Letter From Airstrip One: Fear Over Facts

My first piece for Truthout.org is out today. You can find it here: Letter From Airstrip One: Fear Over Facts.

The whole piece is at TO -- get on over there and show them some love -- but here's an excerpt:

But perhaps the most surreal and jarring juxtaposition of all was the assertion by the British Establishment that the UK's central role in the Iraq War -- and Blair's lockstep behind Bush's "crap" policy of giving Israel's hardline government free rein in the Middle East -- have played no part in radicalizing young Muslims. Leading writers from the left-leaning Guardian and Observer to the staid rightists of the Times and the Telegraph joined Blair and Reid (and Bush and even Bill Clinton) in advancing this remarkable thesis. No, they all said, the fact that America and Britain invaded the Islamic heartland on false pretenses and have killed more than 100,000 innocent Muslim civilians there could not possibly have angered a small handful of Muslims to the point of wanting to answer violence with violence. Nor could the pictures of shredded infants being pulled from the rubble of farming villages in Lebanon while Bush and Blair cheered on Israel's inducement of "birth pangs" in the region have had any effect on anguished and impressionable minds.

Not even the "Intelligent Design" crowd denies reality with such willful ignorance as this. After all, both the US and UK intelligence services have clearly stated that the war in Iraq is fomenting more terrorism worldwide. Yet when a group of leading Establishment Muslims -- "good" Muslims, you understand, including some peers of the realm -- echoed this rational, fact-based assessment in a polite public letter to Blair, they were castigated across the commentariat for their defeatism, their terrorist-coddling, even their ingratitude. Didn't they realize, thundered the Observer, that America and Britain were actually in Iraq to save Islam from the extremists who pervert the faith? Why, that's what the war is all about!

The Sunday Times best encapsulated the Establishment mood with an ominous piece entitled -- what else? -- "The Enemy Within." It is not Iraq or Palestine or any other so-called grievance that is generating terrorism, said the paper; it's just pure evil, a floating, motiveless malignancy which has infected "a generation of disaffected Muslims" who seek any excuse "for killing their fellow citizens." These deadly microbes in the body politic may "seem all too ordinary, perhaps enthusiastic about football and cricket and living 'normal' westernized existences in neat terraced houses. They work, study or run small businesses," but any one of them -- or maybe all of them, a whole "generation" - might be secretly plotting to "destroy our way of life."

This is about as far as you can go in Muslim-baiting short of calling for an outright pogrom. It appeared in one of the nation's most venerable and respected papers. It evoked not a single spark of controversy. Indeed, it represents the conventional wisdom of an Establishment that, with few exceptions, now seems addicted to the manufacture of hysteria, the exaltation of fear over facts: blind to the corrosive effects of its own use of death and violence for political ends; inflating moderate risks into existential threats; sacrificing liberty for an illusory security; and obliterating the complexities of reality with cartoonish rhetoric that poisons public discourse -- and official policy -- with fear and suspicion.