March 18, 2004

THE ROOTS OF HORROR: The Voice of the Thug, and the Harbinger of Horrors Still to Come

I have reached the point in this series where it becomes necessary to speak some very ugly truths. I must admit that I find it extremely difficult to write this particular entry, precisely because of the degree of ugliness, hatred and cruelty that has been revealed by recent events, and by much of the commentary written about them. But if we are to avoid even worse horrors in the future, certain causes and certain dynamics must be identified. What people choose to do then is obviously up to them.

In an earlier part of this series of articles, I wrote about the fact that it is useless to try to argue with many hawks: they have staked out their position, and nothing will dissuade them from its "truth." They appear to be completely impervious to facts. In fact, and this is part of the underlying dynamic that must be understood, they are impervious to facts, but in a much deeper sense than most people grasp. It is not facts that have lead them to their current point of view in a significant sense, and no amount of argument, regardless of how well-grounded in evidence or history it is, will cause them to change their minds. It is not their minds that led them to adopt their current views, no matter how loudly they protest against such a charge.

For example, they have set up a classic false alternative: either you agree with them about every detail in their plan for fighting terrorism, or you are an "appeaser." Either you agree that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a crucial part of the "war on terror," or you are a spineless peacenik. And for those "libertarians" who support the Bush administration's foreign policy, you can point out in great detail how every aspect of that policy grows out of and further supports the New Fascism, but they don't care. Or to be more precise: they might acknowledge the truth of certain of the arguments, but they will still not change their view about the "tragic necessity" of what must be done. And what must be done, of course, is to remake the world by military force, one country at a time.

The amount of mental gymnastics, the neverending supply of new "theories" to justify this policy, and the number of contradictions they permit themselves to justify the unjustifiable are truly stunning in their magnitude. But I stress again: it is a mistake to try to answer every single argument they offer, because those arguments are not the point. And those arguments are not what is driving their determination to bring "enlightenment" to the rest of mankind, at the end of a barrel of a gun if necessary. In addition, it is not a concern with our national security that motivates them, either.

The recent tragedy in Spain and the reaction to it have provided an invaluable prism to see the underlying mechanisms at work. To appreciate the confession that many hawks have now made, we should begin with excerpts from two accounts from Spaniards, people who one might justifiably think would know better than armchair analysts elsewhere in the world exactly what transpired in Spain, and why. Here is part of what one correspondent wrote to Tom Tomorrow:
As you will know well, Islamic terrorists blew four commuter trains in Madrid in the morning of March 11th, 2004, three days before general elections. This trains were packed with workers and students going to their jobs and classrooms, and covered the route known as "Corredor del Henares", a collection of working-class suburbs. They killed 201 people (up to today). There were 1,500 wounded. There're still dozens of people in critical or very grave state, and some of them could die. When the bombs exploded, two of the trains were very near to Atocha central station, one was stopped in El Pozo del Tío Raimundo station (a very combative, traditionally leftist, working-class district) where many people was killed in the platforms, and the last one was very near to Santa Eugenia station, another working-class area. ...

The behavior of the people was of utter heroism. I must say it, I didn't expect it and I'm very proud of my people now. When the victims in the trains started shouting "neighbours, neighbours, please help us!" to the surrounding buildings, hundreds of every age and sex rushed downstairs to help, even understanding that there were bombs and could be more. Commuter drivers in nearby roads stopped their cars and took the horribly mutilated and burnt woundeds to area hospitals even before the first ambulances arrived. Even some people who were inside the trains stayed to help others instead of fleeing! Please believe me when I tell you that the people of Madrid behave EXCEPTIONALLY and with rare bravery and solidarity in these very hard minutes. I use to be quite cynic, but this defies any cynicism. It was epic, heroic, I don't have words. Those thinking that the Spanish people is being coward should reconsider their opinion in the light of this. ...

