We Thought WE Were Free

The attacks on the satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris remind us – again – that not everyone living amongst us is our friend. As importantly, the response of the governments of the world remind us who really pays for these acts – the citizens of the countries being attacked. Secretary of State John Kerry (with the foreign minister of Poland standing beside him) stated that “freedom will never surrender” to terror. However, both American and French leaders have, in the past, suggested that Charlie Hebdo should perhaps tone down it’s satire. In other words, sacrifice free speech to extremism. These statements by our leaders leave the impression that the opinions of the magazine were wrong and the response of the Muslims understandable. America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Yes we do. America won’t surrender to extremism. Yes we will, and it will begin at the top.

Our problem lies in defining the enemy. That is a problem of both political and national will and Political Correctness.

Following the 911 attacks, then-President Bush said that the terrorists “hate our freedom”. He also said we’re not at war with Islam, just the extremists. No they didn’t and yes we were. We ARE, pure and simple, at war with Islam. We being everyone who is not Muslim.

During WWII, the average Hans from Frankfurt or Andrea from Rotterdam was not our enemy, but we were at war with Germany and that meant the Germans. We would still be fighting that war if every Allied leader would have stood up and said “yes, the fanatical elements of Japan or the Nazi party are our enemies, but the average German and Japanese is not”. It would then, like now, be true, but completely meaningless. Whether Hans, Toshi or Mohammed fights because he believes in the cause or not is not the point. The point is whether they fight. Just like the Germans or the Japanese of WWII, the Muslims of today are part of a larger group and that group exerts pressure on its members. Hans may not have agreed with Hitler or Toshi with Hirohito, but they did follow the instructions. Whether fighting the 12 year olds of the Hitler youth in the streets of Berlin or the fanatical groups of Japanese in the caves on Okinawa, what the individuals believed was less important than their actions. That holds true today in the villages of Afghanistan and the cities of Iraq. For those fighters, to disobey is to endanger yourself and your family. If belief does not unite them, fear does.

America, like all the Allied countries in the WWII, had many who didn’t think we should fight. We had fought in Europe just one generation before and many felt this was a fight we did not need to join. That was a belief shared by many in the countries not being actively attacked (or occupied) by the Axis. When those countries did join the fight, many of those with M1’s were men who didn’t agree with the cause. Their bullets killed just the same as those who fervently supported it. They died just as certainly as those committed heart and soul.

Out of all the differences that separate the two conflicts, one dramatically effects the way we prosecute this conflict and it grew out of the former: political correctness. The Nazis and their attempt to drive out or kill the jews and other ‘undesirable’ minorities in the areas they controlled created a condition where lumping together any group results in that group screaming ‘Nazi’ at those doing the lumping. It’s gone much further than that. Like a beaten dog flinches before being struck, PC causes those in power to cower before being accused of wrongdoing. Political Correctness is the set of beliefs and actions that forces those in one group (usually the majority) to ensure that any action toward any other group (usually a minority) is not based on simply belonging to that second group.

Almost sounds like a good idea in that definition.

Instead, coupled with that lack of political willpower, PC constraints force us to split our resources. We can’t simply “profile” everyone who is Muslim. So first we have to weed through the ‘obvious’ enemy (all Muslims) to the ‘real’ enemy (those we can somehow identify as terrorists). As in Vietnam and now the Middle East, we often don’t have local sources for real information. America has always relied on intelligence gathered from technology as a replacement for intelligence gathered at the source (often called human intelligence). Once we’ve identified our target, we then rely on weapon superiority to destroy them.

It has another effect too. Since 911, every flier is subjected to long security lines and intrusive searches. Making sure not to selectively watch just the identifiable enemy, governments have taken to watching all of their citizens. Scanning every word we send across the internet or speak on our phones. If the conspiracy theorists are to be believed (and why not?), the government watches us through our webcams, listens to us by tapping into our smartphones even when we aren’t on them and zipping over our heads in drones originally designed for watching the enemy. PC excuses have allowed the government to treat us all as suspect. The government that is scared of pissing off a few good Muslims by targeting all Muslims has no problem pissing off all of its citizens.

Strangely enough, we have no problem with ‘collateral damage’ when we do attack. It’s the one time PC has no part in our behavior. The dichotomy is interesting and very telling: as long as we’re discussing it, PC rules the day. When we’re doing something about it, well, don’t get in the way.  It is just like the South Park episode on whether we should attack Iraq in 2003: We want to be the country that says we hate war, while simultaneously waging it.

President Obama said we won’t sacrifice our right to free expression to the actions of ‘a few’. No? Look what Americans have sacrificed because of the actions of nineteen Muslims. We’ve sacrificed our freedoms, our prosperity and our lives.

What’s a little creative freedom after all that?

~ by Mad Prophet on January 8, 2015.

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