De ja vu? By William Bowles

3 January 2004


“In another indication of the turmoil resulting from the increased security measures, an American official said that the cancellation of the British Airways flights was not in response to United States safety concerns, but rather was prompted by the refusal of British pilots to fly with armed marshals on board. The United States put other nations on notice earlier this week that it would not allow certain suspicious flights into its airspace without armed marshals on board.” [My emph. WB] – NYT, January 3, 2004 By ERIC LICHTBLAU

So why no coverage of this in the British media? One must assume that the story has some basis in truth for what reason could the US official quoted have for lying? The fundamental issue however, is why this was kept from the British public by the media who we are told, are purveyors of the facts?

“Terror in the sky: the net tightens”. So went the headline in the Independent (3/1/04). “Heathrow terror puzzle” was the Guardian’s headline on the same day. But what exactly, is the net tightening around except the throats of innocent passengers and why is it a puzzle? The Guardian linked it to a 1997 UN resolution on Palestine. What none want to consider is the obvious, namely upping the anté on the ‘war on terror’ in order to prepare us for the years to come, during which no doubt, the US and UK state machine’s will tighten their noose around the throats of their domestic populations failing to find anyone else’s throats to constrict.

Straw elephants
What none of the media wants to deal with is the simple fact that in spite of all the ‘terror alerts’, not a single terrorist has been found. In response to this, one ‘expert’ on terrorism on BBC radio the other day attempted to justify the policy by saying that the heightened alert had ‘deterred’ the terrorists from acting but how do you know? Negatives are impossible to prove especially when the ‘evidence’ is not forthcoming, like the schoolboy joke about how to frighten away elephants and when asked, ‘But there are no elephants’ the response is, ‘Well that proves it works doesn’t it’.

There’s something quite frightening about the current situation that has echoes of an earlier period, that of the rise of the Third Reich.

Aside from a disintegrating Weimar Republic, all the other elements are there, including a rise in hysteria surrounding the ‘war on terror’, the modern-day equivalent to the ‘spectre of Bolshevism haunting Europe’. A 21st century equivalent of the Spanish Civil War, economic instability, a pretender to a new Roman Empire, and a divided capitalist world, with the most powerful banking on war (or preparing for one) to save them and the rest, meaning this time Europe (for a change), burying their heads in the sand and hoping the whole awful mess will go away.

But above all, the refusal on the part of the intelligentsia (or the chattering classes as the English like to call the managers of capitalism) of the developed world to face the reality of the current situation and their wholesale retreat into a fantasy land of consumer spending (£10 billion in the month of December) and concerns over a crash in the housing market.

Moreover, they have finally bought into the myth of the threat of terrorism lock, stock and barrel. The signs are all there of which the current hysteria surrounding the ‘terrorists’ on airlines bound for the US and the way the media have bought into it, are proof of.

Peace in our time?
And chatter away they do, in the newspapers, on television and to each other, refusing to recognise the awful reality of capitalism’s inexorable slide into barbarism and all in the name of defending democracy and ‘white man’s civilisation’ [sic]. Have we not all heard it (or read about it) before, only our latter-day Chamberlain is now represented by the mass media instead of a Nazi-sympathising prime minister.

Reviewing the coverage of the ‘war on terror’ over the past year reveals the way in which the ‘war’ has been inexorably ramped up, from skepticism to complicity (‘but no need to panic folks’). Gone are the questions about whether or not ‘terrorism’ was a creation of Western policies in the first place. Terrorism is now a reality that we have to deal with even if it means tolerating our own brand of state terrorism (destroying us in order to save us).

And the parallels with the slide into war with Germany and Japan are, on the surface anyway, all too obvious. The question of course that has to be asked is whether or not the imperium can be pull it off or even whether it can afford a ‘general’ war such as the war against Fascism? And here the parallels with the 1930s no longer apply.

At the root of it is the choice of ‘enemy’ for unlike Fascism, the ‘terrorist’ is a will-o-the-wisp invention that aside from the (failed) attempt to demonise Islam, there is no obvious enemy to invade now that Saddam and the Taliban have been ‘taken care of’. So where to from here?

Mobilising the populace to sacrifice their lives in the war against an invisible (and largely non-existent) enemy has proved to be a disastrous mistake. Hence the increasing hysteria that we are witnessing. If parallels are to be made with the past it should be the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials. After all, the bulk of state repression is directed at our domestic populations and for obvious reasons.

Firstly, using ‘terror’ as a pretext makes it easier to do and second, if capitalism is to survive, somebody is going to have to pay and be sure, it won’t be the ruling class who do. Under the pretext of fighting terror comes the general clampdown and the predictable ‘belt-tightening’ that comes with it. ‘Sacrifices’ are going to have to be made and be sure Bush and his capos won’t be doing any belt-tightening anymore than will his paymasters.

And already, we are seeing signs that the US state is having second thoughts about taking on the ’axis of evil’ with the media putting it down to the coming election, but how true is this? For unlike the war against Fascism, 9/11 was no Pearl Harbour in spite of all the rhetoric that attempted to persuade the public that it was.

The Guardian’s front page story (3/1/04) “Rebranding Bush as man of peace” pretty well sums up the world of real politik in 2004. Quoting Anatol Lieven a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

“It’s just the force of reality, the consequences of Iraq which has made them [the Bush administration] change…. Even by their [the ‘neo-cons?] standards it is not rational to think that America can run another war.”

Well not right now anyway. The one piece of the jigsaw that threatens to undo everything is Israel and here the Bush administration is in a trap of its own making. 2004 is going to be decision time for the US. No doubt it will try and force the Palestinians back to the conference table but without significant and meaningful concessions from the fascist clique in Tel Aviv, this will prove to be a failure. And Sharon knows that he has Bush by the ‘short and curlies’ at least for the moment, but how long can Sharon’s stranglehold last and most importantly, be a useful tool of the US?

Prediction? Look for a shakeup in the ‘neo-con’ cabal on the Beltway. They won’t be fired of course, merely put back on the shelf for use should the opportunity arise once more, just as they were following the Reagan defeat. And once reduced in influence, the ‘neo-con’ strategy vis a vis Israel, will be replaced by the world of real politik.

The Palestinians however, remain expendible, as they have done since 1948. As ever, the only hope for a real change has to come from within Israel and with a population split almost equally down the middle, things don’t look too promising. The parallels with Apartheid South Africa end at the Bantustans of the Occupied Territories, as there is no Israeli equivilent to the ANC. The so-called Israeli peace camp is, at the end of the day, no more than ‘liberal’ squealings that wants to share some of its cake and keep it all as well. No mean feat.

Robert Fisk’s breast-beating and self-flagellation that I quoted yesterday, parts of which are well worth repeating once more, “So there you have it. More Israeli settlement building on Arab land and, I’ve no doubt, more Palestinian suicide bombings…. More anger. More Arab humiliation. More “war on terror”. Flak jackets on for 2004″ as it sums up the hopelessness of a citizen of a former empire, powerless in the face of forces he refuses to recognise whose last resort is the 21st century equivalent of a hole in the ground; his flak jacket.


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