Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How to fix Iraq

We can dig our way out of the quicksand of Iraq, but not with gun barrels.

First we must look honestly at the reasons for the insurgency, and admit that our very actions are the root cause.

First is civilian casualities. An article in the new issue of US News & World Report, “Victims of Circumstance” 9/27/04, reports that from June 10 until September 10, 1,811 Iraqi civilian have been killed, of which 75% have as a result of our military action.

It is hard to overstate the problem these deaths pose for American officials when it comes to winning Iraqi hearts and minds. The accidental killing of women, children, and bystanders has repeatedly angered Iraqis and is turning the public against America and fueling the insurgency.

The attitude that it is acceptable to “destroy the village in order to save it,” worked against us in Vietnam and is certainly working against us now.

First it is a morally indefensible position from a Christian standpoint.
Even in war, soldiers must conduct themselves as peacemakers, targeting the enemy and not engaging in wholesale slaughter. The innocent must be protected, not killed as combatants. From a Sermon preached at St. Peter's United Church of Christ, Elmhurst, Ill., Feb. 23, 2003 by the Rev. Dr.Thistlethwaite President, Chicago Theological Seminary

Pragmatists will argue that morality doesn’t win wars. Yet history has clearly shown us that an understanding of culture not only wins wars, but more importantly insures the winning of the “peace.” During World War II many well known top anthropologist including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead's husband, Gregory Bateson complied reports on “enemy” cultures for the War department. Benedict's analysis of Japanese national character, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (Boston, 1946), is the best-known study that grew out of this wartime anthropology. For more on this, read Mead’s article in "The Uses of Anthropology in World War II and After" in Walter Goldschmidt, ed., The Uses of Anthropology (Washington, 1979), 145-57.

My husband spent two years in Japan. It is a profoundly different culture, and yet they are among our closest allies today because our leaders at the end of W.W.II recognized the importance of culture.

There are mountains of literature and numerous experts on the cultures and history of Iraq that anyone—me or you or the Bush administration or the Kerry campaign—could check. If you just read a quick, but interesting book called “Desert Queen” you’ll have a better understanding of the role of history, culture clash, and imperialism in Iraq than any news anchor and 99% on the analysts served up on cable and the networks. From the review on Amazon.com:
A biography of the woman who, indirectly, was the catalyst for many of the troubles in the Middle East, including the Gulf War. In 1918, Gertrude Bell drew the region's proposed boundaries on a piece of tracing paper. Her qualifications for doing so were her extensive travel, her fluency in both Persian and Arabic, and her relationships with sheiks and tribal and religious leaders. She also possessed an ability to understand the subtle and indirect politeness of the culture, something many of her colonialist comrades were oblivious to.

I could cite a lot of anthropological studies on the peoples of Iraq, but instead I suggest that you rent the classic film, “Lawrence of Arabia” and look at the scene in which Lawrence and his Arab allies have just crossed the desert and arrived at the water hole of Anthony Quinn’s tribe.

The friend that Lawrence has saved in desert killed a member of Quinn’s tribe. Quinn’s tribe must avenge the death, which will then required retribution from the other side. The only way to end the blood feud is for Lawrence to take the life of the man he had just saved. Actually any one who knows this movie knew that invading Iraq was going to be a disaster.

My main point here is that every civilian that we kill has a network of family and friends that become our enemy, sworn to avenge the death.

Step number one: Stop the killing of civilians.

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