Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



“Shame is the Reality”

Jay Tea at Wizbang writes “In praise of civilian casualties”. He doesn’t really lust for civilian deaths. His point is that over-sensitivity is counter-productive.

His argument is that once the NGO jihadists find that we will grant them a zone of sanctuary if they hide among civilians, they will do it all the time, ultimately causing more American and civilian deaths. He points to what happened with mosques. Our first reaction was restraint, and the mujihadin immediately began using mosques as ammo dumps, assembly points, observation posts, and firing positions. The result was that we had to treat mosques as military targets, and more mosques have been damaged than would have been if we had flattened the first one.

Jay Tea's post stirs an idea that I've been kicking around for a while, namely, that the guards at Abu Ghraib had the right idea, just at the wrong time and the wrong place.

As soon as I saw the pictures of a American woman smirking at kneeling, naked Iraqi men, I recognized the special humiliation the pictures would convey to Arab/Islamic viewers. She is a woman looking on a man’s nakedness. She is in pants and tee-shirt—virtually naked by tribal/Islamic standards. She is a soldier in men’s garb—a double offense against all that is right and decent to Muslims.

I was prepared for outrage from Arab sources. I wasn’t prepared to read in the Washington Times of the former prisoner who felt so humiliated that he had been unable to return to his home neighborhood. Now that the pictures had been published, he had no hope of ever returning. He would have to emigrate.

Where did he think he would go, he was asked. Oh, America would be his first choice. In America, nobody cares what has happened to you.

He got that right.

Arab tribal culture is primarily an honor-shame-revenge society , quite different from a primarily justification-guilt-justice society like the US. In Arab culture, if I piss on your boots, you have been shamed. The only way you can recover your amour propre is to diminish me, say by killing me or raping my sister (or sometimes by raping your brother; as I said, it’s different). In America, you want me to admit or be convicted of doing wrong. Chances are I agree with you that pissing on your boots is wrong, but the critical difference with Arab culture is that the focus is not on making you whole or at least dishonoring me; the focus is on making whole an abstract principle, Justice, in the name of the community.

How does this apply to US policy? The Iraqi attitudes that Americans find most incomprehensible—not to say idiotic—are the anger and blame that Iraqis direct against the US for invading their country. They’re glad Saddam is gone. They acknowledge that his henchmen, or worse, will prevail if we leave. As though to confirm every suspicion we have had about Muslims’ tenuous connection to reality, they say the invasion and occupation have shamed them, because they overthrew Saddam, or were about to, or would have. And what had Iraq ever done to us, anyway?

The U.S. approach from the beginning has been to try to minimize the subordination of the Iraqi people and the incompetence of their society. In other words, what we would think of as putting shame on them. This is precisely the wrong initial goal. The problem is that Iraqis have not been shamed enough, and they have not been shamed by the right person,. Our goal should have been to make their shame unavoidable and undeniable, and to make us the agents of the ending of their era of shame.

Instead of treating Saddam as a fugitive from blind Western justice, US propaganda should have emphasized that he had humiliated the entire Iraqi population. Instead of reprimanding the soldier who threw Old Glory over the face of Saddam’s statue as US soldiers pulled it down, we should have built on that image. We should have publicized the myriad ways that Saddam humiliated the people, how he robbed, raped, tortured, and mutilated them. They should have been shown that Saddam had shamed them before all the world. Iraqis should have had months of a steady diet of posters and videos showing how Saddam had ground them into the mud, and we had saved them. We should have rubbed their faces in it.

Perhaps then they would have recognized that they had not been defeated by US aggression but by Saddam and the politics that grew out of their own hearts. It might have put them in a more realistic frame of mind for the nation building that was necessary. We didn’t need to have conversations like this with the Germans and Japanese:
“We, the Iraqi people, overthrew Saddam”—Crap.
“We were innocent victims”—More crap.
"The insurgents are Iraqi freedom fighters"--Sorry, that's Michael Moore, but still crap.
“You Americans should have . . .”— Shut the f* up. Whatever you were going to say, it’s just more crap. You Iraqis were harboring a dirt-bag monster. Your whole country was an offense against all that is clean, decent, holy, and life-giving. Get used to it! We are the cleansing sword of Allah. Get on your knees and give thanks.
I always regretted that the U.S. acceded to Muslim and secular western sensibilities and stopped referring to the “war on terror” as a crusade. It seems that Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi is naming the operations to clean out Islamofascist strong points in the Sunni triangle. They should name the whole campaign Cleansing Sword.

One of the peculiar bits of nonsense practiced by the German Nazis was to put “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you Free) over the gates to concentration camps. In the case of Abu Ghraib, it would be a declaration of sanity to put a sign “Shame is the Reality”.



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