By lex, on July 14th, 2007
Chris Hedges is one of those tender and enlightened sorts, who – when not writing books comparing Christian fundamentalists in America with fascists – worries terribly about what the war in Iraq is doing to America’s soul. The Mother Jones columnist was against the war in Iraq from the start, you see, although not against war per se. He found the humanitarian interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo quite appropriate since they helped to stop the genocidal slaughter of people whose centuries-old religious differences set them murderously at each other’s throats.
I know, but trust him. It’s complex.
In today’s LA Times,**he bewails the misfortunes that attend to a war in which the enemy declines to wear uniforms in a stand-up fight, preferring instead an asymmetric campaign of Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIED), suicide vests and the odd roadside bomb. It appears that innocent bystanders can get hurt – even killed! – when terrorists get in the habit of exploding infernal devices among them.
I was as shocked as you.
Worse even than checkpoint shootings which cause the deaths of innocents in Hedges universe are the night-time cordon and search of homes. These are intelligence-driven operations, many of which have resulted in bombers and their equipment being removed from circulation, although inevitably a few will end up as dry holes. When this occurs the paterfamilias is apparently exposed to the kind of humiliation that, in company with the fact that some soldiers have taken to calling Iraqi’s “hajjis” – a Arabic term of honor, except when they use it – turns “huge swathes of the Arab and Muslim world against us.” Like that genocidal campaign of rape on murder going on in Darfur between Muslim Arab Sudanese and Muslim African Sudanese that has, at current accounting, taken the lives of 500,000 and displaced another 2.5 million.
No, wait. Not like that. At all.
Anyway, there really is nothing new under the sun, so to go with the stilt puppets and bongo drums already in ubiquitous abundance, Hedges has reached back into the musty archives of anti-war agitprop to resuscitate the “Winter Soldier” tribunal, all on his own. You remember, John Kerry? Reminiscing about Genghis Khan?
That whole thing.
Hedges interviewed 50 combat veterans to assemble his tale of The American Fighting Man Gone Amok, but he declines to offer us the means by which they were selected. Probably the first 50 who walked through the door.
He is careful to state that those who are, well – not quite committing war crimes exactly, but anyway, doing things Hedges himself would never (have to) do are in the minority, but that doesn’t stop him from labeling this the “vet’s view” of Iraq, or conclude:
We need to muster the moral courage to face the reality of the war. To wallow in a myth that trumpets our goodness, denies our irresponsible rules of engagement and demonizes those who oppose us will leave us unable to end the occupation and begin the long, slow process of reconciliation.
This is smug pretentiousness and supercilious nonsense. The reality of all war is that it is horrible. The calculus of war is that there are things more horrible still, like genocide for example, or madcap tyrannies atop explicitly hostile states in pursuit of WMD. And we can either choose to “wallow in a myth” of goodness as contrasted to those we “demonize” – you know, those kooks with their hopped-up teenagers in suicide vests viewing jihadi snuff porn videos on YouTube when they’re not stoning the odd adulteress – or we can wallow in a carefully constructed narrative that conflates well-intentioned errors made by young people under terrible pressure with the crimes and misdemeanors of a small number of miscreants.
Choose your poison.
I’m for what’s behind door “A” myself, because that long, slow process of reconciliation Hedges is talking about? That’s not between the Sunni and the Shi’a in Iraq, nor between the forces of modernity and oppression around the world. No.
He’s talking about reconciliation between people like him – people who believe that any exercise in American power must, no matter how morally correct in its own right not even collaterally serve to advance our national interest – and all those godbothering Christo-fascists who disagree. We will be reconciled, in other words, when the rest of us trade our morality for his.
** 08-11-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.