Up the Ante
The 'war on terror' as prosecuted by the present administration might be
more accurately labelled as the 'war to up the ante on terror.' It is a
tenet of Islam that all Muslims must answer the call to arms if Islam itself
is under attack. It is unclear why we found it in our interest to transform
a fight against a private army numbering in the thousands into a war against
one billion Muslims. We had the opportunity, after September the 11th yielded
an outpouring of sympathy and indignation in the Muslim world, to stigmatize
this tactic and marginalize those groups which practice it. Instead we
invaded a country which had nothing to do with 9/11 but happens to be somewhere
in the general vicinity. Our nation faces a very real threat from ruthless
zealots who would destroy us. Instead of meeting this threat, we churn
out photo-ops of U.S. soldiers kicking in people's doors as mom, dad and
the kids cower in the corner. Much as these photos delight Mr. Bush's constituency,
they are tailor-made terrorist recruitment posters. The result as shown
in public opinion polls:
"While most Arabs speak favorably on such topics as America's democratic and educational
systems, they're virtually united in condemnation of the US invasion of Iraq. The Zogby poll found no more
than 4 percent support for the war."
(Christian Science Monitor, September 02, 2004, Dan Murphy, 'US standing with Arabs hits a low.')
One might say you can't pay for public relations like this, except you
can pay: billions and billions, enough to bankrupt generations to come...
The War Against Dive Bombing
Imagine what would have happened had this crew been in office for Pearl Harbor. If we had targeted our counter-attack
against the means employed by the Japanese in their attack, we would have proclaimed a 'War
Against Dive Bombing,' and proceeded to invade England, which also employed
dive-bombing. We would then have agonized over the lack of progress in
our 'War Against Dive Bombing,' as the tactic of fighting simultaneously
two mortal enemies failed to achieve victory. But in those days we were
governed rationally, so we counter-attacked against the people who attacked
us, their allies and ideological partners, an approach by which it is possible
to achieve victory.
In fact this approach,-- to fight against the tactic, whoever employs it
and for whatever ends,-- is so irrational that I don't believe it has been
entertained for other than public consumption. After 9/11, the public demanded
a war against those who had brought down the twin towers. Mr. Bush wanted
a war, not against those who had brought down the twin towers, but against
his father's old adversary, Saddam Hussein. The remedy found by this administration
was bait-and-switch, by means of the 'War Against Terror.' Iraq was not
allied with the Islamic fundamentalists who brought down the twin towers
nor was it in sympathy with their program; Iraq was, however, listed on
the State Department's terrorism list. This was how the public was induced
to accept the war Mr. Bush wanted in place of the war they wanted.
Germany in the 30's
The present epoch in American history is reminiscent of the 1930's in Germany. A public disgusted and appalled at
the blood left on the pavement by terrorist atrocities adopts as the course of safety a roll-back of domestic liberties
and a program of military aggression abroad. There is no safety down this road, but that part of the story has yet to unfold.
Like contemporary Americans, the Germans of the 1930's saw themselves as
a virtuous people because they remembered a virtuous past for their country.
Any who drew back from the criminal course upon which the nation's leaders
proposed to embark were accused of dishonoring these ancestors...who had
not been criminals. If these same virtuous ancestors, in horror at the
crimes committed in their name, struggled with might and main to lift themselves
out of the grave, they fell helplessly and lifelessly back, as the criminals
went right on committing crimes in the name of honest men.
The Germans of the 1930's were not green-eyed monsters, but people like us. Like George W. Bush, Adolf Hitler
charted a new course for his country. One cannot cloak oneself in the virtues of one's ancestors if one does
not do as they did. America never used to be a military aggressor nor a colonial master; but that was then, this is now.
Like most nations, Germany never enjoyed the luxury of oceans on either
side. If America's oceans have ceased their long service as moats, this
only places our country in the same situation as other nations of the world.
On Germany's borders were perched hostile or potentially hostile neighbors.
Were Germany to invade Poland and install a friendly client regime, this
would undoubtedly enhance German national security, because an invader
from the east would need to traverse Poland. This is 'pre-emption.' But
how can Germany's national security needs possibly trump the legitimate
national aspirations of the Polish people? Don't the Poles have rights, too?
