‘The most ass-kickin' writer to come along
in a decade!’
-The NY Times
‘Glad to see you're getting it right.!’
Observations on the War
The Freenie Factor
A great deal has been made of the left/liberal slant of so much of the print and television coverage of the war, both in the U.S. and around the world. But I don't think I've witnessed anything that goes to the prejudicial hyperbole of this coverage the way Bob Arnot's reportage did on Wednesday morning (EST) of April 9, the day of the liberation of Baghdad. Arnot whined hysterically that "this is another Mogadishu!" He bawled that crowds were "out of control," whined about "looting" and the "lack of a police force."
Now this is the freenie factor at its apogee. This is a middle-aged boy put out there to do a man's job and finding himself simply not able to measure up. Embarrassing just does not begin to get at what a pitiful job Arnot managed to do that morning. While there is justifiable concern that, since the murderous police force of Saddam Hussein is no longer around to enforce the "law" (that is, to torture and murder Iraqi citizens at Saddam's bidding), the country will sink into chaos. That much needs to be said and understood. But "another Mogadishu?"
It will certainly take some time for an Iraqi police force to be reconstituted under an interim government. In the meantime, one might ask, Where's the UN? While Kofi Annan sits on his thumb in meetings with those who conspired to undermine the United States as it sought UN approval for its actions, it is not out of the question that UN peacekeeping forces, had they been at the ready, could be of assistance in maintaining order in Iraqi cities. Since the UN has abdicated its responsibility once again, it will likely fall to the U.S. and coalition forces to provide police protection for Iraqi citizens in the meantime. Freenies need not apply.
The talk has been that, assuming we're still fairly confident that Saddam Hussein was killed by the bunker-busting bombs dropped on the restaurant/hideout in which he was supposed to have been meeting with his sons and dozens of advisors, we need to comb the rubble and produce DNA evidence which proves beyond a doubt that the former Iraqi dictator is dead. It seems to me, however, that the situation was at best something of a setup. It is highly unlikely that Saddam Hussein chose a place that was, not only a mere mile and a half from where he (or, more likely, one of his doubles) had been filmed walking among the Iraqi people a day earlier, but that was about the same scant mile and a half from where coalition tanks were parked at the time. Bottom line: It probably wasn't Saddam in that restaurant/bunker in the first place.
But there's another problem. Since when has DNA evidence influenced the opinion of people who are convinced that the opposite of what the evidence proves is true? What is DNA evidence to the Arab street? To this point: The prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trial produced an extraordinarily damning circumstantial case against Simpson, including very convincing DNA evidence, and the jury simply chose not to believe it. The same applies here. The real question is, What would a DNA smear from the wall of a bombed restaurant mean to the Arab street? I'm guessing about the same as it meant to the O.J. Simpson jury.
The War and the Place of Women in Arab Societies
One of the striking things about the events in Baghdad on April 9 was the fact that there were virtually no women in the streets in any of the images of the day of Iraqi liberation. Of course, there wouldn't be, but this speaks to a point that Bernard Lewis makes emphatically in his book "What Went Wrong," namely, that one of the key reasons the Muslim world has not been able to keep pace with the western world is its treatment of women. By effectively disenfranchising and marginalizing half of their populations, Islamic countries have not only violated what the west has come to see as the fundamental human rights of women, they have deprived themselves of the intelligence, energy, and capabilities of this most important segment of society. The images of men in the street provide a stark emblem of the place of women in Arab countries, and they make it even more difficult to understand the implicit support of feminists for regimes such as that of Saddam Hussein which deny women their rightful places as productive citizens in a humane society.
The most painful and difficult images coming out of Iraq are those of Iraqi civilians, especially children, who have been injured during the conflict. These images are almost invariably politicized by news media to demonstrate the fact that U.S.-led coalition forces have little concern over the loss of innocent life, despite the fact that our military has taken extraordinary measures to minimize, if not eliminate, civilian casualties.
But beyond that, what is lost to these journalists is the fact that if we had not intervened many of those same children and other innocent civilians would be lying in the same hospitals (if they were lucky enough to survive) with wounds inflicted by Saddam Hussein's henchmen. Never mind that those wounds would have been inflicted intentionally, never mind that the same civilians would have been tortured and killed in front of their own families by the Iraqi regime. However heartbreaking it may be to see images of wounded civilians, one must always remember that hundreds of thousand of such innocents were tortured and died with no recourse during the past quarter century. It is the unfortunate fact of this war of liberation that a few more have been injured or killed so that their fellow citizens need no longer face the wanton intentional taking of human life that has characterized the rule of Saddam Hussein.