Saturday, May 21, 2005


Funny how Newsweek is vilified for their Koran-flushing story, blamed for 16 deaths on the other side of the world, and White House press secretary Scott McClellan attempts to order them about on what they should do next.

Yet today the New York Post and The Sun in London published photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. The Pentagon blows a head gasket, fears that these pictures will inflame insurgents, and wants heads to roll. Scottie, meanwhile, takes a pass, leaves it to Trent Duffy, who says the insurgents could take this the way they did the Abu Ghraib photos and get all pissed off.

Finally, the President says, "I don't think a photo inspires murderers," Bush said of the insurgents. "These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric."

Hello?! Can someone keep the message straight. Military commanders say Newsweek wasn't to blame for the 16 dead in Afghanistan, McClellan practically calls for the death penalty for their editors. Now, two newspapers owned by conservative Rupert Murdoch, who supports Bush and whose newspapers support Bush, print photos of Saddam that the military believes will cause outrage, and Scottie says nothing and the President doesn't think it'll make a bit o'difference.

Once again, whether we agree with the Arab world or not, whether we agree with Muslim extremists or not, unnecessarily pissing them off isn't going to help us win the war on terror or settle Iraq down. It seems we do nothing better than being incompetent and causing shit to go crazy. And of course, Mr. Responsibility at the White House blames the press, because it's somehow their fault that our leadership has no idea how to run a fucking war. If we knew what the hell we were doing, we'd have had Iraq pacified and we'd be a lot farther along in starting a government there on a permanant basis. There would be peace if this administration wasn't acting like the fucking Johnson administration and being arrogant about projecting our thoughts and our ideals and our democracy on their culture and their thoughts and their religion.

It doesn't matter if they are wrong. To successfully win friends and influence people (to borrow Dale Carnegie), you have to appreciate how they think. If you don't do that, you are unlikely to change their minds, gain their help, or influence their workings. By being disrespectful of their culture, we hurt our cause. Yes, many parts of their culture are abhorrent, but how many hearts and minds were won at the barrel of a gun? We lost Vietnam. We can win Iraq, and we would've had it won already if the geniuses at the Pentagon (read: Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz) had asked for civil assistance teams to be on the ground right away to immediately assist in the transition. We would've had experts knowledgeable in Arabic culture there to advise our commanders. We would've had some help from Arab nations to make this more palatable to the Iraqis. Instead we were arrogant, and pride goeth before the fall, and woe unto those who forget history, for they are destined to repeat it. GWB risks turning into LBJ, and that is something we and the Iraqis cannot afford.


Blogger E. M. Zanotti said...

The point of the Pentagon's objection to the photo wasn't that it was going to incite insurgents, but that it was going to make people feel sorry for this guy, and lessen the way that they prosecute him.

This picture isn't funny, and in the right eyes, its sad. When you see him in his underwear, you might be tempted to forget that he murdered hundreds of thousands of people. These two newspapers are essentially tabloids, and the photos didn't come from a government source--but that's what the Pentagon thought originally, which meant that there was defiance of the Geneva Convention rules. When they realized they were essentially papparazzi photos, the Pentagon calmed down, but they don't want these printed so that Saddam can be a hero to the Arab world.

We shouldn't be so sensitive to the Arab world, seeing as how they don't express outrage over the fact that their own people blow up thousands in the WTC, or routinely kill innocent Israelis, Iraqis and Palestinans in their quest for world domination. We don't have to understand them, we don't have to look at their mindset. Their mindset is ridiculous, and hypocritical. We see reactionism here all the time, but what I might do as a citizen, or what Bill Donohue might do as the Catholic League, or what other's might do is NOT call for a second September 11. That's obscene.

The Newsweek story was ridiculous. It would be physically impossible to flush a Koran down the toilet, but somehow, someone in the editorial staff missed that. Its no excuse to censor Newsweek, but its no excuse to capitulate to terrorists either.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Thad said...

Perhaps you missed the point. It's not so much being sensitive as it is understanding them. And yes, it damn well matters to understand them, because knowing the psychology of any opponent is how you beat them. You can't win just by simply playing your game, because you have to know how they play theirs. Getting the information necessary out of the people we interrogate happens by showing an understanding of their culture, not just insulting them all the time. Not all Arabs and Muslims are extremists, but you can't ignore their psychology just because they don't act the way we want them to. You can't get them there just by force.

This isn't the Soviet Union, where force was the only thing they understood. Religious motivation is the strongest and most dangerous force around. It can be used for immense good or immense evil. The British say religious wars are the nastiest, and while we think this is just a good vs. evil conflict, it's not. To them, it's a religious war, and they aren't going to back down, no matter how many we kill. This is why we should've had other Muslim nations when we went into Iraq: it would've taken away part of their recruiting factor. The way we've insulted key portions of their religion, whether deliberately or accidently (remember Bush's "crusade"?), have been a motivating factor, and it's part of why they won't go away. It's not capitulation to terrorists. It's being smart.

Not every death blow to a twisted force was done with a blunt instrument, which is what we've done for the past four years. This is where I admire Reagan, because he used sharp, pointed words and shadow actions to take down the Soviet Union. How I only wish Bush could show the same ability, but he does everything with brute force, and that's not how we're going to win this war. It's a police war, it's a funding war, it's a military war, and by God, it is a psychological war.

As long as they believe it's a religious war, and we ignore that because we think they're stupid and hypocritical, we aren't going to win. There's a difference between sensitivity and understanding. Not, "Oh, I understand, I'm sorry," but instead "I understand how they think, and this is what we need to do to win."

Yes, their reactionism is ridiculous and wishing another September 11 is heinous. It doesn't mean we can ignore their motivation, because to do so risks losing more people than necessary, and is that a price you really want to pay? If we fight this smart, we can cut down our losses. If we don't, we will sacrifice more soldiers to the tar pit that Iraq remains.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fear Iraq is already lost. We lost it for the reasons you stated Thad.

1:45 PM  

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