Saturday, September 17, 2005

Shadowland: "Beyond Good and Evil"

The Shadowland column posted September 13, 2005, on www.newsweek.com, marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in a couple of different ways. I tried to put President Bush's reaction to Hurricane Katrina in the context of his reactions to 9/11 as they happened, rather than as we've been made to remember them, and I published for the first time a long memo about the nature of terror and terrorists that I wrote four years ago in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity in New York and Washington. I was hoping to get us beyond good and evil (to borrow Nietzsche's memorable phrase) and suggest more realistic terms for the problems that face us. More than a hundred readers have responded to shadowland@newsweek.com from around the United States and from places as far away as Hyderabad and Goteborg:

"America represents a real threat to peace..."
Name: John
Hometown: Göteborg, Sweden
Comments:
...What you missed is that every thing you described, as individual motivations and pathologies, could be applied to the average American soldier. Ben Laden's recruitment message is the same as every military recruiter everywhere including the U.S. "Be All You Can Be", "Serve the greater cause", (Insert: Freedom, peace, the nation, the religion, or just for the fun of it, etc., etc.) to give meaning to your loser life, all you need is a gun, a tank, a bomb, or a plane and the will to kill people and you can achieve glory. Isn't that the ultimate message of every recruiter cruising the malls and inner cities of America trawling for "losers" and "alienated" youth. Common sense tells me America is in deep trouble not from the flag burners, as you correctly point out, but from, what you really missed, the vast silent majority of the world who is coming to know you, for who and what you have become, the new Germany, the new Reich. Like the Germans of 1939, as a people, you have come to believe that because of a self-percieved culutral superiority you are entitled to a disproportionate share the world's resources. For that purpose alone, in your most recent ventures, you are willing to fictionalize and rationalize, as unfortunate collerateral damage, the killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of totally innocent men, women and children. You are in Afghanistan, not for Ben Laden, but for strategic control of a pipiline. Your are in Iraq not for any of the many fictionalized reasons given, but for the establishment of permanent military bases. The purpose these bases is to control the resources necessary for the establishment of a "New American Century". You have recently developed a new nuclear doctrine of premptive strikes and are developing new nuclear weapons for the express purpose of terrorizing, governments and their populations with a goal of extortion. The other, silent, six billion of us are slowly coming to a firm point of understanding that America represents a real threat to peace and danger to our very existence. Well, that's what common sense tells me. I wish you and yours all the best and peace be with you. Sincerely John

Is God a Republican?
Name: Earnán
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Comments:
If Katrina is, in the words of one of your readers, the judgement of God ("If we are to believe that President Bush and the Christian Right have been talking directly to God these past six years, then it follows that this is God's answer to their agenda.") it is surpassingly odd that God has chosen to smite Democrats, poor people and people of color. Maybe He _is_ a Republican?

American Aristocracy?
Name: Rick
Hometown: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Comments:
...Not everyone in Idaho is a fan of the Bush regime. My vision is seeing the unfolding of an Orwellian scenario. I see a powerful aristocracy selling the American public off for record profits, as they laugh their way to the bank. ....

"Evil exists"
Name: nobody (e-mail alias "biblelover")
Hometown: none
Comments:
As much as you liberals want to deny the fact that "evil" exists(and you want to destroy biblical Christianity in the world at all costs),the plain and simple truth is that there ARE evil people in this world and we,both liberal and conservative,must try to destroy them or they will destroy us. I know that you would love to see Bush keel over and die from a heart attack,but I would rather have a Republican president with,at least, HALF of a brain than a liberal one with NO BRAINS WHATSOEVER!!!! And getting rid of us "religious types" will not get rid of terrorism. I have met liberal socialists that would use the same tactics that Osama used on 9/11 for their "perfect" world...and from your writings,I believe that you are one of them. AM I RIGHT??!!!

"Overheated rhetoric"
Name: Deidre
Hometown: none
Comments:
Your Beyond Good and Evil column had a profound effect on me. These days, I actually try not to read too many commentaries (I’m worn out by overheated rhetoric and often too tired to search for value in the flood of news available to me.) But what you call an internal memo to your editors was one of the most informative pieces I’ve read. Maybe the wrong things are getting published. Thanks for sharing.

Good news ... not.
Name: richard
Hometown: taylor, texas
Comments:
The President who came to office as the compassionate-conservative has proven to be neither. War breeds contempt and hatred even from our friends. Congressional spending continues out of control with nary a veto from the supposed conservative president. There is classic case of the "emperor has no clothes" atmosphere around this president. Tell me only the good news and don't dissent from my opinion.

[Also of possible interest: Shadowland: The Empire's New Clothes, 24 June 2005./ CD]

Historical Perspective
Name: Ramon
Hometown: Kendrick Ok
Comments:
The Grant administration revisted.

