Sunday, June 11, 2006

About that Zarqawi guy

I've fallen behind on my blogging duties. Zarqawi got bumped off nearly a week ago, and I haven't chimed in about it yet. So I guess this is a little overdue, especially since I've been posting about Iraq on a fairly regular basis. So a few quick thoughts about his demise:

  • As a card-carrying member of the liberal blogosphere, I think this is a great development. By now you've probably heard from a lot of loudmouth conservatives who insist that liberals are sad to see Zarqawi go. They're lying.
  • I'll try to be charitable and just chalk their rhetoric up to them grasping at straws, hoping that this somehow vindicates them in going to war in the first place. Bzzt, wrong. It was still a stupid idea.
  • Saying it was a terrible idea is not the same thing as wanting to lose. That's just crazy talk. Winning would be great, however you want to define that. Just so long as it means we get to go home. A peaceful, democratic Iraq would sure be nice, too, if that's really what the locals there want. It's just that I'm not an optimist.
  • I'm not being contrary or defeatist here. It's just that our current leaders don't inspire a lot of confidence. I don't think Bush, or Rummy, or any of their underlings have a clue about what the insurgency is all about. I've seen it remarked on several times that if you work in this administration, learning Arabic is career suicide. The thinking, apparently, is that if you can read the local newspaper anywhere in the Mideast, you'll hear the siren song of Islamic fundamentalism and "go native", therefore you can't be trusted. That's... remarkable.
  • This may sound a little glib, but any time the world loses a homicidal religious fanatic, of any religion, it's a great day for the human race.
  • Media accounts about Zarqawi's death have cautioned that he had nothing at all to do with large segments of the insurgent population, and we're given a laundry list: ex-Baathists, other Sunni fundamentalists, nationalists, and so forth. Nobody really talks about the "nationalist" category much, or explains what that means, because we'd much rather believe this is all the doing of a few charismatic Bad Guys (Saddam, Osama, Zarqawi, etc.). The really scary prospect is that of ordinary people who simply don't like having a foreign army occupying their country. We don't seem to have done a very good job convincing these people that we're the good guys. Announcing the fact repeatedly on Fox News doesn't really help in this regard.
  • "Nationalist" insurgents are scary, too, because their reasoning isn't utterly alien in the same way that being a Baathist or an Al Qaeda member is. If a foreign army invaded and took over your country, and killed your friends and neighbors at will, and treated you like dirt, and didn't speak your language or respect your culture, what would you do? No, don't get mad at me for asking the question. Seriously, what would you do?
  • You hear some debate about whether the insurgency is mostly local, or mostly "foreign fighters". I gather the party line leans toward foreign fighters and not locals, but if that's true, the logical course of action would be to try to stem the flow of angry young Wahhabi fundies into the country, and we really haven't seen that. We've gotten some occasional criticism of Syria, since some people in Neoconland would like Syria to be the next war, but when was the last time anyone publicly criticized Saudi Arabia? They can't all be sneaking in from Syria, especially the ones who turn out to be Saudis.
  • And let's not forget that the anti-Shia rhetoric Zarqawi was spouting wouldn't be out of place in a Saudi classroom. Shiites are regularly attacked in Iraq and Pakistan, and discriminated against in Saudi Arabia itself, and let's not forget the Lebanese civil war. A concerted campaign like this doesn't simply appear out of nowhere with nobody backing it, and no money behind it. I'm not saying this in the neocon sense, where foreign involvement means you need to start bombing all the surrounding countries.
  • As I said, I'm trying to be charitable about conservatives and the reasons why they're trying to use Zarqawi to attack their domestic opponents. There seems to be a notion that anyone at all different from them is an enemy and can't be trusted. If you're not a far-right megachurch fundie, you must be a traitor, plus you're going to hell, too. That's is the only reason I can see for the ongoing Pentagon/NSA surveillance push: Nearly everyone is a potential (or probable) evildoer, so they need to know all phone calls, all website visits, every credit card purchase, and on and on, sort of the modern day version of commies hiding under every bed. There is such a thing as being too paranoid, and "better safe than sorry" isn't always true. Gathering all this information would be pointless unless you intend to act on it at some point, and in the current administration the info will be in the hands of people who see "enemies" everywhere, nearly all of whom are not real enemies.
  • Meanwhile, in other Mideast news, say hi to "Maskiot", the newest Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Somehow we're supposed to achieve a just and lasting peace across the middle east while ignoring blatant, illegal land grabs like this. Apparently we can't say, wait, that's wrong, stop it right this minute. But it's perfectly fine to engage in an endless series of wars to subjugate anyone in the region who might object.
  • Take Iran, for example. Our glorious leaders have reached the bitter bureaucratic infighting phase over a possible war against Iran. Early this week we got the surprising news that we would now consider talking to Iran and even offering them incentives over the nuclear issue. Word is this was Condi's idea, and crazy ol' John Bolton is already trying to sink the idea.
  • That last link goes on to talk about Leo Strauss and the neocon philosophy. I've got an unfinished post about that topic that I may have to finish up and post as sort of a followup to this post. The more you look at these guys, the weirder and scarier (and less "conservative") they are.

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