Swans Commentary » swans.com July 4, 2005  



Defining The Enemy


by Charles Marowitz






(Swans - July 4, 2005)   The circular argument put forward by George W. Bush in justifying the Iraqi invasion is that it is a war to extend "freedom" to a middle-East country which has been without such a blessing for over three decades; indeed, far longer than that. The corollary to that argument is that our enemy is "Terrorism" -- not only in Iraq but in adjoining nations throughout the Arabian peninsula.

In order for that argument to be plausible, we must assume that the Muslims who have swarmed into Iraq from countries such as Iran, Syria, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan, India and elsewhere, have all forsaken their native lands and daily occupations in order to join the league of "Terrorists" (in extreme cases, to become suicide bombers) because they consciously wish to further the aims of the Insurrection. We must discount the possibility that they are motivated by a passionate antagonism to foreign occupation and staunch believers in the Islamic faith which views occupying forces as "infidels," enemies to their God and their most strongly-held traditional beliefs. Or, if we are to accept the more conventional interpretation, we may believe they are in some indefinable way the off spring of Saddam Hussein -- (i.e., fanatical Baathists, "dead-enders," etc.) who are inspired by an ineradicable hatred for the West and everything it stands for.

If President Bush is right, then there truly is an "Insurrection" -- a revolt against all civil authority -- and all the "insurrectionists" are committed to a perpetual jihad against everything America stands for. But if he is wrong, we have to entertain the speculation that our enemies in Iraq are motivated by something other than a maniacal desire to blow up Americans and those traitorous nationals who would collaborate with them. If they are, in fact, unreformable "Terrorists," which is to say Muslim fanatics numbering only in the thousands, then we may be able to triumph over them. But if they are legions of Muslim stalwarts fighting for passionately-held beliefs very different from our own, then our enemies must number in the millions and, short of genocide, there is no way to destroy them.

The present conflict is predicated on the belief that this is a "War against Terrorism" which is an honorable, moral position and not unlike the offensive we mounted against Nazi Germany, whose ideology was brutal, oppressive, and inhuman. But if we are wrong, if behind this bloody confrontation there is a genuine opposition between divergent ideas of religion and culture then we have to carefully assess the rights and wrongs of both ideologies involved in this clash. We have to examine the culture and social modality of what "freedom" and "democracy" have wrought in the West and particularly in the United States of America. We have to consider objectively the negative aspects of our own society; the gross seduction of our youths by the priesthood, the cankerworm of corruption and kickback that eats away at our body politic, the thievery and frauds that are rife among our corporations, the ethnic inequalities which regularly produce collisions between whites and blacks, and the fact that our media, although ostensibly free, is in fact the captive of powerful financial interests that select which virtues are to be extolled and which criticisms are to be suppressed. We have to acknowledge how the "freedom" we are so anxious to impose on other nations is being chillingly curtailed in our own country day after day; how our civil liberties are steadily being legislatively diminished. We must also acknowledge the troubled and confused national malaise in which "truth" and "hype" are so finely compounded that it grows harder each day to differentiate one from the other. Is this the democratic model we can proudly hold up before the rest of the world?

Against all this, we have to examine the precepts on which the Muslim faith is based; its utter subordination to religious leaders and holy doctrines; its suppression of women, its often brutal punishments for what we would consider misdemeanors, its embattled sectarianism, intolerance of tribal differences and historic subjugation to theocracy.

In this war between East and West, each side has demonized the other and so long as that goes on, we can be sure strife will grow bloodier and bloodier with the passage of time. But if we can more accurately visualize our enemies, we may reach a point where we are obliged to qualify, or leastways mitigate, the hatred we feel against them. If this point is never reached, if we persist in seeing this war as a battle between Good and Evil, we will leave this region -- whether in twelve months or twelve years -- a wasteland, and all our rhetoric about "freedom" and "democracy" will become epitaphs for those we have slaughtered and those of our own who will lie under military tombstones. "My country, right or wrong" has always been the battle cry which has decimated our youth and dehumanized the best in ourselves and this is the shibboleth that rings in our ears day after day.

If we examine the past century and a half, we see there was no victor in the American Civil War -- just as we won no victory in Vietnam. We demonized the South just as we demonized the Vietcong and we have had to live with the horrible aftermath of those hostilities because, in both instances, we didn't see any further than the rhetoric of our own faction. No one has a pat solution to the current crisis but there are certain attitudes which we know can create havoc in the lives of nations. One of these is not being able to fathom the depth of our antagonists' convictions. Another is feeling we are incontrovertibly "in the right" and proceeding therefore, self-righteously. That is what we are doing at the moment and it is the surest recipe for disaster.

I repeat: If in destroying the insurrectionists we can pluck victory out of Iraq, we may have to reconsider the infuriating words we have been flinging at our besieged political leaders. But if we are at war with a cluster of nations, an entire peninsula of antagonists whose gods are different from our own, we will have to resort to genocide in order to triumph, and once we even consider that option, we have lost.

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Internal Resources

Iraq on Swans


About the Author

Charles Marowitz on Swans (with bio).



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This Edition's Internal Links

Fourth Of July Greetings From an Iraqi Perspective - Gilles d'Aymery

Making Iraq The Central Front - Dossier compiled by Jan Baughman

Prelude To A Military Disengagement - Philip Greenspan

Who Needs Cold War Falsification? - Book Review by Louis Proyect

Who Needs The Humbug? - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

Who Needs Sophisms? - Book Review by Milo Clark

Peaches - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Blips #22 - From the Editor's desk

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published July 4, 2005