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.



Cleansing Sword of Allah redux

Earlier, I noted the excerpts from Steven Vincent's In the Red Zone at NRO and repeated my belief that the US had missed an opportunity by not making the Iraqis take responsibility for Saddam, acknowledge that he had oppressed and humiliated them, and accept that America had rescued them when they could not help themselves. In a word, we should have “rubbed their faces in it”.

The NRO series constitutes Chapter 4, "The Resistance", of In the Red Zone. It explains how Western opinion and policy makers have misunderstood the nature of the Sunni insurgency because they are casting it inappropriately into the conceptual framework of 20th-century "wars of national liberation". I had some reservations after the first excerpt about where Vincent was going to go, but the whole series turns out to be very, very good.

Vincent's first article (The Power of Shame) describes how even apparently rational Iraqis hate the US for having liberated them.

America the Omnipotent reports on the fantasies into which the Arab mind escapes:
It is tempting to discount Ahmed's analysis [that Saddam was kept in power by the Jews] as typical of the anti-Semitism one finds with tedious regularity in Iraq. But it reveals many of the demons that lie beneath the surface of the Iraqi national character: historical grievances, conspiratorial thinking, and a kind of bi-polar superiority-inferiority dynamic. Moreover, his comments point to another, equally troubling impulse that confuses Western observers and informs the nature of the Iraqi "insurgency": an unwillingness to take the blame for Saddam.[Ed. Emphasis added.]
The Oppressive Occupier? records the bitterness of the people in the Sunni Triangle, who believe that things were better under Saddam. For Sunnis, in many ways, they were. For nearly 500 years the Ottomans and then the British had cultivated the Sunnis as a bulwark against the Shi’a Persians to the east. Then, "Under Saddam, a Sunni himself,
the religious sect reached the apogee of its power, thriving under a system of patronage and government benefits that awarded them top positions in all aspects of Iraqi life. In 2003, the American war machine ended their reign; suddenly, the jobs, pensions, and prestige the Sunnis used to lord over the Kurds and Shi’a were gone.
Rage Against the Foreigner continues his tour of the Sunni Triangle. He finds the root of the Sunni insurgency and its “air of pointless, self-destructive violence” in the Sunnis’ tribal structure and its multifaceted concept of honor.
For my part, I discovered this cultural and psychological phenomenon [the compulsion to expunge the “living death” of public dishonor by violent vengeance] throughout the Sunni Triangle. While conversing with dozens of residents, I felt much less the anger of a population that was "occupied," "oppressed," or "enslaved" than the self-loathing of a people in disgrace. After decades of imperious rule, the Sunni Ba’athists were crushed by America—shamed, humiliated, they felt they had lost something perhaps even more precious than jobs or political power: honor.
The Wrong Words reviews the rhetoric of the, um, well that’s the problem: Is it a Resistance, or an insurgency, or a guerilla war against an American Liberation, or Occupation, or US-backed Provisional Government. The romantic, conventional models of the 20th century don’t fit; the terms may be technically accurate, but the moral connotations are all wrong. The murdering savages are ill-lit in the heroic glow of Resistance, and the Coalition is not an oppressive, Nazi Occupation. Clarity requires “we see in all their glory the anti-Coalition forces
so admired by many on the left and in the media: ex-Ba’athists who kill American troops out of a sense of humiliation and dishonor, and foreign jihadists who wish to see the U.S. "occupiers" remain in the country in order to justify additional attacks against their fellow Muslims.
What kind of "Resistance" is this?
Terms like "paramilitaries" and "neo-fascists" would better describe these Ba'athist and mujihadin killers, whose primary victims are the Iraqi people. The left-tinged press, says Vincent, hasn’t adopted them because it is still fighting the last war.

Steven Vincent blogs about Iraq at In the Red Zone.



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