Monday, July 04, 2005
Speaking of "The Rest of the Story"...
Can't sleep because some neighbors are firing off what sounds like Stalin Organs in order to celebrate the Glorious Fourth, so I decided to do a quick post. First off, Charles can't be Eeyore. I know this, because I married Eeyore and Eeyore is not Charles. That being said, Charles is right about the depressing nature of the news lately. The most depressing thing is that the most important news gets shunted aside in favor of sharks attacking cute blonde white women or some such. For example: Remember the chopper crash in Afghanistan? A helicopter sent in to rescue some US troops was itself the victim of anti-aircraft fire? Sixteen American troops died in the crash. Everyone knows those facts. But what they likely don't know -- because until I saw this story, the fact in question was either not mentioned or shoehorned in on the very last paragraph of a typical story thereon -- is that seventeen Afghan civilians died during a US air attack connected with that downed chopper. This news will not surprise those folk who remember the story from last September on how the US forces in Iraq are killing twice as many civilians as are the insurgents. If anyone wonders how or why the Afghanis and the Iraqis hate us more than the insurgents, here's a big reason why.
There are disturbing indications that one goal of American operations is to terrorize civilians. There are two ways in which this can occur: as a leadership failure at the unit level, in which a commander allows soldiers to vent their emotions on civilians or as a matter of high-level policy.
The former often is directed at villagers suspected of hiding fighters. But if you turn the situation around, what would any American do if our country was occupied and a son or a brother joined the resistance? Even if one disliked the resistance, it would be hard to deny a son or a brother food and shelter. Attacking such people will only push them into the arms of the resistance. As long as these are isolated instances, they will eventually be forgiven.
The latter is called the El Salvador option. It involves deliberately terrorizing civilian populations through the use of death squads and torture. The point is to inject so many nightmares into the heads of the entire population that the entire nation becomes incapacitated and incapable of resistance.
But the people who engineered this sort of strategy, the John Negropontes of the world, did not foresee that people can become so angry that their only goal in life is to injure you. The El Salvador option "works," in the sense of creating devastated, quiescent nations, only among the gentle, life-loving Indians of Central America. In the honor-conscious Arab world, it creates an endless supply of suicide bombers, for whom death becomes the only escape from a hell of shame.
We helped to turn Afghanistan into a reservoir of such people, while escaping much of the blame. But Afghanistan was small and backward, unable to hurt the United States except by denying a pipeline route. It took an outsider, bin Laden, to use that rage. If we succeed in turning Iraq into an Afghanstan, and with the blame clearly ours, George Bush may well get the war whose end we never see.
It didn't have to be. As I wrote only weeks after the attacks of 9/11, if we went into the "war on terror" with a determination to do justice and not merely extract revenge, we could have accomplished much good. On 9/11, we were the aggrieved party. These were senseless murders, almost entirely of civilians, few of which had any role at all in US policy in Palestine or the American presence is Saudi Arabia.
We have "paid back" "the Arabs" or "the Muslims" (but not those who did the attack) a hundred fold. When is vengeance enough? When does it become an affront to God and mankind?
More blogs about politics.