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June 03, 2008

The Meaning of Shock-and-Awe

By: Bernard Chazelle

Remember the heady days of Shock-and-Awe? TV networks wheeled in their experts to tell us what a sweet show it was going to be. Every MSM outlet was giddy with anticipation.

I felt utter disgust.

The days of Shock-and-Awe will be remembered as the worst episode of the Bush era; worse than Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, rendition, Patriot Act, Katrina, etc. It was when Americans became "Bush's Willing Executioners" and admitted it.

The phrase "Shock-and-Awe" is semantically indistinguishable from the word "terrorism." You could say "Fright-and-Terror" instead. Not quite as euphonic but essentially synonymous. Terrorists usually don't refer to themselves by that name. With Shock-and-Awe, Americans did precisely that.

The point of this post is not that attacking Iraq was bad (though it was); it is not that Shock-and-Awe was terrorism (though it was). It is that Bush, for once, did not lie. He asked us with utter clarity and no ambiguity whatsoever: do you want to be a terrorist? And America said yes. The question "Shall we do Shock-and-Awe?" does not mean "Do you want to avenge 9/11?" or "Do you want to liberate Iraqis?" or "Do you want to remove a WMD threat?" If it did, it would be phrased differently. There is no need to invoke terror for any of these purposes. But Shock-and-Awe explicitly appeals to the intention of terrorizing. "Do you want to do Shock-and-Awe?" means "Do you want to be a terrorist?" For this one time, the US government told the truth and called its own terrorism by its name. America understood, and America cheered.

My point is not that Bush is bin Laden. By using the phrase "Shock-and-Awe" Bush was asking us: "Hey, I am going to be a terrorist in Iraq. Do you want to be a terrorist, too?" And Americans, by a huge majority, said "Yes."

Please don't agree with me too quickly. In fact, do me a favor and dismiss this as hyperbole. But before you do so, please rebut the argument I will now make.

When you plan a bombing attack on a major city and you call it Shock-and-Awe, you quite clearly intend to cause horrendous fear in the population. That would be the standard interpretation of anyone with minimum fluency in the English language: shock, awe, bombs. What else could it mean?

But perhaps the standard interpretation won't do. Shock-and-Awe was not coined by journalists or bloggers. It is a technical military term which might mean something entirely different. Perhaps it refers to a plan to terrorize only officers into surrendering while sparing civilians. If so, my point collapses. So let's check the facts.

Shock-and-Awe is explained in great detail in a 1996 book written by its two architects, Ullman and Wade. The authors explain in it that the goal is to control "means of communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure." The objective is to cause

the threat and fear of action that may shut down all or part of the
adversary's society.

One seeks to shut down, not the military infrastructure, but the adversary's society. Am I putting too much emphasis on just one unfortunate choice of words? Let's hear Ullman elaborate on the subject:

"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general
and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also
take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power,
In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and
psychologically exhausted."

It's unambiguous. The goal is to use violence to inspire fear in a way that will shut down all or part of society. The objective is the same as that of 9/11: bring a society to its knees by using terror. (The Ullman-Wade book even mentions Hiroshima approvingly as an example of Shock-and-Awe.)

Shock-and-awe is factually, conceptually, and morally equivalent to or worse than 9/11. Factually: Iraq Body Count estimated the death toll at more than 6,000, which is twice 9/11. Conceptually: The means are terrorism, ie, the goal is to achieve political ends through violence and fear against innocent people. Morally: this was not self-defense or even retaliation; it was premeditated murder of thousands of innocent civilians (including many more children than on 9/11).

When you hear that "9/11 changed everything," make sure to ask: "Did Shock-and-Awe change everything?"

When people tell you Americans can't understand "Islamofascist terrorists," tell them that Americans, in fact, are uniquely qualified to understand bin Laden.

In March 2003, Americans were asked if they wanted to be terrorists. A large majority said "Yes." The word terrorism was already taken, so they went for the closest synonym they could find: Shock-and-Awe.

