Since 2001, Osama bin Laden has filled (except for a brief interlude in 2002-2003 when the US targeted Saddam Hussein) the role of America’s Emmanuel Goldstein. Goldstein, a character out of George Orwell’s 1948 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (which I’m sure most of you already know) whose actual existence is never established in the novel, is the No. 1 enemy of the people according to Big Brother and the Party.
Well, now that bin Laden is dead, who is going to step into the role? I’ve compiled a short list of people and why they might be the next object of America’s Two Minutes Hate.
1. Anwar al-Awlaki – To me, this is the prime candidate for next enemy in the “War on Terror.” He also happens to be one of the only Americans that has been approved for a targeted killing by the United States. Already, the government has called him the “bin Laden of the Internet.” Al-Awlaki is perfect for the role of America’s new Goldstein: He’s a traitor. He’s an “imminent” threat. And he hates America. The US also has a vested interest in keeping the status quo in Yemen, something that al_Awlaki and rebels want to change.
2. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - At a close No. 2 is Iran’s president. Sure, in reality, his power is next to nothing compared to the US presidents and sure, Iran’s army is unlikely able to invade and take over any of its neighbors. But, damn it, he’s a bad guy that hates Israel and “freedom.” He’s also done the big no-no of criticizing the US nonstop. Making Ahmadinejad the target of hate wouldn’t be too difficult since the Iranian government has mercilessly cracked down on protesters, minority religious groups and the press. But, then again, Iran is rather liberal compared to US allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
3. Muammar Gadhafi – The dictator of the moment. Aiding the West in the “War on Terror” just wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. While one of the more liberal Mideast leaders (this is a guy who was called an apostate for saying nonMuslisms should be allowed to visit Mecca) his crackdown on protesters brought down the ire of the world at large. Though, it’s a rather big question whether the protesters’ goals actually involve western-style democracy. Most importantly, he’s socialized much of Libya’s economy and makes sure the oil in the country remains firmly in domestic control, a big no-no as far as the western world is concerned.
4. Bashar al-Assad – Another much ballyhooed “enemy of Israel” Less of a significant threat than Iran, especially with so much civil strife at the moment. But, he’s the target of America’s selective hate when it comes to the current Mideast uprisings, though his opponents tend to be the same people the US is bombing elsewhere.
5. Hugo Chavez – This democratically-elected leader of Venezuela is frequently called a “dictator” by the right-leaning US media. Not much of a threat to the US except when it comes to many of his socialist policies improving the standard of living for Venezuelans. He is also a very outspoken critic of the US and has forced US oil companies to negotiate deals on his country’s terms. Apparently, the US considered the guy such a threat that they supported a coup attempt in 2002, which had the effect of making him even more popular.
This is a rather short list. A few others jumped to mind such as Vladimir Putin and Evo Morales, but let’s face it, the US isn’t going to go to war with Russia and the the South American spotlight is almost totally on Chavez, especially with his friendliness with Libya.
In this “War on Terror” though, the US cannot keep the public distracted too long without a bogeyman. Within the next month, you can either count on one of al-Qaeda’s many No. 2′s or an isolated leader to become the target of focused American hate propaganda. The question is who will it be and who will fall for it?