Shouldn’t We Be Afraid?

In today’s Washington Post there’s a story, Oct. Report Said Defeated Hussein Would Be Threat, that says that intelligence agencies told the Bush administration that attacking Iraq would expose the public to much greater dangers than leaving Iraq alone.

“In fact, the NIE, which began circulating Oct. 2, shows the intelligence services were much more worried that Hussein might give weapons to al Qaeda terrorists if he were facing death or capture and his government was collapsing after a military attack by the United States.

“Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al Qaeda, . . . already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States, could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct,” one key judgment of the estimate said.

It went on to say that Hussein might decide to take the “extreme step” of assisting al Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States if it “would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.”

The only honest intelligence they had said that attacking Iraq opened up the threat. So in pursuit of their imperial goals, the Bush people knowingly exposed the public to terrible, lethal danger.

So shouldn’t we be afraid? I recently wrote about The Fear that was everywhere before the election and then the war. The constant terror alerts, the smallpox warnings, the talk of “dirty bombs,” even instructions on what to do if there is a nuclear explosion nearby!

But now, there is very little fear in the air! Looking at what is going on, we are in a MUCH more dangerous situation than we were before the war. Al-Queda is regrouping. North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is an extremely serious situation. Our military is stretched to its limit with the Iraq occupation. And most seriously, Iraq’s WMD are missing, and we now know that intelligence sources had warned that Saddam would give them to terrorists if we attacked.

Where is the fear? Logically we should be much more afraid now, but we aren’t.

I think the timing of the fear — terrible fear leading up to the election and then the attack on Iraq, and absence of fear now — points to something sinister. Fear before the election helped them scare voters into supporting The Party. Fear after the election helped them gain support for attacking Iraq. The Bush administration has more to lose than gain from fear now because they promised that electing them and supporting an attack on Iraq would reduce the fear. So fear now would lower the poll ratings of the President and The Party. I think all of this points to intentional manipulation of public emotions before the 2002 election, and the subsequent attack on Iraq.

It’s one thing — a bad enough thing — to manipulate our thinking and reasoning with false information. It is another thing entirely to manipulate our deepest psychological triggers with stories of how smallpox is one of the most painful deaths, with rumors of nuclear bombs smuggled into the U.S. in shipping containers, and drawings of the “kill zone” of a “dirty bomb.” I think this is worse than the evidence of cynical manipulation of information that is in the news now. To me, the manipulation of public emotions is a much more serious offense, because it strikes us at a much deeper level, a more basic instinctive level. It makes our children cry. It makes us lose sleep at night.

Maybe later I’ll write about manipulation of our inner spiritual lives, circulating stories of signs of the apocalypse, and spreading tales of God speaking to our leaders.