The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Unproductive Outs
Sunday, June 11th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
Hitherto, the war on terror has been a straightforward affair.  The U.S., with about a fifth of the world’s wealth, uses about a quarter of the world’s oil.  Although most of our imported oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela, about a fifth comes from the Middle East.  Our oil tab with the Mideast producers is in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year.  Tributaries of that mighty river of dollars are diverted to terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, and elsewhere.  Funded with U.S. oil money and staffed with an ever growing pool of U.S. hating citizens, Mideast terror groups in turn launch attacks against the U.S. and its allies. 

Thus is a certain uneasy stability preserved.  Wealthy Mideast despotisms have an essential steam valve for their more violent malcontents.  The U.S. has an endless and unwinnable war that pays huge political dividends to the party in power, and even huger financial dividends to oil companies and defense contractors.  It all makes sense, in the same way that the old Cold War policy of MAD – mutual assured destruction – kept the Soviets and the Americans from incinerating the world for fifty years.

But this delicate balance is about to be upset.  With the three recent suicides in the
oubliettes of Guantanamo Bay, the war on terror has taken a new, and dangerously destabilizing, turn.  Human rights groups insist that the three prisoners, held indefinitely without hope of trial, hearing, or release, incommunicado from their families, utterly isolated and frequently abused, killed themselves from despair.  Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris, Guantanamo’s boss, begs to differ.  “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us" Admiral Harris told the New York Times.*

Admiral Harris’ insight has profound implications.  Up to now, terrorists have either killed others, or killed themselves in order to kill others.  But what is to become of the war on terror if terrorists simply start killing themselves to no purpose?

In the Middle East, the costs of unilateral terrorist suicide can only be guessed at.  But if terrorists kill themselves off in significant numbers without harming their compatriots, powerful ruling families like the Al Sabahs in Kuwait and the Al Sauds of Saudi Arabia are in big trouble.  Able to retain control over their citizens with a combination of lavish petro-dollar spending and brutal police state tactics, the latter have been justified by regular terrorist activity.  Were that to cease in the wake of mass terrorist suicides, the good people of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and elsewhere might begin to question the wisdom of allowing themselves to be ruled by hideously corrupt tyrants.  The resulting political instability would be very bad for our Mideast friends, and even worse for the world’s oil markets.

For the U.S., the consequences of mass terrorist self-elimination will be even graver.  Our elaborate anti-terrorist apparatus will be instantly irrelevant.  Hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts to Halliburton and other vendors will be lost.  The giant Department of Homeland Security will have no function.  All those employees of the Transportation Safety Administration, the friendly folk who frisk, or at least slow you down, in airport check-in lines will be unemployed.  The NSA will no longer have an excuse to tap your phone.  The FBI will go back to catching gangsters.  The CIA will go back to spying on – someone.  Republicans will run for office on unpopular and unsexy issues like opposition to gay marriage, or repealing the estate tax.  The Democrats will no longer be soft on terror, because there will be no more terror on which to be soft.

These terrorist solo suicides, the terror equivalent of the unproductive out in baseball, must be stopped before they spread any further. No wonder Mr. Bush talks of shutting down Guantanamo.  The administration has pledged to help Mideast governments recruit a new generation of more civic minded terrorists.  Meanwhile, Halliburton’s next big contract is likely to be for suicide bomber belts in designer styles and colors.

*http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/us/11gitmo.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1.


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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