The War on Terror: an Itch We Need Not Scratch

The War on Terror is like poison ivy, an itch one needs not to scratch. Now, that is not to say “an itch one doesn’t need to scratch”, but “one needs not to scratch”. Don’t scratch it!

Generally, you get poison ivy by going someplace you don’t really belong and getting mixed up in stuff you don’t really understand. Anything that makes contact with the plant picks up the irritant, urushiol, light, clear oil that you are unlikely notice at all. That is, you don’t notice it until the inflammation starts. It often starts small, just a little itch and maybe a small bump.

You scratch it reflexively. You don’t realize that the oil is on your clothing, your shoes. Then it’s on your hands and furniture. You inadvertently spread it over more of your skin. It seeps into your lymphatic system and travels around causing outbreaks in new places. Now you know you have a poison ivy rash, but it’s too late. The itching is intense. Your skin boils and blisters. Scratching causes the blisters to burst adding the risk of infection. If the reaction is strong enough, compounds in the pus oozing from the wound will spread the reaction.

The US and other western powers got involved in places and business deals the people did not understand. American foreign policy and business have spread an irritant all over the world, at home and abroad. The reaction started with small itches: Iran, the Middle East, Central and South America to name a few. The US scratched: the Shah and Iraq, the Contras, Panama… Then the festering came: the first war in Iraq, embassy bombings, and the blisters burst on 9/11.

The US refuses to stop scratching; scratching names off the president’s hit-list; scratching more names onto the list. We fail to see that by doing this we’re spreading the irritant more and more. We’re opening wounds and risking infection.

Once you’ve had poison ivy, you learn fast how to handle it. You learn where it grows and what it looks like. You learn to recognize the symptoms earlier after you may have been exposed. After exposure, you thoroughly wash everything that might be contaminated. You learn how to treat the itching without scratching.

This is exactly what we need to do with our foreign (and domestic) policy. We need to recognize what we are doing as a nation to radicalize people against us and stop doing those things. We need to thoroughly clean up everything that has been contaminated by this exposure: the military, government agencies, and private corporations. We need to treat the itching with restraint and a soothing balm.

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