After 21 years, it appears we have gone full circle: the War on Terror’s “you are either with us or against us” mentality has come home.
President Joe Biden likes to tout the exceptionalism of “our democracy”. It is, he said in his commemorative remarks on the 9/11 attacks, “that which makes us unique in the world”. He also likes to tout the idea that “our democracy” is under threat. “We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, preserve, and protect our democracy,” he continued. “The very democracy that those terrorists on 9/11 sought to bury in the burning fire and smoke and ash.”
Put to one side the fact that the impetus for al-Qaeda terrorism was not “our democracy” but America’s liberal hegemony and military interventionism abroad — the exaggerations in this dramatic piece of historical revisionism echoed a speech Biden had made in Philadelphia mere days earlier. Speaking in an eerie set-up at Independence Hall, Biden had warned against the threat of a different terror, closer to home — from “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans”, who “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic”. According to him, they promote “political violence” and “undermine democracy itself”.
After 21 years, it appears we have gone full circle: the War on Terror’s “you are either with us or against us” mentality has come home. Where George W. Bush used American exceptionalism as a basis for militarism and political absolutism, Biden has leveraged democratic exceptionalism — weaponising the mythos of democracy for partisan gains.