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The Superpower Goes to Confession

Patrick J Buchanan

May 10  2004

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 Syndicate, Inc.

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