So, many people began to ask "who did it?", "not all of us are here, we lack 200" and "we want the truth before voting" already in the mammoth antiterrorist demonstrations on Friday. The Government stuck to the ETA hypothesis trying to avoid this probable electoral damage. They must have thought that using their massive media control they could cover it up for four days, until election's aftermath. Government-controlled public and private televisions, radios and newspapers broadcasted once and again "it was ETA", but each minute less people was buying it. It has been said that workers of some of this media were near to revolt because of the pressures to avoid the Islamic hypothesis (today, EFE -Spanish state press agency- workers' unions have asked for the immediate resignation of their boss because of this). But then, media not controlled by the Government started broadcasting the Islamic hypothesis and how the controlled media were manipulating the whole issue. In a matter of hours, Spain was bipolarized, with thousands seeking information in Internet and sending it via SMS to their friends. IMHO, the Government went mad and commited suicide in this moment. They agreed there were "Islamic clues" but said once and again it was ETA although the mass crime was claimed three times by Al-Qaeda and there were several tapes (two or three, still unknown) with Islamic messages claiming "Operation Trains of Death" in Madrid and threatening "Smoke of Death" in Italy and "Winds of Death" in the USA. Millions began to think they were being lied, with the blood of 200 Spaniards still warm. SMS messages with the truth spreaded very quickly (I received about 50 from about 40 different sources). In workers' districts through the country, people began to protest beating pans in the windows and shouting "they make wars, we suffer them", "we are not puppets" and "Spain is not to be lied". ...

And Sunday came, and it was election's day. I didn't see fear. I saw mourning. A strange feeling, believe me. Spaniards use to be very funny. People is continously laughing and making jokes about everything, specially the younger. Watching all that people lining up to vote without a laugh nor a smile was impressive. And there was something more in truckloads of eyes. Anger. Deep anger. No incidents.

Aznar-Rajoy's party lost about one million votes. Not much, it's true, given the situation. But three million voters arose essentially from disenchanted abstentionists to nail them. And almost all of these voters supported the Socialist Party, the main opposition group that had spoken openly against the Iraq war and was also denouncing the media manipulation. This inverted completely the results, where Rajoy had started as favorite. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, not Mariano Rajoy, will be the next president of Spain.

What will happen now? First, don't get confused. Although named "Spanish Socialist Workers' Party", the Socialist Party is a center-left organization that during their past Government period (1982-1996) brought Spain in NATO and faced several general strikes because of their pro-Capitalist economic policy. So "centrist" was their policy, that a truly Socialist leftwing party called Izquierda Unida could appear around the Communist Party (libertarian eurocommunists, not the totalitary ones) and is continuously supported by hundreds of thousands of disenchanted ex-Socialists. Even more, Rodríguez Zapatero is a very moderate politician usually perceived as too soft as opposer to the Government. ...

Has Al-Qaeda voted in these elections? Yes, obviously yes. How could I, a voter, stop thinking in my killed and maimed people, young students, hard-working fathers and mothers, pretty college girls, fragile elders and even babies? Hey, they're my people. As a citizen, I have an obligation to them. But let me tell you that I honestly think that we voted not guided by fear, but guided by anger. In the critical hours after the attack, Aznar's Government confronted and bipolarized the Spanish people lying and manipulating even when the truth was alreday obvious for millions. This caused an automatic reaction in the low and middle classes thinking "they make wars against our opinion, then it's our blood who pays them, and furthermore they're lying us and insulting our deads and our intelligence". Not a good cocktail for a Government seeking re-election, I'm afraid. The result has been obvious. I think that if they had told the truth, they would have lost votes, but perhaps won the elections by a scarce majority. When they decided to lie the impossible, they committed suicide.
I urge you to read the entire message, which still has much more.

