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Nothing Is A Good Weapon
Posted: Monday, August 5, 2002

by Charley Reese

It seems to me that the terrorists with whom America is "at war" are doing exactly the right thing nothing.

In the meantime, the U.S. government seems to be digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole. There are raucous debates over anti-terrorism measures; any concern for budget discipline has gone out the window; government power is being expanded on a willy-nilly basis; civil liberties are being put in jeopardy; the American economy, particularly the aviation industry, is being strained; and pressing problems such as the environment, economic infrastructure and a sensible trade policy are all shoved to the back burner.

And what has all this cost the terrorists? Nothing. Not a single bullet, not a stick of dynamite. Nearly a year ago, some men hijacked four airplanes and crashed them, dying with their victims. Since then, nothing has happened. While we have gone to war in Afghanistan, made a mess of foreign policy, greatly alarmed our traditional allies and, frankly, conducted ourselves in general as a nascent fascist state, the terrorists have done nothing.

Even conservative Christians have become alarmed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose nomination they lobbied for heavily. But Ashcroft, with visions of evil Muslims floating in his head and a terrorist under every bed, seems to have gone over the side of the good ship Common Sense.

For a while, it seemed as if President Bush was ready to declare war on the entire rest of the world, and even now he wants to convert the military into a domestic police force, as well as set up civilian vigilante and block spy committees.

Does anyone else think we might have overreacted?

I do. I think our overreaction has caused more damage to the American economy and to America's position in the world than the four airplanes. I know it was traumatic for civilians to watch 3,500 people die in living television color over and over and over, thanks to videotape. But we have in recent years ourselves killed a hell of lot more than 3,500 people and, for that matter, lost a heck of a lot more people in Vietnam, for example. The difference is that killing and dying overseas, usually off camera, doesn't have the impact that it does on our own soil with round-the-clock TV coverage.

We've caused the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. I'm sure if such an event happened here, with our hysterical TV coverage, the whole country would suffer a national nervous breakdown. Because of our tendency to media hysteria, we are probably a great deal more vulnerable than smaller but spiritually tougher countries.

We are certainly sending a message to every terrorist in the world: If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, do it in the United States.

I say it is time for us to suck it up and get on with our lives in a manly fashion. I would hate to think that our constitutional republic is to be dismantled because a few minimum-wage employees didn't do their jobs at two airport-security counters.

Add up the actual cost of the damage done by the terrorists, and then add up the cost of our overreaction, and I think you'll see clearly why Osama bin Laden was in such a happy frame of mind on that videotape.

We are at war, all right, but it is with ourselves and with the phantoms we create in our own minds. A cynic once told me that people run for city council in small towns just so they can ride in a police car. I'm beginning to think that some people run for president just so they can wear a military jacket and act like a general.

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