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“Destroy the Evil Enemy”
Richard Koenigsberg
Parts VII-XI of Koenigsberg's workshop—America's Return to an Ideology of Warfare—appear below:
VII. Recovery of the Ideology of Warfare
VIII. Sacrificial Willingness
IX. The Return of Serious News
X. Destroy the Evil Enemy
XI. Who Can Sacrifice the Longest?
To Read Parts I-III, click here.
I. Culture of Triviality
II. A Counter-Sacrificial Culture
III. Aversion to Casualties
To Read Parts IV-VI, click here.
IV. America is Not Weak
V. America is Willing to Sacrifice
VI. Overcoming Aversion to Casualties

The Church Center for the United Nations, site of Koenigsberg's Workshop.
VII. Recovery of the Ideology of Warfare

September 11 brought about a resurgence of American patriotism. Attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon had wounded the United States. President George Bush insisted that he would identify and destroy those who had been responsible for the attacks. Americans rallied around the President to do battle against the enemy.

Issues of war and political violence once again took center stage. Everything that was to follow occurred within the framework of a classic template: the idea that it was necessary to eliminate or destroy an evil enemy whose existence threatened the life of the nation. The war on terror was structured as a life or death struggle for national survival. Either the terrorists and terrorism would be destroyed, or the terrorists and terrorism would destroy us.

The neoconservative movement had been waiting for the opportunity to reassert America’s power in the world. In 1999, they had written that what was needed was another Pearl Harbor—that could galvanize the nation to act. The neoconservatives got what they wished for. For George Bush and others, the World Trade Center bombings were imagined as a new Pearl Harbor.

Finally, the United States had an enemy to replace the Soviet Union. America would wage war in the name of freedom and democracy—to liberate the world from fascism.

Many felt devastated by these attacks that occurred on America soil. On the other hand, it would appear that some people felt empowered by the attacks. The empty, vacuous world of the Nineties could come to an end.

President George Bush declared after the attacks: “They just strengthened our country. We have found our mission and our moment.” Donald Rumsfeld interviewed by Larry King on May 25, 2006. King asked Rumsfeld if he felt responsible for the young men who were dying in battle. Rumsfeld replied: “We'll be at Arlington Cemetery Monday and you cannot help but feel that responsibility.  It has been true throughout the history of this nation.” 

Larry King: “Does it affect your sleep?  Bother you?” Rumsfeld:

Of course it bothers you. But I read about the history of our country for a half-hour each evening. This gives me a context for everything—helps me to understand that it has always been so. It’s a shame that people do the things they do in this world of ours. But the reality is that there are things worth fighting for—things worth dying for. People in each successive generation of our country’s history have come to this conclusion.

During the 1990s, Americans rejected the ideology of warfare. We were reluctant to sacrifice the life of even a single soldier. Rumsfeld reaffirmed the ideology of warfare, embracing its eternal verities: “There are bad people in the world who do bad things.” “There are things worth fighting and dying for.” “It has always been so.”

Once again, there was “something to kill and die for.” History had not ended. Once again, we were in the world of “them and “us,” a world where there were good people, on the one hand, and evil people on the other. America would wage war in order to destroy evil in the name of goodness.

The provocation of the 9/11 bombings permitted a return to a world that we seemed to be in the process of leaving behind. Quoting Yogi Berra, it was “Déjà vu all over again.” The idea of sacrificial death for a cause could be resurrected. Americans would wage a “war against terror.”

Krauthammer wrote that at some point there might be reasons to call a halt to the war on terror. This would not, however be because of America aversion casualties. The country might become distracted. Cable news might break in for live hockey-dad coverage—a flashback to the “O.J. world of ‘90s.” But, Krauthammer insisted, Americans “will not forget September 11” and would not tire.

Many journalists were energized by a return to the world of violent political conflict. No longer would they have to cover trivial “human interest” and “life style” stories. The war on terror would drive out the vacuous world of the 1990s. Warfare--killing and dying for one’s country—came back into vogue, replacing the age of OJ and Princess Di.

VIII. Sacrificial Willingness

In her groundbreaking Blood Sacrifice and the Nation, Carolyn Marvin stated that the idea of the nation grows out of the “shared memory of blood sacrifice, periodically renewed.” What is really true in any society, she said, is “what is worth killing for and what citizens may be compelled to sacrifice their lives for.”

During 1992-2001, America had developed a profoundly counter-sacrificial culture, and a military policy that revolved around zero-tolerance for casualties. It seemed that the idea of the nation was fading. Globalization and multiculturalism were the watchwords. America’s national became vague, vacuous and trivial.

