In an episode of the TV series "The Next Jihad" a tall, spare terrorist in turban and flowing robes approaches the American journalist who is bound crouched on the sand before him, and spits out these words: "Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge. Is it in any way rational to expect that after America has attacked us for more than half a century, that we will then leave her to live in security and peace?!!"
What? You haven't seen it? That may be because I just made it up - except for the words spoken by the terrorist. Those are from Bin Laden's "Letter to America" of November 2002.
Normally I watch very little TV - a few hours a month, at most. But over Christmas I had the opportunity to spend several evenings watching news shows, sit-coms, movies and commercials.. It struck me that the real world we live in is now reflecting TV programming far more than TV programs depict reality.
The attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day was quickly slotted into existing scripts and scenarios and adjusted skillfully accommodate new information.
There was a news "story" suggesting that Iran is trying to buy enriched uranium from Kazakhstan. Denials are in progress; and a document that "proves" the purchase has been denounced as an Israeli forgery. AP treats the story as true; AFP is doubtful. Stay tuned, this will be a big one, if they can sell it.
I noted that the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario has been replaced. The new script has Al Qaeda terrorists plotting evil in a village in a small Muslim nation - say Yemen. Should the US demand that the Yemeni government bomb the village and blow up the Bad Guys? Or do we have our own CIA take care of it? (I understand that the CIA has its own drones and missiles, and doesn't have to work through the generals at the Pentagon.) Does the US, does any nation or person, have the moral authority to order the assassination of persons suspected or accused of "evil"?
Steve Fournier, in his Current Invective web-site12/29/09 (www.currentinvective.com ) addresses that question: "If Barack Obama had no constitutional authority to order or request an attack on residents of Yemen, might he have had some moral authority to do so? He did win the Nobel peace prize, after all .... That prize says that all of the killing, all of the destruction, all of the displacement, all of the desecration in Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Yugoslavia and, yes, Vietnam, have been in the interest of peace and not motivated by hubris or arrogance or, God forbid, profit. Universally acknowledged as the world's only superpower, America has and will always have the moral authority to kill people, even children, in the interest of peace. Because we can, acting through our president, wield this awesome power, we must."
That sounds a lot like the premise of the TV series "24" in which some people must die or suffer in the cause of the greater good. The series supported the Bush administration's use of torture, promoting the idea that violence and torture were necessary in dealing with terrorists.
While those of us who are trying to make sense of a world by discussing, debating, doubting, examining our consciences and calculating the consequences of various courses of action in the real world, those with simpler Operating Systems based on TV scripts and plots that divide the real world into Us /Them, Good Guys/ Bad Guys pass us on the Right. Those with money and power devise made-for TV thrillers both factual and fictional that keep us glued to our TV sets, eating ourselves to obesity, and concluding that truth and justice in the real world are best served by following the plots dreamed up by scriptwriters, generals, or presidents.
Fournier continues: "An American official plots with a Yemeni official to launch missiles on civilians. ... In the interests of peace, they kill some bad guys, along with many other people. In reply, and to deter further attacks, a fanatic plots with a bombmaker to kill passengers on an airliner in Detroit. Is there a legal distinction between these two plots?"
I tend to view both as made-for-TV events, and, with Fournier, I see no legal distinction, and believe both bombers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. "But," Fournier admits, "there is no case against the US president ... because he is acting on the moral authority of the American people and not on his own account, and this places him above the law. As for the Detroit bomber, why put him on trial at all? We would just be giving him a soapbox from which to spout accusations against us, moral exemplars in a dangerous world. Why not just string him up?"
It seems that Al Qaeda is succeeding at tempting the US to engage in violence that fuels resistance, resentment, revenge and Jihad all over the Islamic world.
"The Next Jihad" is already in the can. Watch for it.