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TDR CommentThe Age of TerrorismHave the events of September 11, 2001 “changed everything”? Certainly theBush government, wanting to stay in power, is doing all it can to make it so. Theplan is to perform a historical reenactment—in postmodern dress—of the ColdWar. Remember the Cold War? A world divided roughly in thirds: Us, Them,and the Unaligned (aka the Third World). The Cold War pitted an “empire”made from the geographically contiguous but otherwise diverse entities of theUSSR the “satellite” nations of Eastern Europe against an alliance of WesternEuropean nations the USA, Canada, and Japan. Over time, it was plain thatthe Cold War was orchestrated primarily by the USA. The American and Eu-ropean homelands were “protected” by means of MAD—the policy of “mutuallyassured destruction” guaranteed by a surfeit of nuclear weapons. MAD meantthat the blood fights of the Cold War were played out in the Third World—Korea, Vietnam, and various locales in Africa and Latin America. Very conve-nient.In a weird global dance, the USA’s regressive policies made Communism at-tractive to millions in the Third World. By creating the need for an alternativeto American domination, the USA actually made it inevitable that the very en-emies it proclaimed it was opposing would thrive, giving the USA a reason tolaunch attacks. These took the form of covert operations, economic manipula-tion, training and support of local anti-Communists (often enough, butchers andthugs) ...

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TDR Comment
The Age of Terrorism
Have the events of September 11, 2001 “changed everything”? Certainly the Bush government, wanting to stay in power, is doing all it can to make it so. The plan is to perform a historical reenactment—in postmodern dress—of the Cold War. Remember the Cold War? A world divided roughly in thirds: Us, Them, and the Unaligned (aka the Third World). The Cold War pitted an “empire” made from the geographically contiguous but otherwise diverse entities of the USSRthe “satellite” nations of Eastern Europe against an alliance of Western European nationsthe USA, Canada, and Japan. Over time, it was plain that the Cold War was orchestrated primarily by the USA. The American and Eu ropean homelands were “protected” by means of MAD—the policy of “mutually assured destruction” guaranteed by a surfeit of nuclear weapons. MAD meant that the blood fights of the Cold War were played out in the Third World— Korea, Vietnam, and various locales in Africa and Latin America. Very conve nient. In a weird global dance, the USA’s regressive policies made Communism at tractive to millions in the Third World. By creating the need for an alternative to American domination, the USA actually made it inevitable that the very en emies it proclaimed it was opposing would thrive, giving the USA a reason to launch attacks. These took the form of covert operations, economic manipula tion, training and support of local antiCommunists (often enough, butchers and thugs), and outright American military intervention. All this was done, our lead ers told us, in order to “contain” the USSR. But who was containing the USA? There was no dictatorship too brutal, no regime too corrupt for the USA to deny support to as long as its leadership professed allegiance to the anti Communist movement. The result of this 50yearlong Cold War was to bank rupt the Soviet Union and frustrate even conceptualizing what a truly just, global society of peoples might be. Think for a moment what the world might be like if the USA: supported the Cuban revolution, opposed the military regimes of Latin America, and embraced the democratic socialism of Salvadore Allende of Chile (instead of arranging Allende’s murder); helped Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, worked to overthrow the apartheid tyranny in South Africa, and instituted a continental Marshall Plan so that Africa could recover from the horrors of colonialism; refused to take up the cause of defeated French colonialism in Vietnam, worked for the peaceful reunification of Korea and China, and demanded a just settlement of the PalestineIsrael question; recognized 60 years ago that dependence on Middle
The Drama Review 46, 2 (T174), Summer 2002. Copyright2002 New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5
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East oil was bound to fundamentally distort American foreign policy and there fore launched an allout effort to develop nonfossil fuels and systems—including continental networks of bullet trains, local mass transit, and serious research and development of solar and other ecologically friendly energy sources. “What if?” is a game one cannot win. However, I am not dreaming when I write that all of the possibilities I’ve just listed were on the table in America, supported by a considerable number of people, and debated in moreorless main stream media (as well as in the radical press). Why were these alternatives not pursued? Why, often, were those who actively supported progressive policies wiretapped, hounded, imprisoned, shot to death, and ground to dust? I am not a conspiracytheory type thinker. I don’t believe that American policy makers fully comprehended the world they were shaping when they made the decisions they made. What they wanted to do was to stay in power in Washington, keep America on top globally (we had our own empire to enhance), and make sure that the people and corporations with real money could make more of the same. Ironically, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president and exgeneral who got the rightwing ball rolling by selecting tricky Dick Nixon as his vice president, warned in his farewell address of the oncoming “militaryindustrial complex.” What does this have to do with performance? With the work of performance studies in the third year of the 21st century? It is not as a “performance studies person” that I am concerned. I am a citizen, a father, a teacher, and an artist. In these roles, I must ask now, and very strongly, if we are not being launched into another halfcentury of bad policies, fruitless expenditures of wealth on military rather than social programs, and continued alienation from, and exploitation of, the world’s most populous and poorest communities. I really have no satisfactory answer to why there have been only the mildest of protests as our civil liberties are poured onto the ground, open jury trials re placed by military tribunals, universal surveillance systems installed, and God knows what other kinds of tyrannical infrastructures put into operation. Maybe most Americans were so shocked by September 11th that they feel physical safety is worth any price. And then there is President George W. Bush’s spectacular reinvention. The smirky underachiever who couldn’t pronounce the names of foreign leaders or locate nations on maps has been made over into an American hero. Dubbya is folksy yet focused, articulate and determined. A regular John Wayne (pintsize) merged with Jimmy Stewart. The more sinister Dick Cheney has been locked up in the attic or cellar. Protests? Mr. Bush’s handlers deserve an Oscar.
—Richard Schechner