LIGHT OMEGA

Sept. 13, 2004Articles and commentary regarding world events
The 'Bush Doctrine' and the Cultivation of Fear


     Fear develops naturally, one might say instinctively, in the presence of vulnerability and helplessness. Sometimes trust is also present, but often not. Fear expands in the presence of anticipated threat, and can vary in intensity from mild discomfort and edginess, to marked anxiety, to outright terror. In any human life, fear is likely to be experienced at some point, and whether trust will also be present will depend, to a large extent, on an individual's spiritual anchoring. This anchoring creates an antidote to the experience of fear.

     There is, however, another way of dealing with fear that is not through spiritual anchoring and trust. It is through the calling into expression, resources of power and aggression. The origin of the trait we call "being a bully," for example, is not based on real strength. It is based on inner weakness and a sense of vulnerability, and the determination to combat this vulnerability through outer belligerence and aggression.

     These psychological understandings are important in relation to the stance the U.S. has taken with respect to post-9/11 domestic and foreign policy. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 created fear, helplessness, anxiety, depression, and a variety of other very intense feelings. And so the choice was there from the very beginning to find a way of dealing with shock, helplessness, and fear. The choice was there to combat fear and despair through trust and hope, or to combat it through aggression and the demonstration of power. The choice for the latter was the one made by our government, the one ready at hand, built into the attitudes of those who govern.

     In point of fact it was not clear to the American public, other than through a turning inward to our spiritual underpinnings, that there was anything else 'outer' to put our trust in other than power. On the practical level, the ongoing current of U.S. foreign policy had already veered away from collaboration with other nations within the forum of a world body such as the United Nations - a world body which might, had its history been different and its relationship with us been different, have shared in the responsibility and jurisdiction in the handling of such events. However, the United Nations has not been empowered to do this, nor could it at the time of America's need. We could not, all of a sudden, put our trust in such a body to deal correctively with a cataclysmic event. We were not spiritually ready, nor was the world spiritually ready.

     Nor could we put our trust in a non-violent, non-military response from within our own government, not because it wasn't possible, but because:

1) Non-military options had increasingly become not our way. We had already begun to seek and to find military answers to all questions of threat and to see such answers as 'natural' and 'inevitable'. The psychology of the undisputed 'greatest military power on earth' had already begun to crystallize within us as an attitude of superiority and isolation.

2) Secondly, we could not put our trust in such a non-violent response, because long before this, we had also veered away from the kind of humility that would have allowed us to pursue dialogue, to engage in self-scrutiny, to reexamine our policies in the Middle East - policies which may have contributed to the root causes of the action taken against us. Such self-scrutiny would not have had to exist at the expense of the pursuit of justice, but rather in addition to it. For justice, certainly, was and is required not only by law, but by human decency and by respect for the vast number of lives that were affected by the unprecedented tragedy of September 11th. Such re-evaluation would have required a maturity that we were not ready for, and so we opted for the response of aggression and power, rather than the response of humility which bears pain in a whole different way. We launched our "war on terrorism."

     Trust is both a psychological and a spiritual attitude. On the spiritual level, it has to do with the power of love. On the psychological level, the level of the ego, it is attained through putting in place internal and external structures of defense that maintain security and safety. This is how the ego experiences trust. It looks around and sees what exists within itself and outside the self that can provide a bulwark against harm. From this vantage point, the more structures that guarantee security, the better. From this vantage point, too, a 'pre-emptive war' on terrorism is the highest form of defense - the highest form of establishing control of threat. It wipes it out before it even begins. It wipes it out because it could begin.

     Trust of a different kind could only have existed had there been another visible alternative to unilateral action in pursuit of justice. Spiritually speaking, such an alternative is always present, but its value and priority must be steeped in our consciousness in order for us to find a viable, outer application and expression of this value. For many, if not most within both the administration and the public, no such vision appeared. Nor is it apparent now, either. It does not appear because we have, to a large degree, lost our way in terms of how we relate to ourselves and to the rest of the world. Both among our friends and among our enemies we have become a 'force of one' and we rely upon this. We have become a nation of power that exercises its power, that accumulates its power, that threatens with its power. This is true of our policies regarding nuclear deterrent. It is also true of the doctrine of 'pre-emptive war' that has become known as the 'Bush Doctrine'.

     Such a doctrine began to take shape merely three days following Sept. 11th when President Bush, during his address at the Washington National Cathedral, began to use the language of war, saying, that the enemy had "declared war" upon us and that we are a nation of peace but "fierce when angered." From that moment forward, the die was cast, a die that had probably been cast long before then. This same die is still being cast today, with the same issues and intentions in the foreground.