It's not anti-Americans and pacifists who called Americans terrorists. It is, in fact, Americans themselves. At least they were honest about it.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at June 3, 2008 06:18 PM

YOUR arguement fails at the last phrase, " honest with themselves." YOU'd be burned at the stake before that happens. As for shock and awe (state terrorism) though shocking and awesome seems to have drifted beyond the 1,2,3,4,5, day limit for victory, somewhat.(so much for the theory of the value of infrastructure as the lifeblood for defenders.)(when I learn to write real good, I'm gonna write me a book on how to conquer the world and get in on the big money)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 3, 2008 07:36 PM

The argument fails for the most sophisticated imperialist supporters, though here again it's a matter of deliberate self deception. Here's John Burns of the NYT, almost literally falling on his knees in worshipful adoration of the US Air Force--

"American air power, as the 21st Century begins, is a terrible swift sword that strikes with a suddenness, a devastation and a precision, in most cases, that moves even agnostics to reach for words associated with the power of the gods."

That might be the most nauseating single sentence I've ever seen in the NYT.

The quote comes from Howard Friel and Richard Falk's "The Record of the Paper: How the NYT Misreports US Foreign Policy."
They say it appeared on April 4, 2003. But almost the identical wording reappeared in a John Burns retrospective a few months ago, though I don't have a link handy. And by that point he surely knew Iraq Body Count's confirmed civilian death toll for that period, the 6000 dead that you mention.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 3, 2008 08:14 PM

I don't think we were asked. I think a large number of people stood up and said, "NO!" when the prexeldent foamed his threats and ordered his myrmidons: "Kill them!"
But those in charge are still saying, "So?" to that distant echoing "NO!"
And their funding keeps getting bigger.
Truly, we who "said" "NO!" haven't gotten into a repetitive thing. We've a span of reasons, many that move in the opposite direction of what we said.
And election travesties have continued to take independent lives of ghouls. And the peace forces have marshalled more diabolical means of punishment. And the forces of justice are in some disarray, but mainly behinds of the prexeldent, especially those in the most choice cushioning. And those brigands have brigs, and populate them without counting the dead. And the plagues of violence our soldiers were given are coming home as PTSD, or as creditable hires to the peace forces. And the economic system is creaking in very high winds, with electrifying bolts crushing out thousands.
Well, this is a little list of "reasons."
And at some point, we may well have to stand up because dying on our knees is the only alternative. People who actually did resist the forces arrayed against them have gathered under such slogans and then fought and died.
And there are heroes who are not seen, and some who are still standing up in front of the powerful and taking their punishments for exercising rights and representign ethical beliefs, and some of the powerful are revealling a drained allegiance to the corrupted leadership, too. Everybody knows...
But we are not ready to display our next "NO!" -- not just yet..."neti, neti, neti"

Posted by: Woodyeofalb at June 3, 2008 08:38 PM

Donald: Good link. But I don't think it's a question of "rationalization" at all. They don't choose to focus on the precision bombing in order to "forget" the carnage. If John Burns's pet dog were killed by a bomb, I bet you he would not "rationalize" it by forgetting about it and instead marveling at the high tech behind the bomb that killed his dog. He'd be obsessed by the killing. They "forget" about the innocent lives, because they are Iraqis. It's one of the deepest traits of racism: an inability to empathize about human life that does not look, talk, smell like you.

Second, who cares how terrorists justify their acts. Who cares what OJ Simpson has to say about his murders or Rumsfeld?
My point is logical, not moral.
I am pointing out that those people are terrorists. So if they tell me that their terrorism is OK, then I'll just say that they are selective terrorists. Bin Laden's terrorism is bad and their terrorism is fine.

They don't have to debate this with me. They can just lie instead. I don't care, because I don't need them to make my point. Just like the judges in Nuremberg didn't need the defendants' arguments to find them guilty.

Woody Yes, many Americans were opposed to it. So what? Many Germans were opposed to the Nazis. But the majority was not. And the majority of Americans was in favor of Shock-and-Awe.
One can blame the newspapers, the TV networks, the politicians, and the people. True. But nations have to take responsibility. And as a whole, America favored Shock and Awe, just like, as a whole, Germany was Nazi (though not everyone was).

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 3, 2008 09:12 PM

John Burns calls Shock and Awe an "air show."

9/11 was quite an air show, wasn't it? They've shown these amazing videos of the planes hitting their targets. Arguably the most awesome air show ever. Much better than Shock-and-Awe.

And yet, who's called 9/11 an air show? Ever?