The terrorists who bedeviled Germany in the 30's were Bolsheviks and anarchists,
not Islamic fundamentalists. By transforming their democracy into a police
state, the Germans did reduce this threat. It's strange that while, domestically,
the Bush administration makes America less of a democracy and more of a
police state to combat terrorism, their anti-terror prescription for the
Middle East is to tear down police states in favor of democracy. Establishing
democracy by force is a contradiction in terms; it remains to be seen whether
a fatal contradiction. Combating terrorism is an arena in which police
states shine. Eye-balled by an informer on every street-corner, terrorists
cannot operate, but in an open society, a Ted Kaczynski or a Timothy McVeigh
can go about their business, purchasing what they need without anyone noticing.
The Bush administration also prescribes prosperity as cure for terror,
though the fabulously wealthy Osama bin Laden encountered no difficulty
in recruiting the 9/11 hijackers from affluent Saudi Arabia.
Sons of liberty, who know that liberty is worth dying for, also know that it is worth enduring risks for. Craven
disloyalty seeks to purchase security by trading away freedom. Freedom and democracy are goods in themselves, not good
because they stop terror, which they seem not to do. The European democracies endure domestic terror problems. Democratic
Japan suffered a nerve gas attack by a home-grown religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Forced democratization cannot be
the answer to mideast terror.
Again, the Germans did not know what they were capable of until they tried the experiment. Atrocities happen when
soldiers operate in the midst of a hostile populace, such as at My Lai, South Vietnam. The soldiers see their friends die
and know the locals could stop it if they cared. The Bush administration tells us that evil people like Saddam do such things
and good people do not. In Mr. Bush's ethics, the good people are then set free to do the very same things which the evil people
did to earn themselves the label 'evil,' because, you see, they are good and not evil.
But people are people, and we have placed our soldiers on the street where
only about a third of the Arab populace supports them. The result: "'Day
by day I dislike these people more and more.'" (Testimony by U.S.
soldier, quoted in 'Soldiers' Testimony Raises Questions Over U.S. Report,'
Thursday, March 25, 2004 7:26 a.m. ET, by Andrew Marshall.) Already U.S.
troops in Iraq have reportedly fired upon unarmed demonstrators, though
a public callused into brutality by 9/11 does not care. How long will it
take before such an incident is caught on videotape, with the whole world watching?
The best prevention is to forego military aggression. Foreign troops policing
a sullen local populace is a combustible mix. The Germans found this out
the hard way, why can we not learn from their experience instead of replicating it?
Update: the inevitable has happened, with the lurid photo-show from Abu Ghraib finally catching the eye of a jaded American
public. This is a new low: to my knowledge, not even the Nazis sexually humiliated helpless prisoners. How did it happen? Anyone
with a passing awareness of popular culture cannot be unaware that a sizeable market share of American youth have the personal
morals of farm animals; TV shows like 'Friends' depict this behavior as natural and fun. Take young people steeped in such a
culture and put them in a position of absolute power over other human beings, in a lawless environment where their President
jokes about the extra-judicial murder of 'terrorists,' and the results set a new low standard for occupying armies.
Best Laid Plans
After invading Iraq, the Bush Administration succeeded in creating a public
climate in which any discussion of the morality of invading other nations
was portrayed as an attack upon the personal integrity of our soldier
boys. In consequence there sprang up a public debate which focused not
on the right or wrong of invading other people's countries, but on...planning.
It is as though after invading Poland, the Germans had pondered whether,
if they'd nailed down the details more precisely, the Poles would have
looked happier. Cortes himself could scarcely have plotted our blitzkrieg
through Iraq any more rapidly; the glum faces on the inhabitants of occupied
lands are a sad fact of life to which aggressors must resign themselves.
They cannot be eliminated by 'planning.' One hopes the administration does
not launch a 'war on crime' next, or they'll be explaining how, by better
planning, muggers can ensure happier and more contented victims.
One must concede wishful thinking: "But part of our plans said, you
know, they'll surrender like they did in the first Gulf War." (Jay
Garner, quoted p. 2A, Portland Press Herald, November 27, 2003). But in
the first Gulf War the Iraqis played the American role this time; they
were invading foreign soil, not defending home and hearth. And this is
what soldiers fight for: not Bush, not Clinton, not Roosevelt, not a hated
dictator, but their country. Is it possible that we pay as much as we do
in taxes to accept delivery on this war 'plan'?: 'The other side will just give up.'