Randy Paul also received an email from Spain, which sounds very similar themes (he added the emphasis):
So, the PP knew that their antiterrorist policy (against ETA) was one of its main winning cards, and they didn't hesitate to blatantly manipulate the 11-M attack, suppressing information, calling people to demonstrate against ETA, knowing all the while that the Antiterrorist Information Brigade had as good as discarded ETA authorship a few hours after the attack. The antiterrorist police heads even threatened to resign at the madness of it all, and this was leaked to the opposition and the press. And all the while the state TVE showing documentaries about ETA activities right until late Saturday night, on the eve of the election, and failing to report live on Minister Acebes informing about the Al-Q line of investigation which he had been forced to acknowledge - forced by his own angered police heads and by the media which had all the information but was withholding it just long enough for the Minister to do the decent thing. This heartless manipulation of the dead for political gain clinched it - it was the last straw, it galvanised a portion of apathetic socialist voters who would have otherwise abstained, galvanised first-time voters, and galvanised Izquierda Unida voters (which include communists) who opted for heaping their vote on the PSOE for a higher chance of defeating Aznar (IU lost 5 seats because of that). In Spain, government change has always been heralded by a higher participation of voters. In a nutshell, many Spaniards felt badly abused, and acted accordingly. So, yes, 11-M influenced the vote, but not because we are overcome by fear, or because we think that we can avert further attacks, but because we will only put up with so much lying and manipulation, and especially not when it is the dead and their families that are being heartlessly and shamelessly manipulated.
Julian Sanchez has provided an excellent summary of what probably happened in the Spanish election, and here is part of what he said:
Aznar had defended the war in Iraq as measure necessary to "guarantee the security of Spaniards from any internal or external threat," and his government sought to dismiss claims that a Spanish club was targeted for bombing in Casablanca because of Spanish participation in the war. Meanwhile, PSOE officials had suggested that Spain, Britain, and the U.S. were "kicking a wasp's nest," that "the war in Iraq was going to provoke more hatred and rancor and, therefore, the threat of more instability." Transparently, Aznar was mistaken and the opposition was correct. Are Spanish voters to be tarred as cowards if they now hold Aznar accountable for his miscalculation? A few especially glib commentators have suggested that the Spanish should "blame the terrorists," not the PP. But why can't they blame both?

The election has brought to power a candidate who now says that "beating terror" will be his top priority—hardly a clear victory for Al Qaeda, except for those unable to distinguish between the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq.
The electoral motives that led to this result are ambiguous and complex. So why have so many been quick to cry "appeasement"? Appeasement, after all, is largely a matter of perception: What really matters, in terms of encouraging or discouraging future attacks, is not so much whether Spanish voters were trying to appease terrorists, but whether the terrorists themselves perceive the result that way. By insisting that the election results constituted capitulation to terror, the hand-wringers are perversely, irresponsibly bringing about the very result they pretend to decry. Why?

Among the more naive, this rush to judgment may simply be impelled by the smug sense of moral superiority it affords. But this is not the only possible motive. David Frum tips his hand when he writes that "the voters of Spain have indelibly associated the anti-Iraq position with one motive above all: fear," and goes on to suggest—one might say hope—that a vote for John Kerry will also come to be seen as cowardly capitulation to terror, as appeasing Al Qaeda. It is hard to suppress the suspicion that much of the criticism of Spaniards we're now seeing is ultimately, if indirectly, about the U.S. election. Fail to support Bush, whispers the subtext of these critiques, and you might as well be some sort of Spaniard.

I'll take that as a compliment.
I agree with all of Julian's points, and I will also take it as a compliment, thank you.

But the commentary offered by many hawks reveals a still deeper mechanism at work, and it is that mechanism to which we must now turn our attention. David Brooks begins by stating that he is "trying not to think harshly of the Spanish," an effort at which he fails miserably, since but a few scant lines later, he asks: "What is the Spanish word for appeasement?" He then says:
There are millions of Americans, in and out of government, who believe the swing Spanish voters are shamefully trying to seek a separate peace in the war on terror.

I'm resisting that conclusion, because I don't know what mix of issues swung the Spanish election during those final days. But I do know that reversing course in the wake of a terrorist attack is inexcusable. I don't care what the policy is. You do not give terrorists the chance to think that their methods work. You do not give them the chance to celebrate victories. When you do that, you make the world a more dangerous place, for others and probably for yourself.
Mark Steyn endeavors to demonstrate that his intake of testosterone-laced cocktails has only increased substantially in the last couple of years:
"When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will like the strong horse." So said Osama bin Laden in his final video appearance two-and-a-half years ago. But even the late Osama might have been surprised to see the Spanish people, invited to choose between a strong horse and a weak horse, opt to make their general election an exercise in mass self-gelding. ...

