I think the saddest thing about the Bush era (aside from the mangled and broken bodies and minds) is that the constant fearmongering is destructive to our tradition as a proud and free people, as he encourages us to quake in fear of the "bad men" who "hate our freedom." Al Queda's leadership are men. They are actually fairly rational (just their premise that they must fight a war against America to defend the purity of their faith leads to violent and destructive choices). They wanted a lesser American influence in the mid-east, especially in Saudi Arabia. They think the Saudi kings are corrupt, and want a more strict, fundamentalist control over Mecca. And yes, they operate out of caves and safe houses. This aint the Warsaw pact with thousands of tanks, planes, and nukes. In Iraq, the forces can't defeat the US conventionally except in an ambush at the lowest level of foot patrol; they can't take a US base, they can't lay siege to our forces. But you can't stop them from suicide bombing or sniping.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.
What We Must Do
We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
We need a fearless outlook and free intelligence to discern the way out, and we need to put the Iraqis in the forefront in finding the solutions. Because once we leave (and we will, even if not until a new President is in charge), the Iraqis will have to enforce the new order.
Good Food for thought, even if my rambling Iraq musings don't have much to do with Russell's dictums.