Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hooked on ?war?

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

It?s a given: When politicians want to juice up public excitement about a major cause, they invariably resort to giving it a name with the word ?war.?

Like, ?war on drugs.? Or, ?war on poverty.? Also, ?war on racism.? And, ?war on illiteracy.? Plus, ?war on crime.?

Most of those wars continue to limp along, with no victory in sight and the original foot soldiers who considered the causes of prime concern dropping out and moving on to other crusades.

Now, what of the ?war on terror,? which President Bush?s handlers have tried to transform into an American obsession?

Of all the attempts to mine Election Day issues that pollsters have tracked, the ?war on terror? is the only one in which the president?s approval is higher than challenger John Kerry. So this ?war? must be kept burned in the American mind for the president?s political fortunes.

But, history foretells that this ?war? in time will lose the hysteria, hubris and hyperbole now engulfing it. Americans will tire of its futility, the extravagant costs that could?ve been used at home and the lives of U.S. service personnel. How Americans turned on the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson and his promises of victory is proof enough.

Terrorism, like humankind?s worst vices and sins, will never be stamped out. In one form or another, terrorism has been the hit-and-run tactic of malcontents for centuries and will continue to be.

Israel is soaked in blood from its war with terrorism--and this has been going on since its founding in 1948, 54 years ago, with no end in sight.

President Bush was right the first time when he said terrorism probably could never be beaten, before backpedaling to avoid political backlash from his party?s gung-ho war boosters.

And John Kerry was just as correct when he said he hoped terrorism would someday be reduced to a nuisance, like other wars--on drugs, poverty, racism, illiteracy, crime--for which he was roundly condemned by the hoot-and-holler war crowd, led by Vice President Cheney, the seven-deferment draft slacker who relishes the smell of battle for everyone but himself.

Terrorism comes in many forms, not just battling Muslims abroad. America?s worst pre-9/11 terrorism was Timothy McVeigh?s Oklahoma City bombing. Five members of Congress were wounded in 1954 by Puerto Rican independence terrorists firing guns from the House gallery. The hooded Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist organization. Environmental extremists who sabotage and destroy are terrorists. And on it goes.

Sadly, this ?war on terror? is being used as an excuse and cover for failings of government at home and as a cruel test of the public?s patriotic support for a president?s political agenda.

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