The Long War — George Bush’s War Without End

By David Martin

ICH" -- -- Now that the cakewalk that was to be our invasion of Iraq is nearing its third anniversary and the roses that were to be thrown at us have turned into improvised explosive devices, it has become official — we are engaged in a long war. Make that “The Long War.”

Donald Rumsfeld, in a statement before House’s Armed Services Committee, acknowledged the re-branding of the conflict previously known as The Global War on Terror. He told the assembled committee members that we are “nation engaged in what will be a ‘long war.’” It’s a war that will be the central security issue of our time and will transform the way we defend our nation, he said.

The SecDef’s comments underlined a theme sounded by his Commander-in-Chief in the recent State of the Union speech. George Bush, insinuating himself into a pantheon of former presidents that included Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, said, “our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.”

So much for setting a timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter. When other recent remarks from multi-starred generals referring to a long war that could last ten to twenty years are taken in to account, it’s clear that we have achieved George Orwell’s state of perpetual war.

The administration’s depiction of our conflict in Iraq as an open-ended struggle with ever-shifting enemies is another of its deviously brilliant bits of PR chicanery. The adoption of a simple phrase — The Long War — eliminates expectations that there will be an end to the needless deaths of Americans, Iraqis, and Afghanis any time soon. War in distant, dusty places will become a mundane feature of American life just like higher gas prices, warrant less electronic surveillance, and curtailed civil liberties.

Five, ten, twenty years from now when the last American soldier has long been airlifted out of Iraq and someone says, “Tell me again, why are we fighting in Uzbekistan (or Kazakhstan or name your own favorite ‘stan),” the answer will come back, “Don’t you remember? We’re in a Long War against the terrorists who attacked us on Nine-Eleven.”

It is a particular stroke of genius to characterize this Long War as one waged against the nebulous foe of terrorism. With Communism, the last big bogeyman to feed our national nightmares, there was a well-defined dogma to identify who was a Communist and who was not. The problem, however, was that after the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe, there weren’t a lot of Communists left over to get hysterical about. Sure, there was still Castro in Cuba and the Chinese. But Castro alone is hardly worth $400 billion in defense spending, and we’ve come to rely on the Chinese to make all the consumer goods Americans used to make.

Terrorism makes a much better bÍte noire because it’s a vaguer appellation. The terrorist label can be hung on, well, just about anyone. Terrorists can be desperate men armed with box cutters who fly airplanes into tall buildings. Or they can be radical Moslems who live in caves in Afghanistan. Or they can be Quaker peace groups who conspire to conduct candlelight vigils on village greens or nuns who attack ICBMs with ball peen hammers to demonstrate opposition to an illegal war or VA nurses so upset at the federal government they are moved to write angry letters to newspaper editors.

Soon, thanks to the creative wordsmiths in Boy George’s lawyer pool, terrorism will come to mean any expression against the established order, whether that expression is a car bomb or outraged e-mail to a like-minded friend.

This concept of terrorism is a self-fulfilling one. Wherever we go in search of terrorists, we are sure to find them. If they’re not present when we arrive, they will inevitably appear once American soldiers, in the name of advancing freedom, have kicked in enough doors, recklessly shot enough innocent civilians, and hauled away enough fathers and cousins and friends for questioning (read torturing). When outraged locals begin retaliating with roadside bombs, our leaders will tell us, “See we told you there were terrorists in (insert name of country here). It just took us some time to create them.”

“A Long War” and “Global Terrorism” are malleable phrases that can be applied to any situation in which a local populace seeks redress against the international organizations and multi-national corporations that control the levers of the world economy. They are equally applicable to turban wearing tribesman living in regions known only to readers of National Geographic or a neighbor who checked out the wrong book from the library. As this “Long War” progresses and the definition of terrorist becomes stretched far enough, who knows whom the FBI thugs will come for next.

Hold on a sec, I think I hear a knock at the door.

Copyright David Martin -

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