|Friday, June 18, 2004
03:43 - What's it like, not comprehending Americans in the slightest?
Via Tim Blair, Andrew Gumbel of The Independent, regarding Paul Johnson's beheading:
Is this the horror that will finally undo George Bush's presidency?
What must go through the head of someone who can write a sentence like this? Who sees yet another Islamic terrorist atrocity committed against an American citizen (reportedly, one who was so sympathetic to Islam as to have been thinking of converting)—and can't contain his excitement that it might mean bad news for Bush?
And how is it that someone can imagine that seeing things like this will make us less willing to fight Islamic terrorism, more willing to capitulate and go home, and resolved to boot out the President on whose watch such a "horror" occurred?
It's been what, 228 years? And the wits across the pond still don't have any idea what we're like.
It's of a piece with opinionators everywhere who seem to take it as read that any bad thing that happens in Iraq—from valuables going missing from the Baghdad Museum to an IED going off in Fallujah to Abu Ghraib—is a tick mark in the column of "reasons we shouldn't have gone to Iraq."
As though the only condition under which invading Iraq was acceptable was that it would be completely effortless and bloodless and over before they had a chance to put out a new issue of Newsweek.
Listen: if my understanding of the situation is correct, to most Americans, setbacks in Iraq are an entirely different problem from the argument over whether we should or should not have invaded. I don't think any realistic-minded person in this country honestly thought there would be no bad news, no disappointments—in order to get that impression, after all, they'd have had to listen to all of Bush's and Rumsfeld's and everybody's speeches and statements and press conferences, and somehow hear the exact opposite of every word any of them ever said. (Which I guess explains how people can still get mileage out of the "Bush said Iraq posed an imminent threat!" thing, as Lewis Black did tonight. What's the weather like over in Bizarro World? How do those plastic turkeys taste?)
Abu Ghraib and the ongoing body-count and such things are setbacks we all knew were likely to happen, things we'd have to brace ourselves for. But ask yourself this: If we knew, in March last year, that Abu Ghraib was to occur a year later—would we have halted the invasion? Would it have changed our minds about the necessity of removing the regime that at the time had filled that very prison with people who were at that moment having their thumbs cut off, their tongues cut out, their arms broken, and a whole range of other creative forms of mutilation prescribed for crimes such as writing poems insufficiently obsequious toward Saddam?
Even if it were revealed to us that the military we were preparing to use in the invasion were a bunch of heartless SS shock troops, or a legion of Uruk-hai, would it have made us suddenly think that removing Saddam was no longer a worthwhile, honorable, and necessary goal?
It might make us address the problems with the military, sure. It might make us undergo a lightning-quick retraining process, costing us months of downtime and billions of dollars, as well as the element of surprise. We'd probably have done it. But would it have "invalidated" the underlying premise of the war?
Operational details about how the war would be won are an entirely separate question from whether the war should be fought at all. This is why so many Americans react with bemusement when columnists in foreign papers point at the atrocities and say, with giddy confidence, "See? See?! You were wrong to invade after all! Look what's happened!" To us, that's like saying that we shouldn't have gone to the moon because Apollo 13 later malfunctioned. It's ludicrous.
One thing we do understand, when we read an article like Gumbel's, is that people like him are more concerned with seeing Bush defeated than they are with installing democracy in the Middle East. They would rather see Saddam in power than Bush. And they'll use any news item in current events to try to drive home that point.
They'll never understand why those moronic Americans hold them in such contempt.