Book Review: Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror (2005)

There probably isn’t a middle ground on Terry Jones’s views of the “war on terror.” You either agree with him or you don’t. Yet even if you do, Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror comes off more as toss off than lasting political commentary.

Jones, whose biggest but not sole claim to fame is as a founding member of Monty Python, leaves no doubt where he stands. He does so using satire to tell the truth as he sees it. Jones riffs on the grammar of the war on terror, insisting that terrorism is an “abstract noun” and that you can’t wage war on a noun or know when a noun has surrendered. He is insistent that what is transpiring in Afghanistan and Iraq was foreshadowed by the Project for New American Century, that George Bush’s policies have done more to inspire terrorism than suppress it, and that Tony Blair is little more than Bush’s lap dog.

Like a Python, he is ready to assume various roles to make his points. For example, writing as the head of “The Humane Society for Putting Bags over Suspects’ Heads,” he analyzes how such a practice makes us feel better and avoids the morning newspaper spoiling our breakfast. His analysis of Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address through the eyes of a Hollywood script writer evaluating it for a blockbuster film on good guys vs. bad guys is also excellent.

Yet the latter displays some of the work’s inherent problem. Each of the 33 essays was initially published in the period from late 2001 through July 2004. Undoubtedly, part of the original power of these pieces was their topicality. Inevitably, a spoof on the 2002 State of the Union address loses some of its sting when read three years later. Moreover, as a collection of pieces written over several years, even the language can be repetitious.

Don’t get me wrong. Jones can make a page drip with pointed sarcasm and his style is such that his condemnation is more than mere ad hominem attacks. I also largely share his viewpoint. Yet when satire is repetitious and somewhat outdated, it loses its punch. Undoubtedly, each piece stood well by itself when initially published. Publishing them as a collection when they a minimum of 12 months old makes them a casualty of Jones’s war on the war on terror.

The reawakening of American democracy is the only hope for a future world that is not ridden by terrorism and global warfare.

Terry Jones, Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror

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