“Go ahead, make my day.” Harry Callan (Clint Eastwood) in Sudden Impact (1985)
Harry Callan, (‘Dirty Harry),’ made a coercive threat to a ‘punk’. The threat is effective because he understands the punks fear self-preservation and risk-aversion. George W Bush tried to do the same thing in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. His response to the 9/11 attacks reflected his values rather than geo-political realities. Bush’s fatal combination of American kick-ass hubris, religion and geo-historical ignorance engulfed the western world in unrest. Fourteen years after 9/11, the Middle East graphically illustrates Bush’s hubristic ignorance coupled with his coalition partners, principally Britain.
9/11 (11th September 2001) was choreographed by a Muslim terrorist organisation. The howl of rage that went up when these attacks (‘acts of war’?) occurred was empathised by the international community. Good will began to evaporate when Bush made his infamous Crusader remarks shortly after the attacks. Bush believed that 9/11 was ‘an act of war’*. President Bush’s impromptu press briefing on 16th September 2001** is loaded with Christian language, with many references to, ‘The Lord’s Day’, and ‘evil-doers’. Bush declared that, “people have declared war on America,” and the USA would respond likewise. Bush’s war is against, “somebody so barbaric that they would fly airplanes into buildings full of innocent people… This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while.”
‘Crusade’ was a casual throwaway remark in a press briefing. Its spontaneity illustrates the bounded rationality of Bush. His born-again Christianity permeates every aspect of his intellect***. His religious background is evangelical. They routinely use ‘crusade’ in an ahistorical way. This is not how the Muslim world use the concept, which has embedded negative understanding. Many Muslims in the Middle-East translated ‘crusade’ as shorthand for Christian attacks on Muslims: all Muslims****. Bush’s insensitivity, his crassness, was immediately picked up in Europe. These worries were reported by the Christian Science Monitor*****.
Bush took the fateful decision to attack Muslim Afghanistan. Why Afghanistan? The Saudi organisers of the attack lived in Afghanistan and so the geo-political dots were joined: Osama Bin Laden’s headquarters were in Afghanistan therefore attack Afghanistan to punish him. Bush and his advisors made two category errors, firstly that 9/11 was an act of war and secondly that Afghanistan was hosting Bin Laden. Afghanistan became Bush’s crusade and the object of his retaliatory action. It was an appalling decision lacking intellectual and strategic coherence from inception. Coupling the worst form of summary justice with colonial hubris, Afghanistan is the poster-boy of how not to conduct foreign policy, (copyrighted by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (1979–89)).
Bush’s ‘Dirty Harry’ mentality relied on over-whelming force bringing al Qaeda to heel. Failure was not considered, nor that the enemy would fight to the death. This is ironic as 9/11 was a suicide attack. Bush has made the entire world more dangerous by unleashing religious passions.
*Compare the Oklahoma Bombing of 19th April 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. They hoped to inflict ‘revenge’ on the government.
** “On March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 jumbo jets collided…More than 563 people burned to death. There were only 61 survivors. One of them was a Christian man from California. The fire could not touch him just like it did not touch Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.” Evangelical-American Evangelistic Crusade. (their website)
****Compare the sack of Jerusalem in 1215 when Christian soldiers triumphantly waded through the bloodbath they had created; praising God for giving them the opportunity to slaughter Muslims.
*****Peter Ford Christian Science Monitor 19th September 2001
Anna Nushka writes from Hollywood:
Interestingly,Eastwood had a precedent.
Gary Swanson in the 1982 film “Vice Squad” says ,”Go ahead,scumbag, make my day.”
I love the way that really cute phrases morph and improve with time. Thank you for this.
chris another excellent piece.