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the slain. In the three days between the slaughter and the vote, it was widely reported that the atrocity had been designed to influence the election. In allowing it to do so, the Spanish knowingly made Sunday a victory for appeasement and dishonoured their own dead.
Jonah Goldberg also soldiers on, attempting to annihilate whatever might remain of mankind's intellect after Irving Kristol's determined effort to destroy all attempts to inquire into history, causality and logic [an assault on the mind, and on freedom, which I analyzed in a previous essay]. Here is Goldberg:
Right now - not last year or 10 years ago - the connection between al-Qaida and Iraq is obvious for anybody willing to see it. Al-Qaida benefits if Iraq descends into chaos; it benefits if the Western world bickers with itself and dickers with terrorists; it benefits if America is isolated. Conversely, al-Qaida suffers if Iraq prospers, if the West stands together, if America leads.

The tragedy is that many people and nations refuse to see it that way. They want to pretend that Iraq is America's problem and that it has nothing to do with the war on terrorism. The incoming Spanish prime minister - a man with a thoroughly anti-American record - has declared the war in Iraq a "disaster" and will pull all of Spain's troops out of Iraq.
In other words: never mind what miscalculations (and lies) brought us to this unresolvable predicament. We're here now. That's all that matters. And never mind that it was our miscalculations (and lies) that brought us here. We have the solution. And never mind that we've been wrong about everything so far. We know the answer now. How dare you disagree?

It was not enough for James Lileks to engage in condescending, unbelievably offensive lectures to Salam Pax about how he ought to behave toward his "liberators," and how Iraqis ought to act like grownups and be appropriately grateful for all we've done for them (never mind the history of our support for Saddam Hussein, or how we stood by while Iraqis were slaughtered, or how ignorantly repulsive Lileks' comments were in general, all of which I discussed earlier). Now, immediately after the worst terrorist attack in Europe in decades, Mr. Lileks has the opportunity to lecture condescendingly and insultingly to an entire nation, and he is not about to let such a moment pass him by:
How do you vote when both hands are raised in surrender? Perhaps some Spaniards used their noses, or made an X on the ballot by gripping the pencil between their knees. We may never know, but one thing is apparent: You can take the country out of Old Europe, but you can't take the Old Europe out of the country.

Bloodied by an atrocity, many Spaniards sought comfort in the arms of socialist multilateralism, and they changed the balance of power in Europe. The new Spanish government will soon meet with Germany and France to craft a "European" approach to terrorism. Topic No. 1: How big should the white flag be? Oak or cedar for the pole?
Please note a few significant aspects of this kind of commentary. The first point is so obvious that it should not need to be stated, but these writers unfortunately make it unavoidable. We are constantly told that we are intent on bringing "democracy" to Iraq, and to the rest of the world once we get around to it (and once we have probably brought back the draft, so that we have sufficient military manpower to occupy the entire globe). Yet when the Spanish people freely elect the leader they choose, these hawks offer only insults, derision, and contempt -- because the Spaniards committed the worst and most unforgivable sin of all: they dared to make political judgments that did not follow every detail of the line being peddled by the hawks. So much for "democracy." If you don't vote the way we think you ought to, you're worthless scum, and not worthy of the privilege. And never mind all the factors identified by the Spaniards quoted above, or those issues identified by Sanchez.

A related issue is important, as well: heaping abuse and scorn on an entire nation, especially in the wake of a terrible tragedy, is not exactly a wise way to attempt to change people's minds. If these hawks view the Spanish electorate as having made a terrible mistake, wouldn't these writers be trying to convince them to see these issues differently? But offering a compelling argument in a manner likely to alter someone's manner of thinking is obviously not what concerns them. Something else motivates this kind of response.

But before we turn our attention to what actually is going on, and what these hawks have unwittingly revealed, we have two final entries in the sweepstakes of profoundly offensive writing. First, we have Andrew Sullivan. After noting that, "You'd be a fool to predict anything," Sullivan then proceeds to disregard his own advice:
I do think the odds of the next major Jihadist terrorist action happening in Europe just went up a notch. Al Qaeda and its multiple off-shoots have learned a couple of things recently. The first is that the U.S. will not cower before a terror attack. Bin Laden misjudged that one on 9/11, foolishly believing that he could move public policy in his direction by shell-shocking the American public. ... But now the Jihadists know something else: that the 9/11 gambit can work in Europe. Starting with Spain, and wrecking the anti-terror alliance of New Europe, was a master-stroke. But it has an added effect of demoralizing the others - especially Italy. That's why Romano Prodi's astonishing disavowal of any force in response to terrorism was so devastating. Then Britain, where the terrorists may not be able to get rid of a Labour government, but may well try to inflict such a blow against Blair (in next year's elections) that he is ousted in favor of a more amenable center-left alternative. Humiliating Blair will prevent a future prime minister from ever fully and unequivocally committing to the American-led war on terror again. France and Germany can be left till last - they are already deeply vulnerable to Islamist terror networks and in France's case, there's also a vast, unassimilated Muslim population ripe for exploitation. The alligator will eat them last. Let's hope they enjoy the ride in the months left to them.
As stomach-churning as it is to do so, I suggest that you think about the implications of those final two sentences, and the kind of soul that they reveal: "The alligator will eat them last. Let's hope they enjoy the ride in the months left to them."

