YANA DJIN

LETTERS FROM AMERICA



 DANGEROUS CONFUSIONS

Moscow News
October, 2001

        Every tragedy carries within itself a sizeable portion of the absurd. The latter becomes more visible and palpable with the passage of time which is, usually, inversely proportional to the magnitude of the tragedy. After the September 11th attacks on the United States, the element of absurdity did not linger too long in order to reveal itself. Days after the promised US military retaliation on Afghanistan’s Taliban had begun, we the people of the United States, for whose protection the war had started in the first place, are pretty much kept in the dark on most aspects of the operation. So far, this war has indeed proven to be a “different kind of war”, to quote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It is a far cry from the Operation Desert Storm, which spoiled the CNN viewers with constant live reportage from the site of battle. 
       The American people, with the world-wide reputation for demanding quick solutions and answers from their government, surprised the world by demonstrating unprecedented patience and trust in their government. Naturally, after being dealt the scariest and bloodiest blow in the American history, the nation is paralyzed by fear and the usual, “peacetime” mentality has given way to an alarmed and highly cautious approach. No one here is at all disappointed that military personnel is refusing to discuss their present or upcoming strategies on television. No one is complaining that after every bombing raid there are no public accounts or assessments. Everyone agrees: this is a dangerous matter and let’s keep it closed. 
In fact, the degree of secrecy has been raised to exclude even the members of Congress and Senate, limiting only eight leaders of both houses to have the privilege to the access of classified information. So far, the people of this democracy have no grievances against this administration which utilizes their sons and daughters to fight the worthy cause, yet keeps them guessing as to when those very sons and daughters are coming back. The unheard-of 99% approval for the war which Americans share, I am afraid, is going to dwindle as soon as people here get over the initial trauma and as soon as the inevitably approaching ground war in Afghanistan results in many more body bags.
       All wars are popular for the first thirty days, someone remarked. The popularity of this particular one is understandable from an American perspective. However, the longevity of the popular status depends not only on America’s military campaign but upon its internal policies as well. By stripping people of any information or by providing contradictory information, such as to how long the war is going to last, the government is risking to lose the present unity of the spirit which binds the American people. The ensuing state of panic and fear is going to dissipate. No person or society is able to function for too long in the state of heightened nervousness, simply because there are not enough nerves to go around. Considering the fact that this is the first attack of such magnitude on the US soil, people here are handling it pretty admirably. But their support for their administration is not going to be as unanimous when the sense of normalcy returns. 
       The government, of course, is anticipating just such a trend to occur and taking advantage of these disorienting times to introduce laws and practices which would infringe on the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans. Even the slight criticism of the present administration’s tactics on behalf of independent press or intellectuals is regarded not only as bad taste but as a form of dissent. Scores of journalists have already written and published apology letters for ever criticizing Bush. The hitherto brave, unorthodox comedians are shying away from making fun of the current president, thus stripping themselves of the ample resource for genuine laughter. 
        We, the “regular folks”, as George W refers to us, are, in the meantime, too busy not sniffing infected envelopes and staying away from public places to notice these disquieting trends within our own borders, trends which are similar to those known patterns in past century which were hailed as suffocating and despotic. Frankly, I see no logical justification for “isolating” verbal troublemakers and enlisting them in the ranks of dissenters in order to root out Bin Laden and his network. There is not a sane person in this county who believes that Al Queda should not be punished for its actions. One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Osama and the likes of him should be annihilated is that they do not allow or tolerate the circulation of other opinions but their own. Is it really necessary for America to adapt “talibanic” intolerance within its own territory in order to defeat Taliban? 
       The US government is telling its people not to succumb to fear and terror and go about their business as usual. Shouldn’t they also go preserve a sense of normalcy and not suspect anyone who might not be too keen on a decade-long war with an uncertain enemy in dissent and anti-patriotism? Perhaps, this is precisely the time to listen to the more eloquent and more constant messages being sent out by America’s intelligentsia which backs the President’s plan to defeat Taliban and Bin Laden but which also urges him to rethink and reorder his foreign policy in order to ensure the future stability of the world. They are definitely less absurd and ludicrous than some of the messages which the government itself makes public. Right after warning the country of an imminent attack on a particular weekend, they are urging us to crowd shopping malls and show our patriotism by investing in superfluous merchandise. One wonders if they are confused or purposely confusing us?
        One thing remains crystal clear, however. The 11th of September demonstrated to the world that it is indeed small and even the big fish, such as the US, are not at liberty to exist in it as if they are the only fish. America will defeat the terrorists but they will also have to change their own strategy in dealing with the rest of the world. The political and financial strategic elite, will have to learn to be less greedy and more “Samaritan” about the global poverty which gives rise to radical elements. I sincerely doubt that even the most pampered members of that elite, such as Donald Trump who is reportedly shopping for a parachute which will enable him to jump out of a burning building, would rather face daily dangers rather than part with a small portion of their capital.

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