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 Conscience and Terrorism 

April 8, 2004 
“I call upon the American people to stand beside their brothers, the Iraqi people, Read Joe's columns the day he writes them. who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis. Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers.”

This plea, from the popular Shi’ite leader Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, is notable on several counts. First, he appeals to our conscience — our sense of justice as well as our prudence. Second, he addresses us as “brothers,” not “infidels.” (Dale Carnegie would admire his Islamic tact.) Third, he doesn’t threaten us with retaliation in our homeland; he merely asks us to get our government out of his homeland. Otherwise, he warns, Iraq will become another big problem for us — like Vietnam.

Muqtada has been ordered arrested by the occupiers, alias “us,” the Americans. He can’t be called a “Saddam loyalist”; Saddam Hussein killed his father and brothers.

Is he a terrorist? He has “issued [a] call for terrorism against allied troops,” as the hawkish Washington Times puts it. That phrase shows how badly Americans now abuse the English language: Attacking invading soldiers in your own country is “terrorism”!

What Muqtada warns of is worlds away from murdering innocent people in New York. He’s talking about fighting in his own country. From his point of view, Iraq has a massive problem with illegal aliens.

It used to be called “guerrilla warfare.” It’s often the only military option available against a powerful invader. The French Resistance is still praised for using guerrilla tactics against the German occupation during World War II.

[Breaker quote: Muqtada's plea]Guerrilla warfare can be pretty ugly, as the Fallujah killings and corpse mutilations show. But “conventional” warfare, especially with modern high-tech weapons, isn’t pretty either. American television has been criticized for declining to show what was done to four American bodies; but neither has it shown the Iraqi carnage caused by American weapons. We’ve been spared tens of thousands of gruesome pictures showing the victims of “liberation.” That includes civilians as well as brave Iraqi soldiers fighting the invaders against hopeless odds.

In the American media, only American soldiers in Iraq count as fully human; their deaths and injuries are tragic. Iraqis who don’t welcome their “presence” are all lumped together as terrorists. Their deaths are like those of insects and only make us safer. We stand for freedom. Those who resist us hate freedom.

The Bush administration prepared us for war with lies that have been exposed. It said things it knew were false and things it had “no doubt” were true when they were only wild guesses. The monster Saddam has been overthrown, but the people he oppressed and persecuted — the people we were supposedly saving from him — are now treated as enemies too. Do they too have “weapons of mass destruction” that threaten us?

The U.S. Government keeps justifying its huge and expanding power with dizzyingly rotating rationales. Consistency, as they say, is “not a problem.” With all this propaganda, just keeping your head is a full-time job.

Muqtada’s simple plea is being ignored. Bush’s “opponent” John Kerry could exploit it if he wanted to, having, after all, made his first fame speaking out against the Vietnam war. But he won’t.

The closer you get to power, it seems, the less you are inclined to pipe up against it. Politicians who inveigh against abuses of power never mean they want to abolish the power itself; they merely mean that they want it for themselves.

President Kerry would continue the war on “terrorism,” a useful excuse for U.S. power, even if he somewhat changed its guise with a multilateral approach. He might be compared to a politician who — this may sound far-fetched — marries an immensely rich woman and makes crude, demagogic attacks on “the rich” while living off her money.

What would Bush do if he reviewed the situation and realized that the Iraq war was wrong? Would he repent, apologize, and withdraw the troops, even at risk of losing this year’s election? Or would he admit nothing and persist in his course for the sake of keeping power?

We may never know. It’s even possible that it has already happened: that he realizes even now that he has created another Vietnam but chooses to keep it going, at whatever cost to others, rather than pay any price himself. After all, when a politician wrestles with his conscience, he usually wins in straight falls.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
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