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 returns

On 15 November I wrote
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?
Now National Review On Line is beginning a series by Stephen Vincent on "The Power of Shame--Why so many Americans don't get the Sunni opposition". [Ed. You tawkin' abou' me? You tawkin' abou' ME?] The writer describes an encounter shortly after the liberation with a "Sunni Muslim, an attractive, thirty-something writer, one of the few women I met who eschewed a scarf in public. And she was overjoyed at the demise of Saddam....
"I am so happy! Freedom at last! The world is open to me now!" she exclaimed during a small social function at an art gallery in Karada. . .

-- "You must not mind seeing American soldiers on the streets."

The woman's smile vanished. Her brow darkened and she shook her head. "Oh, no. I hate the soldiers. I hate them so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting one dead."

Stunned by her vehemence, "But American soldiers are responsible for your freedom!" I replied.

"I know," the woman snarled. "And you can't imagine how humiliated that makes me feel."
I don't think he is talking about me. I got the nature of Iraqi anger at the US; I just won't accept it:
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 . . .
and called the operation Cleansing Sword of Allah.

I don't buy the idea that the Iraqi resistance owes much to some mad fanatic spasm of patriotic bloodlust--though I suppose that if Arabs were ever motivated by patriotism, a spasm of bloodlust is as likely an expression as any other. For the Ba'athists, the resistance is part of a quagmire strategy. For the NGO jihadists, it is a tactical opportunity and a strategic challenge.

I don't know where Vincent is going to go with this. He says "The Kurds and the Shia have shown a willingness to negotiate over the future of Iraq--why not the Sunnis?", but then he talks as though this circumscribed resistance speaks for all Iraqis. A completely armchair suggestion is that Sunnis--Saddam's favored tribes--are the only people who feel that their Iraq has been humiliated.


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