Thursday, August 21, 2003
Blame America First: It's a rare day when a New York Times op-ed columnist is outdone by one here at the San Diego Union-Tribune, but James Goldsborough has accomplished this difficult mission.
I read the Times' Bob Herbert column last night, knowing well that I would get another quagmire diatribe because of this week's terrorist bombing of the U.N. compound. Herbert doesn't disappoint, quoting unnamed U.N. diplomats blaming -- America First!
At the United Nations yesterday, grieving diplomats spoke bitterly, but not for attribution, about the U.S.-led invasion and occupation. They said it has not only resulted in the violent deaths of close and highly respected colleagues, but has also galvanized the most radical elements of Islam.
"This is a dream for the jihad," said one high-ranking U.N. official. "The resistance will only grow. The American occupation is now the focal point, drawing people from all over Islam into an eye-to-eye confrontation with the hated Americans.
"It is very propitious for the terrorists," he said. "The U.S. is now on the soil of an Arab country, a Muslim country, where the terrorists have all the advantages. They are fighting in a terrain which they know and the U.S. does not know, with cultural images the U.S. does not understand, and with a language the American soldiers do not speak. The troops can't even read the street signs."
Of course, this is a denial of the facts -- something which should be expected by the U.N. and its mindless bureaucrats.
If the "resistance" is growing, why are these attacks only taking place in the "Sunni triangle?" As was reported in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, the public in the southern part of the country don't see this as an occupation. They only ones resorting to attacks and this type of terrorism are Islamic terrorists (Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda) and Baathists who no longer have their privileged status.
As far as the "terrorists having all the advantages" goes, well, that doesn't stand up to the laugh test. The Iraqi Army had "all the advantages" too, and that got them... oh, yeah, their butts kicked. American forces have superior firepower and superior training. Those are the biggest advantages.
The American people still do not have a clear understanding of why we are in Iraq. And the troops don't have a clear understanding of their mission. We're fighting a guerrilla war, which the bright lights at the Pentagon never saw coming, with conventional forces.
Well, the readership of American newspapers has been declining for years, so maybe that explains why the "American people" and the "troops" don't understand why they're there -- if that is actually true -- which it isn't.
Beefing up the American occupation is not the answer to the problem. The American occupation is the problem. The occupation is perceived by ordinary Iraqis as a confrontation and a humiliation, and by terrorists and other bad actors as an opportunity to be gleefully exploited.
So sayeth Mr. Herbert, from his New York office. You'd think that someone who writes for a newspaper would read one every once in awhile. Once again, I reference the aforementioned Journal article for evidence of how "ordinary Iraqis" perceive the situation.
And it gets worse: James O. Goldsborough's column is notable because he almost makes Herbert seem reasonable by comparison.
What terrible irony that the United Nations, which stood so steadfastly against George W. Bush's war, should be the target of Tuesday's suicide attack in Baghdad. Turning on your defender is an act of total desperation.
In a war that makes no sense, targeting Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. mission leader in Iraq, is like targeting Mother Theresa. A man of great humanity, he was in Iraq to help save the situation into which Bush has placed our nation. To the bombers, however, he was just one more faceless symbol of foreign occupation.
Your "defender?" Yes, this is the same U.N. that won't open the books of its vaunted "oil for food" program to public scrutiny. The same U.N. that allowed Saddam Hussein to build palace after palace under U.N. sanctions while his countrymen died from a lack of food and medicine.
Certainly the bombers attacked the U.N. compound because it was a soft target and because there were foreigners there. What Goldsborough fails to understand is Islamist terrorists don't care if you're a Westerner working with the U.N. on humanitarian needs or an American -- you're not a Muslim so you should be dead.
As several U.S. and British reports have indicated recently, Bush's war will inevitably lead to an increase in worldwide terrorism. It has animated and coalesced terror groups, drawing them into Iraq as they once went into Afghanistan.
Reports where? The Nation? This sort of statement presupposes that had the U.S. just accepted 9/11 and done nothing in response then terrorism would have declined. A laughable assertion. The only ways to reduce terrorism around the world is to kill the terrorists and institute regime change in nations that harbor and support them.
This problem, of course, is precisely what the U.N. Security Council worried about. However much Bush's advisers may have disliked Saddam Hussein, war and occupation were always likely to create more problems than they solved.
The Bush administration has lost all sense of reality about Iraq. This is perhaps human nature: One tries to defend bad choices by plunging in deeper – what's called "averaging down" on Wall Street and "doubling up" in gambling. The "Charge of the Light Brigade" mentality is strong among decision-makers back in London or Washington.
We're still in the middle of this, but it's interesting that Goldsborough has already done his pro/con list and found the cons heavily outweighing the pros. It would be interesting to see this list and determine how thorough Goldsborough's work is.