The kindest comment I can offer is that this almost completely undisguised gleeful joy at the destruction of entire countries is a very odd stance for someone who repeatedly insists that he is on the side of "defending civilization." With enough monstrous "defenders" of this kind, civilization doesn't have a chance in hell.

Finally, we have Steven den Beste. Known for writing essays of 5,000 or 10,000 words, den Beste offers what may be his shortest entry ever. They are also two of the most deeply contemptible sentences it has ever been my misfortune to read:
The people of Spain marched in the streets on Friday.

Then they crawled on their knees into their voting booths on Sunday.
I suggest you reread the first email message excerpted above, recounting the tremendous heroism displayed by the ordinary people of Madrid in the wake of the tragedy there -- and then consider what kind of human being den Beste thus shows himself to be.

I submit that this kind of commentary, offered by so many writers and in any number of newspapers, ought to be deeply and profoundly unsettling to anyone who is genuinely concerned about the direction in which the world is headed. One would hope that it would be rare to see such undiluted hatred, contempt and vilification heaped upon an entire country -- especially when that country has just undergone a terrible trauma, and a truly awful tragedy. And particularly when the factors that led to a particular election result are complex, and hardly one-dimensional.

But we find barely a word of sympathy for Spain -- and in its place, an absolute demand that all Spaniards completely adopt the hawks' views. And if they don't...well, any destruction which befalls them is their own damned fault, and they shouldn't expect the smallest glimmer of understanding or compassion from these people.

And these are the same people who maintain they, and they alone, are the true guardians and saviors of civilization. In fact, whatever it is they believe they are saving, civilization is not its name.

So what is going on here? The following excerpt provides the ultimate explanation in my view, but to appreciate it more completely, you may want to read some earlier entries in my series based on the work of Alice Miller. Fortunately, however, Miller provides a useful summation at the beginning of this passage.

Here is the most significant part of Miller's answer, from Chapter 7, "The Monstrous Consequences of Denial," in Alice Miller's Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (the italics are hers; the other highlights are mine):
Every abused child must totally repress the mistreatment, confusion, and neglect it suffered. If it were not to do so, it would die. The child's organism could not withstand the dimensions of this pain. Only in adulthood do other ways of handling our feelings become available to us. If we do not make use of these opportunities, then what was once the life-saving function of repression can turn into a dangerous, destructive, and self-destructive power. The careers of such tyrants as Hitler or Stalin show how previously suppressed revenge fantasies can lead to destructive actions of near-indescribable proportions. We do not encounter this phenomenon in the animal kingdom because no young animal will ever be trained by its parents to such a complete denial of its nature in order to make of it a "good" animal. Only human beings behave so destructively. Descriptions of the childhoods of Nazi criminals, and of Vietnam volunteers, the Green Berets, show that mindless programming to destructiveness always begins with a brutal upbringing aimed at enforcing unthinking obedience and total contempt for the child. ...

To suppress the feelings, perceptions, and impulses of a child is to commit psychic murder. The experiences [Rudolf] Hoess went through in his youth gave him a thorough grounding in the grammar of death. He simply had to wait thirty years, whereupon Hitler's regime presented him with the opportunity to practice the skills he had learned.

Thousands of his contemporaries functioned in just the same way. Instead of exposing and condemning the criminal behavior of their parents, they uniformly praised and defended it. Had a consciousness of the absurdity and dangerousness of brutal childrearing already existed, monsters like Hoess could never have been possible. The susceptibility to blind obedience and the demand for a man like Hitler simply would not have existed in Germany. ...

