Sunday, November 02, 2003

America and the Business of Fear

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Fear has always been used to justify extraordinary measures in the Middle East. In the name of security, governments took away people’s liberty and civil rights, put them through severe economic deprivation, and enforced emergency rules that lasted for decades. Arabs, Turks and Kurds; Muslims, Christians and Jews have all been victims of this powerful tool of control.
Today, we are wiser to this cynical scheme. Israeli, Turkish, Persian and Arab intellectuals are awakening their frightened people to this terrible truth. The likes of Saddam and Sharon kept their respective nations in continuous conflict with real, imagined and manufactured enemies to justify their rule and ambitious, illegitimate, expansionist goals.
After Sept. 11, America officially joined the club. The Bush administration used the occasion to implant fear, anxiety and total submission to Big Brother in the American consciousness. They did a great job. The Americans did not mind or even question the justification of their country’s invasion and occupation of foreign land. It was enough to package and title any project “War on Terror” to have it accepted, and even when the US disregarded the Geneva Convention it went without much of a fuss. America is doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do. Instead of guaranteeing world peace and security, it seems to be engaged in the business of fear. Homegrown and imported fears are being exported to the rest of us. Suddenly, terrorism was the number one issue on everyone’s agenda, whether we liked it or not.
The US president on his latest Asian tours told every leader, gathering and conference that he met to worry first about terrorists then discuss any other issue — starting with American interests, of course. Most were afraid and polite, few, like the Malaysian leader, were courageous and blunt enough to say: We do have agendas and interests of our own, you know. Why would we worry about the impact of our economic and security policies on USA, if the superpower of the world doesn’t give a damn about the impact of its selfish policies on us? The answer has always been: Because we say so.
I say: America shouldn’t be in the business of fear. It suits its legacy best to be in the business of liberation — from fear. It played this role during the world’s worst wars and longest peace. It led us in building the world’s greatest institutions, organizations and conventions. It helped us put freedom, democracy and prosperity at the top of our agenda, and leave fear behind.
For its sake, and ours, let’s hope it goes back to doing so.

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