9/11 allowed for the return of a heroic world. The world of warfare and the ideal of sacrifice for a cause were resurrected. Americans united in the war on terror. Once again, there would be things worth dying and killing for. The idea of the nation made a come-back.

The much-publicized case of Pat Tillman is an example how deeply gratifying the idea of national sacrifice may be. Tillman was an NFL player with a multi-million-dollar contract who had just married. He walked away from his career and wife after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to join the army. He died in Afghanistan.

Steve Yuhas wrote an article in April 2004 for the Washington Dispatch with the headline, “Pat Tillman proves that the draft is unnecessary.” So strong was Tillman’s “desire to fight for his country,” Yuhas wrote, that with military age restrictions creeping up on a 25-year old, he opted to leave his career and family to “sacrifice for rest of us.”

Pat Tillman, however, Yuhas said, was “not alone in that sacrifice.” Men and women all around country “struggle with the sacrifice that is military service.” The “fortune in their hearts” pulls so many toward “fighting for our country.”

Many journalists and politicians wrote and spoke about the death of Tillman in this way. They used it as an example of the resurgence of America patriotism—and the willingness to sacrifice for one’s country. Many people seemed to be thrilled to learn that men still were willing to join the military and to fight for their country. Pat Tillman’s death Afghanistan, Yuhas wrote, represented the “sacrifice by every man and woman who serves in uniform.”

Tillman’s sacrifice was noticed, but it is important to recognize, Yuhas said, that every flag-draped coffin returning from overseas contains a “soldier who volunteered his or her life to protect America.” Tillman’s story was told and retold, and seemed to be very satisfying for many people. It reflected America’s longing to believe that not everyone is selfish and materialistic. The U.S. is not an empty, vacuous nation. Idealism and a willingness to sacrifice still existed among America’s young people.

According to Marvin, national faith—patriotism—revolves around “making one’s body an offering, a sacrifice.” To die for others is the “ultimate expression of faith in social existence.” Tillman’s willingness to abandon a successful career to join the military was interpreted as an affirmation of faith: Willingness to turn one’s body over to America and to offer it as a sacrifice. Many were thrilled by the idea that some young people still were devoted to their country. “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.” America still existed.

Yuhas claimed that it’s a myth to believe that young people join the military simply to obtain money for college since “billions of dollars spent each year college financial aid.” There may have been a time when college money was hard to come by, but now all one needs to do is “Apply for it and one can attend any state university for pennies.” Yuhas, it would appear, desperately wishes to believe that young people enter the military for patriotic or altruistic reasons, rather than for practical, materialistic reasons.

Yuhas calls the military a “sacrifice and calling that young people from all walks life answer.” He concludes that a draft is unnecessary because “People like Tillman and people completely unlike him volunteer to serve our nation.” The gratitude or thanks that we feel toward the military is so heartfelt precisely because we “know these people volunteer to do what they do.” To conscript people would “lessen the sacrifice.”

The story or myth of Pat Tillman—how he joined the military although successful and wealthy and died in combat—sought to resurrect the ideal of heroic sacrifice. By embracing this ideal, America would once again become an honorable people. As young Moslems martyred themselves for Allah, so young Americans would sacrifice their lives for freedom and democracy.

IX. The Return of Serious News

An on-line article by Thomas O’Dwyer appeared on October 26, 2001: “How journalism has changed since September 11. 9/11, O’Dwyer said, had “laid bare the shallowness of much America news reporting during the last decade.” Before 9/11, politics, scandal, sex, money and celebrity—preferably all together— “dotted the media firmament,” with stars like O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinsky and Gary Condit.

Since Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan and anthrax became the story, O’Dwyer observed, much of the media “seems healthily ashamed of picking up such doggy poo as sleazy sex scandals or celebrity gossip.” O’Dwyer asks: “Could it be that serious news, even world affairs, has made a comeback?”

O’Dwyer notes that Barbara Walters’ interview with Anne Heche occurred five days before the 9/11 attacks. It was the biggest story of week, the kind that had dominated news for years. We “could have expected more of same,” writes. O’Dwyer exults that instead on September 11 readers found on doorsteps a paper “wholly dedicated to the terrorist attacks and the deaths of more than 5,000 people.”

It would appear that O’Dwyer preferred“serious news” to the kind of frivolous, vacuous news that had dominated the media before September 11. This was the world of Walter Cronkite that seemed to have vanished—when news reported on portentous, world-historic events. Warfare—and other forms of political violence—seem serious and significant as compared with trivia and gossip.