     Yet today, in September of 2004, we need to be conscious of what this die-casting is about. We need to believe that there is another antidote to fear than aggression and military control. We need to find within our national spirit, something that does not say that the only answer to fear is war - the pulling out of all stops in relation to the use of power. Yet even today, this perspective is hard to support, this 'antidote' hard to find. For it involves a cultivation of attitudes that we have in many respects left behind regarding the purity of our ideals, and the acquisition of other attitudes that we have yet to learn - attitudes that emerge from the experience of our oneness with others. This is why it seems likely that the 'Bush Doctrine' will continue to prevail; why it seems likely, barring a change in consciousness, that President Bush will be reelected. It is because we have no obvious antidote to the fear that is being offered to us in relation to the 'war on terror'. And because this fear is perpetually renewed and strengthened by wartime rhetoric and policy, we are continually inundated by threats of what could happen, rather than what is happening. This fear is not only being felt. It is being cultivated on a national level so that it is never out of sight or out of hearing.

     To become conscious is to know that there is a big difference between experiencing fear in response to an actual event, and having fear be engendered about a possible event. What is based on a real circumstance can be modified by other real options - through a re-directed, reconsidered Middle East policy, through a debate among nations and a greater commitment to the United Nations, through greater adherence to international law as the context for our response to threat, and through determination to remain committed to world peace, even in the face of threat. This is not what we have done.

     As a nation, we have responded to threat through counter-threat, to danger, by endangering others, to the desire for revenge upon us, with the seeking of revenge upon all who threaten us. We have pursued war, and we have cultivated fear. The cultivation of fear happens through the repetition over and over again of the word 'war'; through the repetition over and over again that 'they' have declared war on us; through the repeatedly stated certainty that we are involved in a 'war on terrorism' and that 'we will prevail'. The intensity and necessity for war is reiterated to the American public with such regularity and strength of belief that we are led to believe that our enemies (undefined, and varying both in visibility and in location), are strong enough to destroy the foundation of our existence if we let down our guard.

     Here is where the pattern coalesces, a pattern which we must observe. First, there is the cultivation of fear which seems inevitable because a powerful enemy threatens. Second, there is the seeming unavailability of other options to place our trust in. Third, there is the seemingly justified assertion of power and aggression. And finally, there is the enhancement of an image of a rescuing figure - one who can lead us through this inevitable war that we must face and win. The illusion is created that there is no other way but to follow the one who can be trusted to fight this war most effectively, and to trust our military might which appears to be the only thing we can trust.

     This 'doctrine' and the emotions that are connected with it, remains today a reality for much of the American public, and, following the election in November, it is likely to determine our national and international reality for the next four years. Fear, the justification of aggression as an antidote, the single-minded turning to military defense and power, the placing of trust in a leader who will rescue us from fear by sheer strength of character and determination - these are the features of a pattern which is being continually seeded into our awareness. It is a pattern whose everpresent reality prevents us from being aware of the choice we have in accepting or not accepting the premise upon which all of this is based. Only unconsciousness allows this pattern to prevail. In order to turn this around on a personal and a national level, clearer perception is needed, a sense of truth is needed, as well as another strategy and set of principles that can be trusted. These principles must make themselves known and we must uphold them. Only in this way will we be able to avoid continuing down this dangerous path - this path which has such dire consequences for our own national safety and for the peace of the world.


* * * * * *

"A Secure America in a Secure World." (Foreign Policy in Focus: Sept. 2004) http://www.fpif.org/papers/04terror/index.html

An important article with a clear exposition of alternatives to the 'Bush Doctrine' and to the 'war on terror'. If you read only one of these three links, read this one.

President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point. (June, 2002) http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020601-3.html

A pivotal speech articulating the basic principles of the 'Bush Doctrine'.

Iraq and the "Bush Doctrine" of Pre-Emptive Self-Defense." (Aug. 20, 2002) http://www.crimesofwar.org/expert/bush-intro.html

A variety of legal experts express their views concerning the justification for pre-emptive action in Iraq, seven months before U.S. military action was taken and one and a half years before the belief in weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was discredited.



A War of Words


"In Their Own Words: Bush and Kerry. (Sept. 8, 2004)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/08/politics/campaign/08bwords.html (N.Y. Times articles are archived 7 days post-publication and are no longer free of charge).

"Sifting for Truth as Bush and Kerry Wage a War of Words over Iraq Policy." (Sept. 8, 2004)
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/08/politics/campaign/08facts.html

"Analysis: Terror fears hit Kerry camp." (Sept. 11, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3647096.stm


Darfur:

"Powell declares genocide in Sundan." (Sept. 9, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3641820.stm

"Sudan anger over genocide claim." (Sept. 10, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3643218.stm

"In Pictures: Chad Refugee Camp." (See link on above page).


In Memoriam:

"America's Day of Terror: In Pictures." (Sept. 10, 2004)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3643984.stm

(See sidebar for: Helping the children of 9/11)


The Sweeping Tide of Revenge


    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Mahatma Gandhi

     Israel, Palestine, Chechnya, now Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the United States - the desire for revenge in the name of justice, in the name of national security, often in the name of God, sweeps through nations and peoples, stirring to violent action those who feel they have lost the most at the hands of oppression, at the hands of occupation, at the hands of poverty, or at the hands of terrorists upon homeland soil. Those who have lost the most and who fear losing more, often choose action over waiting; a demonstration of power over helplessness; the isolation of self-defense rather than collaboration with others - all in order to regain control over their lives, to avoid despair, victimization, helplessness.

