Thursday, April 01, 2004

Truth and Lamentation

How many people will today's images from Fallujah have sent scurrying to private places to weep? I can't stop thinking of the mothers of those people who reared and loved their children only to see all their life's efforts "mooted" in an instant. How can it feel to see your son's charred remains smashed with steel bar and leaving a trail of blood as they are dragged from a car or strung up on a bridge? And to see a ten year-old step on his skull?

I was nearly overcome with nausea all day and had to force myself to watch the news this evening. After another report from John Burns (realaudio 9:01; I try never to miss them), there was the usual excellent discussion (realaudio 13:58) on the PBS Newshour. There were talking heads from CSIS, the Kenedy School's Belfer Center and a former asst. SecDef under Reagan. They reasoned and talked of the military significance of casualties and the ability to continue our operation. All three agreed with Robert Orr when he said:
Though every death matters and every person lost is a tragedy, we need to keep in mind that this number of deaths is not out of the realm of what we've been seeing in recent weeks and months. The real key is whether people overreact to the gruesome scene here in America or there in Iraq. There's a political process going on in Iraq and that's as important as security developments. If these security developments affect the political process there or here, then we could see a much bigger impact.
CSIS' Anthony Cordesman continued:
I think Mr. Orr made a very important point. We saw some horrifying images but there are now, if you count killed and wounded, close to four thousand coalition personnel. There have been roughly two deaths a day of people in uniform and these images are simply deliberate efforts — I think psychologically — to manipulate opinion. We also need to remember — because we may focus on the fact that these are Americans — that equally if not more violent actions have been conducted during Shi'ite religious ceremonies where hundreds of innocent people have been killed in bombings. The Kurds in the north were the target of these grouops. We are dealing with approximately 150 to 180 attacks a week. The casualties relative to the number of attacks — still — are relatively low. We're not losing in that sense. And Fallujah is an isolated area. Opinion surveys in Iraq conducted in the last several weeks show the vast majority of Iraqis oppose this kind of attack.
I very much agree but these sentiments remain muted for the moment. It is perhaps because he shares this view, or perhaps because he'd prefer not to think about these events that Glenn Reynolds gave them only a single, 56-word post ("I don't have a lot to say about this...," he wrote). Coming among other, far happier matters, the post included a crack about sending in Kurdish forces (really not funny).

I can't share Glenn's insouciance. Something tells me this will not be simply another roadside death of US soldier. I can imagine four waves of shock, revulsion and grief spreading westward through the country as the nightly news aired in each time zone. The emotional value of these events will be far worse, in my estimation, than that of Mogadishu because it comes after far more sacrifice and investment, both personal and psychical, on the part of the public.

This has received far more explicit coverage than any I can remember seeing in the cases of other anti-American murders that have occurred in Iraq. Seeing the cruelty shown even to the corpses of people who were only there to help will surely undermine the optimism and generosity of large numbers of Americans. Orr cautioned against overreacting but I imagine that many will at first have feelings somewhat similar to those expressed by Zeyad last November:
Those militants don't understand any language except the language of force. Fuck human rights. Those aren't humans anyway. We desperately NEED to see some heads rolling. Believe it or not. Theres going to have to be some bloodshed for this to work. Bomb the hell out of Tikrit and Al-Awja. Massacre every last person of Saddam's tribe. Rape his women. Yeah. Let them taste some of what we have endured the last 30 years. I don't want to see my dreams ruined because of those trianglees. If the CPA doesn't want to do it, send in a force of IP and civil defense forces and turn your face the other way, they'll be more than glad to do it, believe me.
(It's important to note that Zeyad posted more sober reflections on this subject in January.)

Given that we've sent our soldiers into harm's way, the public must be unflinchingly informed of the dangers our soldiers are facing. However, what is completely unpardonable is typified by this. If the Voice had made an honest attempt to acknowledge the horrors of Saddam's Iraq (with the possible example of Nat Hentoff's tepid essay of a year ago) they might now deserve some attention when they discuss the war. As it is, they have trivialized themselves beyond all credibility. I can find not one single hit for the phrase "mass grave" in any Voice story on Iraq since the war began.

Hypocrisy is feigning emotions that one does not feel. I can tell that, as the number of coalition dead rises, many are only going through the motions of lamentation in order to twist the knife in those of us who are agonizing over our support for this war.

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