CLONING TERROR: THE WAR OF IMAGES, 9/11 to the Present
Cloning, like terrorism, is an iconic concept, loaded with ideological and mythic connotations. It is not merely an abstract or technical idea, but conjures up associations with abortion, test-tube babies, reproduction without sex or sexual difference, Nazi eugenics, and the commodification of organs and organ donors. It has the ability, then, to mobilize deep antipathy across the political spectrum, arousing both secular anxieties about “unnatural” processes and religious taboos on “playing god” with the creation and destruction of life. The figure of the clone has become synonymous with images of mutants, replicants, cyborgs, and mindless, soulless masses of identical warriors, ready to sacrifice themselves in suicide missions. What might be called “clonophobia” embraces a host of anxieties, from the specter of the uncanny double and the evil twin to the more generalized fear of the loss of individual identity.
If the so-called War on Terror was the dominant foreign policy melody of the Bush era, then, what could have been called the “Clone Wars” provided the baseline foundation for domestic policy. The war on terror united the faith-based community with a larger popular majority traumatized by the attacks of 9/11. Meanwhile, the stem cell issue fortified the faith-based community’s hostility toward science, especially the sciences concerned with life and reproduction, and coupled it with suspicions on the left about the commodification of life forms by technology. Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political advisor, made cloning the signature issue of the first year of Bush’s presidency. From a political standpoint, however, the shift from cloning to terror was the greatest good fortune the Bush administration could have wished for. Instead of fighting an indecisive battle over bioethics, it drew the winning hand in a holy war on terrorism. While cloning is debatable, a matter for serious ethical reflection, almost no one is willing to take the side of terrorism.