Thursday, November 24, 2005

Why We Blog — It Is Not Fundamentalism, It Is Not Blind Allegiance to the White House; It Is Common Sense

About a month ago, I got the following email.

I have been meaning to answer it ever since, but have been too busy to do so in an in-depth fashion, not least because I have been preparing the release of my book in the coming days.

Anyway, here is the email.

Hi, how are you? …

There is something about you that embarrasses me.

By one side, the articles in your page are well documented, with lot
of hyper-links, it's cool because you work on the contents and try to
make it clear and easy to understand with the links. It seems to be
written by an intelligent person, and a better work than lot of
so-called journalist do.

But for example when you try to avoid discussions like the one I tried
to start in the comments post when talking about the british or
american soldiers caughted with bomb cars in Iraq, you seem like a
fundamentalist than only believes in what your governement says, and
you don't want to discuss some extrange things that they do (things
that all the governements do in this so corrupt world, we are only
pawns for all them, at least this is my idea).

Maybe it's because you don't want to discuss it in your page, or
because you don't accept that informations or perhaps because you work
for your governement?

In the last case, I should understand your indulgence with them, as a
journalist I will have to match my written oppinions with the
'willing' of the media that will pay me, and I have not to see it as
'inmoral', it's only journalism. Maybe this is the reason that makes
me choose that conflicts and reporting journalism as my choice, to be
far away of the local politics and all that manipulations by all them,
in their 'sacred battle for votes'.

Do you have any specific reason to avoid all this stuff or only you
don't want to speak about such things and that is all?

BTW I just realized that you were an actor and all that. Wow, sure you
had an interesting life, dude.

Feel free to answer, If you don't want to, I will not ask for it in
the comments or nothing similar.

I do feel free to answer. So I will.

And for that matter, I will try avoiding hyperlinks as much as possible.

We, the webmasters of this blog, are supposed to say what we think of — what was it? — American and British soldiers shooting up innocent Iraqi civilians because they thought they were terrorists carrying explosives?

I once wrote a post saying, basically, that George W Bush was the worst leader in the world, and the worst liar, and the head of the most despicable government on the planet.

With the exception…

Of all the rest.

(If you haven't read the Churchill-inspired post before, go read it now. Please.)

Having said that, we are supposed to condemn — who? — Washington, the U.S. Army, the soldier(s) in question, his immediate superiors, his commanding officers?

We do not. Why? Is this because we work for the American government (overtly or covertly)?

I do not. The others (as far as I know) do not.

Are we fundamentalists who believe everything our government says?

No. I think not.

As far as I am concerned, I can see the difference, and I think any reasonable person can see the difference between, on the one hand, a man who in a tight situation causes the death of innocent people because he mistook them for armed thugs he knows are out to kill him and, on the other, a man who sets bombs to deliberately kill both the man just mentioned and innocent, unarmed civilians (i.e., average unarmed Iraqis) around him. Offhand, we can assume that the first man will feel remorse and anger because of what he has done and what has happened, as will his superiors (if only because it will create unpleasant repercussions for them, but that is a powerful incentive indeed), while the second will feel joyful and/or triumphant at what he has done, as will his superiors.

One may not like either situation, I think that a reasonable man (or woman) can see the difference between the two men.

Now, picture your father, or your sister, or your child, if you have one, and imagine he or she is harmed, or even killed, in, say, a car accident. Would you say there is no difference between, on the one hand, a driver and his passengers who are crestfallen or at least rendered numb by the incident, and against whom you can react in some way and, on the other, a driver and a passenger who scoff at the event and may even by laughing heartily about it? Indeed, the latter may have even caused the accident deliberately, because they knew that they had nothing to fear from you, no lawsuits, no nothing, and no punishment to fear from the authorities that they form a part of.

That, my friend, was life under Saddam Hussein.

Think about yourself. Think about your parents, your children, your immediate friends, the people in your neighborhood, your acquaintances.

In what society would you rather live?

In a society where members of the secret police can come, and do come, to your homes and with total impunity, enter your house and take away a parent to be tortured (the sort of torture where they cut out your tongue or amputate your arm at the shoulder), a mother or sister to be raped, a child to be shot in the neck and his body dumped in an unmarked grave?

Or would you rather live in a society where members of a foreign army, a foreign culture, a foreign religion, a foreign race are present, heavily armed, with weapons of war, but they are doing their best to avoid unnecessary casualties and putting all their efforts into targeting armed rebels intent not only on their deaths but on yours. (And no wonder: the latter are the same thugs who, with total impunity, used to sow terror, death, and grief in your community, as described above.)

It's a no-brainer, kid.

Common sense dictates that, no, war is not always the worst of solutions.

This brings us to your question.

Common sense — not blind allegiance to Karl Rove's White House, not fundamentalist patriotism, not zombie-like acceptance of everything Dubya tells us — dictates that a man (a serviceman or other, an American or other) machine-gunning a car because he thinks (and because he has reason to think) that it is a deadly threat to him and his comrades is not as bad as someone deliberately trying to harm (and, thus, to intimidate) innocent, unarmed civilians — whether as members of a terrorist band that needs to do its work stealthily or as members of the aforementioned police force carrying it out under the protection of the régime.

This takes us to a whole new level.

This brings us to the raison d'être of this blog.

Here's the clincher. Common sense would dictate that any third parties, anyone not directly related to the above state of affairs, who cannot, or who will not, see the difference between the two is not someone you can trust to be a honest interlocutor. Common sense would also dictate that something has gone profoundly wrong when whole governments, and basically whole societies, are made to hold just that one (self-serving) opinion.

