Ponder this phrase for moment or three: WAR ON TERROR
When you’re done thinking about it, try to imagine a dumber phrase in history being employed by a government and its accessory-after-the-fact media as a rationale for creative destruction. This one takes the cakewalk.
It’s like saying “WAR ON DEPRESSION” or “WAR ON ANXIETY”. It’s meaningless, in other words. Yet if we expose ourselves to the controlled press for more than about twenty seconds, we’re likely to get hit with this meaningless phrase like vaudeville straightmen used to get hit with rubber chickens. I suppose some people still laugh at someone getting hit with a rubber chicken, and perhaps some people actually believe that there’s a war on terror.
So where did this phrase come from? Did it used to have some kind of meaning?
When confronted by these seemingly bottomless questions about phrases, let’s go where I always go: Usenet. It’s a storehouse of old phrases and catch-alls easily broken up by dates and micro-eras. For instance, June 5, 1999 is the earliest use of the phrase “Google me” on Usenet that I can find. That’s not to say that it’s the first use, but it’s probably close. Usenet is sort of like the trap in the elbow of your bathroom sink. There’s no telling what’s gotten stuck in it.
So, onto the WoT. A quick search on Usenet brings us to a UPI article from Wed, Dec 23, 1992 titled, “Palestinians blame Israel for ‘killing’ peace process”. The relevant sentences reveal the hairball in the sink:
“Israel issued the deportation order a week ago following the kidnapping and execution of a border policeman. Five other Israeli soldiers were also killed by members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad since Dec. 8. Rabin defended the action as part of a “war on terror” and has continued to defy almost total world censure.”
Thus, according to Usenet, this is probably something close to the earliest use of the offending phrase. It’s Israeli, no less (and no surprise). We also know that Billy-Bob Clinton was fond of this phrase in his mid to late presidency, most likely owing to how it played in Tel Aviv. That the Bush administration and the Neocons that perch on its shoulders are also fond of the quadsyllabic incantation is a fact that we shouldn’t take lightly. That one of its earlier invocations was by an Israeli politician assassinated for being a softie should also be kept in mind.
Now that we’ve got one part of the worm on the hook, let’s see what the “War on Terror” means to one mindset.
In 2002, the Ariel Center for Policy Research (“devoted to incisive research and discussion of political and strategic issues concerning Israel and the Jewish people.”) published an essay by a 1966 University of Chicago grad named Paul Eidelberg called “Democratizing Islam”. In the essay, Eidelberg gave us the following neat summation of our spotlighted phrase:
There’s one reason why Eidelberg’s definition matters: he was a contemporary of Leo Strauss, the mentor to many of the Neocons in the Bush nest, though Eidleberg’s actually about half a generation ahead of Wolfowitz and Co.
So, one aspect of the War on Terror is about the destruction of the oldest enemy of the Jewish people using the most powerful military in history. I suppose this sits well with some people. It doesn’t sit well with me. It portends the destruction of what’s left of America.
There’s another odd thing about Eidelberg’s perception of the “War on Terror” that we should make note of. In the same essay referenced above, he invokes the Noahide Laws as the basis for the war:
“President George W. Bush, a devout Christian, is qualified to make the Seven Noahide Laws the ultimate justification of America’s war against Islamic civilization.”
There it is: A dyed-in-the-wool Straussian Neocon Eidelberg lays it out. As I understand it, the Straussian method is to conceal tactics and ends from the hoi- polloi. If that’s concealment, what the hell is he hiding?
So now when I hear the phrase “War on Terror”, what I actually hear, with apologies to Country Joe and the Fish, is:
“So it’s 1-2-3, what are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
The next stop is Armageddistan…”
“War on Terror”: The dumbest phrase in the history of propaganda fed to the dumbest population to ever walk the earth. We get the government, and the wars, that we deserve.
Stephen Francis is a writer and a researcher living in Occupied Virginia.