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 3, 2008 09:30 PM

Oh, I agree with the logical point you're making. I'm just pointing out the way we rationalize things in the US (and in Western countries in general, as best I can tell.) It's important to understand this if you want to persuade people, because you need to know what sorts of arguments they've likely encountered.

I'm guessing most people here have had experiences talking with friends who have remarkable difficulty understanding an anti-imperialist viewpoint. I once spent hours arguing with someone who kept thinking my position was that of a liberal humanitarian bomber. I was saying "We shouldn't have helped Indonesia murder the Timorese" and he was hearing "We should be invading every country that might be guilty of human rights violations." I was saying we shouldn't be criminals and he was hearing "We need to be the world's policeman." The only positions he seemed able to understand for most of the evening were the two that are always presented in the press--the "realists" who deal in straight power politics vs. the Wilsonian idealists who deal in power politics but tell themselves it's for noble humanitarian goals.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 3, 2008 09:46 PM

OK, I'm good with chastising "the nation." But it isn't "the nation" that will take on Moloch.
And I just don't know that a majority was supportive. Just as we are pretty sure no majority even voted for the creep and his Imperial 'murka. Just as we know that no majority has benefited from his lootin' lyin' egg-suckin' m-f**g gawdam burn-in-hell maladministration.
It seems to be the numerical minority is in control all around: wtf is wrong with holding on to the rule of law? Who doesn't want peace, love and understanding? Why can't I wear a shirt that says "Not in my name!" in Arabic without checking the bank account for bail money or my medical benefits package for abusing the feet of an orificer or damaging his baton's blackwater sheen?
Certainly, I am grappling with the point on my own sharpened pruning hook about not having used my voice sufficiently to drown out the bloodlust in my neighbor's eye but his F-350 is the terror of the road!
The Brownshirts were able to defend der Furher's modernization plans because they were appealingly clothed and appeared in great numbers at the county fairs, and gave out great gifts, no?

Chris Floyd: "There has never been a condition of such deep, virtually catatonic civic paralysis in American history -- and few such instances in world history."

Daniel Berrigan: “It is very rare to sustain a movement in recognizable form without a spiritual base.”

Sorry if this is dry mulch. You can tell me to split, but here's Woody: Us'ns got to make some true sacrifices, and I believe these will arise from feeling we are righteous. The initial sacrifices have to come from an insistence that we are not collaborators, and some belief that we are not alone.

Posted by: Woodyeofalb at June 3, 2008 10:30 PM

You want peace, love and understanding? Get a golden retriever. Germans, Americans, Brits, French, Israelis, Arabs are, for the most part, dismal failures at all of that. On a personal and collective level. Even if all of those things supported their self-interest.
Read Hobbes, but cherish Blake or Yeats, and find a few kindred souls to share poetry and Guinness, and a pretty one with a laugh and freckles. Most of the rest is Shock and Awe.

Posted by: donescobar at June 3, 2008 11:05 PM

A few are guilty but all are responsible.

Posted by: Pvt. Keepout at June 3, 2008 11:37 PM

Playing the devil's advocate here, there is no widely agreed upon definition of "terrorism." But all the variations I can recall specifically exclude state-level and state-sanctioned military action. Therefore neither the US military actions of dropping an A-Bomb on Hiroshima in the course of prosecuting WWII, nor the tageted destruction of a variety of government buildings and infrastructural improvements (i.e. "shock and awe") in intiating the war in Iraq, would technically be considered "terrorism" by any definition I can recall.

Speaking for myself now, rather than the devil and the hell that is war, good, thought provoking post. Morally, I can't see any real difference between an unprovoked, unjustified war and terrorism, despite the fact that the former is carried out by a recognized state and the latter is not.

Posted by: lockwood at June 4, 2008 12:32 AM

Donald: I'm with you. Political scientists spend huge amounts of energy dressing up imaginary differences as grand theories. Wilsonians, Jacksonians, Jeffersonians, etc. It gives them something to do. And, most important, one can argue endlessly about the meaning of these words since, by and large, they mean absolutely nothing whatsoever. To me, this is like classifying numbers not as prime vs composite, but as numbers with big round letters vs numbers with sharp descending slopes.

The point I am making, however, is beyond debate. It's like the addition table. No one can argue from first principles why 9/11 is not the same as Shock-and-Awe. One can do it only by invoking all sorts of strange (self-serving) theories. It would be like if someone tried to argue that 2+2 is not 4 because of a complex corollary derived from Freudian theory of the Id. Of course, they're only saying Might Makes Right but have to couch it differently to avoid embarrassment.