This blog is reacting to the common "opinions" in Western societies that would have it almost as bad, just as bad, or worse to cause a death by accident than it would through willfull (and state-sanctioned) murder. Or to cause anguish rather than to cause death.

Once, after a speech, one given by Guy Millière, I tried distributing the photos of the remains of two or three victims of Saddam Hussein, and when they arrived before one woman, she spoke up. She refused to look at such pictures, she huffed with more than a touch of pride. Without missing a beat, she then proceeded to tell us she was a human rights worker (!) and, adressing Guy Millière with indignation, asked how could a writer like he countenance a war in which atrocities like those at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo had taken place?

She refused to look at the bones unearthed from Saddam's mass graves. Obviously, she would have been more than happy to gaze at the snapshots taken by Lynndie England's boyfriend. She would have enjoyed validating her righteous anger in that way.

A human rights worker. A European feeling solidarity with the down-trodden. A person grilling a Bush-supporter on why he didn't respond to one example of gross injustice.

A human rights worker willing, and eager, to defend the rights of the men ordered to remove their clothes and walk around on a leash, while ignoring — with pride — the men, women, and children gunned down in Iraq's deserts and mountains. Indeed, the men abused by some Americans against orders were (for the most part, at least) not the same as the innocent, unarmed citizens who were gunned down or otherwise despatched by the Iraqis, they were the very Iraqis firing the weapons, on the orders of their commanders and, indeed, following to the policy of the entire régime.

And she asks Guy, and you ask us, to acknowledge — to bemoan, to castigate, to denounce — America's mistakes or, you warn us (in so amny words), you will think that we are fundamentalists or the dupes or the lackeys of the American government?!

I have a question for you, mi amigo:

¿¡Usted esta loco?!

It is obvious — common sense dictates — that the least one can say is that that European lady doesn't exactly have her priorities straight and that she is applying double standards.

If only these ugly partisan toughts reflected only on her, or on a minority of people. But it is a pattern we have found to be typical and widespread in Europe, permeating the culture and the atmosphere.

A lot of Americans think life in America (because of Bush or in spite of Bush) is relatively better than life in Russia under Putin, life in China under Hu, life in Zimbabwe under Mugabe, or life in Iraq under Saddam.

Of course, you will say. Of course, almost everybody will say.

Sentences like your own ("things that all the governements do in this so corrupt world, we are only pawns for all them"), we hear them all the time.

"Yes, we know Saddam was no choirboy…"

"Yes, of course, Stalin was a terrible monster…"

"Yes all countries lie and use devious tactics…"

"Yes, of course, it would be better to live in America than in Angola…"

"Yes, of course, everybody was out for Saddam's oil…"

But notice that this is said with no way the emotion, the outrage, the contempt, or the mockery reserved for Uncle Sam. Notice how these matter-of-fact platitudes are always followed by a "But" that says that nevertheless, this is not a reason to let Uncle Sam off the hook (or that we should show understanding for his adversaries and for their noble goals)…

So the way European countries speak is not how European countries act. That is not how they speak when, forsaking platitudes, they need to enact policies with meat in them.

Zapatero is hailed for pulling Spanish troops out of Iraq, while… cosying up to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

The same people who rasp with delight because "at least" the French leadership has had les couilles to stand up to Bush think nothing when the same leadership says French policy towards Moscow is to "manage Russian sensibilities" or when it lights the Eiffel Tower in red for the visit of China's president.

If everybody is equally corrupt, and if everybody was after Saddam's oil, why the &#%$#^@*@ did they spend so much time demonstrating against Uncle Sam in the streets and lauding their leadership for having the balls to oppose George W Bush?!

Now, French commentators regularly show up here to ask in a sneering voice, do you believe everything Dubya tells you? Or, do you think everything America does is always good or always right?

The answer is No.

But we know the difference between the American leadership and the Chinese leadership. We can see the differences between the American president and the (former) Iraqi president.

Most of all — and this is where our blog comes in — we can discern the speeches and the acts of some of the third parties (say, the Europeans), whose decision is to prefer America's adversary or to pretend that there are few, if any, differences between them. Or huffing that America's sins, real or not, big or small, are always cause for righteous indignation, while purring that the real ones of its adversaries should be given the benefit of the doubt. All the while peacocking that they (the third parties) have the solution, or that their nuances and relativizing and pleading for dialogue (with the type of leader whose police forces carried out the type of terror mentioned above) is the path towards the solution.

And in those societies, hardly anybody puts this relativizing into question. Hardly anybody puts the equalling of America's democracy with the most terrible regimes into question.

While mentioning Saddam's atrocities above, probably there were many cynics who, with a snort, puffed "And you think it was for that that the Americans entered Iraq?!"

Again, if everybody is equally corrupt, and if everybody was after Saddam's oil, why is it only Uncle Sam that you snort cynically about?!

And you want us — and all you (ever) ask us — is (again) to castigate some part of American policy?

You want us to condemn soldiers, or their officers, or their civilian commander-in-chief for innocent Iraqi deaths (or for the abuse suffered while in custody)?

We cannot do it.

Common sense dictates that we don't.

First of all, the acts are not — far from it — as worthy of condemnation as the interlocutors would have it.

And second (and speaking of the interlocutors), we are faced with partisan interlocutors whose only motive is ever and always to castigate Uncle Sam; and who are unwilling to see that the alternative could be, and often would have been, worse.

Une autre réponse aux courriers des lecteurs…

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