As the twentieth century amply demonstrated, colonialism is unpopular. Plan it never so well, with British precision
even, and it will still be unpopular. Suggestions made by the Proper Planning Contingent include: more soldiers. Certainly
had the U.S. ever taken seriously its obligation, as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention, to provide law and order
to its subject populace, it would have committed more troops at the outset. But remember, they were supposed to greet us by
dancing in the streets. How many troops do you need to police a street party? Committing more troops would have stuffed a sock
in the mouths of the 'dancing in the street' voices, politically needed to win the acquiescence of that portion of the American
public which still wants to do the right thing. Another suggestion: don't disband Saddam's army. But our present, hand-picked,
Iraqi army displays doubtful loyalty; would Saddam's army have been any other than a hot-bed of subversion?
After the first Gulf War, the conventional wisdom took hold amongst the
Rush Limbaugh crowd that we should have gone on to Baghdad and 'taken out'
Saddam. Had we done so in real life, we'd have landed in much the same
quagmire as we now find ourselves; but an imaginary war costs nothing.
No doubt this consensus facilitated the younger Bush's transforming his
personal hatred into an American war. One cannot fail to notice this hatred,
in the unholy glee with which Mr. Bush describes Saddam's submission to
an examination for head lice, evidently the depths of humiliation in this
prissy little person's eyes. This hatred is so blinding that the human
life he must expend to satiate it counts for nothing in his eyes.
- "'F___ Saddam. we're taking him out.' Those were the words of President
George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security
Adviser Condoleezza Rice...The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile."
- (First Stop, Iraq, by Michael Elliott and James Carney, March 24, 2003, CNN.com).
Contrast Mr. Bush's obvious hatred for Saddam with his unfeigned indifference toward Osama bin Laden -- at one point he even said
he was not concerned about him, even though Mr. bin Laden murdered three thousand of Mr. Bush's fellow citizens. Whether this personal
hatred arose from an Oedipal agenda of showing he's tougher than his Dad, or loyalty to his Dad who was once targeted by Saddam's
assassins, or by the bigot's inability to get through life without a scape-goat on whom to project all evil, the dangerous illusions
of the arm-chair generals facilitated its expression, at the cost so far of one thousand American lives. It would be a shame if
a similar illusion took hold this time, with the American public left believing that we really can get away with invading a hostile
third world country and installing an American governing proconsul, provided only that we a.) do not disband the army, or b.)
commit an extra 100,000 troops, or whatever bright idea comes to mind. It's intrinsic in the nature of military aggression
that its victims resent it.
Weakness Invites Aggression
History reveals that weakness invites aggression. The murderer who brought
down the World Trade Center is Osama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein. This
man still enjoys his liberty. His number one stated concern was the presence
of American troops on 'sacred' Saudi soil. Under what shocking conditions
were those troops sent to serve by Bush Sr., a man who himself claims to be a Christian?:
"Saudi Arabia does not permit the worship of any faith except Islam
on its own soil. The prohibition was not officially suspended even during
the Gulf war. Although Americans were preparing to fight, and perhaps die,
for Saudi Arabia, they were not permitted to post pictures of Jesus, Moses,
Abraham, or, for some reason, Adam and Eve. According to instructions from
the U.S. Army distributed over Christmas shortly before the war, American
soldiers were not allowed to display crosses, Jewish stars, or any other
non-Islamic religious symbols. They were not permitted to hold Christian
or Jewish services on Saudi soil. They were even ordered not to play Christmas
carols unless they were instrumental. 'Jingle Bells' was 'acceptable,'
the leaflet said." (Judith Miller, God has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 491)
One cannot help but be struck at the message this sends to a religiously-motivated
adversary. While Christianity is a religion of the heart, there are many
overt actions that go along with its practice, such as communion, ordered
by the Lord Himself: "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake
it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you:
this do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19). But this was forbidden to our soldiers serving in
Saudi Arabia. Unlike Muslims, Christians are not permitted to dissemble
in the face of persecution: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me
before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my
Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32-33).
While the Koran also tells the Christmas story, the forbidden Christmas
carols uphold the deity of Jesus Christ:
Christian martyrs in the past have died rather than renounce their faith.
No tyrant could stop their singing praises to the incarnate Lord. A religiously-motivated
adversary like the Saudi bin Laden cannot have concluded any other from
this disgraceful chapter in American history than that those Americans
who identify themselves as 'Christian' are no more than nominal adherents
who will cheerfully deny their faith if instructed to do so by their Commander
in Chief. It is unclear, incidentally, how this state of affairs co-existed
with a Bill of Rights that requires the U.S. government to respect the
free exercise of religion on the part of its citizenry.