The young people demonstrating [in Central and Eastern Europe] in 1989 were capable of exposing the emptiness, terror, mendacity, and destructiveness of Stalinism--all the things with which their parents and grandparents came to terms--because as children they were allowed more freedom than the older generation. To be conscious of unfreedom one must have a concept of what freedom and respect for life are.

A person who has never experienced this as a child, who has only known and been exposed to extreme violence, brutality, and hypocrisy, without ever having come across a single helping witness, does not demonstrate for freedom. Such a person demands order and uses violence to achieve it, just as he or she learned as a child: order and cleanliness at any price is the motto, even if it is at the price of life. The victims of such an upbringing ache to do to others what was once done to them. If they don't have children, or their children refuse to make themselves available for their revenge, they line up to support new forms of fascism. Ultimately, fascism always has the same goal: the annihilation of truth and freedom. People who have been mistreated as children, but totally deny their suffering, use the mottoes and labels of the day. They thereby meet the approval of others like them because they have are also helping to conceal their truth. They are consumed by the perverse pleasure in the destruction of life that they observed in their parents when young. They long to at last be on the other side of the fence, to hold power themselves, passing it off, as Stalin, Hitler, or Ceausescu have done, as "redemption" for others. This old childhood longing determines their political "opinions" and speeches, which are therefore impervious to counter arguments. As long as they continue to ignore or distort the roots of the problem, which lie in the very real threats experienced in their childhood, reason must remain impotent against this kind of persecution complex. The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason. That is the lesson that all tyrants teach us. One should not expect judiciousness from a mad person motivated by compulsive panic. One should, however, protect onself from such a person.

It is our access to the truth that can enable us to prevent such people, who yearn for the "order" spawned by violence, from realizing their destructive plans. Fascism will have had its day once society ceases to deny the knowledge we already possess about the production of brutality, violence, and dehumanization in childhood and minimize its dangers. Once this has happened, it won't have a chance in this society. It is not enough to unmask Stalinism and Nazism as mere lies. As long as we do not recognize the circumstances to which they owe their success, these and similar lies can continue to exist, dressed up in forms in keeping with the "Zeitgeist." Fascism is a psychic attitude that floats the latent history of destruction to the surface.

The nature of fascism is not determined by political or economic circumstances. For a long time, people sought to "explain" Hitler's success by pointing to the catastrophic economic situation of the Weimar Republic, and in doing so they sought to collectively deny the origins of Hitler's urge toward revenge, destruction, and power. But we eventually desperately need the truth.

It is not enough to see the surface and describe that. We have to recognize, and defuse, the production of paranoid confusion, which takes place in childhood.

Can one have a dialogue with such people? I believe we must keep trying because this may, indeed it very likely will, be their first opportunity of encountering an enlightened witness. How they make use of this encounter is something over which we have no influence. but we should at least make use of the occasion. Life failed them--something that is, I suspect, true of all prison inmates. One should try to show them that they had the right to respect, love, and encouragement in their childhood and that this right was denied them, but that this does not give them the right to destroy the lives of others. We must also show them that destruction is a dead end. Even millions of corpses could not sate Hitler's hunger for revenge or dispel his hatred. We have to show them that what was passed off on them in childhood as "a good upbringing" was a base, mendacious, and idiotic ideology in which they had to believe in order to survive, and that they now wish to recirculate at the political level. And we have to show them that the people who cheated them, who engendered their misery, their hunger for power and destruction, were not Jews or Turks or Arabs or Gypsies, but their very own parents--clean, orderly citizens, godfearing, respectable churchgoers.
In light of Miller's analysis, we can now see the real tragedy of the terrorist attacks in recent years -- the attacks of 9/11, the attack in Madrid, and all the other atrocities that we have witnessed. The people who commit such monstrous acts are the perfect embodiments of the mechanism Miller describes: these are people who were terribly abused as children (read any description of the kind of education and upbringing endured by any terrorist), yet they deny their own history and their own immense pain, and idealize and venerate their elders, and their religious leaders.

Now, as adults, since their denial continues, they seek revenge -- and no mounting toll of bodies will sate their need, and their arguments are impervious to reason: "The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason."