      The choice for revenge is upheld by a current of rage that is a response to hopelessness and helplessness - rage and the desire to take control that grows when it seems that survival is at stake, or if not survival, then the inherent dignity which each human being has the right to claim as their own. Hopelessness and helplessness create a need to turn despair into action, helplessness into power. This is the psychological foundation for action that seeks revenge.

     But there is often a seeming moral and spiritual foundation that accompanies the desire for revenge as well, a foundation that appears to justify in terms of higher principle, the taking of human life. This justification comes from the belief that in the battle between good and evil, that God is with one's own side and 'the enemy' is on the other. Thus, there is the vindication of violence against others, built on the idea that God sanctions and upholds those who take life in the name of what is 'right', and on the accompanying idea that one's own perception correctly discerns what God has deemed to be 'right'.

     Violence committed in the name of God is not new. History is filled with it. Nor is it limited to the Middle East. Yet it is an idea that, today, has increasing breadth of application, popping up everywhere, justifying violence everywhere.

     The rising tide of revenge that we see in the world around us and that is reflected in the articles below mystifies us. It is as if a 'lid' has come off that which had kept contained energies of hatred and destruction, of indifference to the suffering of others, of the desire to pursue one's own ends no matter what the cost. Something has removed this 'lid' and exposed the impulse toward terrible action, terrible tragedy. In human terms, to say that this is a feature of the 'purification of the earth' does not seem to do justice to the loss of human life involved, to the cost in human suffering involved, even if it is true.

It does not do justice to the pain that family members feel when bombs dropped by American military personnel on terrorist 'safe-havens' kill sleeping children.

It does not do justice to the pain felt by loved ones who are notified that a son or husband has been killed in a sudden Iraqi ambush.

It does not do justice to the streets filled with shrapnel and the Palestinian children who have lost arms and legs while walking on these streets, due to sudden incursions by Israeli fighter tanks or planes.

     No, the idea of the 'purification of the earth' does not do justice at all to the pain involved. Nevertheless, this is what is manifesting as violence increases. It is what causes the 'lid' to come off that which used to keep energies of hatred and of destruction more contained. It is what allows the rising into consciousness of the underlying dark side of human motivation. We can weep with those who become victims at the hands of this terrible energy. We must weep. But it is also necessary that we seek to align with the forces of progress, of evolution, and of light, so that in the midst of this great upwelling of human darkness, we can hold this light for ourselves and others.

     Now is a time for prayer - for strengthening our own spiritual alignment. It is a time to refuse to fall into the collective energy of fear, anger, or despair, no matter how potently we may feel these around us. Instead, we must pray for the awareness of light to make itself felt everywhere, most particularly, in the midst of our own everyday lives. By holding onto peace within ourselves, by trusting the unfolding purposes of light, we can contribute, even now, to the peace of the world.



* * * * *

Global Terror, Local Wars. (Sept. 8, 2004)
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0908/p01s02-usfp.html

The main point of this article is that "terrorism, after all, is not an ideology, such as communism. It is a technique - a tool that employs fear as a means of political coercion." Despite the variety of unconnected causes that this "tool" serves, there are many who fear that its use is escalating.

ISRAEL - PALESTINE:

"Israel vows 'global' war on Hamas." (Sept. 1, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3617932.stm

"Hamas swears Gaza strike revenge." (Sept. 7, 2004) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3633838.stm

CHECHNYA:

"Bombers' Justification: Russians are Killing Our Children, So We Are Here to Kill Yours." (Sept. 6, 2004) http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0906-22.htm

AFGHANISTAN:

Latest Al Qaeda Recruits: Afghans Seeking Revenge. (Jan. 13, 2003) http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0113/p01s04-wosc.html

"I am too old to feel revenge," says Mohammad, the family elder. "But for our youths, revenge is like an ember that burns in your heart."

UNITED STATES:

Victims of War Are Not Our Enemies. (April 4, 2003) http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0404-04.htm

The author, pastor of the Seattle Mennonite Church, joined a Christian Peacemaker Team traveling to Iraq. Here, he offers moving testimony to the suffering of Iraqis at the hands of the American military, and to their personal kindness toward him.

RUSSIA:

"Analysis: Russian ties with West sour." (Sept. 9, 2004)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3640304.stm

President Putin is proposing not only to raise the level of national security in Russia to protect against future terrorist attacks, but also to institute the same kind of 'pre-emptive war' in response to terrorism that has been justified by the United States. This article points to the friction that has occurred as western powers, fearing that Russia will become a "rogue nation," seek to engage President Putin in dialogue and collaboration to deal with the existing threat. The attempt at dialogue is important yet transparently hollow in the face of continued U.S. unilateralism in this regard.


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