The Empire of Fear

For someone who talks a lot about fighting terror, Bush sure wants people to be scared. That’s no secret, and I’ve said it before. It’s perfectly logical, in fact; if you are justifying your actions because of something to be feared, it’s important that people actually fear it. Apparently enough people feel that terrorism is a constant threat, because Bush seems to be playing well to people when he uses this line.

So Fear is the cornerstone of Bush’s campaign. Be afraid of the terrorists. Be afraid of Kerry, who can’t protect you from the terrorists. Cheney has even gone full-tilt, warning of certain doom if Kerry gets elected. The message is overwhelming and unsubtle.

It’s also nothing new. This has been going on since 9/11, when a genuinely terrifying event was hijacked into a stick with which to beat the public. Everything Bush did was to protect us from this terrifying enemy that lurked in the shadows. Even when we decided that capturing Bin Ladin wasn’t important and we focused on Iraq instead, the terror-speak was ramped up. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Evil. Impending attacks. A smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud. Anything to appeal to a sense of fear and suspend any kind of rational thought. We now know that these statements were untrue — no, that’s incorrect — they were outright lies designed to cow us into letting the neoconservatives have the war with Iraq they had long fantasized about. That these tactics fooled John Kerry, even for a moment, doesn’t give me confidence in the man.

Strongarm tactics and thuggery have followed in the wake of all of this. Countries who refused to join our team were greeted with threats instead of diplomacy. Joseph Wilson was punished for disagreeing with the President by having his wife exposed as a CIA operative. We set up a concentration camp in Cuba, far away from prying eyes. Detainees at Abu Ghraib were tortured and killed. We developed the “Bush Doctrine,” which supposedly gives the U.S. the right to declare war on someone before they’ve done anything against us. The message is clear: Be afraid of us.

We even have a special color-coded alert system to tell us, on a given day, how much we’re supposed to be afraid. And then there’s the “Patriot Act”, a set of Constitution-defying schemes designed not to catch international terrorists, but to allow the government to monitor and punish its own citizens. Do you see where this is headed?

That’s right. The reason the Bush Administration is so insistant that everyone be afraid of it is because it thinks that this somehow masks the fact that it is absolutely terrified itself. Not of Al-Qaeda, but of its own people. Of the truth. It knows the fragile house of cards it’s built upon. It knows that it has done nothing productive to speak of. This is why Bush is terrified to debate Kerry unless Bush’s handlers get to approve all of the details in favor of itself. This is why Bush rallies demand the participants be hand-selected and sign loyalty oaths instead of Bush meeting with actual concerned citizens. It’s why this President refuses to speak to the press unless he gets to pre-approve all the questions. And it’s why, at the Republican National Convention, people who were guilty of nothing more than standing on a sidewalk were rounded up, detained, and treated like scum.

Read that article all the way through and ask yourself, what is the purpose of that? Does this sound like a free society? Did the right of citizens to peaceably assemble get amended when no one was looking? Yes, tactics like this are designed to stifle dissent and make people afraid to express their dissatisfaction, but it is also a clear sign of fear on the part of the people doing it. Bush and his followers, while accusing everyone else of hating freedom, cannot abide it. They’re terrified of it, because freedom sometimes produces things they don’t agree with.

Why is Bush so afraid of the citizens of his own country? Why does he hide documents from them? Why does he do everything he can to stop any kinds of investigations? Why won’t he talk to anyone unless he has a prepared script and knows what the questions will be? And how does this make him a strong leader?

We have a word for leaders who suppress dissent, disallow peaceful protest, heavily monitor their own citizens, demand fear instead of respect, torture their enemies, create secret prison camps, insist on control of the press, hint at cancelling free elections (and tamper with them when they take place), and threaten those who disagree with them. That word is not “President.” It’s “fascist.”

Also, “coward.”

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