France’s war on terrorism is a ghastly, Bush-sized mistake

January 14, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

[This] is a war against terrorism, against jihadism (sic), against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.”French PM Manuel Valls, by way of GW Bush, regrettably

There’s this wonderful teaching in the yoga world, and also in the Buddhist tradition, in Shaiva Tantra, in Taoism and Christian mysticism and I’m sure many others, and it has to do with energy, and the various obsessions into which we pour all our fear, passion, curiosity, doubt and hate, suspicion and love.

It goes like this: “Where attention goes, energy flows.” It’s bumper sticker shorthand for a far deeper teaching, one that instructs the practitioner to be extraordinarily vigilant where she places her daily practices, her breath, her heart and thoughts, for one simple reason: Nothing in life has much power, much influence, much existence at all until we as individuals and/or as a collective consciousness give it all that power, all that meaning – for good, ill or otherwise.

Keep drawing

Keep drawing

It’s a simple thing, you know? Focus on the divine, on true Self, on health, kindness and gratitude, those all gain power and momentum, begin to show up more and more in your daily world. Focus, conversely, on flaw, shame, violence, blame, sickness, anger, power, fear? Same thing, in dour reverse.

Fixate long enough, and your humble gratitude – or your acidic anxieties – eventually take over your entire being, and swallow everything in sight.

This is why so many only see terrorism, or rape culture, or violence, or environmental devastation, or sickness, or child abuse, or your own flawed body, or how f—ked the world is. Your ill-aimed attention has actually distorted the truth, has given power to sour energies far out of scale with reality.

France just held a massive rally, mourning the 17 who were killed at the hands of a few deranged zealots, and of course France’s leaders – PM Manuel Valls in particular – wasted no time doing what all leaders do in times of national sadness and loss: bang the war drum, threaten bloodshed and revenge, ignite more mistrust and suspicion, and of course, promise to dedicate massive national resources (read: energy) toward eradicating some ambiguous “evil” that can’t possible be eradicated.

It’s a ghastly mistake. As we all know too well, George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” did nothing but kill tens of thousands of innocents along with thousands more of our own soldiers. It cost upwards of $1.4 trillion, devastated the economy, brought waves of shame and dishonor (torture, WMD, Cheney) and scarred the national soul for generations.

Make no mistake: It wasn’t the World Trade Center attack that caused all this crushing ignominy; it was our response. We chose the darkest, most violent path imaginable, and we’re still paying the price.

Are we any better off? More peaceful and safe? Any closer to “winning” the war on terror? How about feeling a sense of closure after 9/11, even with bin Laden’s death?

Not even close. Just the opposite, in fact: terrorism is as gnarled and alive as ever. Why? Because we’ve helped feed it. We’ve pumped our own fears so full of false meaning, intolerance and suspicion that terrorism has become a permanent scab on our national complexion, to the point of absurdity and paranoia, of removing your shoes at the airport and handing over your nail clippers and dumping out your water bottle. Somewhere, Osama bin Laden is snickering.

Here is your simple teaching, writ large and tragic: Declaring war on something as grossly low on the human evolutionary scale as terrorism does nothing but make that same hate and extremism far more powerful than they would ever be otherwise. It shines a million stadium lights on bloody shard of glass, magnifying it beyond all comprehension.


They want to mourn. They want to defend liberty and creative freedom. NOT declare wars that can never be won

So, what’s the alternative? If dumbly declaring “war” only invites more of the poisons war already thrives on, what about declaring something like peace? Or unity? Or harmony? Is that so impossible?

What if PM Valls had declared a national “Devotion to Unity?” Could that work? What if the $1.4 trillion America wasted on Iraq had instead gone to a variety of humanitarian programs, to outreach, to building foreign schools and healing fractured international relationships – in short, to removing much of the toxic soil in which fundamentalism grows in the first place – might we not be far better off? You know the answer.

Does that plan sound too vague? Untenable? Too commie hippie bullsh-t? Too bad. There’s simply no way this approach would be worse than doing what we do now, our grotesque pseudo-cowboy posturing that only ignites more hate, rage, violence.

It’s a bit like cancer. You will never defeat cancer by declaring “war” on cancer. It is not simply a matter of pouring billions into medical research to beat the disease with a stick and someday find a magic cure. Cancer mutates, evolves, defies easy solutions, and it always will.

You can, however, treat cancer far more effectively by doing one simple thing: Radically altering the conditions that give it life in the first place.

It’s already a wild success. Reductions in factory pollution, in chemical additives, in smoking rates and so on have done far more to “defeat” cancer – by ways of millions of people never getting it in the first place – than decades of horrific radiation and chemo and drugs, treatments which still live very much in the barbarian age.

So then. Want to “win” the war on terror? Don’t declare war in the first place. Don’t give all your energy and attention to all those revolting energies terrorism loves best. Instead, advance the causes of solidarity, unity, harmony. Dedicate all resources toward the constructive, toward what heals, as you yelp to the heavens all the ways you’d most devoutly like to love and live – not the ways you don’t. Simple, really.

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Mark Morford

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