Monday, June 12, 2006

Winning More Hearts and Minds

Today in the Washington Post is a frightening and sobering article whose importance cannot be overestimated.  It discusses the broader blowback of Bush's War on Decency Iraq.


That Bush has inflamed tensions across the region is something we already knew.  That Bush's needlessly exploitative and stupidly aggressive policies have inflamed anger in the Middle East is something we already knew.


But needless overaggression in not exactly new in the American history of American warfare: one has only to look at the bombing of Dresden, or the dropping of the Bomb on Nagasaki, or the use of napalm in Vietnam to see this.  But in previous instances, at least, we pounded away at our "enemies", disrupting them, pounding them into submission, or at least slowing their advance.


In Iraq, however, Bush has created nothing less than the most effective terrorist training ground--exporting its graduates throughout the Middle East and all across the globe--since, well, Afghanistan.  Which is, of course, what this whole War was supposedly all about.

This particular article deals mostly, however, with Lebanon.  As the article states,


The war in Iraq has generated some of the most startling images in the Middle East today: a dictator's fall, elections in defiance of insurgent threats and carnage on a scale rarely witnessed. Less visibly, though, the war is building a profound legacy across the Arab world: fear and suspicion over Iraq's repercussions, a generation that casts the Bush administration's policy as an unquestioned war on Islam, and a subterranean reserve of men who, like Abu Haritha, declare that the fight against the United States in Iraq is a model for the future.


Yes, a model for the future.  Bush told "the terrorists" to "Bring It On", and then dismantled any coherent plan for winning the peace in the most bungled social experiment of conservative nation-building philosophy the world has ever seen.  Iraq has now generated a model for everyone who despises America and/or its foreign policy to "bring it on" in the future.  I, for one, am extremely glad that the Strong Daddy president is keeping me so safe.


And why are they "bringing it on"?  In talking about one of the foreign fighters, the article goes on:


Others at the time were similarly moved to act. Nadim Khudr, a 26-year-old barber, became so angry watching al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya television that he joined five neighbors from his hardscrabble village of Birayil, in the mountainous region of Akkar, above Tripoli. He was captured near Kirkuk, then lost both his legs when he stumbled on an unexploded cluster bomb at a U.S. prison camp in southern Iraq. Another man, who called himself Abu Jad, said he went to defend Arabs and Muslims, but he still shudders at memories of dogs eating corpses in the streets. He returned home soon after Baghdad fell.


Abu Haritha decided to stay in Iraq.


Hmmm...unexploded cluster bombs at prison camps.  Dogs eating corpses in the street.  You know what?  Bush is right.  When Iraq's fledgling democracy joins the world stage some 20 years from now due to Bush's visionary move, I'm certain that the people who lived through such things will forgive and forget.  There's no possible way that hatred for the United States would be seared deep into their consciousness until the day they die.  Not a chance!  But I digress.  After skipping a bit, we get more:


At a cafe in the old city of Tripoli last week, Bilal Shaaban, the leader of the Islamic Unity Movement, a Sunni group, reclined on a sofa. Overhead was a television showing al-Jazeera's coverage of Zarqawi's death. Outside the cafe was a city reflecting the very real currents of militancy, generated by the Iraq war, that are reshaping political and social life.


Shaaban ticked off what he called the successes of Islamic activists like him in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and now Somalia.


"In every place, why does the Islamic current reach its goals?" he asked. "Because it expresses the people's sentiments against the Americans. It's a reaction to American policy. They are planting the seed of hatred that is going to last generations."


You don't say.  I would never have guessed that.  But you know what?  I remain thoroughly convinced that they don't hate us for dog-eated corpses in their streets; they hate us for our freedom.  Our freedom to put dog-eaten corpses in their streets.  Yeah, that's it.  Our freedom.


Even longtime residents are struck by the shift in social mores over the past few years: the proliferation of women's veils and men's beards, the flourishing of religion classes and the number of youths joining groups such as Shaaban's. On balconies, interspersed among flags for residents' favorite World Cup soccer teams, are black banners with religious inscriptions usually associated with holy war. In squares of Tripoli, particularly its most religious neighborhoods such as Abu Samra, civic art is often a stark representation of God's name.


Ahh, the sweet smell of freedom.  We can also celebrate the same trend in Southern Iraq, where girls no longer are able to go to school, unlike under Saddam Hussein.  These are the wonders of liberation; honestly, the irony is so thick I don't even know a good joke here.  That would be a job for righteousbabe, or anyone else with the heart to have a sense of humor in the face of this atrocity.


But not all is lost--some of them are thanking us!


Along one street, graffiti reads: "Liberation is coming."


"We thank the Americans," said Ibrahim Salih, a founder of the Committee to Support the Iraqi Resistance, which he described as a group that disseminates information.


There's a Cristina Aguilera song that comes to mind here called "Fighter"--if you've listened to the lyrics, you can grasp the relevance.  I call it the love song of the liberated.  But again, I digress...


Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards -- of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.


"The targeting of Iraq can be considered the first step in targeting the entire Middle East to impose a new order in the region," said Fathi Yakan, a founder of the Islamic Association and head of an umbrella group known as the Islamic Action Forces.


Well, at least they aren't pissed with us for specific things.  I think it's always a good move when 1 billion people on the planet have switched from hating the sin but loving the sinner, to just thinking that you're an asshole who needs to die.  Always better that way.


And what of Lebanon, the main subject of the article?


"The smoke from the fire in Iraq is drifting over Lebanon," Shaaban said darkly.


--snip


Others see a more deep-seated hostility in U.S. actions, a scorched-earth campaign to hasten an apocalyptic battle or, in Salih's words, the "politics of chaos."


"America is with the Shiites in Iraq and against the Shiites in Lebanon, with the Sunnis in Lebanon and against the Sunnis in Iraq and Palestine. It is against the Shiites in Iran. Where is America?" Shaaban asked. "It needs Einstein to resolve it."


Is the friend of the enemy of the enemy of my friend a friend or an enemy?  I get so confused...I need to go rent a tape of James Bond helping the friendly, rocket-launcher packing Afghan tribesmen kick out those evil Soviets again.  It'll make me feel better somehow, and give me a real understanding of U.S. policy.


Deeb now bides his time in Tripoli, jobless and resentful. On his cellphone, he plays anthems celebrating the insurgency.


"We are the people of Fallujah," one song went. "Come to see how the people of Fallujah fight."


"It's an open battle," he said. "As long as the Americans are in the Middle East, no one will have any rest."


Of course!  I am so glad that our generous president has taken the heat off of our friends in Arab governments for the problems of their out-of-work and hopeless citizens, and given them a proper target to focus their anger on: citizens like me, and soldiers like the thousands we have stationed today in Iraq.  There's no better way of showing friendship than taking a bullet for someone--and I'm extremely happy that George W. Bush has decided that Americans will take the bullet for our oil-generating dictators in the Middle East.


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Enough is enough.  It's time to get out--and before year's end.  It's one thing to have an immoral, murderous and debt-inducing foreign policy.  It's one thing to thrash about the world stage like a bull in a China shop.  It's even one thing to waste the lives of our troops who have sacrificed their lives for America.


It's quite another to do all this with the explicit end result of training more worldwide terrorists than were ever caught or killed in Afghanistan.


Enough.  I can't take this anymore.


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