Thursday, July 07, 2005

Know your enemy

It is often said that the first rule of warfare is “Know your enemy.” In the Art of War, Sun Tzu advises that it is as important to know yourself as it is to know your enemy. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you are bound to fail. The name of the group reporting to be behind today’s terrorist attack, “The Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe,” whether true or not, unfortunately represents our (that is, America’s) lack of knowledge of our enemy—and of ourselves.

Seizing the moment to draw a stark contrast between the G8 and the London bombers, President Bush stated forcefully that “the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks. The war on terror goes on…” The war goes on against “those who kill,” those with “evil in their heart.”

You may well recall that this rhetoric of evil—e.g., the “axis of evil”—was Bush’s initial reaction to 9/11. But that rhetoric was jettisoned and supplanted by a warfare paradigm. In the 21 Dec. 2001 New York Times, Caleb Carr observed in his “The Art of Knowing the Enemy”: “the military, under Donald Rumsfeld’s leadership, has moved past the ‘evil people’ paradigm by recognizing that terrorism is (as its practitioners have always insisted) a form of warfare, and that terrorists themselves, whether evil or no, are a variety of soldier.” Yet despite the rhetoric that “Iraq is the central front in the war on terror,” the U.S. continues to identify the enemy as Al Qaeda (who is everywhere and nowhere), in particular, and terrorism (which is a technique), in the abstract. Both hide our ignorance of the enemy, and cast doubt on what we ourselves are engaged in—war? police action? political action? Metaphors and rhetoric matter because if we continue to speak about the war on terror in ambivalent terms, our language will continue to provide our enemy with secrecy, anonymity, and the ability to change identity at will. To wit: “The Secret Organisation of al-Qaeda in Europe” As Thomas Mann said, "the truly dreadful enemy is the unknown."

1 comment:

Anti-Everything said...

I find the coverage of the very tragic "terror attacks" in London to be rather interesting. Every where you look in the corporate American media all you see is around the clock coverage regarding the latest news from London.

And although the death and injuries in London are extremely tragic what I see as even more tragic is the death and destruction that occurs everyday through out the rest of the world, which gets no or very little coverage.

The bombings that took place in London are no different than the bombings and murders that take place on an almost daily basis in Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, DRC, Sudan or any other area of the world...yet since the bombings in London happened to injure and kill white people then they get the luxury of being covered in the news, but if the attacks would have occurred in a country where the population is predominantly brown skinned and non Christian...well then I guess you are on your own because no one cares.

In a time when there is currently genocide occurring in Sudan, there are still thousands of systematic rapes and murders occurring in central Africa (DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi), and brutal dictatorships and governments killing and torturing there own people (Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia)…I guess we should just count ourselves blessed that we are aloud to watch non-stop coverage about the tragic deaths of 40 or so people with fancy accents.