Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fear as Weapon

We have been afraid before
But we came together with resolve
What is that lion at the door
Is it real or has it evolved
From imagined predators
Or salesmen we abhor
Before we run into the bog
Let us shun the demagogue

Fear is something that we all know and feel, but only rarely is it a driving force in our lives.  In recent months, however, the use of fear by either well meaning but unstable politicians, or those “pols” who are actually nefarious enough to use fear to gain a competitive advantage is stunning.  Nature gave us the innate fear of fire, heights, loud noises, etc., for our protection and preservation.  Normally, the degree of felt fear is commensurate with the level of the threat.  Higher heights and bigger fires produce greater responses than lesser threats.  However, when fear is used a weapon, the internal response is sometimes non-linear and irrational.  That is where we are as a nation today.  Many of our national politicians have joined to denounce Syrian refugees as too great a threat to be permitted into the US.  Tragically, demagogues like Chris Christie of NJ, have grossly exaggerated the threat of 3-year old Syrian orphans as immigrants.  It is also pathetic that the drowned Syrian boy so widely seen in the media was age three.  Forget, will you, that Canada is accepting more Syrians in less time.  Canada is not frozen in fear, despite the climactic disadvantage they have.  Why is that?

Prior to the tragedy of San Bernadino where 14 were killed and 22 wounded, national politicians decried the lack of perfect screening of refugees and demanded that the State Department certify any Syrian refugee.  Really?  We have to certify each refugee?  I was so upset that I placed a note on the Facebook page for my US Representative.  I reminded Representative Ken Calvert that our greatest threat except for 9/11 has been home grown terrorists like Tim McVey and that we lose over 30,000 Americans to gun violence each year which is 10 times the most we ever lost to terrorists in a single incident.  The posting was removed in less than an hour.  This leads me to believe that his motivation was more GOP politics than an actual concern for a real threat from Syrian refugees.  Shamefully, 47 Democrats including a friend, John Garamendi of California, joined Republicans to prohibit Syrian refugee entry.  Bipartisanship for xenophobia and prejudice!   What a concept. 

In 1939 and in the early 40s we had shiploads of Jews wandering the oceans instead of the deserts seeking refuge and a homeland.  The US refused them entry.  Many did not survive the holocaust.  There are over 4 million Syrian refugees.  How many will not survive?  Perhaps fear is stronger than shame.  Be proud, you fearless politicians!  Most GOP candidates for President want boots on the ground and a land war in the Meddle East to gain territory from a noisy Caliphate, but are afraid of 3 year old orphans?  We won and lost Fallujah at least twice with great casualties and these brilliant GOP strategists and tacticians want another land war to take land like Fallujah from ISIS?  This is when a little fear might be healthy so that they avoid a stupid repetition of our Iraqi errors.  They want to commit troops we do not have to another war half-way around the world to stay there and keep the land?  They must know that a “No Trespassing” sign will not work, even if we are lucky enough to succeed.  So we need to keep boots on the ground.  They know that we cannot leave the dirt to the Shiite Iraqi government.  The US trained Shiites ran at first opportunity and left all weapons and equipment to ISIS.  Senator Cruz wants to carpet bomb Syria without civilian casualties.  Will somebody please translate “carpet bomb” into (Canadian) Texan so that we don’t destroy Syria to save it?  There is no precision “carpet bombing” target whether it glows in the dark or not.  It is an oxymoron from what may be a moron.  That is scary.  It is as scary as the GOP candidate concept of a “No-Fly” zone that will work if and only if you are willing to create a battlefield of Air Supremacy (not the Air Superiority we currently have against Russia).  Even with Air Supremacy, expect losses.  Tell me again why you want a no-fly zone?  You don’t want refugees, but you are willing to make more refugees with carpet bombing and to risk WW III with a no-fly zone?  Of course, that makes perfect nonsense.  Especially if you are using fear to motivate the electorate to believe that you have the solution to the fear that you have created.  You can solve the problem you create if only people will vote for you to chase away the scapegoats that you name and accept the problems that you create.

I found it highly instructive that the GOP candidates at the Las Vegas “debate” were unanimous in their selective amnesia about Iraq and the region.  They blamed President Obama.  It was the Bush Administration and specifically the work of Bremer in the role of governor who destroyed the balance of power in the region that had Iran and Iraq so well matched before our invasion.  Before the war, the only trained administrators and military leaders were Sunni (Baath Party members).  Bremer fired the whole lot including 40,000 teachers and the entire experienced military down to the rank of private.  General Garner, who preceded Bremer had eliminated Colonels on up, but preserved junior leaders and non-commissioned officers for the government of Iraq. He fired no teachers.  This was nation-building by Bremer?  It played right into the nation of Iran if that is what Bush meant by nation-building, but it destroyed Iraq or the possibility that Iraq could rebuild itself in a vacuum of experience and talent.  The candidates seemed to suggest that we should have kept troops in Iraq despite an unfavorable SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and the burgeoning cost, now over $3 Trillion.  And whose Iraq would that be?  Would the remaining Iraqi people petition for US statehood?  The unspoken assumption was that we should still be in Iraq in numbers great enough to repel all enemies as though it were our country.  It is not.  And remember, take no prisoners…or refugees.

We have often had demagogues, even in war, but if we recall the history of WW II, fear was controlled,  even as we had two great war machines bearing down on us (and a few Fiats).  Before the war, there were isolationists and some of them had ulterior motives, but after December 7, 1941, they were drowned out by our collective strength. Media supported the effort, including Gabriel Heater who intoned nightly:  “There’s good news tonight.”  Politicians argued about economics and rationing, but not about the conduct of the war.  Now we have FOX News and many conservative fear mongers who want to be president in the worst way and are trying their best to be worst.  Don’t buy the fear…and change the channel.  Fear needs no facts, only images of the boogeyman that is under your bed.  Turn the lights on and turn the demagogues off.  Notice that facts have become increasingly scarce.  Look up PolitiFact online for the Las Vegas debate.  I was surprised at the extent of distortion and flat lying by candidates.  The mere look of Senator Rubio when attacked by Senator Cruz tells the story, but then Rubio had his own distortions.  Facts can help us put light on this dishonest and dangerous time when demagogues are trolling for your vote. Syrian refugees as dangerous enemies in your home-town…seriously?  We can do better than that.  Canadians are already taking more Syrian refugees and we boast of being number one?  Greeks have over one million refugees; Germans and Swedes and French have hundreds of thousands.  Fear?  Be afraid of the millions of guns we have with little control and our home-grown fundamentalists and extremists who use them with support of the same politicians who have made fear from thin air and terrified refugees.

Other leaders in decades past were ruthless in using fear to gain power.  Our own Senator McCarthy spoke of Communists in every city and village.  Foreign dictators used their scapegoats to gain power.  Jews and other minorities were singled out for blame.  Economic programs were halted to step up the shrill claxon for war.  We have seen this movie before.  Can we leave now?


22 Dec 2015
George Giacoppe

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