The Salt Lake Tribune published an amazing piece of journalism on Oct. 5. It was amazing in the way it revealed the sheer apathy, indifference and head-in-the-cloud attitude of most university and college students across the state of Utah.
Once the world standard of astute political knowledge and ready-at-a-moment’s-notice activism, American university students have largely become zombies moving from class to class. The threat of terrorism in our time and on our soil? A Middle East war that, unless we add more U.S. troops to the mix, will slowly sink into the quicksand of quagmire? “Most of our students don’t care,” one Logan student was quoted.
But this is hardly a secret. Granted, the 1960s and early 1970s produced student activists oftentimes more naÃ¯ve and needlessly belligerent than they were clear-eyed and impassioned. Granted, I wasn’t exactly an exemplar of political activism myself during some pretty hazy days of my own at the University of Utah. But I always voted. And I fondly recall the sight of rundown shanties near the Olpin Union, built by students who gradually persuaded the school’s trustees to divest from corporations doing business in apartheid South Africa.
Let’s not be so hard on students, though. Most of us as citizens in a free country can’t be bothered to get our facts straight in the War on Terror. After all, just look at the sorry state of information digested by our trusted leaders. The ingeniously implied assertion that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks has been repeated ad nauseum. But the bipartisan 9/11 Commission report in July dispelled ironclad assertions by the Bush administration that Saddam had any “collaborative operational relationship” with al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Even our president seemed to admit this, begrudgingly, in his debate with Sen. John Kerry.
“Saddam Hussein did not attack us, Osama bin Laden attacked us,” Kerry said. To which Bush replied, “Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.” But does he really? Then why are the 9/11 attacks and Iraq continually joined at the hip whenever Vice President Cheney or Bush lecture us on the state of world affairs? They’ve done a great sales job. Recently, two-thirds of Americans believed there was a direct link between 9/11 and Saddam. Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald showed that, among those who watch Fox News, 35 percent believe WMDs were found after invading Iraq.
When political leaders blur the best available evidence, of course they get small stuff wrong. Take, for example, Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head-chopper now in Iraq. Bush insists this man’s connected with al-Qaeda. But Abu Musab has his own cabal, Tawhid. And German intelligence officers who’ve interrogated Tawhid members were told that Abu Musab formed his group, according to a BBC report, “for Jordanians who did not want to join al-Qaeda.”
Whether Tawhid or al-Qaeda, both are terrorist groups. But if politicians can fudge details, just imagine how they can manipulate whole facts. Come to think of it, they already have. And apathy, whether by university students or others, is the canvas on which they draw their false pictures.