‘I’d Rather Fight Them Over There Than Here’

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"I'd rather fight them over there than here." This is one of those sayings designed to garner the support of Americans for the government's 21st century wars.

Let's see what's wrong with this slogan, which, on the surface, sounds plausible..

In the runup to the U.S. attack on Iraq in March of 2003, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice kept repeating "weapons of mass destruction." This was to arouse your fears and short-circuit your rational thought. To demonize Saddam Hussein and link him to 9/11, they spoke of his "arsenal of terror." They wanted to scare you into supporting an attack on Iraq.

Come 2011 and Obama calls forth visions of "massacre" in Benghazi. or "protecting civilians" so that you will support his and NATO's war in Libya.

In the same class of propaganda as these examples is "I'd rather fight them over there than here."

Rumsfeld, Rice and Bush all pushed this line repeatedly in 2006 and earlier.

Let's not accept this saying at face value. Let's ask who is the "them" and where is the "there"? You may have been thinking that the government was after terrorists. Maybe, but it seems to have other objectives guiding its foreign wars.

The U.S. government made the Iraqis and the Taliban the "them" and made Iraq and all of Afghanistan the "there." The terrorism in those countries rose sharply. On one reading, the U.S. government is so dumb that it cannot even identify terrorists and their precise location, even with huge amounts allocated to the CIA. On another reading, the government has made these wars for geopolitical reasons that have little to do with terrorism. On a third reading, the government has been led into these wars by various interest groups. These three readings are not mutually exclusive. All three may apply.

"There than here" is the choice of where to fight. That's a diversion. When Bush and his gang pushed that line, they intended to divert attention away from a long list of troubling and central questions being asked by critics of their wars. Whom are we fighting? Why are we supposed to be fighting them? Have we identified the right enemy? Why do they want to fight us? Are we responsible in part for their grievances? Do we need a war to settle our differences? Have we tried and exhausted other means? If we are going to war, has Congress debated it and declared it? Is this war pragmatically or prudently justified? Is this a just war? Do we understand what conditions mean an end to this war? Have we set out appropriate objectives?

Bush chose this trick in order to shift attention away from his weak spot. He wanted to shift the ground of the debate away from the criticism that there did not have to be this fight. There did not have to be this war on Iraq. The Iraq war was not only immoral and unconstitutional, it had become evident that the war was not even justified pragmatically on Bush's own terms.

Bush and company could not justify their attack on Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction there. Saddam Hussein planned no attack on the U.S. None was imminent. He didn't launch an attack on the Trade Towers or the Pentagon. Bush couldn't and didn't connect him with the terrorists who hijacked the airplanes. Bush had no grounds for the war, so he shifted the debate. He shifted the debate away from justifying the war to the notion that the war was a given and that what really mattered now was fighting it "there not here."

"There than here" doesn't address all the important questions. It narrows the choice down to "where." It assumes that there is an appropriate them. It assumes that fighting is the appropriate means to deal with this appropriate them. It assumes that a war is appropriate. It assumes that appropriate procedures have been followed in getting into this war. If all of this and more were really so, then indeed maybe it would be better to fight this "them" over "there" than here. However, even the "there" is not self-evidently every foreign land where terrorists are or might be lurking. For example, expanding the U.S. attacks into Pakistan is a bad idea. In general, overseas wars may prove far more costly for Americans than taking other more defensive measures.

Obama did much the same trick when he told us that Gaddafi was going to massacre the population of Benghazi. He presented us with a false choice: massacre vs. NATO intervention. Massacre, however, was and is implausible. It is a remote possibility. It is an imagined threat. If it were a real threat, we would have been given evidence that massacre was one of Gaddafi's strategies or that he had used it on other towns he had captured. We would have had evidence that he was bringing up the technology to carry out a mass extermination. There would be satellite photos or other evidence. If massacre were a real threat, wouldn't Obama and NATO leave open the option of sending in forces to secure the city while it was evacuated? Instead they ruled out this option. The term "massacre" has the earmarks of a big lie. This is a highly inflammatory term, like holocaust. Obama chose this term intentionally.

In the same exact way that Bush justified attacking Iraq by what he imagined to be Saddam Hussein's war-making intentions, Obama attacked Libya by imagining a Gaddafi massacre. If any nation can go to war against another and attack it or intervene in its affairs because of what it imagines might be someone's intentions, this planet is going to be racked by continual warfare.

