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Shock and Disgust
January 31, 2003
By The Plaid Adder

At the rally in D.C. on January 18, I saw a lot of signs with messages like, "America Is The Real Terrorist." I hate to see that, because I know what that's going to look like to most Americans, who may not be sure about this war but are also not ready to understand why anyone in their right mind would say or indeed believe that the United States government is a bunch of terrorists. But what I hate even more is watching this administration prove that, as a matter of fact, they are.

Yes, with help from Dan Rather and the good people of CBS News, the administration has revealed its war plan, and it has a name: "Shock And Awe." The plan, according to the administration lackey who described it, is to pummel Baghdad with hundreds of Cruise missiles in the first two days, thus leaving the population too demoralized - and too dead - to fight back when our troops arrive to occupy the country. I quote:

"The battle plan is based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. It's called 'Shock and Awe' and it focuses on the psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces."

Later in the article, one Harlan Ullman points out that the great virtue of the "Shock and Awe" strategy is that instead of a long, drawn-out ground battle, you achieve a "simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima." Note that he says 'like Hiroshima' like that's a good thing.

Friends who are more au fait with the realities of modern warfare have argued that in terms of the scale of havoc wrought and the number of civilian dead, it's not necessarily certain that "Shock And Awe" will be any worse for the people of Baghdad than, say, the relentless carpet-bombing that preceded our invasion of Kuwait in 1991 (sorry, that's "liberation of Kuwait;" semper hic erro). It will certainly be more expensive, as Cruise missiles cost over a million dollars apiece; but that won't matter much to the Iraqi civilians.

So why does reading this particular piece of "journalism" turn my stomach - a stomach which, I promise you, has been turned so many times lately it's nothing but knots at this point - so much more than even reading a White House press conference transcript? Well, I think the answer is pretty simple. They can call it "Shock And Awe" if they want; but - by the Pentagon's own admission - we've already got a name for this kind of thing, and it is "terrorism."

If you subtract the purely ideological elements of the definition, what is terrorism, after all, but the attempt to instill massive fear and horror amongst a nation's people by killing a number of their civilians in a particularly sudden, violent, and spectacular manner? Terrorism relies on "Shock and Awe" for its impact; "shock and awe" was what the WTC and Pentagon attacks were all about. And by God, we were shocked and awed.

And now we're looking to do unto others what was done unto us; and we don't particularly care whether the people we're doing it unto were actually responsible for 9/11 or not. That's another hallmark of terrorist actions: terrorists don't strike the people who are actually responsible for the grievances they cite. They go after the people they can get to. Our inability to locate Osama Bin Laden has long become the subject of jokes all over the globe; but we know where Baghdad is.

So, it's official: we're terrorists. We even admit that. "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," chortles an unnamed Pentagon official...who asked CBS not to name him, perhaps, because he realised how much this statement sounds like one of those tape-recorded boasts from Osama Bin Laden that kept surfacing in compost heaps during the early phrases of "Operation Enduring Freedom."

I can't figure out which horrifies me most: the fact that this terrorist action has become the core of our battle plan, or the fact that the Pentagon thinks it's a good idea to let us know that. Memo to Rumsfeld et al: just because you bastards are terrorists, that doesn't mean the rest of us are.

Or are we? How many Americans are going to read that piece and think, "Whoa, shock and awe! That's so cool!" I know there must be a few, even if they're all working for Rumsfeld right now. And to them, I can only repeat a question that has been much in my mind of late: What the hell is the matter with people?

It doesn't bother anyone in the Pentagon that our battle plan is organized around the deliberate taking of civilian life? It doesn't bother anyone that by publicizing this plan in advance, we have ensured that Saddam Hussein and his cronies will not actually be in Baghdad when we send the Cruise missiles in there to shock and awe it to death? It doesn't bother anyone to imagine what it will be like for the people huddled in their basements - which, as we now know, will not be safe - while 800 Cruise missiled detonate in their city...or to wonder whether that's going to be more or less terrifying than being on the 34th floor of the South Tower when the plane hit? It doesn't bother anyone to know that the worst thing anyone could possibly say about our government is now, in fact, by its own admission, true?

All right, maybe it doesn't bother Rumsfeld; I know it doesn't bother Dubya, who is really not capable of being bothered by anything that happens to people other than himself, as that would require intelligence and imagination. It bothers me. I bet it bothers you. It ought to bother every citizen of this country. And it certainly ought to bother Dan @#$!! Rather.

The best we can hope for is that in fact, this is all just a plant organized by that Office of Strategic Information (that Dubya's administration says they decided not to set up after all) and in fact our battle plan is something completely different. And that's what we're reduced to, folks: hoping that our government is lying to us, because it's just too damn horrifying if they're actually telling the truth.

The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented online readership since 1996. More of the same can be found at the Adder's Lair.

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