Examine Bush's use of the word "terrorists" to describe those attacking U.S. forces. What makes people opposing occupation of their land terrorists? Was French, Yugoslav and Greek resistance to Nazi occupation terrorism? Was Native American resistance to white "manifest destiny" terrorism? Is Palestinian resistance to Israeli settlements on the West Bank terrorism? When defeated fighters take up other means to oppose the occupier, do they become terrorists? Who are the terrorists in such situations?
Terrorism is sometimes defined as war against civilians, but what if the civilians are illegal settlers? War should be fought only by professional armies, but scorched earth tactics are common to every war.
Here's where Goldsborough starts to get disgusting -- and stupid. Does the top foreign-affairs columnist for the Union-Tribune really need someone to explain to him the difference between Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and America today?
Goldsborough has also bought into the Reuters construction that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Hamas and Islamic Jihad are perfectly justified in killing children on buses returning from Jewish holy sites. This sort of moral equivalency is not only flawed -- but insane. One wonders if Goldsborough believes that Israel has a right to exist, since that is exactly what these Palestinian terrorists aim to undo.
We learned recently from the Union-Tribune's James Crawley that the U.S. military used chemical weapons (napalm-type) against Iraq in a war fought putatively to deprive Iraq of chemical weapons that may not exist. Who is the terrorist?
Goldsborough attempts to stretch the language here to pint the U.S. as evil for using incendiary weapons. Yes, the napalm-like munitions use chemicals -- but they don't use chemicals to kill -- they use fire. That's akin to saying that Hellfire or Maverick Air-to-Ground missiles are chemical weapons because they contain rocket-fuel chemicals. A very lame argument.
Bush has us in a no-win situation, and no fiddling with words will make things better. This war was conceived by those in the administration who believe it is America's job to remake the Middle East according to their design, and such projects have no record of success in our time. To compare Iraq to postwar Germany or Japan is absurd. Bush's war is imperialism by another name, and the distinction is lost on Iraqis.
It's "imperialism by another name?" Then it's not really imperialism then is it? We have no desire to occupy Iraq for a moment more than is necessary. We don't want to "steal" Iraq's oil or any other natural resources. What we want is a stable democracy that doesn't threaten its neighbors, doesn't torture and kill its own people, doesn't require American and British pilots patrolling "no-fly" zones in perpetuity, and doesn't support international terrorism.
Why is comparing Iraq to postwar Germany or Japan absurd? Is it because Arabs are a lesser intellect than Germans or Japanese? Why exactly can they not be given the opportunity to create a functioning democracy? Goldsborough would probably hate this, but it sounds something like the "soft bigotry of low-expectations."
After some reference to historical parallels which may not be accurate or appropriate, Goldsborough comes up with this laugher:
What makes our times different is the United Nations. We must establish rules, said the World War II victors, led by the United States. We will create a Security Council which alone will have the authority to make war. When a nation starts a war of aggression, the council will act to stop it.
It hasn't worked that way in practice because council nations tend to be the major aggressors, but at least the U.N. Charter provides a benchmark for war legitimacy. The council overwhelmingly believed Bush's war was illegitimate and would make a more dangerous world, and so it has.
Follow the logic, we should depend on the United Nations to take care of these things because that was what it was designed to do even though it never really quite worked.
If the U.N. Charter provides a benchmark for war legitimacy -- then it's a pretty poor one. This is the same group that has Syria and Cuba on its human-rights commission. I'll reference once more this graphic, created before the war:
The United Nations is in an awkward situation. Iraq is not Kosovo where the council helped stop the fighting and create the peace. In Iraq, America brought the fighting and ruined the peace.
A "peace" where ordinary Iraqis, including children, are murdered en masse? A "peace" requiring U.S. pilots to brave anti-aircraft fire daily to protect Kurds and Shiite Muslims from their own government? A "peace" requiring us to turn a blind-eye to Saudi perfidy? That's some "peace."
The council knows after Tuesday's bombing that even if Bush agreed to hand over authority in Iraq to the council, as in Kosovo, which he won't, U.N. troops would be no safer from attack than Americans.
Which is evidence that "occupation" is not what this is about -- it's about Islamic terrorists who want to kill non-Muslims -- whoever they may be.
America is engaged in a futile process, which anyone with a sense of history could foresee. Our authority is resented, and anyone we elevate alongside us will become an equal target. Our forces live behind walls and wear armor outside them. We are an occupying army attempting to foist our ideas and ways on an ancient people known for its xenophobia.
We should not be surprised that the situation is unraveling.
And a comparison of Iraq to WWII Imperial Japan is "absurd?" Goldsborough just described postwar Japan perfectly. Well, I guess consistency is the Hobgoblin of little minds.