I do think, however, it's extremely valuable to point out the equivalence. More than to argue whether, in absolute terms, invading Iraq was a good thing or not. After all, who knows, maybe in 100 years Iraq will be paradise and we'll all be happy. But then, who knows, maybe if bin Laden has his way, the Caliphate will triumph and our descendents will be grateful for it.
The point is, the means were the same: terrorism.

Woody I am more optimistic than you are.
80% were in favor of Shock-and-Awe, and whether we like it or not, that's, for the Iraqis, America.
But there's hope. For one thing, the Web has empowered millions of people and suggested alternative ways of thinking. It's still an elite thing, but it's the 21th century. The most hopeful aspect of Bush's reign was that it was intrinsically 19th century. Completely anachronistic. Here's hoping.

Don I am not even asking for peace, love, and understanding. I want Americans to stop killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people with smart bombs. No other rich country comes anywhere near the level of destruction caused by US power. Brits, French, Israelis, Arabs are amateurs. Why do they have to be brought in? To dilute our culpability?

To all Off to my son's graduation tomorrow. Back some time.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 4, 2008 12:41 AM

lockwood This is the funny thing.
You would think that the US would be careful to carve a definition of terrorism that would exculpate states. But it does not.
In fact, all definitions from the US (there are many, whether it's from the State dept or the military) make sure to include states as agents of terrorism. This is crucial to US policy.
That's how they can blame Iran, Syria, and Libya of being state sponsors of terrorism. For example, the US military defines terrorism as "the calculated use of violence of threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature." No restriction to nonstate actors. Some definitions will add the word "clandestine," which of course would include CIA, DIA, all naval groups in the Gulf, etc.

Think about it. Bush could have never justified invading Afghanistan if he had not been able to tie the Taliban (the ruling regime) to al-Qaeda.

One thing you can be 100% sure is that the US will never redefine terrorism to exclude states.

That's how it can use the GWOT to bomb the crap out of any country in the Middle East.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 4, 2008 01:14 AM

Gotta go now. I have to be up at 6am. Ouch.

Can't wait to see what my son will look like wearing a cap & gown.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 4, 2008 01:21 AM

"I felt utter disgust."

natural reaction to your country going on a mass-murdering spree.

look, bush, cheney and their co-conspirators are terrorists, mass murderers and war criminals if the words mean anything. they belong in jail for the rest of their miserable existence or preferably at the end of a noose after a fair and balanced trial.

Posted by: ran at June 4, 2008 03:07 AM

A lot of people rationalized it and were provided with the rumors to justify it. Including myself. I knew the invasion was wrong: why couldn't it get UN backing? But like GW I, there was talk of surgical precision, guided bombing, the care military planners took in selecting their targets. Mostly bullshit, and if I'd looked into it more I'd possibly have discovered that. Civilian deaths due to bombing had been reduced relative to say, Dresden, but not eliminated. Even now I'm not clear on the ratios. I can't say I'd ever heard of Ullman and Wade, let alone their book. In what other ways might I have discovered or worked out there would be so many civilian deaths, I wonder? But I think a lot of people, many of whom have been taught to distrust or even hate the UN could easily have found it acceptable without perceiving it as Terrorism. Or even Terror and Fear in the general populace. The Shock and Awe was instilled in the enemy troops, surely? Those in the government buildings or on an Iraqi military base resisting the invasion. The bad guys. Surely the good people knew that they would come to no harm? That's how it works, isn't it? Isn't it?

Posted by: me at June 4, 2008 08:27 AM

However, the US code actually says that it is only things that are illegal under US law that count as terrorism (international or domestic). Pass a law legalizing suicide bombing by Palestinians, Latter Day Saints or anti-abortionists, and it won't be terror.

Posted by: me at June 4, 2008 09:13 AM
Do you want to be a terrorist, too?

Oh come on. We are possibly the most tone deaf people on the face of the planet and yet you expect us to understand the subtlety required when one says freedom yet they mean exploitation or liberator vs. terrorist.

