Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dueling Speeches and Ragtag Terrorists

The 9/11 world is back with full force as Barack Obama makes the case for a judicious approach to terrorism, Dick Cheney argues that only bare knuckles can keep us safe and New York police stage a perp walk of petty criminals scammed into believing they could bomb synagogues and shoot down Air National Guard planes.

It's one of those wake-me-when-it's-over days as the overloaded mind wants only to watch an old movie on TV or hide under the covers, but the dueling speeches and the terrorist bust are part of the way we live now. There is no escape.

For someone of advanced age, there are powerful echoes of the 1950s in all this--another era of anxiety about threats to "our way of life" from evil forces and politicians eager to exploit them with an easy sell of fear.

Dick Cheney is no Joe McCarthy, but here he is attacking the Obama Administration for closing Guantanamo with a desire "to bring some of these hardened terrorists into the United States" and praising Congressional exploitation of fears that "the terrorists might soon be relocating into their states," as if they were going to be walking the streets rather than being held in maximum-security prisons.

But Cheney's retroactive paean to torture, which has raised his approval ratings a few points from abysmal to awful, is less relevant than the President's attempt today to reconcile national ideals with what has to be done "to keep the American people safe."

Obama reviewed what he called the Guantanamo "mess--a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constant, almost daily basis, and it consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country."

Along with a dissection of the legal and moral issues involved, the President, who prefers to focus on the future, nevertheless acknowledged the demagoguery of "fear-mongering" surrounding the issue.

"Listening to the recent debate," he said, "I've heard words that, frankly, are calculated to scare people rather than educate them; words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country."

As this rhetorical duel was going on, New York Police were illustrating the complexities of the post-9/11 world by arresting four would-be jihadists for an "aspirational" plot (translation: they had the desire to bomb and kill but apparently neither the brains nor means until authorities provided them with harmless "explosives" and fake surface-to-air missiles).

The sadness in all this what used to be "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" comedy is that it now has to be treated with dead seriousness since Osama bin Laden took away our innocence almost eight years ago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there is a reason his name is D I C K ...