Thursday, September 23, 2004

Joining the Campaign Trail

In what could easily be mistaken for a campaigning running mate, Ayad Allawi the "independent" acting prime minister of Iraq blew into town.  Listening to his carefully nuanced pronouncements, one could not help being stuck by their verbal consistency with the Bush campaign rhetoric.  This was especially evident in an interview given to PBS's Jim Lehrer last evening.  Echoing language used by Bush, Allawi kept on referring to those opposing our occupation, and consequentially his rule, as terrorists.  When asked how many Iraqi's had been killed along with more the now 1037 US service women and men, he responded that about 3,700 civilians had been killed by the terrorists.  Of course that number does not include civilian losses during the heavy bombing of the days prior to "mission accomplished."  But Allawi went further in claiming that rather than a fight against insurgency, this was a battle against terrorism on behalf of the entire world.  After all, Saddam, he suggested as if it were an absolute fact, worked hand in glove with the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11.  I guess the 9/11 Commission which came to just the opposite conclusion should have interviewed him more carefully.  I wish Jim Lehrer had challenged on those self serving, but hardly self evident, allegations, but that's another subject.

There is no doubt that brutal acts of terrorism are being carried out in Iraq and, of course other places.  There is equally no question that all, and perhaps most, of the hostilities should not be described as such.  When people resisting occupation blow up tanks and Humvees these may be lethal acts of rebellion, but it's not the same as a suicide bombing or kidnapping of innocent civilians.  Donald Rumsfeld likes to remind us that war is messy and it sure is.  Part of the way we get clarity is to distinguish between horrible hostile acts, a painful but important process.  Picking and choosing descriptors is complicated.  Are individuals lining up to join the army or police force potential combatants or civilians?  Perhaps both, but trying to thwart the buildup of opposing forces, no matter how we may feel about their potential mission or how awful it is, can't simply be labeled another act of terrorism.  For a segment of the Iraqi community the mission accomplished is simply not acceptable and that includes people who were not the Saddam regime.

There is another dimension to this renewed emphasis on terrorism as the central player in Iraq, one that goes beyond the renewed implied connection with 9/11.  This one has a moral component and a very disturbing one.  It appears that the Administration is now acknowledging that terrorists, not previously there, were drawn to Iraq in the Post-Saddam era.  This is now being portrayed as a good thing because, it's better to have them there than elsewhere, specifically on American soil.  No one wants another terrorist act in this country, but the implications of that thinking are in themselves abhorrent.  Taking Mr. Bush's logic when he makes such assertions, one has to conclude that it is, if not alright, then better for Iraqi civilians to die than Americans.  I find such thinking by a man who likes to talk of his doing God's work to be morally reprehensible.  Sadly, it represents the continuing isolationist strain that has always been embedded in the American psyche.  Better over there than here at home.

We always talk about how a President's hardest decision is to put American military personnel in harm's way.  We rarely mention that, in doing so, he is also putting a much larger group of human beings, mostly non-combatants, in mortal danger as well.  The right-to-lifers who are so bent on protecting the unborn, might give a little more thought to how many viable lives we have cut short in our excursions around the globe, some legitimate but some, like the invasion of Iraq, out of transparent self interest, often economic self interest.  The terrorist card continues to play in this election season and it continues to be its most misleading and disturbing component.

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