Bin Laden brought a return of this serious world where there is “something to kill and die for.” He was the crucial figure that returned the public domain to what it had been: the place of violent political competition and conflict. Somehow, this world seems more “dignified” than the world of OJ, Princess Di, Michael Jackson, Gary Condit and Anne Heche.

O’ Dwyer says that a review of the autobiography of Anne Heche—published in the International Herald Tribune two months after 9/11 was treated as “something a nasty dog brought home. Was this sort of thing we used to think important only two months ago?” It would appear O’Dwyer experienced terrorism and warfare as a relief or respite from the media world of trivial, vacuous events.

News became what Dan Rather hoped it would be after he took over from Walter Cronkite: Something possessing seriousness or gravitas. September 11 reassured people that history had not come to an end. The grand narrative of politics—the violent struggle between nations and ideologies had returned. Again, there were things worth dying and killing for.

O’Dwyer was relieved by the fact that “serious news” had replaced gossip and sleaze. The return to serious journalism, he says, was “good news for the formerly notorious Gary Condit”—the Congressman embroiled in a saga with the missing intern Chandra Levy with whom he had affair. Condit moved from “never being off the news pages to never being on them.”

X. Destroy the Evil Enemy

Political violence occurs when a society makes a radical distinction between goodness and badness. All goodness is attributed to one’s own group and its sacred ideology. Whereas all badness is attributed to the other group and its sacred ideology. Violence occurs based on making a radical distinction between “us” and “them.”

People in a given society identify with a sacred object that constitutes the basis for the group’s identity. The enemy is conceived as a group that wishes to act to destroy one’s own group’s sacred object or ideal. Violence is undertaken in order to eliminate or destroy the enemy, and thereby to rescue the sacred object.

Political violence is generated based on a struggle between good and evil. The objective is to destroy evil—the enemy--and thereby to restore a world of goodness. Political violence seeks to rescue goodness from badness or evil. All badness or evil is imagined to be contained within the enemy. People fantasize that destruction of the enemy will result in the restoration of a world of goodness.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. believed the enemy—the evil empire—had been defeated. For a time, the struggle against evil receded from consciousness. During the years 1992-2001, the U.S. became disengaged from political struggles. After 9/11, the ideology of nationalism—the struggle against an evil enemy--returned with a vengeance.

Terrorists were defined as the new evil enemy that threatened goodness, that is, the existence of America. The U.S. government instituted a war against terrorism, the purpose of which was to destroy the evil enemy—and to rescue America and her sacred ideal, freedom and democracy. President George Bush declared: “Overcoming evil is the noblest cause and the liberation of millions is the fulfillment of America 's founding promise.” By destroying the enemy, the U.S. would fulfill its sacred dream of liberating the world from oppression—and bringing freedom to people everywhere.

The phrase “Grand Narrative is a term from post-modernism. A grand-narrative is an all-encompassing idea or ideology that structures thought within a particular society. America’s foreign policy after 2nd World War—for 45 years—was dominated by a grand narrative: the struggle between free world and communism. Communism was conceived as an idea that was intent upon destroying America. Foreign policy revolved around a simple, binary structure: the idea of communism, on the one hand; and the ideal of America, or freedom and democracy, on the other.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the grand narrative of the struggle between communism and the free world receded from consciousness. Post-modernists wrote about the “death of grand narratives.” “Big” ideas—absolute truths—were fading from the scene. The idea of the death of grand narratives was linked to the idea of cultural relativity: there are no absolute standards good and evil or right and wrong.

The neo-conservative political movement was opposed to post-modernism and cultural relativity. The terroristic attacks opened a path for neo-conservatives to reaffirm their belief in absolute values. At the U.N. on October 2, 2001, New York Mayor Giuliani declared: “We are right and they are wrong. It’s as simple as that.” Moral relativism, he said “Doesn’t have a place in this discussion and debate. The era of moral relativism must end.”

Reflecting on Giuliani’s remarks, Congressman Joe Pitts wrote that the problem was that “relativism has permeated western culture in recent decades.” College campuses were dedicated to the proposition “all ideas and ideologies are created equal and there are no moral absolutes.” September 11 reminded America, Pitts explained, that good and evil “do in fact exist and that they are absolute.” The attack was “absolutely evil,” whereas the heroic acts of the emergency workers in New York City and the passengers on Flight 93 were “absolutely good.”

