In October 2001 I published “The Death of Irony: Reports are Exaggerated.” These quotations are from it, with current commentary.
There’s a lot to be said for the idea that terrorism only works if it causes people to change the way they live their lives. The Taliban mob have already succeeded in setting us on the road to totalitarianism. “If we allow these attacks to alter our basic freedoms, then the enemy will have won,” says the ACLU, and it’s right.
For some Americans, the changes they demand are inimical to every principle of the Constitution. They want more restrictions, more face scanning, more wiretaps – more of every item on an outrageous shopping list that must have the founding fathers spinning in their graves.
I wrote that less than a month after 9/11, long before we had any notion about Assange, Manning, or Snowden, or of the comprehensive surveillance already underway. Only a month after the attacks, even the most pessimistic critics of the government might not have imagined how bad it has actually turned out to be. I wrote:
One of the worst things about enemies is how they make you forget about your own most cherished values… Thinking about religious tolerance, for instance – one of the bedrock values – can make us awfully uncomfortable these days… Then there’s racial tolerance. We’re against ethnic cleansing, and we punish other nations for engaging in it. But plenty of Americans would like to wipe out every last Arab on the planet. “That’s different.” Of course it is. Irony, anyone?
Even when we want to do the right thing, our efforts are often maladroit and counterproductive – like buying slaves to end slavery. All over the world people think, “Look at those greedy Americans, why don’t they help us?” And no matter how many dollars we give for humanitarian aid, chances are the food we send will never reach its intended recipients, but be captured by the bad guys and sold on the black market to buy more guns.
And that’s just the incidental perks, not even starting on the weaponry we sell them intentionally.
Corporate America sells every weapon of destruction to every side in every war. How could we have expected to go on indefinitely, building our national wealth on armaments, with nary a repercussion? Military America equips the world with money, guns and advanced training, then it’s “Ta ta, run along now and kill each other.”
Yep, plenty of that still going on. My predictions were astonishingly accurate. And here is another one:
Our government has a habit of interfering with the internal affairs of other countries at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons, but standing back, if not actually turning away, at other times and for reasons equally as wrong.
One more thing is true in all times and places:
This conflict isn’t really between America and Afghanistan, or even between Christianity and Islam. It is, as always, between the psychopaths and the sane people; between the big guys who create and profit from war, and the ordinary people who just want to be left alone to live some kind of life.