The real tragedy here was that in 2003, HDTV sales were fairly low, correspondingly the prices were sky high, and I had to put up with shock and awe, red white and blue cgi graphics, and cheerleading military punditry in low def on a standard 27" teevee.

Oh, the agony.

Posted by: not_so_angry_no_mo at June 4, 2008 09:43 AM

Regarding "80% of American's" support of the S&A campaign: I don't think all the evidence has been marshaled, or if it is possible to do so. You have to account for how the war was sold to Americans and therefore what that 80% thought they were supporting: it was to be short, painless, cheap, essentially nonviolent, and would create freedom. The bombing campaign would be all these things as well, and the WaPo specifically told us that smart weapons were much smarter than they were in GW1, so everything would be even better. (They didn't comment on the fact that our intelligence had degraded to the point where all our smart bombs were effectively just incredibly expensive carpet bombs.)

CNN told us that the air campaign would hit only Saddam's palaces and bunkers and "military" infrastructure, which of course to any properly skeptical adult means "everything," and neighborhoods would be left unscathed. The purpose was not to frighten Iraqis in general but the Iraqi Army and Baathist functionaries, by cutting the head off the Saddamist snake. It was described almost as a kind of in-patient surgery in which the patient would be surprised, subdued, operated, recovered, and released---like spaying one of Burns' Baghdad cats. Which is generally considered humane.

I have no idea how that 80% figure was reached, what questions were asked, when, etc., etc. But if the questions contained lies, e.g., "Do you support Bush's Shock and Awe air campaign(TM)," then the answers would be just as false. I do not believe that 80% of Americans wanted to kill a few thousand children in order to terrify the rest. 50%, maybe---certainly 30% support it still, whether in denial of the facts or in full bloodthirsty knowledge of them. It matters because the nation really needs to figure out right now what it actually wants and how it is willing to get it---what it is willing to pay and to sacrifice. It needs to get off the pipe, and to argue thus is to state that the reality America will see when awake is fundamentally different from what it sees when it dreams.

Obviously the definition of terror is relevant. It can be argued that terror has its legitimate uses. Had Americans been asked whether we supported pointing an infallible Saddam-tracking micromissile or gigawatt laser at Saddam's body until he turned himself in and relinquished Iraq to UN control (still "terrorism"), I'd have to guess the support level would have been higher in the U.S. and around the world---and it's hard to argue that supporters would have been wrong, considering that the war and indeed all "collateral damage" would thus have been avoided. (No comment on the likelihood of subsequent sectarian warfare.)

I make this argument not to defend the guilty and excuse the responsible, but to assert that Americans do not overwhelmingly support pure war and imperialism when it is understood by them for what it is. They support the opposite of these things---they want to avoid deaths and STILL get what they believe they deserve.

Why they feel they deserve cheap gas, or anything else, is another question. And to my mind the central one.

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at June 4, 2008 09:46 AM

"American air power, as the 21st Century begins, is a terrible swift sword that strikes with a suddenness, a devastation and a precision, in most cases, that moves even agnostics to reach for words associated with the power of the gods."

That might be the most nauseating single sentence I've ever seen in the NYT."

Donald, and given the competition, that's saying something, isn't it?

Posted by: catherine at June 4, 2008 10:53 AM

That's great, Bernie, but aren't you kinda preaching to the choir here? Why don't you take this argument to Free Republic in the hopes of changing just one mind? Or barring that, maybe to the liberal hawaks who still believe in "humanitarian" bombing?

Posted by: Slappy at June 4, 2008 12:49 PM

9/11 brought out the very worst in this country, and then jacked it up to the level of a Bronx cheer in a New York minute. [No, NY is NOT code for Jewish!] New York is code for testosterone, something financial centers are awash in.

Growing up in Iowa, if you were a dude, it was assumed you were a dude. No one felt they had to prove they were a man, they proved that every morning when they got up and went to work. I guess manliness is a more fragile thing when you wear a tie and suit.

Put it down to one Midwesterner's conceit, but had 9/11 hit Iowa, we would have gotten over it, just like you get over a tornado or flood.

No, 9/11 was an East Coast overcompensation thing. Instead of Yankee fans telling Red Sox fans to get fucked, we dropped bombs on innocent people, and that's about as big as a FUCK YOU gets.

The build up to this war was ugly, it was racist, it was childish, and far too many Americans embraced that ugliness. And then they sent other people's children off to fight their dirty wars and that made George Bush the most popular president in the history of polling.

