Saturday, September 9, 2006

On the Nature of Denial and the War on Terror

On the Morning of August 10, 2006, America awoke to the terrifying news that 21 Islamic terrorists were arrested in Britain for a near successful attempt to blowup—in mid-air—at least five, possibly ten commercial planes, headed for the United States. Due to the collective expertise of British, American and Pakistani intel, the plot was thwarted, thereby saving almost 5,000 lives. Clearly, the primary credit for this remarkable breakthrough belongs to the United Kingdom whose security is not stifled by the drum beating of ACLU and Hollywood types. Apparently, British pro-active behavior stems from a more realistic understanding of the nature of terrorism as well as a more flexible legal system which allows Keepers of the Peace to move on a legitimate suspicion.

Only a few days prior, the American public had been bombarded by liberal criticism of the “extreme” measures taken by the American government (and certainly by the Israelis) in their drive to protect their own people from terrorism. Alleged Civil Rights “violations” into telephone privacy were cited as reasons why the American government should not monitor incoming cell phone messages from known terrorists. At the same time, leaks allegedly had been made available through the New York Times and CBS to alert the terrorists about American monitoring which fact they did not know previously, thus crippling some aspects of our own Homeland Security. We heard the old saws – “the public has a right to know”----“we have nothing to fear over here from the Islamic extremists” and the usual self justifications.

Some extreme leftists argue that all the military activity is basically unnecessary and that international diplomacy and talk (especially at the UN) would solve our modern problems. There is little mention of the relatively unsuccessful and weak UN record (e.g. Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, etc.). Some of these extremists charge that the United States is responsible for the world’s woes, and, by extension, particularly George Bush who was blamed by one such extremist for Katrina since he didn’t use his omnipotence over weather. Some elected politicians now urge a “cut and run” policy in Iraq believing that America can just leave it all to “them” and that we should just take care of our selves. Somehow, they imply, it will all turn out all right (?)

The suggestion is now being made that the real resolution to terrorism is understanding those who wish us harm. All would be well, we are told, if we (read Americans) would try to understand the Islamic frame of mind. Understanding and love would solve all problems. The day after 9/11 I was confronted by an elderly swimming acquaintance with the assertion that such “behavior” could have been averted “if only we understand where they are coming from.” I suggested that the same “understanding” should have been applied also to the Nazi Holocaust era. We should try to understand the Nazi drive to exterminate Jews, priests and gypsies. Since the person in question was Jewish, the dialogue ended abruptly.

Perhaps, it is a convenient and selective memory loss for the Hanoi Janes, the Barbara Strieslands, Michael Moores, Alec Baldwins and the like who seem to be unaware (or don’t care) of what has happened historically! Most of us can recall 1983 with the 200+ Marines murdered, the USS Cole, the Twin Tower Bombing of 1993, bombings of American Embassies around the world, 9/11 itself!! All of these occurred before we entered Iraq. What does it take for the Left (Liberal?) to understand that there is a real and present danger to the United States? Even this recent concrete example of 8/10/06 seems not to have penetrated the naïve defenses of the Liberal mind. Recently, a near senile, retired Television interviewer came out of his retirement to interview the President of Iran whose oft stated intent is to annihilate Israel.[1] The liberal old timer came back to the United States to laud his host’s virtues and was apparently totally unaware that he had been used for Propaganda purposes. He really thought he was acting as a responsible journalist!!

The brutally honest documentary “Obsession” (which surprisingly is not making it to the usual Networks) graphically shows that the Intent of these people is to destroy us! It is their highest religious value to destroy Americans and their way of life. To suggest to terrorists that they might settle for a lesser goal is impossible for them to accept. It would be totally irreligious for them as would it be for Catholics to give up belief in the Eucharist and the Divinity of Christ. This is why some serious scholars privately say that negotiation is a waste of time. While those of us who lived through the World War II era are acutely aware that war is indeed hell, we also know that sometimes it is tragically necessary. Of course, it is public knowledge that Catholics value life as a primary base. It is clear that Pope John Paul II urged us not to go to war with Iraq. Yet, as Scripture tells us, there is a time for war. (Eccles. 3,8)

Sometimes and rarely, a war can be justified. Is a stated and serious threat to a national survival sufficient grounds to take up arms? Is America in mortal danger? Are we justified in using our military might? In spite of Catholic revulsion to killing it is interesting to note that in the 16th century a Christian coalition led by the papacy went to war to drive back a Turkish (Islamic) attempt to invade Europe. My Jewish forbears were fierce warriors and Moses was a spectacular military leader. Jewish ethos reverberates with Psalm 144 with its opening lines: “Blessed is the Lord, my Rock, who trains my arms for battle and who prepares my hands for war.” Spiritual warfare, truly but also physical warfare to protect God’s people from their enemies. Against such a background I find it a bit amusing to observe radical peaceniks engage in cover-up tap dancing to somehow obscure Biblical and religious history.

