Swans Commentary » swans.com September 11, 2006  



September 11, Nineteen Eighty-Four


by Jan Baughman





"In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones; but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink."
—George Orwell, 1984


(Swans - September 11, 2006)  It can take time -- a year, sometimes five or more -- to get the package wrapped just right so that it conveys the proper sentiment and is welcomed by the intended recipient. Occasionally one has to unwrap and rewrap; change the color scheme, try a different ribbon, or put on a new label. Terrorists were initially referred to as Evildoers in the post-9/11 aftermath, but that didn't wear well with those outside the president's black and white world. Once the Iraq package was torn open and no WMDs were found inside, Saddamists served to form the missing link between the War on Iraq and the War on Terror. Now as we wish to offer our gift of democracy around the world, Islamic Fascists allows us to reach a much broader target audience in the Global War on Terror, or what Rumsfeld calls the "global struggle against violent extremism," which takes up too much sound-bite space.

A Pentagon strategist recently suggested that the GWOT packaging is not palatable to our former friends and allies, and perhaps if we wrap it up in prettier paper, and call the evildoing Islamic Fascist terrorists criminals instead, it will "change the dynamic of the conflict" and allow us to "migrate this from a war to something other than a war." It's kind of like Congress trying to figure out how to rewrite the laws so that their leader's unconstitutional NSA wiretapping program will be legal, retroactively.

Then you take all the dead civilians and destroyed cities, and the military coffins and PTSD-suffering and DU-exposed and injured troops, and wrap them up in a nice big box along with the reports of increased violence, and the resurgence of the Taliban, and the all-time-high opium production in Afghanistan, and tie it real tight with a pretty bow and label it "progress," and then seal the box in a time capsule of classified and redacted information that won't be opened till long after the party's over for all of us.

The Cato Institute published a report this week entitled "Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism" that summarizes the US administration's language, propaganda, and tactics that are successfully driving us into George Orwell's prescient 1984 in which War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. No-bid contracts and pork barrel spending are wrapped in Homeland Security; national security replaces civil liberties; torture is not torture; a backdoor draft is not a draft; journalists are on the government's bankrolls; and the Constitution, with its checks and balances, is no longer worth the paper on which it's printed, since the national security letters, security directives, and presidential signing statements render it moot. (The same doublespeak is used right here in the homeland, where the economy is strong, tax breaks benefit us all, no child is left behind, New Orleans is rebuilding, and every vote counts...)

The alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons, one of which is subsidiary and, so to speak, precautionary. The subsidiary reason is that the Party member, like the proletarian, tolerates present-day conditions partly because he has no standards of comparison. He must be cut off from the past, just as he must be cut off from foreign countries, because it is necessary for him to believe that his is better off than his ancestors and that the average level of material comfort is constantly rising. But by far the more important reason for the readjustment of the past is the need to safeguard the infallibility of the Party. It is not merely that speeches, statistics, and records of every kind must be constantly brought up to date in order to show that the predictions of the Party were in all cases right. It is also that no change of doctrine or in political alignment can ever be admitted. For to change one's mind, or even one's policy, is a confession of weakness. If, for example, Eurasia or Eastasia (whichever it may be) is the enemy today, then that country must always have been the enemy. And if the facts say otherwise, then the facts must be altered. Thus history is continuously rewritten. This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.
--George Orwell, 1984

A war, and a crime, by any other name is still just that. Yet Mr. Bush is now attempting to give his war crimes a nobler appearance by redressing them as the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century." In fact, the most important ideological struggle of the 21st century may well be one between those with utter disregard for humanity who are practicing perpetual war, and those who condone it. We either take this struggle very seriously, or it's time to just accept that September 11 changed everything, and that 2 + 2 = 5.


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External Resources

Analysis: Terror war may need name change, by Pamela Hess, UPI Pentagon Correspondent

Doublespeak and the War on Terrorism, by Timothy Lynch, Cato Institute Report No. 98, September 6, 2006

Internal Resources


America the 'beautiful'

Patterns which Connect


About the Author

Jan Baughman on Swans (with bio).



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Published September 11, 2006