The Terrorism Trap

By Barnet, Richard J. | The Nation, December 2, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Terrorism Trap


Barnet, Richard J., The Nation


The war on terrorism was a linchpin of Bill Clinton's foreign policy rhetoric during his re-election campaign, and at his first post-election press conference the President has put it high on his list of international responsibilities. In August at the Democratic convention the President thundered against so-called rogue states that were out to spread panic and destruction in the United States. A week later the Administration proclaimed U.S. missile attacks on Iraq to be a courageous blow against terrorism. At the United Nations General Assembly Clinton called upon the members to "isolate states that refuse to play by the rules we have all accepted for civilized behavior." The Leader of the Free World is recasting himself as Leader of the Civilized World.

The rhetoric is seductive. In a chaotic world for which the United States has yet to articulate clear goals, other than opening up economies everywhere to private investment, protecting access to cheap resources and staying top dog in the next century, international terrorism serves as the successor myth to international Communism. The idea that the Soviet Union was waging a relentless worldwide struggle to destroy the "American way of life" was critical for enlisting public support for almost fifty years of cold war. As easy as it was in those days to label even anti-Communist reformers as Bolsheviks (Mossadegh in Iran, for example), designating a brutal Middle Eastern or African government a rogue state is even easier because the criteria are vague and they are capriciously applied. (One would think that a state that has armed, trained and supplied torturers in other countries and published manuals for assassins would qualify, but nowhere on the State Departments list of rogue states has the United States ever appeared.) The Clinton Administration, boasting of its unique role as "sole remaining superpower," seeks to legitimize its increasingly unilateral approach to foreign policy by proclaiming the United States the global avenger of terrorism.

The war on terrorism is being used not only to unite the country behind a confused foreign policy but also to polish the President's image. Who dares speak of youthful draft-dodging when the leader of the civilized world is hurling missiles at rogues in Iraq? Who has the nerve to question why the United States maintains a military force far more powerful than that of any conceivable combination of enemies when there are more than a half-dozen certifiable rogue states threatening the fragile order of the post-cost war world?

But encouraging panic about international terrorism has dangerous consequences. The most obvious is that it creates a receptive political climate for curbing civil liberties. The country has already been sufficiently alarmed to enable Clinton and the Republican Congress to push through the Terrorism Prevention Act, a legislative cocktail boosting the powers of the federal government to exact the death penalty, limit appeals of convicts on death row, deport suspect foreigners and wiretap U.S. citizens - all in the name of making us feel safe.

It is worth remembering the extreme reactions to sporadic violence that dot our history. A few anarchist bombs sent in the mail to prominent citizens triggered the Palmer Raids of 1920, when about 4,000 people were arrested in a single night, many without warrants. A spate of protests, unrest and bombings in the sixties and seventies led to a burst of domestic spying in the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon eras, culminating in the infamous COINTELPRO, a vast illegal intelligence operation aimed at the left, the Black Panthers and those who opposed the Vietnam War. Public fear of unpredictable violence has been used by political leaders again and again to justify centralization of authority, stripping away of citizens' rights, surveillance and executions. Even as both major-party candidates condemned Big Government and promised its disappearance, politicians in both parties call for still broader government powers and increased expenditure to fight the global war on terrorism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Terrorism Trap
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.