In the first two articles of this series we looked at the way words, such as homeland security, material witness and enemy combatants, were being redefined to achieve the governments goals. In this, the third and final article in this series examining Timothy Lynch’s important report on Double Speak and the War on Terrorism, we look at terrorism and freedom. Two of the most important words being redefined in the War on Terrorism.
We are fighting a war on terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic and not an enemy. It is a tool the enemy uses. You can defeat an enemy, but you cannot defeat a tactic. There will always be some new group, a new enemy, willing to adopt the tactic of terrorism. Terrorism is an effective weapon for the weak to use against a stronger enemy that they could not defeat on a traditional battlefield. So how do you defeat a tactic? Lynch looks at some of the ways the Bush administration has gone after terrorism.
The FBI has asked local police to monitor anti-war demonstrators and report to its counter terrorism units. The military has monitored domestic threats to military personnel and facilities which included a meeting at a Quaker meeting house where activists were planning a protest of military recruitment at the local high school. Were these the terrorist we were worried about having to fight here, if we didn’t fight them in Iraq?
No one thinks drug dealers are good for society, but are they terrorist? According to Timothy Lynch, “There are approximately 20 million drug users in the United States.” In 2002 the White House Office of National Drug Control sponsored ads drawing a link between money going from drug dealers to terrorist. After 9/11 North Carolina enacted new terrorism laws regarding the manufacture of chemical weaponry. Prosecutors charged a man operating a methamphetamine lab under this new law. Do we want the money we allocate for fighting terrorism to be spent fighting the war on drugs?
When a man who recklessly points a laser at an airplane is charged with interfering with a flight crew under the Patriot act, when a Catholic nun has her bank account closed because she did not have an ID card on file, when reports of suspicious activity are filed on former presidential candidate Bob Dole and former defense secretary Frank Carlucci for taking out large cash withdrawals from the bank, is it no wonder we can’t catch the real terrorist? With this kind of unfocused targeting on ordinary citizens, our resources are being wasted.
Timothy Lynch points out that, “One reason that the federal government failed to thwart the 9/11 plot is that it was trying to do so many things that it lost sight of its most important responsibility—defending the homeland from foreign threats.” It is only by refocusing our efforts back on Al-Qaeda that we can catch the real terrorist threat that concerns most Americans.
Freedom, is the most important word in the War on Terrorism. On 9/11/2001, President Bush declared, “Freedom has been attacked, but freedom will not be defeated.” But it is freedom that has been most endangered since 9/11, with secretive subpoenas, secretive arrests, secretive detentions, and secretive trials. Lynch quotes author James Bovard as observing that, “For Bush, freedom seems to be whatever extends his own political power. Whatever razes any barriers to executive power—that is freedom.” Is that the freedom that Americans were concerned with after 9/11? Did we want freedom for our President from the checks and balances that our Constitution provides? Or were we more interested in Webster’s New World Dictionary’s definition of freedom as “the state or quality of being free; exemption or liberation from the control of some other person or some arbitrary power; liberty; independence.”
Protecting our freedom and winning the War on Terror can only be achieved when we focus on the real threat, the ones who perpetrated the acts that led to death of three thousand people on 9/11. When we stop allowing our political leaders to use the War on Terror to further there own goals and powers. When we hold them accountable for not capturing Bin Laden, for not thwarting the growth and popularity of Al-Queda throughout the world. We must not allow them to use Doublespeak, to redefine the vocabulary, to confuse the message of the War on Terror, to leave us less safe, while they increase their own power.