The Ten Year Itch

Scratching the surface

May 9th 2011

Anyone who has ever broken a bone, suffered a dislocation, or suffered other injuries to muscles or tendons knows that one of the first signs that it’s beginning to heal is that the affected area starts to itch. It’s usually a deep itch, the type you can’t scratch, and fortunately, not a constant annoyance. The injured person will scratch at it a bit, and when that doesn’t work, rub or massage. Or, if wearing a cast, he will get grumpy, and start marking the days on the calendar until the cast is due to come off.

It’s the same for cats and dogs, and one of the reason why injured pets are made to wear what the movie “Up” described as “the cone of shame”: the plastic Elizabethan collar that prevents pets from biting at injuries, or trying to pull off dressings.

The critters will itch for a variety of reasons. Fleas, eczema, even sunburn will cause cats and dogs to go into a frenzy of biting and angry grooming behavior.

And of course, that same response can sometimes mean a more serious problem, such as distemper, feline leukaemia, or seizure disorder.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and in the seven days since Obama’s spectacular announcement, Americans have gone into a frenzy of biting, scratching and licking behavior.

But it’s hard to tell if it’s because an injury is finally beginning to heal, or if it’s a sign of a more serious condition.

With the Internet serving as an international “Radio Boca”, conspiracy theories abound. Most are dying rapid deaths in the light of ongoing evidence, and it’s ironic to note that the same people who were screaming the most about what a danger al Qaida is to America are some of the same ones who finally accepted the fact of ObL’s death, not because Obama announced it, but because six days later, al Qaida admitted it. What, al Qaida is their moral authority now?

That more more ludicrous ones are dying rapidly is a good sign, a sign the treatment has had an effect. But a lot of questions remain, and unfortunately, most were created by the administration statements on the raid, rather than squashed.

We have several different accounts surrounding the circumstances of bin Laden’s death. The first account was that he was killed in a firefight. The extraneous detail that he cowered behind one of his wives was added, but then dropped when it couldn’t be explained how the bullets could pass through her and strike him without injuring or killing her. Then bin Laden was “reaching for a weapon”. Then, the latest, that he peered around a door jamb, was shot, and it was found he was unarmed. The rationale now is that he -could- have been armed. One right winger even suggested that if he had telephone numbers and money sewn into his clothes, he could just as easily have had several pounds of C4 in there. That’s a pretty ludicrous theory, but then, all the very best conspiracy theories are. But the shifting narrative leads to the chilling (and unsupported) presumption that the raiders never intended to take ObL alive, but were there to simply execute and bring back the body as evidence.

A lot of people, myself included, are troubled that he wasn’t taken alive. The changing descriptions of his death feed into a lurking suspicion that the government is not being straightforward and honest with us, a slow poison that has been bubbling in the public psyche since 9/11 itself. For every “Truther” there’s a hundred people who feel that many questions are unanswered about the attacks, and that evidence has been concealed.

It didn’t help that while the raid was videoed, there were obvious gaps in the video, things the government elected not to show. There may be valid reasons for it – we know that they utilized a new type of helicopter previously not seen, one designed to run silently and there may have been other technology they didn’t want photographed. Or it may have been too gory, in the eyes of the administration. Or maybe they were concealing something.

It’s an itch.

The public panic in the wake of the raid is a bit hard to fathom. It’s being fed mostly by the right wing pseudo-news clowns at Faux, who have a vested interest in keeping the American public frightened and ignorant. The public, unfortunately, seems predisposed to cooperate. The administration says they found data that showed that there had been some discussion of attacking American trains on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, although no evidence that such talk had ever gotten past the “cocktail napkin” stage. “Hey, Osama, you know what would REALLY make the Americans piss themselves? Derail or blow up a couple of their trains! Man, that would be funny. Here, pass that back, don’t toke it all.”

In the days since the raid, reports of “terrorist activity” have skyrocketed. A man was detained at a train station for asking bystanders to help him with some luggage. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, called for application of “no-fly” lists to passenger trains, which certainly would defeat the purpose of high speed rail and take away rail travel’s biggest advantage over airline travel, in that it isn’t cursed with airline security. It’s hard to gauge just how serious Schumer was, though, since the next day his office breathlessly announced funding projects for two NY stations for high speed rail, and pleaded for funding to rehabilitate the historic Oyster Bay railroad station. Even a Senator has to realize that inflicting “no fly” rules would assure that money and effort would be wasted.

But Americans are crouched in fear, even though no real credible threat exists. Terrorists can and doubtlessly will attack, and Americans will remain far more likely to die in a car crash, get shot, or even get hit by lightning.

Usually these types of panics are short-lived. People quickly realize that demanding that people know how many home runs Harmon Killebrew hit (573, if you want to pass for being a real American), or sign loyalty oaths (a complete waste of ink), or look white (stupid, and racist)is pointless and self-defeating.

The one following 9/11 was -not- short lived, and has transformed America into a bitter, frightened parody of itself, with travel restrictions, constant questioning of the loyalty of a minority of the population, the PATRIOT act, wiretaps, Gulags, and even torture.

I hoped the death of bin Laden might bring about the end of this pathetic chapter in American history, and I still do so hope.

If there is a terror attack, I’m more worried that it will come from the American far right, seeking to avail itself of the panic, than I am of an actual al Qaida strike. If the Jasmine Rebellions throughout the middle east have made one thing clear, it is that al Qaida is no longer a mover and shaker in middle eastern affairs, but are relegated to being clappers in the crowd as the parade they originally led passes them by. They were no longer much of a credible threat with ObL alive, and they are even less so with him dead.

I expect that particular itch to fade away fairly quickly. That it is happening at all is sort of embarrassing. Can’t people control their sphincters better then that? But it’s ridiculous on the face of it, and eventually, people will calm the fuck down, distracted by Lindsey Lohan and Dancing with Bozos.

But the lingering doubts haven’t gone away, and they are a slow poison that will impede the healing process.

There’s also the fact that the administration seems to have no interest in shedding all the alien, anti-constitutional powers it awarded itself in the wake of 9/11. This is supposed to be a more liberal administration, one headed by a constitutional scholar, but there is no interest in restoring limits on wiretapping, or lifting impediments to travel, or restoring due process or other rights. Bradley Manning remains uncharged, and some 95 people remain at Gitmo, and if they are no longer being tortured, they are still being held without charges, without trial, without sentence, and without hope of release. In Brave New America, peoples serve government.

Another problem, one that actually does heighten the risk of a terror attack, is the ongoing contempt America has for international law and sovereignty. It can be argued that in the case of Pakistan, such contempt is well justified, but as long as America feels it can meddle in the affairs of other nations, violently remove leaders it doesn’t like, reject democratic votes that don’t suit its ideology, and occupy nations on a whim, the populations of other countries will strike back – and guerrilla warfare (what we call “terror attacks”) is the only option against a superior military power. In effect, America is pouring itching powder into the cast, to return to my original simile.

The biggest concern is that Americans regard all this as “the new normal”, and the crazed bastards who scream that constitutional principles are “socialist” and weak are the new public consensus.

If that’s the case, then the itching we feel is that of a far more serious problem.

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