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The Fear Factor: Who's Really Putting People in Harm's Way?

by Revolutionary Worker Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003 at 12:40 AM

While ordinary people in the U.S. are worrying about the possibilities of sudden attacks--the people of Iraq share such fears in an even more urgent way. Today across Iraq, school children are bracing themselves for bombs and invasion--they are thinking through what they will do if their families die around them, and their homes crumble into rubble.

RW ONLINE: The Fear Factor: Who's Really Putting People in Harm's Way The Fear Factor Who's Really Putting People in Harm's Way

Revolutionary Worker #1188, February 23, 2003, posted at

While millions of people in the U.S. and around the world poured into the streets in protest, official America had the grim look of a country about to launch war. The government has declared an "orange alert" and unleashed a hardening of the "Homeland."

The official story is that this "high alert" was based on secret information that al-Qaida agents were planning "dirty bomb" attacks in U.S. cities. Officials told the Los Angeles Times they had identified between 600 and 1,000 potential al-Qaida terrorists in cells around the country. Corporations were urged to scrutinize their employees, to detect if secret terrorist agents may have infiltrated into key operations.

And, as if timed to fan this fever of fear, a tape suddenly surfaced that (supposedly) featured Osama bin Laden calling on Muslims to defend the Iraqi people under attack. Within hours, Secretary of State Powell claimed that this "proved" the so-called "links" between Iraq and "Islamic terrorist networks"--those missing links that no one else in the world can see.

Much of this was quickly exposed--as hype and deliberate war-time disinformation. The FBI soon admitted that this Orange Alert was based on the interrogation of one captured person (whereabouts unknown) who then "failed the lie detector test." But even though this so-called "tip" was discredited--the Orange Alert and panic continued.

Warplanes now circle major cities. Police patrol Washington, DC with automatic weapons. The Washington monument has been transformed into an antiaircraft battery. In New York City swarms of police and National Guardsmen roam Grand Central Station. Even in small towns, there are security checks, stockpiling of gas masks, funding of new police measures, fortification of bridges and plants.

They are "hardening" their homefront, because they know what they are about to do. The rumors of "terrorist attack" may be vague, but the plans for U.S. attack are very real. This government is serious about "bringing the war home"--because they are deadly serious about unleashing war in the Persian Gulf.

Their war plans and soldiers are rolling into place--they intend to bomb, invade, conquer and occupy Iraq--a battered, weak, oil-rich country half a world away.

Who Is Putting the World in Harm's Way?

While ordinary people in the U.S. are worrying about the possibilities of sudden attacks--the people of Iraq share such fears in an even more urgent way.

Today across Iraq, school children are bracing themselves for bombs and invasion--they are thinking through what they will do if their families die around them, and their homes crumble into rubble.

The U.S. operation "shock and awe" is planning to rain down hundreds of cruise missiles in the first day of this war. If the signal is given, a massive aerial attack will shatter the lives of Iraqi people and "bring down" their cities. A U.S. army of hundreds of thousands is prepared to move across Iraq, blasting everything in its path, and then impose a harsh military occupation lasting years.

It is estimated that the U.S. attack will cause tens of thousands of dead--and the resulting dislocation may increase casualties into the hundreds of thousands.

The UN expects a "medium impact scenario" of over two million refugees-- ripped from their homes, their jobs, and schools--sent fleeing in all directions, including across the borders into Kuwait and Iran. They expect 5 million people will instantly lose access to food and clean water--with all the suffering and disease that brings. (The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs assembled these figures, and while it is impossible to be precise given the myriad scenarios for how the conflict might unfold, they represent the best estimates of the key operational humanitarian agencies in the UN system).

There may be waves of ecological destruction from the fighting ahead, with impacts that can last for generations. The last Gulf War left America's depleted uranium shells across the landscape causing birth defects and poisoning. The fight for the oilfields sent plumes of toxic smoke across thousands of miles, and badly poisoned waters of the shallow Persian Gulf.

Across the planet, people worry deeply about where this war would lead. No one believes that it would be the last move by the U.S.--or that a U.S. victory will bring them peace. The U.S. attack on Af- ghanistan last year rippled across south Asia--and brought Pakistan and India to the brink of nuclear war.

Meanwhile, while the U.S. government fans the fears of the people, many people justly fear the government itself. All their talk of "thousands of potential terrorists" means the targeting of Arab and Muslim people within the U.S. It is also a cold and open government threat against anyone who fights to politically resist this war.

Today, across the U.S., in hundreds of immigrant communities, people wonder what will now happen to them. Will they lose their jobs because of officially fanned paranoia? What will the informants now flooding mosques and neighborhood associations do with their lists? Will more Muslim people be ordered to report? And what will face them there--deportation? Sudden jailing? The breakup of their families? What will happen to their kids in the schools? What will cops do to the next young man with a Mideastern name they approach at a traffic stop?

The hype of terrorist threat has shaken up millions of people throughout the U.S. It was designed to frighten those who haven't been paying enough attention--and who have not been eager enough for war.

History remembers previous attempts to mobilize this "fear factor" for war and repression: During World War 2, fanning fears of an impossible invasion of the West Coast was used to justify rounding up Japanese people into concentration camps. The talk of "supporting our troops" in the Pacific war was then used to justify the destruction of the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the authority demanded that kids carry out bizarre and terrifying rituals of "duck and cover" (practicing diving under desks during nuclear attack). This was not intended to make people "safe" or "prepared"--but to build popular support for hostility and war against countries like Vietnam and Maoist China.

A Time to Act

This government has a plan for the American people: They want people to stockpile duct tape, wrap their family in plastic, join a local snitch group and (above all) support launching this war.

Their war path is unpopular, and they hope to reverse this by fanning fears and offering a target: They want people to "support the troops"--and all further destruction "necessary" to keep those invading troops "safe."

They want this war to be waged in the name of the American people. And the next one too.

None of this will bring peace or security to the people of the U.S. who are being held hostage by the unjust war plans of their own government

There are moments in history when the actions we take shape the world and the future for decades to come.

People here in the U.S. today have a choice and a profound responsibility. It starts with asking the urgent questions: "Who has put all these millions of people in harm's way? And why is the U.S. government really so determined to do this?"

The U.S. government thinks it can exploit its military strength to bully and bulldoze. Like the Roman emperors, they think that the world can be reduced to vassals, tributaries and mercenary troops for their empire.

Their motives flow from the deepest dog-eat-dog conflicts of capitalist competition and rivalry.

An Iraq occupied by the U.S. will be reshaped to even more completely serve the interests of U.S. capitalism. U.S. war makers are already picking the future rulers of Iraq, and secretly negotiating who will run its oilfields. Under U.S. guns, the resources of the Persian Gulf will be drilled and pumped, sold and bartered, in ways that leave the U.S. government towering over everyone dependant on that oil. Conquerors are not liberators.

All the lies and disinformation are spread for one obvious reason: How many would be willing to fight for this government if it openly said it was seeking global hegemony and restructuring the pecking order of nations?

Not in our name!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497

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