My new favorite meme is this: in the future, people will reference "good Americans" like they do "good Germans" now. The culpability is no less, the shame no less deserved.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at June 4, 2008 01:08 PM

Mark, that's about the flakiest most wrongheaded explanation for recent US militarism that I've ever seen. I don't have data handy, but I really doubt that NYC residents were, on average, more in favor of the Iraq War than those salt of the earth macho Midwesterners who would, no doubt shrug off the mass murder of 3000 Iowan cornfarmers, probably letting out a manly curse word or two before getting back to feeding the pigs. And yes, I'm stereotyping Iowans in a ridiculous way, but I lived near there once and I do so in the full knowledge that I'm stereotyping--you seem to believe in the fertilizer you're spreading about New Yorkers.

I've lived in various places in the US and you've got crazed militarists everywhere. I suspect there are higher percentages in certain regions (where I grew up, for instance), but they exist everywhere.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 4, 2008 01:27 PM

According to the inventor, there was no S&A in Iraq. From April 3, 2003:

Harlan Ullman, the military adviser who created the shock-and-awe doctrine, says he doesn't recognize it in action in Iraq.

"The current campaign does not appear to correspond to what we envisioned," said Ullman, principal author of the 1996 book, "Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance."

"This bombing campaign did not immediately go after Iraqi military forces in the field, particularly the Republican Guard divisions and political levers of power, such as the Baath Party headquarters," explained Ullman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He says that if the air campaign had destroyed a big chunk of Iraq's ground forces, it's possible that Iraqi resistance might have been softened, and U.S. troops might already be in Baghdad by now.

Is it too late for shock and awe now? "We have not seen it; it is not coming," Ullman said flatly.

Posted by: cnmne at June 4, 2008 02:58 PM

Hmm, I'm just trying to remember the last time Iowans ever got together to form an ugly mob.

All I know about the drumbeat to war is that both Democratic NY Senators were for it, the New York Times was unforgivably pro-war, Congressmen like Peter King were on TV around the clock pushing for war, and for seven years "Ground Zero" has been treated like it was Lourdes meets Mecca, politically. Rudy Giuliani, a fourth-rate political hack was elevated to the status of "America's mayor."

But I can't get Google to pop up any NY state polls either. Still, you would think that the fact that almost all of our national news organizations are based in NYC is a good reminder of how NY-centric American politics became after 9/11.

But let me put it this way. Would we have gone to war if 9/11 had happened to San Francisco?

I wasn't in New York, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut. All I know is that here in the Midwest, I didn't see anything like the friggin' angst that poured out of NY, driving the drums of war. Even St. Louis Park native Tom Friedman was reduced to playing a slavering "I don't care who we bomb, just bomb someone" patriot.

I'm not trying to pin all the blame on NY. The entire country got sucked into war fever and we have still failed to honor those patriots like Paul Wellstone who voted against the call for war for sanity's sake.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at June 4, 2008 04:27 PM

Mark, your position is so breathtakingly creepy and yes, provincial I don't even know what to say, except it sounds an awful lot like the usual NYC hatred that is so traditional in much of America. (In fact, the love that flowed towards NY right after 9/11 was touching in some ways, but I was also a little suspicious of it, figuring that New York was playing the role of the murdered girlfriend in some Hollywood revenge movie, where the macho hero has to hunt down the evildoers that did in his sweetie.)

So in your view it is New York City residents that led the rush to war? Whatever, man. If you think that we wouldn't have gone batshit crazy if terrorists had killed 3000 people in Sioux Falls SD or San Francisco or St. Louis MO or (God help us) someplace in Texas then you are off in some parallel universe.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 4, 2008 07:31 PM

Mark, give it up. This administration was trolling for a justification. A lot of people in Washington were really upset that the Cold War ended. I'm not saying the administration deliberately ignored Al Qaeda intel (that whole "inside job" fantasy makes me nuts), but New York - and Washington, DC, and an empty field in Pennsylvania - were horrors that fit very nicely into a hungry military-industrial-neocon plan. I'm sure population density, the location of media, the fact that NYC is the site of a lot of our nation's business, all made the thing more vivid, but the bombing of East Cupcake, Illinois would have worked, too.

