This sense of vulnerability, and the fear it engendered, quickly became the justification for so much that our government had done since in the name of protecting us. It has been the justification for two wars, and for «slashing away» our constitutional protections, all in the name of fighting terrorism. The Justice Department now claims the power to hold American citizens in prison indefinitely, without access to lawyers, simply because they have been labeled «enemy combatants.» Terrorism suspects have been held in secret detention for many months, some with no access to an attorney, while their hearings, when they occur, are closed to the public and the press. Treatment amounting to the torture of prisoners, both in Iraq and in Guantánamo, has been tolerated, if not authorized. Questioning the legitimacy of these actions, including the preemptive war on Iraq, is explicitly seen by many as un-American, as aiding and abetting the enemy. These actions, we are told, are necessary to combat and eliminate the very sources of our fears. How can we legitimately oppose them?
When using the weapon of public fear, you can get away with just about anything, as shown in the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares.
In fact, it is even possible that a government may have invented an enemy altogether: A non-existent enemy that will take ages to fight, and that will keep the home population in fear and check for as long as the rulers want.
Peter Phillips — a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored (a media research organization) — says in his recent essay Threshold Fears and Unanswered Questions About 9/11:
A threshold concept facing Americans is the possibility that the 9/11 Commission Report was on many levels a cover-up for the failure of the US government to prevent the tragedy. Deeper past the threshold is the idea that the report failed to address sources of external assistance to the terrorists. Investigations into this area might have lead to a conclusion that elements of various governments — including our own — not only knew about the attacks in advance, but also may have helped facilitate their implementation. The idea that someone in the Government of the United States contributed support to such a horrific attack is inconceivable to many. It is a threshold concept that is so frightening that it brings up a state of mind akin to complete unbelievability.
«It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable.» — Eric Hoffer, 1954, quoted from Mike Lozon's America's fear factor in the Holland Sentinel.