Thursday, March 29, 2007

the war against ideas, part 1

Frederick Leighton, "Hercules Wrestling with Death for the Body of Alcestis" (1871)

Someone decided to make War on Terror. I am not sure - I have heard rumors about something called a constitution - but while the President asked for the power to fight Terror, I believe the Congress was the one with the power to declare war (which it didn't actually do) and overwhelmingly voted to provide said President with said powers. Rhetorically it has been a very effective ploy and has garnered for the chief executive of the United States a great deal of autonomy, not only in how he uses military troops against other sovereign countries (without, ironically enough, declaring war), or how he treats "enemy combatants" (another handy rhetorical term with no real legal standing, but clearly not the same as prisoners-of-war), but in how he can turn the intelligence powers (who did their job oh-so-effectively, by the way, before he used their intelligence to justify taking American troops into Iraq) against the citizens of his own country, using laws that (once again) Congress passed.

Making war against an idea: one is tempted to invite the military, or at least the national guard, into the bedrooms of children everywhere and let them empty everything they have at "the Dark", so children everywhere no longer have to be Afraid and can sleep more soundly. Maybe there are plans to put the Dark on a watch-list of Terror organizations; I am not privy to such information. We no longer make wars against countries, it has become awkward. After all the President's war powers would no doubt have been defunct by now if cowardly-Congress had been forced to declare war against Afghanistan or Iraq, as it ought to have done: concrete enemies providing concrete limits. It would also have made clear to everyone who was covered by the rules of war and who lay outside the bounds of war, properly speaking. Rhetorically, Terror is both more indefinite, and therefore more broad and more powerful. Will the President retain war powers until there is Peace? Until Kingdom come?

Today we make wars against ideas, while the cowardly-Congress grills administration officials over the perfectly legal actions of the President in firing and hiring prosecutors [ed.-It seems to me that, these days, if the President does something legal, we should throw a party, not Congressional hearings.], in an attempt to deflect its own role in a War-Without-End. With such category mistakes and demagoguery running rampant, it is no wonder that diplomacy has fallen into disrepute in Washington D.C.; after all, words-as-the-bearers-of-truth are to be met with arms and force according to the new rhetoric, until nothing is left other than emptiness and lies.



Rawi said...

"It seems to me that, these days, if the President does something legal, we should throw a party, not Congressional hearings"


Re. "Rhetorically, Terror is both more indefinite, and therefore more broad and more powerful"

I have had varying opinions on the 'logic' of Terror. To some extent, you can see its potential countercultural strength in that it escapes the current international order or nationalism. Hence, the frustrations of the global Power in dealing with this new force. At the same time, I find myself disagreeing with Terror because it is still engaged in dialectic with Power: in the name of hunting the former, the latter can strike out at entire countries that don't/can't properly represent the former. In my opinion, someone needs to break out of this cycle.

But of course, to me the more question is that of (the violation of) human rights. Unfortunately, Power has probably been just as morally culpable, if not worse, in this regards.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

i think i would agree with most of that. Terror has been a way of matching Power when direct confrontation is completely unwinnable and unsustainable.

in an earlier note, um ibrahim brought forward the very apt quote that "War is the Terror of the strong; and Terror is the War of the weak."

best wishes,