Such terrorist attacks demand a response, and they demand that our political leaders protect us from future attacks, to the extent possible. But a reasoned response would be one targeted to those who represent the danger: it would be an attack on the terrorist networks themselves, not on a third- or fourth-rate dictatorship that represented no substantial threat either to its neighbors, or to us.

But those who plan and implement our current foreign policy, as well as those who defend them, have adopted a different strategy, which arises from a different source altogether. They are using the threat of terrorism as a springboard to remake the entire world, one area at a time -- utilizing the Utopian delusion of "nation-building" as their rationale, and as their rationalization. They ignore the lessons of history, which show that such a delusion is simply that -- a delusion, one that it is doomed to fail; they ignore the huge costs in both human life, and economically; and they ignore that our current course provides a recruiting tool for our enemies that the terrorists themselves could only dream about, and would not be able to provide themselves, if we did not offer it to them.

But the hawks and their defenders ignore all this -- and they ignore the indisputable fact that rather than minimizing the dangers we face, our present course only increases them -- because they are not focused on the reality of the threat that faces us. And this leads to the additional tragedy now unleashed by the terrorist attacks of recent years, and it is this tragedy that almost no one cares to name, or to face.

The fact that we have been attacked by monsters who seek revenge for the injuries they themselves have suffered in the past, and particularly in their childhoods, has provided a morally defensible "cover" for the hawks now to engage in a similar revenge fantasy, arising out of the injuries that they have suffered in the past, and in their childhoods -- and it takes the form of their desire to remake the world, of their plans of "nation-building," and of their desire to impose their will on the rest of the world by military force, one country at a time.

This is the source of the rage and condemnation you see directed at the people of Spain. The hawks are saying, in effect: "How dare you disobey and disagree with us? How dare you question the wisdom of our course? How dare you suggest that you might have another plan of action which would achieve the end we say we care so much about, and would achieve it more effectively, and create less new dangers in doing so? Don't you understand that we know best, and that we are not to be questioned? How dare you?"

This is the voice of the enraged parent -- who inflicts untold cruelties on his child, all the while proclaiming that he is committing monstrous acts for the child's own good. And, in fact, this is precisely what the hawks tell anyone who disagrees with them, and what they tell the entire rest of the world: we know what is best for you, not your own citizens, and not your own leaders. We do -- and you had better do what we say...or else.

No, we are not at the point where another Hitler or Stalin could grab the reins of power here in the United States -- not yet. But the longer the indeterminate "war on terror" goes on, and the more attacks there are, the greater the likelihood becomes that either this administration or a succeeding one will finally impose an authoritarian dictatorship on us. All the required pieces are now being put in place, as revealed for example in this series about Ashcroft's unremitting attacks on individual rights, and on the personal liberty of us all.

In this deeper sense, commentators and writers such as David Brooks, Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, James Lileks, Andrew Sullivan, and Steven den Beste are the harbingers of the horrors that might yet come. They are the people who will tell us, in a moment of great national and world crisis, that what we need is more "discipline" -- despite the fact that it is mindless, cruel, unnecessary "discipline" that caused the initial horrors. And they will tell us that anyone who dares to disagree is a "fifth columnist," who is aiding the enemy -- and who must be made to shut up and go away, or perhaps simply to disappear forever.

Then, in another thirty or forty years, assuming that mankind survives and people in the future study how it was that horrors visited the world yet again despite all the warnings of history, they will be the people who will say: "But we never knew it would come to that. We just did what we thought was required for our own survival." And one or two might even add that they "were only following orders."

What you are hearing now is the voice of the thug -- which in truth is the voice of the abused child, grown to adulthood, and still denying his own pain, and therefore denying the pain of everyone else. And the child now seeks to revenge himself upon an external enemy, any external enemy, and the terrorist attacks have provided the perfect opportunity to unleash destruction, but destruction on a scale that Hitler and Stalin could only dream of.

Do I think catastrophe can be avoided? Perhaps. It is too soon to tell. But many of the signs are not hopeful, and the longer the "crisis" goes on, the greater the danger becomes.

But it is not too late...not yet. And it is for that reason, and for that reason alone, that I will continue to write about these issues.