Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ken Burns Effect

In iMovie, the video authoring program on my iMac, you can apply a zoom and pan effect to still photographs inserted into a movie. It is, appropriately, named the "Ken Burns effect" for the director who used such effects to bring old photos to life in his movies. Last night's airing of the first installment of his "The War" about the effects of World War II on four small American towns and the soldiers and families who lived there made plentiful use of the effect along with newly found home-movies.

But something other than Burns' always wonderful film-making caught my attention and stayed in my mind as I fell asleep. He borrowed from the old news-reels of the era the use of maps with flowing, blood-like colors to represent the spread of the Nazi Reich through Europe and Africa and of the Japanese empire throughout the Western Pacific. The dark spread of imperialism and Nazism spread their stain across the world, closing in steadily on North America.

That's when the thought hit me: our current "Global War on Terror" is nothing of the sort.

Neither global or truly a war on terror, BushCo. has distracted America and side-tracked the hunt for Osama bin Laden with his misadventure in Iraq and his half-assed and half-forgotten war in Afghanistan. If anyone were to map the spread of fanatical islamists there would be no threatening flow of color across a world map. There would be no videos of bin Laden or any other radical commanding millions of soldiers under an imperial flag.

The "most wanted man in the world," a six foot six Arab dragging a dialysis machine behind him cannot be found anywhere outside a hidden cave outside some dirt-poor village in western Pakistan. His most ardent followers are disillusioned young Arabs and those schooled only in the most violent and xenophobic suras of the Quran. The best they can do, after one spectacular - and spectacularly lucky - strike on September 11, 2001, is to send out the occasional suicide bomber or taunting video tape.

America has fought global wars before. We volunteered in waves including the too young and the too old in times of true need. When Uncle Sam wanted soldiers in 1942 the ranks were filled not only by the poor and rural, but by the urban rich and the middle class; Democrat and Republican. Because Americans knew there was a true threat.

A threat that is missing in the current war that we are being sold by those who stand to profit most from the Never-ending Global War on Terror.

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