"The only thing we have to fear is — fear itself." Franklin D. Roosevelt wasn’t just spouting idle words here. He knew, as did and do his ideological enemies, the purveyors of disaster capitalism and the Shock Doctrine, that a shell-shocked and fearful populace is an unthinking and easily-manipulated populace.
The reactions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as contrasted to those of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked on September 11, 2001, shows who values a fearful populace and who seeks to calm the people’s fears. Bush was hustled into an airplane and kept there for a few days, while Dick Cheney ran the country from the White House basement. In the meantime, Clinton and Gore — both of whom had been out of the country the day of the attacks — made it a point to get home as fast as they could and then come straight to Ground Zero so they could walk the streets and cheer up frightened citizens, much as the British royal family had walked around London during the Blitz. (It was in fact the Clinton visit that shamed Bush into making his well-publicized stand with the bullhorn on the heap of rubble a few days later.)
Now those who would have us cowering under our beds — if not wetting them — are at it again. Check out Tom Friedman’s jonesing for another terrorist attack on Meet the Press this week: "…one more 9/11, one more massive attack inside this country, and that’s the end of the open society as we know it. You’ll be taking off more than your shoes at the airport…"
And get a load of the title assigned this AP article on Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo and finally put the detainees held there for years without trial or even formal charges into the American criminal justice system: "Issue of terrorists’ rights to test Obama’s pledge". Why are we talking about "terrorists’ rights" (as opposed to detainees’ rights) when the vast majority of persons at Gitmo and other black sites weren’t terrorists at all when they were detained? This is not an isolated article, either: Hilzoy at Washington Monthly details other recent efforts to bang the fear drum.
What’s behind the fearmongering? Is it that the people who gleefully aided and abetted Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the PNAC Platoon’s rush to war in Iraq, who told innocent Iraqis to "Suck. On. This." as we bombed and killed them, are not only not as contrite as we might hope, but are in fact gearing up to do it all over again?