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June 09, 2006

Hearts And Minds?

Via Betsy Newmark:

The Iraqi journalist who blogs at Baghdad Treasure has not supported the Americans' role in Iraq or the new government. But the death of Zarqawi changed how he felt about his country and the Americans.
We held our breath for a second and then a loud “Mabrook” [Congratulations] was said by one of the radio stations reporters. Few minutes later, journalists started congratulating each other. Some danced in the hall, female journalists halulated, and others rushed to call their offices of the braking news. The news of his death made up our day.

I called the office immediately to confirm to them the rumor that was spread. After I hang up, a flashback of images of people died in the terrorists attacks came to my mind. Um Bashar, whom we all miss, was among the pictures. She was all dressed in white smiling as if she was telling me. “I can rest now, B. tell Bashar that I am comfortable now.” Then she disappeared but the other images did not.

I remembered my mother’s cries and voice when I called her after a car bomb exploded in front of the school where she used to teach. I recalled the TV images of the burnt children and their parents in the middle of a huge flame.

The image of the collapsed apartment building and the pile of bodies I saw in a restaurant bombed by Zarqawi’s car bombs came among the other images that will never leave me rest even if I die.

Finally, he is dead. I couldn’t believe one day this pig will be killed. Finally, the brutal Zarqawi, whose bloody campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings made him the worst terrorist in the world, was killed. Finally the thousands of families and victims he killed will rest in peace.

I have to say that I haven’t been happy like this for a long time. When I met my other colleagues back in the office, I waved the victory sign, which I also haven’t done since a long time ago.

I know that attacks will increase. I know more people are going to die. I know mistakes are going to be continued. I know everything will not be fixed soon like in the fairy tales. But I am happy that this man is killed. I believe his death is the real first step: the thousand-miles road starts with one step.

Go read the rest. Reading through so many American attempts to minimize what Zarqawi's death means to Iraqis, I am reminded of something I've commented on before: the stunning cluelessness of pundits who deplore military intervention in Iraq while furiously denouncing the White House for not doing more about Darfur. Hussein used WMDs to slaughter 5,000 Kurds in Halabja and systematically tried to wipe them out during the Al-Anfal campaign. Human Rights watch estimates that 182,000 Iraqi civilians died during Al-Anfal alone, and that was neither the beginning nor the end of his oppression. Yet it was another 15 years before anyone intervened:

Between 1979 and Hussein's ouster, roughly half a million Kurds were picked up by Iraqi security forces and never returned, Ihsan says.

"We have been searching for missing people for a long, long time, since 1991," he says. "But we started the active searching process after the liberation of Iraq."

We [have] started returning bodies to Kurdistan," Ihsan says. "We managed to get 512 bodies [of members of the Barzani clan] that had been killed by Saddam Hussein in 1983."

These are just some of the over 8,000 male members of the Barzani clan arrested in July 1983 by Saddam's security force. Seized in the northern province of Irbil, they were then transported to southern Iraq. Nothing has been heard of them since.

Another case centers on the massive forced displacement of the Kurdish population between February and September 1988 -- known as the Anfal (Arabic for "spoils") campaign -- which left tens of thousands of people dead.

"The unknown fate [of a loved one] creates big social and economic problems for us," Ihsan says. "We have some girls who've been engaged for more than 23 years. Still they are waiting for their beloved. We have wives still waiting for their husbands. We have daughters still waiting for their fathers to return. We were sure that [the missing] had been killed but these people did not believe it. Returning the bodies to them will put an end to their sad lives [of waiting] and the pain."

So far, the team has located 284 sites of mass graves of Kurds across Iraq. With time, it hopes to exhume them all.

But strangely there is little concern for the Iraqi victims of Saddam Hussein. Instead, many in the anti-war camp complain bitterly that we are unable to intervene in Darfur because our military is tied up in Iraq.

We are told we should never have gone to war without UN approval, though that approval has not been forthcoming in the case of Darfur. Nor was it forthcoming in Kosovo, or even in Iraq in the face of 12 years of open defiance of UN resolutions and the 1991 cease-fire. To this day, anti-war proponents continue to argue that Saddam was "contained", though that must have been of little comfort to the Iraqis he killed, tortured, and maimed for life under UN "supervision", nor to the tens of thousands who starved while Saddam funneled humanitarian relief funds into the hands of companies with known ties to terrorists:

One link ran from a U.N.-approved buyer of Saddam's oil, Galp International Trading Corp., involved near the very start of the program, to a shell company called ASAT Trust in Liechtenstein, linked to a bank in the Bahamas, Bank Al Taqwa. Both ASAT Trust and Bank Al Taqwa were designated on the U.N.'s own terror-watch list, shortly after 9/11, as entities "belonging to or affiliated with Al Qaeda." This Liechtenstein trust and Bahamian bank were linked to two closely connected terrorist financiers, Youssef Nada and Idris Ahmed Nasreddin — both of whom were described in 2002 by Treasury as "part of an extensive financial network providing support to Al Qaeda and other terrorist related organizations," and both of whom appear on the U.N.'s list of individuals belonging to or affiliated with al Qaeda.

