I have, since the Bushies first coined it, hated the phrase “war on terror.” There is no such thing. There can be no such thing. Wars are waged between nations, between armies. They are not waged against ideologies, particularly when said ideologies are spread out, diffused among many nations, and when they carry out their actions or suicidal bombings undercover. You don’t kill many of these enemies; they kill themselves. They so hate the perceived hedonistic, imperialistic nature of their Western foes that they are willing to incinerate themselves to kill one or more of those foes.
It may sound bold and organized and focused to say we are waging a war against terror. But terror is an abstraction, an emotion. It is not only illogical; it is impossible to terrorize terror. For that is what war is – it is itself an act of terror. It strikes me as the height not only of absurdity but of blindness not to see the United States’ actions in Iraq as a form of terror itself.
Yes, Saddam was a bad one. So is the government of Myanmar, so is Robert Mugabe, so are other dictators around the world. But look at the results of the U.S. invasion of Iraq; the aggressive act of attacking a country that did not attack us. Here are the results:
1. Chaos in Iraq
2. Two million Iraqis have fled their own country
3. Two more million are refugees within their own borders
4. Somewhere between 100,000 and 600,000 Iraqis have been killed (to avenge ourselves on behalf of the Twin Towers 3,000)
5. Al Qaeda has grown in strength and sympathy in Iraq and among other peoples as it resists the invaders
6. When the dust settles, we will have spent somewhere between $2 to 4 trillion in this fiasco (according to Joseph Stiglitz’s analysis)
And, all the while, we mislead ourselves into thinking that “a war on terror” makes some sort of sense. As the poet Donald Revell writes:
War on terror?
War is terror.