And out here on the West Coast, I recall substantial friggin' angst levels, in general, and specifically as people began to realize that friends and neighbors flying home were never going to get here.

I'm not educated enough to talk war theory. I probably shouldn't even be commenting. But I have to say that even I got it, from the very beginning, that it was bizarre to imagine that "Shock and Awe" would inspire in its victims an impulse to bring flowers and cheers and gratitude. The dissonance was there from the beginning. How can you have a war on terror? Where is it? I thought we should have mobilized a big international law enforcement action.

I was not on board, but I didn't stop it. Was I supposed to have assassinated someone? Set myself on fire? I voted. I stood on street corners with placards and candles. It wasn't good enough, and there's no way to make it right. But it won't go away, and it doesn't end with such an admission.

Posted by: larkspur at June 4, 2008 07:36 PM

OK, I give it up. Hell, if people didn't tell me when I was full of it, I'd never figure it out on my own.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at June 4, 2008 08:19 PM

larkspur: Have YOU thought about not paying. YOU have NO obligation to pay for a crime, or for ANY immoral action by YOUR government. This nation was founded upon TAX PROTEST.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 4, 2008 08:51 PM

If I may add TAX PROTEST DOES WORK and works well. (fast too)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 4, 2008 09:05 PM

Ask me how I would know, ask me.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 4, 2008 09:09 PM

ok, I'll bite: how would you know?

Posted by: ran at June 4, 2008 10:18 PM

In 2006 Wyoming lost its FOOD TAX. (nothing to do with me as my Dad had died and I was out of state until a day or so before the vote) ONLY took 19,000 SIGNATURES to overthrow a decades old TAX.(if not older)(typically Wyoming pulls 160,000 +/- votes in a major election)(red state)
Building the TAX PROTEST, getting the signatures, took 3 years, I never heard of it during that time, I'm isolated but I listen to NPR, yet heard nothing as It wasn't advertised, I assume. PASSED ON THE FIRST VOTE WITH LESS THAN A WEEKS DISCUSSION. Like most Wyoming Citizens, ya just don't meet new people out here. Nobody signs petitions out here as few petitions exist here. It took the libertarians YEARS to get the 3600 signatures (2%) to become a registered third party. BOUGHT SOME FOOD TODAY, NO TAX!!!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 4, 2008 11:40 PM

hmm, inspiring stuff WITHOUT QUESTION. following this CAN"T LOSE FORMULA, I'm confident we can bring the WAR MACHINE to its KNEES before the next ICE AGE!!!1!!

Posted by: ran at June 5, 2008 12:21 AM

ran: 2% gets YOUR name on the floor(plus a win of course) with NO guarantee of squat. Just 8% makes a slam dunk on something that JUST DON'T HAPPEN IN WYOMING. WE are the weather people, WE ONLY discuss the weather. WE go YEARS without talking to the next door neighbors about the weather or anything else. Many things can get YOU shot here, politics being one of the faster ones. Wyoming has, argueably some of the greatest mineral wealth in the lower 48, but most folks live like a western appalachia, coal mine towns, absolutely NOTHING CHANGES but the weather. YET SOMEBODY SAID SOMETHING TO 19,000 PEOPLE AND THEY SIGNED. BAMB!!!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 5, 2008 12:43 AM

I use to watch those Libbies stand out in front of the postoffice in my town pandering for signatures in a 25 bellow blizzard. (hate to say it, I was laughing like a republican hard ass at them too, election after election, BUT they stuck with it and got their 3600 (2%) to 4000 GOOD signatures.)19,000, go figure.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 5, 2008 01:02 AM

"OK, I give it up. Hell, if people didn't tell me when I was full of it, I'd never figure it out on my own."

Hold on! You can't do that! THIS IS THE INTERNET. YOU MUST FIGHT!


Posted by: me at June 5, 2008 02:55 AM

" [Shock and Awe] is a technical military term "

It isn't actually. The military don't like it because it can't be operationalized other than "blow lots of things up"

There was a time (sorry no reference) when the military were ordered to work with Ullman and Wade to incorporate it into US doctrine. It couldn't be done because it's too vague.

The military have a whole body of knowledge and theory on war, but shock and awe isn't part of it. It's just a PR phrase (not that I think that makes it any better)

Posted by: JM at June 6, 2008 09:44 AM