Moscow News

November, 2001

           As the war in Afghanistan is coming to a close with the defeat of Taliban and with the intensified search for Osama Bin Laden, the US, joined by the British, have announced three more “hotspots” that are likely to become targets in the fight against terrorism. Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan, believed to be the Al-Queda strongholds will, apparently, meet Afghanistan’s fate in the near future. As one Pentagon official put it: “The wind is behind us and we don’t want to lose the momentum”.

Indeed, America, so far, has been successful in fulfilling a big part of its promise: the defeat of Taliban. As for punishing the main “evildoer”, Bin Laden, the administration is assuring us that the bearded fanatic is cornered and will not be able to slip past the mightily equipped Western forces even atop the most agile of Afghani donkeys. For the sake of the saner members of the world population as well as for that of the wretched donkeys, I hope the administration's second part of the goal will be swiftly accomplished. However, the rather lyrical remark on behalf of the above mentioned military official has less to do with the actual wind as a natural phenomenon  and more with the overall mood and political climate within the United States and abroad. After all, only those “blessed” with the rare and total absence of logic, yet frequent and mystical prophetic revelations which reportedly overcome mullah Omar and his cronies, would be surprised that the bombs dropped from the American B-52’a and F-14’s were powerful enough to suppress the sandal-clad and malnourished Taliban soldiers.

Obviously, the  “wind” that the Pentagon is referring to is not the one beneath the wings of a stealth-bomber.  It is the unanimous consent of the Americans to continue “smoking the terrorists out” and to scare the living lights out of any potential “evildoers”.  Indeed, even if one happens to be generally critical of American policy, in this case, it is impossible not to sympathize with the US cause. Nothing that Bin Laden or the Taliban has said or done deserves anything more than absolute oblivion. However, on the home front, America, as an abode of democracy, must make sure that it does not scare the living lights of its own citizens whose professional obligations require them to elicit un-influenced  opinions: commentators, comedians, writers, television personalities etc.

Ever since the September 11th any deviation from the overall mood has been interpreted as unpatriotic heresy. Writers and journalists who have build their whole careers on acerbic and witty criticism of the status quo have miraculously transformed into banal troubadours who compose odes to patriotism. Comedy as such has been meeting a slow and torturous death; comedians are “strongly encouraged” not to make fun of Dubya when he talks of “ a transformationed world” or when he promises that “all preventetive measures will be taken”. Radio DJ’s are advised not to play peace-loving songs by the late John Lennon because the local patriots apparently believe that this is no time to “imagine the brotherhood of men” where “there are no possessions” and “no religion too”. This is the time to curb the “annoying” civil liberties like the freedom of speech and the right to counsel; to institutionalize secret military courts and enact anti-terrorism bills that could strip anyone’s mail or telephone conversation of the much-revered privacy. 

The scary part is that these measures, once enacted, are going to become a norm in this country. From this point of view, Bin Laden and the Al-Queda directly played into the hands of the right-wing American strategic elite. The very same corporate elite which is now crying over the recession and lobbying for bigger tax-breaks for the rich. In the name and love of America, of course! But since criticizing Bush Jr. is now a taboo, we as good Americans must concede to his every whim and decision and believe in his unwavering wisdom to take the right steps. One hopes that he chooses his steps better than his words.

On the other hand the horrible events of September 11th could, ironically, have one beneficial result. The United States, the only remaining superpower will no longer be able to act as if it is the only power. Prior to the WTC and the Pentagon attacks, George W strutted through his European trip as if he were John Wayne that  just climbed off his horse and was about to step into a saloon where he would ignore the inevitable stares of the “uncool” and chug down a cold one. Global warming and the ozone layer is for sissies, his every step seemed to say. What we care for in Crawford, Texas, is good, ole’, American values. My oil-magnate buddies depend  upon me.

Needless to say, the European heads of state were bewildered and insulted by the cockiness of the Crawford native. Starting as early as September 12th, Bush Jr ‘s song has less of the Texas bravado and twang. He is talking of international coalitions and cooperation. He no longer insists on singing solo and is paying more attention to the chorus of America’s allies. Now he is willing to at least temporarily halt with his agenda for missile defense until some agreement can be reached with Russia. The squeamishness with which America has been treating the United Nations has now been replaced by asking them to help in the nation-building process in Afghanistan. The “hell with the rest of you” policy is clearly no longer an option for America which has gathered too many enemies in the world: enough of them not to be able to afford the utter disregard of those whom it can still call its friends. Who knows, perhaps in the near future the American strategic elite will also understand that in order for them to be able to continue gorging on the feast of the planets’ supplies, they have to distribute at least a small portion of those supplies to those who are hungry and less fortunate.

The “brotherhood of men” is not just empty words of a dreamer. It could make for a practical survival tactic.

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