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IN Her Own Write
January, 2008

Best Revenge

Three Powerful Little Words
The "war on terror" ain't between nations
By  Anne R. Allen

o, this isn’t a late Valentine’s Day column. It’s a writer's call to arms.

As an American writer who’s recently returned from an extended stay abroad, I’m angry and scared. Everyone here seems defeated and/or hypnotized. I’ve never felt so powerless.
But writers should be used to powerlessness, shouldn’t we? Money is power and most writers get neither. Everybody knows the creaky old blonde joke about the ambitious Hollywood starlet who was soooo dumb she slept with the writer.
But the truth is that in the flash-communication world of the 21st Century, writers have the power to change history with the tap of a computer key.
In fact, right now, three little words are bringing an end to an experiment in democracy known as the United States of America. I have no idea what White House grunt first penned the words “War On Terror” but that writer’s word choices have set forces into motion that are already eroding most of the freedoms we once cherished.
The little words War On Terror are the tools that Big Oil is using to dismantle the American Constitution and turn the U.S. into an oligarchy — by Big Oil, for Big Oil and of Big Oil. And Brits and Canucks, don’t look so smug. You’re next.
The word “war” is defined in the OED as “strife between nations conducted by force.”
But “terror” is not a nation, any more than “drugs” or “poverty” were nations when “war” was declared on them. “Terrorism” is the act of instilling fear in order to control an outcome.  It’s come to mean a method of fighting that is as old as donning Indian costumes to throw tea into Boston Harbor to protest oppressive taxes, or hiding Greek assassins in the belly of a wooden horse to destroy the great city of Troy. 
When “wars” were declared on drugs and poverty — the idiocy and inevitable failure of those endeavors notwithstanding — at least the governments that declared them knew the words they used were metaphorical. But the fundamentalist Bushisti, who rode to power by duping a demographic so uneducated they cannot understand the metaphors in their own Holy Bible, have taken the word “war” in this context literally.
They claim that since 9/11, Congress has given the President “war powers” and therefore he has the right — even the duty — to suspend the civil liberties of anyone designated a potential “terrorist.” In other words, anybody, anywhere, in perpetuity. That would mean — you.

And since we are “at war” with terrorists, how long before the Bushisti decide that the “war powers” they believe Congress gave them when declaring the “War On Terror” extends to domestic terrorists as well?
How long will it be before getting your kid’s face painted by the wrong person at an Earth Day celebration results in your phone being tapped without a warrant? How long before attending a Save The Whales rally will you get hauled off to jail — with no charges, lawyer, nor trial — where you’ll sit until you’re “extraordinarily rendered” to a Turkish prison to be tortured?
How long before I get “disappeared” for writing something like this?
The people responsible for the attacks on New York, London, Madrid and elsewhere are criminals. They did terrible things. But they did not do those things as representatives of any nation. They should be tracked down and punished by international law enforcement.
There is no war. Except the one the U.S. declared on Iraq, which made as much sense as declaring war on Canada to “retaliate” for criminal activities by Mexican drug lords. (Hey, Canucks, don’t laugh. You’re all fur’ners to us.)
What can we do about it? We can write. We can own our power. Maybe one of you young writers reading this will come up with three new little words that will finally snap the minds of the American people out of their mass hypnosis before the world’s greatest democracy has perished from the earth.

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Anne R. Allen is a California novelist and book editor who has been living part time in the UK. Her latest comic novel, The Best Revenge, An Historical Novel Of The 1980s, (Babash-Ryan) debuted in the UK in 2005 and is available from and most UK bookshops. Her first novel with Babash-Ryan, Food Of Love is available from and as well as

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