Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Kinsley parses Bush

in The Thinker (washingtonpost.com):

The strangest aspect of President Bush's new War on Tyranny is the connection he draws between tyranny and terrorism. It's not the connection you would suspect, or the one Bush was making during his first term. When Saddam Hussein was still in charge of Iraq, it was enough to say that bad guys are bad guys. A sadistic dictator is just the type of person who would also harbor terrorists and stockpile weapons of mass destruction.

But now Bush says that terrorists are actually the victims of tyranny. In his inaugural address, this seemed like a bit of transitory, use-once-and-discard highfalutinism. But Bush returned to the theme in his State of the Union address Wednesday. "In the long term," he said, "the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America. . . . "

The legendary anarchist writer Emma Goldman said much the same thing in a 1917 essay, "The Psychology of Political Violence." It is "the despair millions of people are daily made to endure" that drives some of them to acts of terror. Can one question the tremendous, revolutionizing effect on human character exerted by great social iniquities?"

If any of this was more than rhetorical salad dressing, intended to mask the shit they really want us to swallow, it might suggest a bit of intellectual growth, as Kinsley hints. I remain a skeptic.


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