The Superpower Goes to Confession
In a few weeks, George Bush will travel to Omaha Beach
for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The image of the American soldier of that
"Greatest Generation" is of a selfless and heroic liberator of Europe. It is
the image of the soldier we cherish, the ideal we honor with the new memorial
on the Mall.
Unfortunately, the image of the American soldier the world has seen this week
is that of the jailers of Abu Ghraib humiliating hooded and naked Iraqi
prisoners of war in their cellblock.
Though this was degraded conduct, it does not compare in evil to My Lai, where
women and children were massacred by American soldiers. Yet the administration
seems more shaken by the photos of women soldiers disporting with naked Iraqi
prisoners than was the Nixon White House by news of My Lai. Here is the
depiction of Bush and his warlords in the Financial Times:
George W. Bush and his military commanders humbled themselves before the Arab
world yesterday. ... For a president averse to admitting mistakes and an
administration generally reluctant to apologize, the appearance of Mr. Bush
and U.S. military leaders before the Arab and U.S. media market offered an
unprecedented display of contrition. ...
In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett said: "My army's been shamed by this. And
on behalf of my army, I apologize for what those soldiers did to your
citizens." ... Arab TV stations broadcast Condoleezza Rice ... saying, "We are
deeply sorry for what has happened."
The abasement, however, was inadequate for John Kerry. President Bush needs
"to offer the world an explanation," said Kerry, "if that includes
apologizing, he ought to do that."
But if President Bush and Condi Rice are going to apologize and make an act of
contrition for every wretched excess committed by U.S. troops in a guerrilla
war, they should probably install a couple of confessionals in the West Wing.
What did the president and his advisers – and Kerry, who voted to give Bush a
blank check to go to invade Iraq – think a guerrilla war would be like? Has
none of them even seen "The Battle of Algiers," the 1965 film of how Gen.
Massu ended terrorism out of the Casbah?
What we are getting from Abu Ghraib is a glimpse of the dark side of guerrilla
war, with this critical difference: Cameras and minicams are ubiquitous today.
The Internet transmits photos and videos worldwide in a flash. America can no
longer control the images of America's wars.
The insurgents have their own Fox News. It is on their side, and it blankets
an Arab world of 300 million from Marrakech to Mosul more effectively than the
U.S. networks and the BBC put together.
As our networks show us pictures of the desecrated bodies of U.S. contractors
being hung from a bridge in Fallujah, Al Jazeera shows Arabs pictures of
maimed and dead women and children from American bullets and shells fired at
Fallujah in retaliation.
As the pictures we see engender hatred of the enemy, the pictures Arabs see
engender hatred of us. And hatred of the United States has never been greater
in the Islamic world, nor has a president ever been so despised. The great
polarization of Arabs and Muslims against the America of George W. Bush that
was the dream of bin Laden has been made reality by the Iraq war.
The Arab street is rooting for the insurgents to win. A slice of the Iraqi
population believes there are times it is justified to kill Americans. Polls
have found support for suicide bombers. This is the price of empire.
If we wish to create a pro-American democracy in Baghdad, we are going to have
to fight a guerrilla war lasting years, against thousands of insurgents.
Winning means more photos of abused Iraqi prisoners and dead Iraqi civilians.
These photos will sicken and dishearten us, but they will enrage and inflame
the Arab world. Are we up to it?
If Bush and his team are unprepared to deal with a lengthening list of U.S.
casualties, and more pictures or videos that portray our soldiers in ways we
did not see them in "Saving Private Ryan," they had best look for the next
exit ramp out.
Massu won the Battle of Algiers. But France lost the war. For the tactics
Massu and his "Paras" used to locate and eradicate the terrorists made the
Algerian Arabs come to accept they were a people apart. And the revulsion
Massu's tactics engendered in France broke the will of the French to hold on
to an Algeria to which they were far more attached than any American is to an
Iraq that we have occupied for scarcely a year.
© 2004 Creators
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