29 March 2009

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Four)

The panic-driven aftermath of 11th September, 2001, is perhaps the best and most immediate example I can think of it

illustrate this point.

Within six months of the attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City, the US government, with the willing, if not entirely

knowledgable, consent of much of the US public, had passed the Patriot Act, created the Department of Homeland Security, and

had gone into Afghanistan to smash Al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts. Along the way, especially in the first days and weeks

after the attacks, some American Muslims were attacked, and even some non-Muslims who appeared to be so, like the unfortunate

Phoenix Arizona gas station owner, who was a Sikh, who was murdered only a few days after those events by a man who called

himself, "a damn American", when arrested by police for his crime.

Many others were detained, some for quite lengthy periods, and, following former Vice-President Dick Cheney's cue about the

US "going over to the dark side", a network of secret prisons and arrangements with other nations, like Egypt, Jordan and

even Syria, in which detainees were flown from the US and other parts of the world, placed in prisons in those countries and


All of this is now well known, as well as the use of the residual fear left from 9/11's aftermath by the Bush Administration

and the Republican Party to essentially either stifle debate, or, at the very least, restrict it to certain "safe"

parameters, both inside and outside of the governing classes, push through what would become the expensive, gruesome

misadventure known as the Iraq War, and begin chipping away at constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms in the name of

national security.

The Bush Administration and the GOP would go on to use this fear to win two key elections, the Congressional one of 2002 and

the Presidential one of 2004, and it wouldn't be, at least in my opinion, until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the

dismal performance, on all levels of government, but especially the Federal government, in September, 2005, that much of that

fear which had many Americans in its thrall, would start wearing off.

By that time, and in the intervening three-plus years until the November 2008 Presidential elections, the deteriorating

conditions inside Iraq, especially in 2006 and 2007, combined with the beginnings of the sub-prime crisis that would

eventually result in the current economic mess we are in now, further eroded whatever remaining credibility the Bush

Administration and its supporters had with many members of the American general public.

Try as they might, neither the Administration, the GOP, nor its political and media allies could maintain the kind of fear

generated by the 9/11 attacks, at least outside of much of their political bases, to retain control over Congress, which they

lost in 2006, nor the Presidency. By that time, too much of what the Bush Administration and its supporters had said had

turned out to either half-truths at best, or outright lies at worst, and the McCain-Palin campaign simply couldn't overcome

the disgust and revulsion felt by many Americans at those half-truths and lies.

But, certainly it wasn't just the Bush Administration and the Republican Party who fell down on the job. Much of the

mainstream media, particularly in the first three or so years after the 9/11 attacks, failed to adequately provide the kind

of investigative journalism that the aftermath of those attacks, as well the US government's policies and practises, and

especially the build-up to the Iraq War, demanded, but didn't really get, from the majority of the US mass media.

There are many factors behind this, media consolidations, fear of looking "un-patriotic"(a fear which also paralysed, or at

least disabled, many Democrats as well), shrinking budgets for foreign news desks, etc.

But, even when one takes these factors into account, the fact remains that, when the American and world public needed solid,

truthful, information the most, much of the US mass media stood down.

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