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 rwor.org
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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