Saturday, June 10, 2006

Zarqawi as seen by people, pundits and politicians -- and a “Girl Blog from Iraq”

I was thinking about the gloating, triumphalist reaction to Zarqawi’s death. One the one hand, it’s understandable -- the man was a monster and a thug. But what about the glorification of the high tech equivalent of vigilante justice and summary execution?

As usual, the people seem to be ahead of the politicians and pundits. On talk shows I heard a surprising number of people question the Zarqawi operation. Some said it was more about politics than justice, that it makes a mockery of the rule of law. Others suggested that taking out individual enemy leaders from the air hasn’t worked all that well for the Israelis, and it's not likely to work for us. The callers mostly weren't ideologues, but just ordinary Americans wondering what happened to our country’s sense of justice. What’s the message we’re sending about our values?

When George Bush announced Zarqawi’s death on the “Today” show, it seemed simple enough: Justice is something that's delivered from an F-16.
Mr. Bush said that at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday in Baghdad (10:15 a.m. Eastern time), special operations forces, acting on tips and intelligence from Iraqis, confirmed Mr. Zarqawi's location, and "delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq."
So now he’s judge, jury and executioner? I wonder if he will start to call himself the “Justice-Bringer.” But it wasn’t just Bush. Politicians and pundits alike seemed reluctant to speak up about due process. Nobody really questioned the idea of remote control justice, delivered by a laser-guided bomb.

Even Al Gore let me down all over again, on the Leno show. Before the jokes started, Leno asked him if he didn't find it creepy the way people were gloating about the Zarqawi killing. Now, maybe Leno was just trying to set him up, but the fact remains Gore came off as insensitive in comparison to Jay Leno, of all people. He looked puzzled for a moment. (Why are we talking about this?) Then he said something to the effect that Zarqawi was a bad person and he was glad he was gone. (Can we get back to my scripted comic bits, please?) In other words, he sounded like a politician when I was (unrealistically, and perhaps unfairly) looking for something more.

But you’re not going to get a broader context from a politician. You’ve got to look elsewhere. A good place to start is Greg Palast’s “Unreported: The Zarqawi Invitation” in Truthout.
They got him - the big, bad, beheading berserker in Iraq. But, something's gone unreported in all the glee over getting Zarqawi - who invited him into Iraq in the first place?

If you prefer your fairy tales unsoiled by facts, read no further. If you want the uncomfortable truth, begin with this: A phone call to Baghdad to Saddam's Palace on the night of April 21, 2003. It was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a secure line from Washington to General Jay Garner. The General had arrived in Baghdad just hours before to take charge of the newly occupied nation. The message from Rumsfeld was not a heartwarming welcome. Rummy told Garner, Don't unpack, Jack - you're fired.

What had Garner done? The many-starred general had been sent by the President himself to take charge of a deeply dangerous mission. Iraq was tense but relatively peaceful. Garner's job was to keep the peace and bring democracy. Unfortunately for the general, he took the President at his word. But the general was wrong. "Peace" and "Democracy" were the slogans. "My preference," Garner told me in his understated manner, "was to put the Iraqis in charge as soon as we can and do it in some form of elections."

But elections were not in The Plan.
Read the rest of the piece to see how a mixture of U.S. greed, cynicism and bungling helped create the very insurgency that Zarqawi came to represent.

And if you want to see how things look on the ground in Iraq, check out Riverbend at Baghdad Burning -- the “Girl Blog from Iraq” (link thanks to Robot Wisdom, the invaluable site that first alerted me to this brave Iraqi woman’s blog). Her response to the Zarqawi killing is angry and cynical.
"A new day for Iraqis" is the current theme of the Iraqi puppet government and the Americans. Like it was "A New Day for Iraqis" on April 9, 2003. And it was "A New Day for Iraqis" when they killed Oday and Qusay. Another "New Day for Iraqis" when they caught Saddam. More "New Day" when they drafted the constitution… I'm beginning to think it's like one of those questions they give you on IQ tests: If 'New' is equal to 'More' and 'Day' is equal to 'Suffering', what does "New Day for Iraqis" mean?

How do I feel? To hell with Zarqawi (or Zayrkawi as Bush calls him). He was an American creation -- he came along with them -- they don't need him anymore, apparently. His influence was greatly exaggerated but he was the justification for every single family they killed through military strikes and troops. It was WMD at first, then it was Saddam, then it was Zarqawi. Who will it be now? Who will be the new excuse for killing and detaining Iraqis? Or is it that an excuse is no longer needed -- they have freedom to do what they want. The slaughter in Haditha months ago proved that. "They don't need him anymore," our elderly neighbor waved the news away like he was shooing flies, "They have fifty Zarqawis in government."

So now that Zarqawi is dead, and because according to Bush and our Iraqi puppets he was behind so much of Iraq's misery -- things should get better, right? The car bombs should lessen, the ethnic cleansing will come to a halt, military strikes and sieges will die down… That's what we were promised, wasn't it? That sounds good to me. Now -- who do they have to kill to stop the Ministry of Interior death squads, and trigger-happy foreign troops?
In her previous post she invoked the name of Emily Dickinson to give voice to her despair after another day of brutal killings.
There’s an ethnic cleansing in progress and it’s impossible to deny. People are being killed according to their ID card. Extremists on both sides are making life impossible. Some of them work for ‘Zarqawi’, and the others work for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. We hear about Shia being killed in the ‘Sunni triangle’ and corpses of Sunnis named ‘Omar’ (a Sunni name) arriving by the dozen at the Baghdad morgue. I never thought I’d actually miss the car bombs. At least a car bomb is indiscriminate. It doesn’t seek you out because you’re Sunni or Shia.

We still don’t have ministers in the key ministries- defense and interior. Iraq is falling apart and Maliki and his team are still bickering over who should get more power- who is more qualified to oppress Iraqis with the help of foreign occupiers? On top of all of this, rumor has it that the Iraqi parliament have a ‘vacation’ coming up during July and August. They’re so exhausted with the arguing, and struggling for power, they need to take a couple of months off to rest. They’ll leave their well-guarded homes behind for a couple of months, and spend some time abroad with their families (who can’t live in Iraq anymore -- they’re too precious for that).

Where does one go to avoid the death and destruction? Are the Americans happy with this progress? Does Bush still insist we’re progressing?

Emily Dickinson wrote, “hope is a thing with feathers.” If what she wrote is true, then hope has flown far -- very far -- from Iraq…
I only wish that people who speak so glibly of the progress we’re making could spend one day in her shoes.

1 comment:

loring said...

yeah, the whole reaction to that man's death is definitely creepy if you think too much about it.

i guess for most people, the bottom liine is that he was a bad person, and since they were in a combat situation, he was fair game. that's the wierd thing about war: death and destruction come justified and due process is put aside until after the war ends (and sometimes not even then).

you definitely aren't going to see people crying over it, but Nick Berg's father said something quite interestesting when he said that this was a revenge killing, and that revenge begets more revenge basically, like a terrible cycle.

yes, the man is dead, and yes he was a bad person as far as bad people go, but i don't think it's anything to really celebrate. nice blog.