Fighting terrorism: President Simple at the wheel
Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2006
News bulletin: Israel is a foreign country. Foreign countries have their own interests, which aren’t necessarily those of the United States. It’s not our obligation to fight their battles, particularly when their actions are brutal, rash and foolhardy, and appear calculated to force a wider war that’s definitely no good for Americans, nor, ultimately, for Israelis. Which is not to indicate sympathy for the tactics of Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that scarcely existed until Israel’s abortive 1982 invasion “radicalized” the beaten-down Lebanese peasants on the Israeli border, nor of Hamas, its Sunni counterpart in Gaza. Terrorist strikes against Israeli civilians are morally abhorrent and politically stupid, engendering contempt and rage.
So are bombing strikes against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, like those Israel’s been conducting with great ferocity. Advocates for both sides claim the imprimatur of almighty God, whom fanatics often invoke when killing children.
In his oft-quoted essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell argued that political speech had become corrupted because it was “largely the defense of the indefensible.... [V ] illages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: This is called pacification.”
Today it’s called “fighting terrorism.”
The Israelis claim they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties. Evidently, they’re quite bad at it, because for all the publicity given what their enemies call “martyrdom operations,” Palestinian deaths outnumber Israeli deaths by more than 10-to-1.
It used to be more like 20-to-1, but as Hezbollah’s successful raid on an Israeli army outpost showed, the militias are getting ever more “professional.” Ironically, attacks on purely military targets started the latest round of reciprocal atrocities in Gaza, Lebanon and Israel.
These facts contradict Israeli hardliners’ perennial claim that only massive retaliation can end terrorism. In reality, it sows hatred like dragon’s teeth. True, many Lebanese, Christians particularly, blame Hezbollah for giving Israel a pretext to demolish Beirut again. But they also think that the Israelis welcome excuses to kill Arabs. It’s hard to distinguish among Lebanon’s many ethnic and religious groups from 20,000 feet.
Remember the “Cedar Revolution”? How long ago were Bush loyalists enjoining us to hail the advent of democracy in Lebanon? Now we’re to applaud its destruction. Many of the same neo-conservative thinkers who sold President Simple on bringing democracy to Iraq now envision an even more grandiose project.
Writing in The Weekly Standard, the neo-conservative house organ, editor
William Kristol argues, “It’s Our War.”
“While Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. The right response is renewed strength—in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.”
Ah, regime change! How’s that going in Iraq? In Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, masked attackers with machine guns mounted on pickups massacred more than 40 civilians at a crowded street market.
“They did not spare anyone,” an Iraqi policeman told The Washington Post. “Not the children. Not the elderly. The Iraqi army did not interfere.”
Neither did the American Army, which many Iraqis reportedly now bitterly call “the Jews.” U.S. commanders said they refrained from acting because Mahmudiyah is the responsibility of Iraqi forces, which requested no backup, allowing lunatics with machine guns to move about at will. The Post also reported that 628 people were killed in Baghdad last week, “a figure that far exceeded the numbers previously suggested by news reports.”
Since President Simple is famously averse to reading, somebody ought to put a world map in front of him before he signs off on World War III.
After all, a map’s a kind of picture. Check out your own Mercator projection: Attacking Syria and Iran would put the U.S. in the position of simultaneously fighting every nation between the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and the Himalayas.
To be blunt, that would be simply insane. The anvil, metaphorically speaking, would eventually break the hammer. If this crisis teaches us nothing else, it should be that our president is being advised by crazy people. As an Irish-American, it occurs to me that relative peace came to Northern Ireland only after most people on both sides of the border came to realize that the Irish Republican Army had become a Mafia style protection racket, while Rev. Ian Paisley’s Protestant followers were the moral equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan. The Arab-Israeli dispute is far more complicated and dangerous, but its essence is similar: two peoples claiming the same land; both right, both wrong; each captive to fanaticism, neither capable of getting all it wants, the very definition of tragedy. Americans have countenanced Israeli extremism far too long.
Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."