FROM VICTIM TO PERP
It used to be easy to tell
the enemy. All you had to do was to check their uniforms and
nationality. But after 9/11 it became a lot more difficult. We
started fighting a war against an attitude and a concept instead
of a country. How do you invade terror? if the identifying mark
of a terrorist is hatred of America how can you tell when you've
won? Who signs the surrender papers?
Of course, we did have
some experience in this. We had already declared war on all sorts
of things: cancer, drugs, pants slung too low on the hips - none
of which had borders, a government or tanks.
Our metaphors had already
spun out of control.
And few counted the bodies.
For example, prior to the
World Trade Center attack, Al Qaeda was reported to have killed
something less than 500 people. Another 3,000 were killed on
9/11. To retaliate it has so far cost us about 4,000 dead troops
in Iraq and another 700 in Afghanistan.
Of course there have been
others involved, such as innocent Iraqis and Afghans. The estimates
of Iraqi civilian deaths range from around 100,000 (based only
on those deaths reported in the media) to the medical journal
Lancet's 2006 estimate of 600,000 and the one million listed
by Opinion Research in 2007. The civilian Afghan tally is far
more modest - somewhere around 8,000 - but still more than double
the number killed in 2001.
Dylan Thomas noted, "After
the first death there is no other." But how can we become
so incensed at the deaths of 3,000 innocent Americans and yet
feel justified in taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of
innocent people who just happened to be in our way as we futilely
sought out bin Ladin and his small band of guerillas?
How can we not even question
it? Or not mention it in the media?
And now it's gotten worse.
Wall Street the victim has turned into Wall Street the perp.
According to the director
of the World Health Organization some 200,000-400,000 women and
children can be expected to die each year as a result of the
fiscal collapse. And UN officials have added another hundred
million to the ranks of the global hungry due to the crisis.
In other words, Wall Street
will kill a hundred times as many women and children as were
killed when it came under attack and it hardly makes the news.
We are infuriated by Bernie
Madoff for stealing from the rich, but pay virtually no attention
to what is going on to ordinary citizens around the world as
a result of conventional fiscal greed of the past few decades.
We may assume that, unlike
bin Laden or Richard Cheney, the traders and manipulators acted
without malice aforethought. They were, after all, only thinking
only of themselves.
But if they had been driving
a car instead of trading a derivative, it would be a criminal
offense called negligent manslaughter. We don't have such a crime
in markets or politics.
And so the president listens
to fiscal advisers who are treated as wise men rather than as
fiscal terrorists and the media respectfully quotes them with
not one sign that they were among those who helped Wall Street
do to the world what Bernie Madoff did to his clients and in
a far more deadly fashion than even bin Laden.
Meanwhile a malevolent
man who thought he could bring America down by attacking Wall
Street sits somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan, watching
as his intended victim do his work for him.