The other tie between Oil-for-Food and al Qaeda, noted by Perelman, ran through another of Saddam's handpicked, Oil-for-Food oil buyers, Swiss-based Delta Services — which bought oil from Saddam in 2000 and 2001, at the height of Saddam's scam for grafting money out of Oil-for-Food by way of under-priced oil contracts. Now shut down, Delta Services was a subsidiary of a Saudi Arabian firm, Delta Oil, which had close ties to the Taliban during Osama bin Laden's heyday in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

One would think that, given the ambiguity of the situation in Darfur and our recent experience with post-war chaos and insurgency in the Middle East, we might see more caution about interfering in Darfur:

Indeed, to avoid further catastrophes like Darfur, the United States should announce a policy of never intervening to help provocative rebels, diplomatically or militarily, so long as opposing armies avoid excessive retaliation. This would encourage restraint on both sides. Instead, intervention resources should be redirected to support "people power" movements that pursue change peacefully, as they have done successfully over the past two decades in the Philippines, Indonesia, Serbia and elsewhere.

What boggles the mind is the liberal insistence that only the UN (with its sterling track record of humanitarian intervention and respect for the rights of women and children) can lend legitimacy to the reconstruction of Iraq. Where are the calls for UN accountability? And why are we so determined to tear ourselves to pieces in a fury of self-loathing while giving a pass to dicatators and corrupt UN officials?

Yes, truth is generally more complicated than idealized fiction. But here's a simple truth: if Americans are responsible for war crimes in Haditha, the U.S. military will prosecute and punish them long before any semblance of justice is meted out from the tribunals for Rwanda, the Balkans, Sudan and Iraq, which have already plodded along for years.

What must America's enemies think when members of the American political and intellectual classes find ways to mitigate the responsibility of the butchers of Darfur while condemning the men of Kilo Company for murder in Haditha?

Americans have a special obligation to know about and condemn the moral failures of their countrymen -- we are our own moral arbiters first. The practice of self-criticism above self-interest, the search for truth over fanaticism and the pursuit of justice over partiality distinguish a tolerant, democratic society.

But surely there is also an obligation to put that self criticism in context, to grant members of the American military the same presumption of innocence afforded petty thieves, to recognize the complexities of a conflict with a relentless and remorseless enemy, and to provide some perspective to the very broad scale of human savagery in Iraq and around the globe.

The answer, I fear, lies in American arrogance, which is the antithesis of American exceptionalism. For all too many, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are all about us. There is precious little concern for (or awareness of) the best interests of those we are purportedly trying to help, as human tragedies become nothing more than an avenue for political attacks.

Death stalked Iraq and Afghanistan long before the first American troops set foot there. And try as we might, we cannot keep death completely at bay even now. What we can do is give the Iraqis the chance to determine their own future, to live free of fear one day. The difference between us and Saddam ought to be plain, even to the shallowest minds.

What makes us different is what we are willing to fight for:

All nations' soldiers commit crimes, and decent nations punish them. But it is not true that "what makes us an exceptional nation with the capacity to lead and inspire the world" is that we recognize we can be barbaric and that we punish barbarism.

What makes us exceptional is that we stand for liberty, and that we are willing to fight for liberty. We don't need to "prove" we are different from the jihadists by bringing our own soldiers, if they have done something wrong, to justice. Of course we must and will do this. But our doing this "proves" nothing. Even if there were ten Hadithas, we would still not have to "prove" that we are "different from the jihadists."

What we do have to prove is that we are strong enough to fight this war, and intelligent enough to win it.

In the end, it is not compassion, fine words, or lofty sentiments, but the will to stay the course that will win the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis:

It occurred to me that this time, Maliki and the U.S. officials did not let us down when the criminal Zarqawi appeared on TV in his latest video that provoked all Iraqis. They all said his days are numbered and they will get him dead or alive and they did.
That is what makes America different: the will to stand up for what we believe in; even to fight for it if necessary. May it ever be so.

Posted by Cassandra at June 9, 2006 12:15 PM


This one really got to me; women waiting for their loved ones...oh please, let me say that there is a merciful God, and that He hears their cries and loves them for their faithfulness and will comfort them. He will watch over them, because I know how fathers are about their daughters.
This life doesn't end with death.

It is only the beginning.

Posted by: Cricket at June 9, 2006 01:56 PM

This life doesn't end with death. It is only the beginning.

There is an inexpressible peace in that thought.

Thank you for reminding me of that, ladybug.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 9, 2006 02:26 PM

why is the left complaining about Darfur now they sure as hell weren't concerned about those Christian Africans in the 90's and all they know how to do is offer empty and meaningless apologies for their cowardice.They finally just need to level with us and tell us who they are instead of hanging on to this false facade they constantly give us,they are weak and they know it and I believe that is what Pinch was conveying to the students in a round about way,and they didn't get it.

Posted by: Lisa Gilliam at June 10, 2006 12:14 PM

Well said.

Posted by: Chris Muir at June 10, 2006 10:16 PM

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