Sunday Morning Think Piece:
How Osama bin Laden can really hurt us:
Physical destruction is short lived, particularly in a fully industrialized and wealthy country that can initiate and complete repairs in a very short time. However, the psychological and social destruction done to a society can last for years, sometimes generations. But it is never the enemy related destruction that causes lasting damage, it is the destruction done by forces within the society that wreak the greatest and most lasting destruction.
When looking back at the world war history of Germany, for example, it wasn't the physical destruction of their cities and industries in 1918 that led them down the path to ruin a generation later in 1945, it was the internal destruction caused by individuals in Germany who capitalized on the repairable damage of 1918. America in 2002 is going down that same road...
When we look back at Ground Zero we can see, touch and measure the repair that has been done. Many of us were not personally touched by the events of 9/11/01 but each time we walk into an airline terminal, check out a library book, rent a videotape, enter an amusement park or tourist attraction, or publicly question an Administration policy or decision we instantly become a personal victim of Osama bin Laden's destruction on 9/11. By causing American officials to respond to his attack by instituting new limits on Constitutionally protected personal freedoms and assembly Osama bin Laden accomplished more destruction than the intended demolition of real estate.
The political beneficiaries of 9/11, our current Administration, has in effect improved upon the mere rounding up and barbwiring of 200,000 Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor. The Japanese American roundup in 1942 was done more out of racism than fear of a follow-up attack. Americans wanted to strike back at the Japanese homeland but lacked the capability to do so. Faced with the inability to strike at the Japanese in their homeland racist Americans struck back at the Japanese in our homeland. Since 9/11/2001 all Americans have felt the squeeze of technological, psychological and sociological barbwire enveloping us. In Germany 1933 the new Administration instituted a system of social spying, Germans reporting on other Germans. This system was established, ostensibly, to safeguard Germany from various kinds of outsider attacks. Our current Administration is today instituting a similar American vs American network of neighbors spying on neighbors. The effect the German program had was to increase fear among its citizens so great that the only people the German public trusted were its government leaders, soon given full authority over the public. Such a program here in the U.S., now in its infancy, would accomplish the same thing. And just as the Emergency Patriot Act was rushed through congress and approved, technical changes to our Bill of Rights and Constitution could more easily be enacted in another flurry of fear and lack of confidence.
Loss of civil liberties and personal freedoms were less of a threat or fear during WW2 because the overwhelming number of Americans had high respect for their president and Congress. This was not the case in 2001 when the president of the United States was elected not by an accurate vote count but by a Supreme Court ruling restricting the counting of votes. America was a largely unified country in 1941. In 2001 we were a largely divided country... for several years previous our Congress was bitterly divided along Party lines.
In 1941 A great president sought to diminish fear of the unknown with his statement, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." This one statement alone instantly quieted the fears of 160 million people who immediately settled down to the enormous but predictably successful task at hand, defeating our enemy. In 2001 a far less wiser and less valid president who was observably insecure and lacked cofidence even in his own decisions that seemed to flip-flop weekly decided to use fear as a tool to extend the boundaries of his questionable election and reverse the losses he suffered in Congress. Overnight, from 9/11 to 9/12, the president's support numbers in every poll jumped from 42% to 92%. Because similar poll jumps are common during any national emergency, they do not speak directly to the sudden confidence American's have in their president. They speak indirectly to the enemies of America that we as a people regardless of our internal disputes have united for our common defense. Previous presidents who experienced sudden national security poll jumps were realists. They recognized their sudden poll increases immediately following a national emergency for what they were: a signal sent by Americans to their leader(s) to fix the problem that caused the emergency and prevent a similar emergency from happening again. In contrast, the current president and his Administration have agreed among themselves that these numbers reflect a genuine, wholesale repudiation of all Bush Administration mistakes, sins and questions of election validity. And it is because of this need to feel validated by the American people as a whole that fear is being used to manipulate and impact the daily lives of every American. And it is in psychological fear, not physical destruction, that Osama bin Laden can inflict his next and most terrible damage.
The slow but gradual demise of the German constitution led to that nation's ultimate collapse. A slow and gradual degradation of the American constitution threatens to repeat the German mistake. In his hideaway Osama has witnessed the quick excavation of Ground Zero and rapid readiness toward rebuilding. Indeed, now that tragedy and terror have subsided the American desire for entertainment has established nothing less than a national contest to decide the form and color of its 9/11/01 Memorial... over which a new dispute bickers. But more than noticing our need to celebrate defeat by creating a vaudeville type stunt involving audience participation, Osama bin Laden has also noticed American freedoms and freedom of movement sharply degraded. To attack again Osama does not need to commit another act of physical destruction. To achieve his ultimate goal of the destruction of America by Americans from within Osama need do nothing more than travel to America, conduct a clandestine interview, have himself photographed in a handful of public places, then leave as secretly as he arrived. Such a blatant act would force the already weak Bush Administration to react exactly, but with greater ferocity, as it reacted on 9/12... shut the barn door after the animals have escaped.
Such an arrogant display by Osama bin Laden would effect a knee-jerk reaction in the Bush Administration to clamp even greater restrictions and obligations on the freedoms of the American people. Rather than punish the incompetent in our intelligence and investigative departments for again failing to comprehend the intelligence they received prior to Osama's 'visit', greater travel restrictions would be implemented on the American public, more military technology surveillance in places of business, worship and private homes, increased bureaucracy involving the most basic administrative needs, new shortages, more laws, less freedoms.
It is globally traditional during the Administrations of weak and insecure leaders that police and military agencies get greater freedoms and more money, and the public gets the opposite, less freedom and less money. President Lyndon Johnson was all too well aware of this, having advanced to the presidency not by vote but by assassination. That is why along with the new but unnecessary war in Vietnam Johnson instituted his Great Society Program to provide more public money and greater personal freedoms. Johnson was also wise to know that unending war is not a natural pursuit of freedom loving people. He resigned rather than personally continue a war he created and exploited for personal, political gain. Nixon, like Hitler, attempted to pursue the time worn policy of perpetuating war for his personal political benefit, but to the material, social and economic detriment of his country. Both the Nixon and Hitler wars abroad soon came home. Compounded by the loss of personal freedoms and justice on the homefront, the civilian populations experienced their first internal deaths caused by the very civil defense apparatus created to protect them. In Nixon's case Kent State brought the military war in Vietnam home to America. Hitler's own military and LE agencies are believed to have killed more Germans and civilians than those who died by war. Both leaders met their downfall because of their betrayal to their nations. George Walker Bush appears to be in the early stages of following this same path.
Would Osama bin Laden attempt as his last and greatest triumph a clandestine appearance in the United States? Why not. He is well aware that he will ultimately be isolated and captured by a band of bounty hunters, or betrayed by a Judas among his closest or kin. What better way to triumph over the great intelligence and investigative agencies of the United States than to snub his nose at them on our own soil. To escape even briefly after doing so would magnify his triumph to an incalculable level.
We all stand prepared, waiting for what we think will be Osama bin Laden's next move... bioterrorism, dirty bomb, etc. But, if nothing else, Osama bin Laden has proven that he is a master when it comes to triumphing over his enemies using his enemy's own tools as weapons. It is this writer's opinion that bin Laden's next major 'attack' will come as surprising and revolutionary as his first. And the current Washington Administration will react by implementing the very actions bin Laden's 'attack' hoped to accomplish... because the Bush Administration will have concluded that those actions will politically be in its best interest... or to put it another way... the b'Laden leading the blind.
Other reports are Archived by The American War Library