"Madness ... madness!"

In spontaneous demonstrations
all over Oceania, workers cry for vengeance
as tapes prove crimes of Eurasians and traitors



I must say, this tape business just gets harder and harder to follow.

A Canadian Press Online story, "Bin Laden has named some Sept. 11 hijackers on videotape, says expert," discusses a "more detailed" transcript of the tape that one George Michael, the expert in question, helped produce.

Michael explains why his transcript includes "a whole bunch of names" that were not included in the original transcript (which he also helped produce): "The names only emerged now, Michael said, because the first translation was rushed in 12 hours, in a room in the Pentagon. It took four days to complete the fuller transcript in the comfort of his own office, Michael said."

Rushed in 12 hours?

But for days before the tape was shown on television, we heard over and over again what it proved. We heard from senators and Cabinet officials who claimed to have seen the tape and who said it absolutely proved that Osama bin Laden was responsible. What? Did none of those guys need a translation? I had no idea we had so many native Arabic-speakers in high government positions.

Again and again, it is clear that the media are just lying and that government officials are just lying. Just what they are lying about and why is unclear, but they are lying, and Americans who believe them — especially those who used to represent themselves (and still represent themselves) as libertarians — are simply not doing their own thinking.


A few weeks ago CNN managed to obtain an interview with the American Taliban fighter and al Qaeda member John Walker (the name he prefers to go by, using his mother's maiden name). The tape of that interview was released just the other day.

A Washington talk-show host — Chris Core of WMAL — played excerpts from the audio of that tape on December 20, first explaining that it was hard to follow because the sound was not particularly good. There were three reasons for that:

(1) Walker was speaking with a slight Arabic accent. (He says on the tape that he has not spoken English for two years or so.)

(2) The recording conditions were less than ideal.

(3) Walker's speech was slurred because he was drugged for pain. Indeed, on the tape, we hear someone telling Walker that he will now be given some morphine for his pain.

In discussing the content of the tape, Core wondered whether it posed any legal problems for Walker. Could it be used in a court of law against him? He hoped an attorney would call in to discuss that possibility. It was clear that Core himself thought Walker had thoroughly incriminated himself.

I was simply astonished. The guy had no lawyer present — had not even seen a lawyer by that time — had not been read his Miranda rights, and he was drugged. With an opiate. Are we suddenly supposed to forget all those PSAs about eggs in frying pans: "This is your brain on drugs — any questions?"

And Core is wondering whether the tape would be admissible in court? Is he nuts?

No more than most people. He — like so many Americans — just wants to believe that Osama bin Laden and his associates did it, and by God someone has got to pay and pay hard. And civil rights and natural liberties just don't matter because — again by God — this is WAR (you have to shout that last word in order for the syllogism to be valid), and here's this guy who has turned on his country (never mind that he has apostasized from his faith), and someone has to be punished.

For weeks we heard that the anthrax letters "probably" originated with Saddam Hussein, because who else had access to anthrax? Now it is admitted (was it not fairly obvious all along?) that the more likely candidates are some yet-unnamed disgruntled U.S. government workers.

One hears it explained that Zacarias Moussaoui (the only person so far indicted in connection with the 911 atrocities) doesn't deserve rights — and this not from excited callers to C-SPAN, but from elected officials, preening self-righteously in the glow of "public service." Is Moussaoui going to stand trial? Why, if he doesn't deserve rights? As though rights were something that one is granted by virtue of deserving them.

It's becoming ever more difficult not to scream at the voices on radio and TV. The logical errors multiply and multiply. This matter has tested the American public's belief in things like "just war theory," "civil rights," "due process," "constitutional government." The list is practically endless. And it turns out that none of those things apparently matter. We knew they never mattered to the state; now we see to what extent they matter to the American public. And in all cases we see that people flatly do not care about those things. The first explanation I could think of for it all was that people just want to fly their flags and get back at someone.

But on second thought perhaps it is worse than that.

Chesterton defined madness thus: "They are speaking nonsense, and they cannot stop." Perhaps the government of the United State, the official news media (which explicitly see themselves as part of the war effort), and most of the American public have just gone mad. They are speaking nonsense and they cannot stop.

How long can it go on? Well, take a look at the retrospectives of the attack on Pearl Harbor published in the past few weeks. Apparently it can go on for quite a long time.

December 22, 2001

© 2001 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

To Neff's previous comments on the "smoking gun" tape.

To Strakon's column on the "smoking gun" tape.

To Neff's comments on Strakon's column.

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