In our contemporary world, is Hollywood, for example, really such a LaLa Land that fantasy and illusion replace reality? After listening to some outbursts from the Left Coast, I had a flashback to my South African days when the locals would describe some “nut job” as being out in the sun too long! It strikes me that these Child-flower type people live in a kind of quasi-psychosis. Hopefully Truman Capote’s jesting (?) remark that for every year one spends in California, he loses one point off his I.Q., is mere witticism. Perhaps the West Coast liberals are living in a naïve fantasy world where they believe that they are protected from evil by the huge Pacific ocean on the one side and the vast continental mass on the other. Farms, prairies, mountains cannot really protect the glamorous ones from fanatical terrorists. Vigilance, courageous diplomacy and military deterrence represent our best hope not only to protect out own people (including the juvenile-minded “stars” of the Movies), but also for a whole world. Appeasement and denial inevitably fail.

This is why students of the mind will point out to us the existence of a contemporary, massive denial of reality. The most primitive defense of the mind against what is perceived as a threat is called “denial.” Many of us have observed this defense in the case of the alcoholic who constantly denies to himself that there is a problem with his drinking. How often I have heard my alcoholic clients slur out remarks which clearly express denial. “I can handle it.” “I can stop any time I want.” “I only drink socially.” “I need a drink to pick me up/reward me.” “I’m O.K. I can drive quite well….”

Denial takes many forms one of which is the widespread denial of death. Handling the end of one’s life requires some kind of resolution. Some refuse to believe that they will die like everyone else! Some say, in bereavement, “He didn’t really die. I pretend that he is coming in tonight as he always did…” Funeral directors understand this in their skillful “cosmetizing” of death. Substantive denial is the behavior of the infant. “Make it go away.” “Make it ALL right.” Perhaps to face reality absolutely would be catastrophic for anyone. Perhaps we all do need some minimal blunting of the factual in order to survive. Yet, as a rule facing reality is ultimately easier than hoping that the fearful and troublesome and unpleasant and terrifying will somehow disappear in the manner of the infant! The alcoholic who drinks himself senseless in the face of a serious problem will still have to face that problem when his head clears the next day. It just doesn’t go away!

The Israeli/Hesbollah conflict is an interesting example. It is uncomfortable to admit to oneself that there are truly evil people in the world. Or even that evil exists at all. The terrorists intentionally aimed their rockets at civilian populations since they believe that this will break the will of the nation. They have no feeling for the old, ill and children. Nothing matters except to destroy. This is evil. At the same time, they will embed themselves within the civilian population, fire their rockets and rely on the reluctance of the Israeli military to do “collateral damage.” The Israelis will inform the area beforehand that it is about to be attacked. They give sufficient time for non-combatants to leave the area. There is a clear distinction between the two approaches. The Liberal mind will for some reason see the Israeli approach as unfair while the Terrorists are really “just oppressed people seeking justice”.

Basically, the movement to “bring the boys” home really is putting one’s hands over one’s eyes and hoping that it will “ all go away.” Maybe they will leave us alone and maybe they won’t fly planes into our buildings anymore. Again denial. The reality is that there is a fundamental conflict between cultures and ideologies. This age old conflict has erupted, in fact, into a war. This is so uncomfortable to contemplate that the Deniers will just try to wish it away. But it just won’t go away. In the l930’s, the terrible fear of war moved good people to deny its possibility The memory of the slaughters of World War I with its Verdun and Marne and Argonne was still too raw.. But it led World leaders into an unbelievable denial of real danger. Naively, leaders assured their people that we have “peace in our time.” Such denial led to the most terrible war in human history. Denial won’t make peace with terrorists. Only reality orientation will.

[1] The “in” crowd claim that the United States is next on his agenda.