9/11 allowed for the repudiation of post-modernism and cultural relatively and a re-affirmation of the American grand narrative of political struggle as a conflict between good and evil. Terrorism replaced communism as the evil that the U.S. needed to combat. September 11 was a /11 tragedy for the people who perished, but some embraced this event as the opportunity to reaffirm American values.

The neo-conservatives had at last found the evil enemy that they had been searching for since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Congressman Pitts said that postmodernists may continue tell U.S. that there is “no way to prove something is evil.” The rest of us, however, “know what we saw on television on September 11 was evil. No proof is necessary. We knew it intuitively.”

Having defined terrorism as absolutely evil, the ideology of warfare that had begun to fade could be reaffirmed. Warfare depends on defining an evil enemy. Without an enemy, there is nothing to do battle against. The idea of the enemy allows one to do battle against evil.

Warfare seeks the conquest of evil in the name of one’s own society, conceived as the essence of goodness. George Bush put forth the idea of “terrorism” as the evil enemy to replace “communism.” Terrorism represented a new form of evil against which the U.S. could struggle. Once again, life could become meaningful. The empty, vacuous world of the 90s could fade from the scene. Once again, there would be “something to kill and die for.”

America would be reborn out of ashes and rubble 9/11. At the Republican convention in 2004, President George Bush spoke of the “resurrection of New York City.”  Future visitors to Ground Zero would say: “Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose.”

XI. Who Can Sacrifice the Longest?

Osama Bin Laden’s actions—both before and after the World Trade Center attack—were accompanied by words whose intent was to humiliate America and its leaders. He called the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia after 19 soldiers died, “America’s most disgraceful case,” and reminded the world how American pilots were dragged through the streets Mogadishu. Mocking the United States, Bin Laden said that extent of America ’s “impotence and weakness” had become very clear.

Debates before and after the attack on Iraq focused on the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Foreign policy discourse, as usual, was conducted based on the assumption rationality. However, perhaps the attacks on Saddam Hussein reflected a deeper well of emotion, American anger and the desire to seek revenge for humiliations suffered.

The phrase “shock and awe” was used to describe the massive bombing attacks that occurred at the beginning of the Iraq war. This phrase conveys—not only a military strategy—but the emotions the United States wished to evoke in the Middle-East, and throughout the world. The America government was saying, essentially, “This is what happens to people who try to mess with the U.S.” President George Bush “shocked the world.” He showed everyone how tough and ruthless America is.

Bin Laden and others spoke of America’s shameful withdrawal Mogadishu: How the U.S. had “cut and run” after just a few casualties. In the case of Iraq, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld insisted that the U.S. would not cut-and-run. Rather, she would “stay the course” in spite of casualties.

In a speech of April 4, 2004, Vice-President Richard Cheney reminded the audience of the attack in Beirut in 1983: The U.S. withdrew after a terrorist attack had killed 241 service members. He also reminded the audience of the Mogadishu attack in 1983—when the U.S. withdrew after 19 American soldiers were killed. Based on the lack of American response after these incidents, Cheney said, terrorist attacks concluded that they could “strike America with impunity”—without paying a price.

George Bush’s administrative reversed the policy of American weakness by embracing ferocious “pre-emptive strikes.” This time, enemies of the United States would pay a price. What’s more, in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, America would not withdraw; would not “cut and run.”

As the number of insurgent attacks increased, Dick Cheney said that the terrorists were “making a stand now in Iraq, testing our resolve.” Terrorists, he said, knew that they couldn’t defeat the U.S. in a stand-up fight.  But they were absolutely convinced that they could “break the will of the America people.”

Unlike the cases of Beirut and Mogadishu, however, this time America’s enemies would not break her will. Cheney stated that the only way the terrorists could win was if we Americans “lose our nerve and abandon our mission.” This would not happen. People should “have confidence in the resolve of the U.S.” America would not back down; would not give in; would not withdraw.

The Iraq war, therefore, represented a test of will power. What will power meant in practical terms was the commitment to continue to spend billions of dollars a week to keep the war going; and the capacity to continue to accept and endure casualties. Will-power, in shorted, amounted to endless sacrifice.

Terrorists had proclaimed: “We love death the way you Americans love life.” Insurgents blew themselves up on a nearly daily basis in the name of Allah. The United States was determined to show: We too will sacrifice for our sacred ideals. As the terrorists were dying in the name of Allah, our soldiers would die in the name of America: freedom and democracy.

If war is a test of wills, the question was: who could go on suffering and dying longest? Could the United States compete with the suicide attackers? Warfare may be thought of as a form of sacrificial competition: Which side can continue to kill and die the longest?