The Bush Administration's incisive analysis of world affairs revolves around identifying other world leaders as 'madmen.'
Should further clarification be desired, it is explained that they are 'evil.' Meanwhile these same 'madmen' cannot understand
why the United States consistently supports those who would destroy it:
"The bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, he said, was a
bad omen for American. The Islamists' militancy 'is coming home to destroy the country that adopted them.'...'But what did
you expect? You funded Islamic militants in Afghanistan and all over the world and then were surprised
when they turned on you,' he [Muammar Qaddafi] said, shaking his head sadly.
'You brought it on yourselves.' (Judith Miller, God has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 239)
Qaddafi's claim is, not madness, but the astonishing truth: the Reagan
administration did indeed fund the same Islamic extremists who, having
brought down one superpower, have now turned their attention to the other.
Another 'madman' who doesn't 'get it':
"In Hussein's view, the U.S. priority in the region was to ensure
that Iran's Islamic Revolution did not spread to other nations and give
radical Shiite clerics a chokehold on global oil supplies." (Through
Hussein's Looking Glass, LA Times, Bob Drogin, Tuesday, October 12, 2004).
Saddam, a secular leftist, must be bewildered that the United States "counter-attacked"
against his nation after an assault on the American homeland by Islamic
fundamentalists. The Baath party, one of whose founders was a Greek Orthodox
Christian, is not an Islamic party but determinedly secular. While leftists
like Qaddafi and Hussein may once have represented a threat to America
as part of the Soviet bloc, the collapse of their patron leaves them as
feeble threats indeed. During his decades as tyrant, Saddam could have
imposed Sharia at any time, had he believed in it. The 'madman' Saddam
must wonder why his secular nation was made to pay the toll for acts committed
by Islamic extremists. Why was Saddam demonized as a butcher for having
killed Moqtada al-Sadr's father, while we do all in our power to kill the
son? One cannot expect a 'madman' to understand such things...or perhaps only a 'madman' can.
"Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?
For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself
is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit
together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law
agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases
to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of
cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a
kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by
the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that
was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate
who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant
by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride,
'What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with
a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great
fleet are styled emperor.'" (Augustine, City of God, Book IV, Chapter 4).
Gazing over the whole canvas of U.S. relations with the Middle East, from
our active support of tyrants like the Shah of Iran and the Saudi royal
family over and against their pro-democracy domestic opponents, to our
latest proclamation of a pro-democracy crusade propelled by armed invasion,
one searches for a common thread. Why have we promoted both autocracy and
democracy, two forms of government at opposite ends of the spectrum? One
cannot help but notice our insatiable thirst for oil. It is not our oil.
This war began with grandiose neoconservative plans to 'privatize' Iraq's
socialist economy. Socialism failed, and it fell because it failed; other
socialist economies have voluntarily undergone privatization. Our brave
new world dawns upon the first socialist economy privatized via foreign
conquest. Depending on who sets the rules, the privatization of a socialist
economy can mean windfall profits for those politically well-connected.
Like Vikings planning a raid, those who first proposed this war meant it
as a bonanza for the U.S. oil industry. Had this war gone according to
plan, it would have brought in its train a return to the pre-1970's oil
economy, with American corporations controlling a stake in the pool of
oil that sits under the mideast. The Geneva Convention outlaws an occupying
power's sale of state assets; but to judge from published reports, the
law was no hindrance to this crew. However, continuing violence rendered
the assets unsaleable.
If we invade another nation in order to maintain our 'standard of living,'
how do we differ from any common mugger or bank robber, who kills in order
to maintain his standard of living? God has spoken on this matter: "Thou
shalt not steal." (Exodus 20:15).
Is it greed which motivates Mr. Bush personally? Although he rose to public
prominence on a tide of Enron cash, he seems not to remember his old friends.
Does he remember the Saudi patrons who have been so lavishly generous to
his family? To be truly corrupt, one must also be grateful; is the amoral
Mr. Bush capable of gratitude? Nevertheless, no objective history of U.S.
policy in the region can account for our embrace of the Saudi royal family
without mentioning 'oil,' and it was our embrace of the Saudi royal family
which set us at enmity with Iraq in the first place. Christian voters should
understand, even if others do not, that killing people to take their stuff
is not right.