Fanaticism and Fatalism
Name: Jennie
Hometown: none given (Internet address has an ".is" suffix for Iceland)
Comments:
Mr. Dickey,
I just finished reading your "Shadowland" piece "Beyond Good and Evil What Bush could have learned after 9/11 and should learn after Katrina".
I was especially enthralled with the section in italics titled "Septemer 2001". It was truly remarkable and forthright - your piece highlights so many points that we have forgotten in four years thanks to the bombardment of the 24 hours news channels such as "CNN" and "Al-Jazeera" - although I myself am a self-confessed "CNN Junkie".
You had many notable points in your missive - 2 of the strongest points are -
"The fact is, the actual terrorists we're looking at are mostly loners and losers, much like the assassins who took pot shots at politicians and celebrities in America from the 1960s to the 1980s. Eventually, of course, presidents and the rest of the Beatles got better protection. So the Lee Oswalds and the Squeaky Fromms of today target innocents, because innocents are easy targets.".
I agree with you that we are dealing with something much deeper than a sense of religious fanatacism or some deep sense of fatalism - we are dealing with unhappy and truly unsettled people who cannot handle the "issues" (unhappy childhood, less than ideal circumstances, unfulfilling life, work etc.) that most of us learn to cope with.
Yes, you are so correct in that technology has enabled these people to get together and form a bond that is in many ways, unbreakable.
I imagine that the reasons the politicians do not talk about this is that how can we defeat this, what I call, "undefined angst". Making a political battle against those I would call "losers that cannot cope in society" is so much less politcally palatable than fighting "evil" and "enemies of freedom".
Your other exceptionally strong point was -
"In the mid-1990s, bin Laden was cornered in Afghanistan along with a few other outcast firebrands. Even Sudan didn't want him around any more. The glorious jihad against the Soviets was long over, and Kabul was reduced to rubble by the Afghans fighting each other. Efforts to take the jihad home to Arab countries and wage revolution against the regimes there— in Egypt, in Algeria, in Jordan — had failed. The Bosnian slaughter was over after Dayton, and the Bosnians didn't want holy warriors from other countries hanging around. Peace was in the air between Israel and Palestine."
In 1996 I was in Isreal for work (I was invited by El Al Airlines to discuss the "Aeronautical Telecommunication Network" or "ATN"). Yes, peace and hope were in the air. I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a tourist on a day off from meetings. Tour guides were excited at the many Muslim Arabs that were visting Holy Sites - including Christian and Jewish sites where I met some of these Arabs - that came from Arab countries whose populace had never been to Isreal or Palestine before.
This peace and optimism must have made the people you mentioned in your column terribly uncomfortable and perhaps seething with a fury.
I think you are correct, this is not a "clash of civilizations" but a clash between people who want to be happy and try and make the world a better place and people who are determined to feel persecuted and unhappy and want to find some kind of notorious glory by making others feel terrified. Blair, Bush and others cannot win elections trying to send in troops to fight those with an "undefined angst" in whatever country they may be in.
Thank you so much for your column.
Sincerely, Jennie

A Christian Terrorist?
Name: angela
Hometown: hyderabad, india
Comments:
i agree fully. as a nonamerican, i'd like to know why there's silence from the US governmentabout your christian evangelist radio preacher who talked about'taking out castro'? at the UN there's talk about taking action against those who preach terrorism. will he now be prosecuted, along with mullahs and maulvis who preach similar terror tactics? or is terrorism defined solely as action taken against the interests of western powers alone. as a christian myself i'd like the term to include christian fundamentalism as well, with its righteousness dovetailing with narrow nationalism

Blame the Liberals
Name: Jon
Hometown: CT
Comments:
Why do Americans feel the need to blame someone for this tragedy? Because we have become a nation of having the government do all for us. Who are to blame, the liberals who make it their credo to help ALL, People can't stand on their own 2 feet because of the welfare system. Gone are the days of being self sufficent, that's where America's greatness comes from! "Act don't react"

Preaching to the Choir
Name: Kaity
Hometown: none given
Comments:
I find myself subsconsciously nodding after every sentence while reading this report. But I think Christopher Dickey is preaching to the choir. Those who need to read this article are those who still truly believe in the nobility and the integrity of our current president and his 'consigliere.' Unfortunately, those people aren't apt to read Newsweek. Great report...

It Takes A Villain
Name: Derek
Hometown: Storrs, CT
Comments:
Mr. Dickey, I normally do not read blogs, though in this case I am certainly glad that I read your opinion on "beyond good and evil." As human beings, we must constantly have an enemy; if we do not, we make ourselves the enemy. The terrorists have villified us, while we have villified and exaggerated them in order to maintain the farce. Hopefully many in the very near future will have the clarity of your vision and will abandon this foolish notion of "Orientalism" that so stains our vision of the Middle East.

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