Whom specifically is the Bush propaganda referring to when it speaks of "fighting them"? It refers to terrorists.

The 9/11 hijackers are all dead. We cannot fight them. Who then (in this meme) are we supposed to be fighting? It's either those who are presumed to have sent these terrorists or other potential terrorists who are cooking up similar schemes, or these two may be one and the same.

Fighting them "there" cannot justify attacking Iraq. Iraq, which is one of the "there" places where the U.S. started fighting, didn't send the 9/11 terrorists. Saddam Hussein didn't send the terrorists. His trial didn't attempt to prove that. The U.S. has never presented evidence to that effect. It never even accused him of that. Certainly the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed and injured in the war initiated by Americans didn't send them.

Bush didn't attack Iraq because of terrorism. He attacked Iraq because he decided to remove Saddam Hussein and remake the Middle East. It was a matter of control. He felt that containment was not good enough and that the time had come to use outright power to achieve the desired dominance of the U.S.. This had little or nothing to do with an Iraqi threat of attacks on America.

Afghanistan is another of the "there" places that the U.S. attacked. There are two wars going on there at present. The first war is against the Taliban. The Taliban who ruled Afghanistan didn't launch the 9/11 attack, but Bush demanded that either they give up bin Laden and others who had training camps in Afghanistan or else face war. He knew that war would be the result. The U.S. conducted a war to bring down the Taliban government and create a new government in Afghanistan. That strategy, like that in Iraq, appears to be part of a larger geopolitical strategy, rather than a narrowly-focused anti-terrorist campaign.

This anti-Taliban war is still ongoing because the Taliban regrouped after their downfall from power. The U.S. also fought bin Laden and his followers, but failed to capture him. If they had used the right military measures, they might have gotten him and wiped out many of his recruits. (See the Battle of Tora Bora.) To this day, having lost the Battle of Tora Bora, anti-terrorist war measures, including CIA drone attacks, continue. They have expanded into Pakistan. That amounts to another war.

The entire country of Afghanistan was not the appropriate "there" to fight in, and the Taliban were not the appropriate "them" to fight, not if terrorists were the issue. When push came to shove, the U.S. embarrassingly failed to win the fight, even when it narrowed the "there" down to Tora Bora.

Is Libya one of the "there" places? Gaddafi didn't send the 9/11 terrorists on their missions. Indeed, he became a pal of the U.S. shortly thereafter.

Is Pakistan and its border regions with Afghanistan one of the "there" places? That's where the U.S. has been fighting for some time now. The U.S. should not be expanding the war into Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons. The expansion has numerous negative consequences.

People who say they'd rather fight them over there than here are supporting a series of ongoing U.S. wars. They are supporting or have supported or will in the future support wars that are unnecessary, launched against the wrong people in the wrong place. The U.S. war on terror is an excuse for indefinite wars. This notion of "fighting them there" is dangerously expansible. How many Americans right now think that it justifies U.S. bombing in Libya? How many people see Gaddafi as one of "them"?

Your mind is a battleground of ideas. It's your own thinking versus the propagandists of the State who are filling it up with their ideas. Their weapons are words, slogans, memes, themes, ideas, concepts, visions, sounds, and pictures.

Many of you are thinking of nothing about these foreign affairs and paying little or no attention to them. Your political influence is one of passive support. By default, you are morally supporting the government.

Others of you are thinking about these wars and expressing yourselves, and many of you in this group actively support the government, its worldwide military establishment, commitments, and wars. When pressed, you respond with all sorts of reasons. One of these is "I'd rather fight them over there than here." Think twice.

Bush and company concocted this line and broadcasted it in order to lay snares for the unwary. They intended to trap people's minds and capture them. They intended to enslave people to false ideas so that they could get away with their agenda and their dirty work.

Them? Them? Who is this "them" to be fought? The power of this kind of propaganda lies also in its vagueness. The listener can choose any group he fears, or any group he hates, or any group he dislikes, or any group he imagines is a threat, or any group of which he is suspicious.

This "fight them" is, in part, an appeal to the listener's aggressiveness, hatred, fear, vengeance, suspicions, and violence. It appeals to the worst in people.

This choice of "there vs. here" assumes that there must be a fight. It assumes that war is necessary. This language trick is known as a "false choice."

Our leaders are wicked deceivers when they resort to this kind of sloganeering, and they resort to it far too often.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

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