing as a war on something that cannot be identified.

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