Worse Than We Imagined(Reprinted from the issue of June 29, 2006)
The most chilling moment in the film Lawrence of Arabia occurs when the Arabian Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) explains quietly why his army doesnt leave its wounded alive for the enemy Turks to find. His puzzled American interlocutor asks if the Turks torture them. Feisal replies gravely, Worse than I hope you can imagine.
Those words made me shudder 45 years ago, and they come back to me every time I hear news of Americans captured in Iraq.
We dont have to imagine what is done to them now. Our press, less delicate than in previous wars, reports the most dreadful mutilations.
Lest anyone think the killing of the cruel Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had taught his followers a lesson, they captured two American soldiers south of Baghdad, torturing and disfiguring them so badly that their bodies had to be identified by DNA testing.
So much for the idea that Zarqawis death was a turning point in the war on terrorism. There are plenty more where he came from, and they are not going to be appeased by voting booths.
Once again the United States has ventured into an incomprehensibly savage part of the world in the hope of transforming a jungle into Main Street, only to learn that its not dealing with the local Chamber of Commerce.
We could have had a war like this in the 1980s, if Ronald Reagan had decided to stay the course in Lebanon after a terrorist suicide bomber killed 241 Marines in Beirut. We could have had another in the 1990s if Bill Clinton had stayed the course after a similar incident in Somalia. But both presidents had the sense to cut and run, as the hawks now say, and two quagmires were avoided.
Even the first President Bush, in his two wars in Panama and Iran, defined his war aims clearly and stopped when they were achieved, leaving the hawks unappeased.
Making a war is like causing a hurricane. Once it starts, the elements are out of control, the destruction incalculable. Only a fool would predict happy results.
Again I can do no better than recommend Paul Fussells great study of World
Meanwhile, President Bush has made another surprise visit to Iraq, notifying the prime minister of his arrival only five minutes before he landed.
A funny way to treat a sovereign, independent democracy.
Origins of Jihad
The columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave, writing in The Washington Times, reminds us that the militant Islamist movement didnt begin in the Arabian deserts among the camels.
It began with an Egyptian student of American literature named Sayeb Qtab at the University of Northern Colorado.
In 1952 Qtab had his epiphany at a church dance. On this seemingly innocent occasion, he was revolted by the way American women adorned their faces, exposed the shape of their bodies, and danced chest-to-chest with men to the song Baby, Its Cold Outside.
With a prophets eye he saw horrible decadence in the scene and was alarmed at the thought that it threatened to spread around the world, engulfing Islamic culture and morals as it went.
Returning home, Qtab spread his message, and it resonated with his fellow Muslims.
Weve Come a Long Way
Why do they hate us? we ask. Well, sometimes for obvious reasons of military power and political intervention; but also for countless things we are hardly aware of or assume to be innocuous, such as culturally fraught customs of womens dress. Their blood may boil at things we take for granted.
Imagine: a church dance in Colorado in 1952! What could be more tame and normal than that?
But Qtab saw a mortal danger to the world he loved. And it does take some imagination for us to understand his point.
It may help to recall how strict Christians were once shocked by such things as the waltz and revealing bathing suits even men used to keep their chests covered at the beach.
And imagine what the people at that church dance in 1952 would have thought of America in 2006. Weve come a long way from Baby, Its Cold Outside.
But maybe Qtub wouldnt be surprised.
Conservatism, A to Z
American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, published by ISI Books, is a 997-page survey that covers just about the whole conservative movement, from the paleoconservatism of Russell Kirk to the neoconservatism of Irving and William Kristol, along with many variants.
The book is featured on the front page of The New York Times, and it promises to be a feast for the mind.
Interestingly, it omits entries for George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Charles Krauthammer, Tim LaHaye, and compassionate conservatism; it does include C.S. Lewis, Dan Quayle, Pat Robertson, and Southern agrarianism.
Willmoore Kendall gets three times as much space as Newt Gingrich, which shows a nice sense of proportion.
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