Political Prisoners

Fear Merchants

Mumia Abu-Jamal

It is increasingly difficult to watch TV or listen to the radio these days, for the airwaves and cable outlets are thick with political ads. At the cost of millions of dollars, politicians are trying to sell the psychic poison of fear.

I never knew that San Francisco’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) was so feared by so many right-wing pols. Perhaps the only politician getting more play nationally is President George Bush, whom many Democrats are running with, and many Republicans are running from.

For many campaigns, however, the common denominator is fear; fear of Al Qaeda; fear of Osama; fear of so-called extremists. Fear of being seen, or perceived, as weak, soft on the so-called war on terror.

Isn’t it strange that no one fears being stupid?

Several days ago, a low level U.S. diplomat said, during an interview with Al Jazeera, that the U.S. had been both “arrogant” and “stupid” in its Iraq adventure. Within hours he was forced to retract his comments, suggesting they were “taken out of context,” “badly translated” and the like.

In the U.S. Empire, it seems, diplomats may not speak the truth.

In the U.S. Empire, truth is treason.... And while truth is outlawed, fear is a common sentiment.

Several years ago, a Yale senior researcher, Immanuel Wallerstein, in his provocative article, “The Eagle has Crash Landed,” noted:

“Other nations are afraid or unwilling to stand up to Washington directly, but even their foot-dragging is hurting the United States. Yet the U.S. response amounts to little more than arrogant arm-twisting. Arrogance has its own negatives. Calling in chips means leaving fewer chips for next time, and surly acquiescence breeds increasing resentment. Over the last 200 years, the United States acquired a considerable amount of ideological credit. But these days, the United States is running through this credit even faster than it ran through its gold surplus in the 1960s.”

Fear allowed the Iraq War to become a reality; fear among Democrats who didn’t want to appear weak; and fear among the media that didn’t want to appear unpatriotic.

Fear led, not to the illusion of safety, but to the certainty of chaos; or ruinous war, of disaster.

And now we are on the brink of mid-term elections, where it’s likely one party, or the other, will emerge victorious. But no matter who wins, Iraq yet looms large as the insoluble Gordian Knot, that neither side can, or will, untie. Many Democrats voted for the war, and are loathe to admit error, again, for fear of seeming weak.

You can hope all you wish, but history dashes such thoughts. Democrats voted for the war, and recently, over a dozen Democrats in the Senate voted for the so-called Military Commission Act, a law granting immunity to the executive branch for torture, and—oh, yes—the right of President Bush to define torture.

All of this—fear, feeding on fear, feeding on fear.

This political class can only give birth to fear; for hope is foreign to them.

And this fear, born of the will to keep their offices has led to this present sad state of affairs.

Isn’t it time for real change?

Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, October 29, 2006