Friday, December 05, 2003

Equivocation Nation 
I love The Nation. But I just couldn’t let this twisted bit reasoning slip by:

From the first paragraph:

[Terrorists’ main objective] is less to kill than to sow anxiety and panic. Ironically, from this perspective, Al Qaeda and the US Administration, as well as the Israeli right and Hamas, have a common aim: namely, to increase fear in order to recruit and manipulate their own people against their respective "other."

Kimmerling wastes no time in drawing a moral equivalency between the Bush Administration and Al Qaeda. Which really does the reader a favor, because the reader need waste no time in identifying the moral bankruptcy of Kimmerling’s premise.

When Iraqi loyalist forces realized that they could not confront Anglo-American military might on the conventional battleground, they simply dissolved their army and handed the invaders an easy victory.

This assessment is pretty far removed from the reality. For the most part, the Iraqi army “dissolved” because of the corruption, brutality, and incompetence of its leadership. From the opening days of the war, entire units were laying down their arms and walking home. Yet even as the U.S. forces were in the suburbs of Baghdad, Saddam was wasting entire brigades of his best Republican Guard units in suicidal charges against tanks and Bradleys. If Saddam had made a conscious decision to go irregular from the start, then he would have husbanded his Guard and Fedayeen units for unconventional operations rather than destroy them in foolish charges. Iraq’s army wasn’t “dissolved” by its leaders. It “dissolved” because of them.

Once the allied forces entered this trap, the Iraqis (joined, it appears, by foreign Arabs) began waging a highly efficient guerrilla war against them…
Well, I don’t know what “highly efficient” means in this context. I suspect that even Kimmerling doesn’t know exactly what he means by “highly efficient.”

…and against anyone associated with the occupier, including the United Nations.

Hey, Kimmerling! Why did you leave out the International Red Cross?

Acutely sensitive to the threat, the American government has denounced these guerrillas as "terrorists."

Oh, I get it now. The absurdity of Kimmerling’s argument requires him to ignore relevant facts like the bombing of the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad, because that would expose his bankrupt position for what it is. It would also make it difficult for him to use the “scare quotes” around the word “terrorist.”

Anyone who writes about terrorism is faced with the notorious problem of defining it.

Actually, when you make a practice of clarifying the language rather than trying to muddy and confuse it, it’s not such a big problem at all. I would refer readers to The Language of Insurgency on this page for more on this point.

Arab defenders of suicide bombing, notably Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, an influential Shiite cleric in Lebanon, have argued that any Israeli is a legitimate target since all Israelis, men and women, serve in the military.

I wonder if Kimmerling can produce the military service records of Israeli schoolchildren killed in bus bombings deliberately set during school commuting hours?

It is, of course, a commonplace that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

Yes, it’s fashionable for the professor set to raise their eyebrows and wag their pinkies at one another and say that to impress their friends and gullible students at cocktail parties.

It’s also true that in other times and places, it was equally “a commonplace” that one man’s negro was another man’s nigger, and one man’s Jew was another man’s subhuman.

The fact that these views were commonplace does not mean that both sides of the equation were equally valid. The attempt to equivocate between the two is often mistaken for cleverness. But it is certainly not wisdom.

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