November 20, 2004

To Destroy the World, II: The Case of Fallujah, and Ralph Peters

A few days ago, I quoted one expert on the Middle East as follows:
The insurgents don't need a safe haven like Falluja to run down the clock. "In fact, Maoist tactics would argue against trying to settle in a city and hold it at this stage of a weak insurgency, and for using the population as a sea to swim in," said Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It is absurd, Mr. Cordesman adds, to believe that destroying Falluja and then rebuilding it will win support for the Americans and the interim government. The American military said it has put aside $100 million for reconstructing the devastated city. But that does not solve the much bigger problem of unemployment, now at 60 percent nationwide. That is a motivating factor for young men joining the insurgency.

"How much money and aid effort does it really take," Mr. Cordesman said, "to jump-start an economy rather than provide welfare for Falluja?"
For those who still want to believe that completely destroying various parts of Iraq will end the "insurgency" -- when such destruction ensures, among other things, that growing numbers of ordinary Iraqis hate us virulently enough to do us grave harm -- consider just part of today's news [link no longer working]:
Insurgents battled American troops in the streets of Baghdad on Saturday, killing a U.S. soldier in an ambush and gunning down four government employees in signals that the guerrillas remain a potent force despite the fall of their stronghold of Fallujah. Nine Iraqis also died in fighting west of the capital.

In Fallujah, where U.S. Marines and soldiers are still battling pockets of resistance, insurgents waved a white flag of surrender before opening fire on U.S. troops and causing casualties, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert said Saturday without elaborating.

Al-Arabiya television quoted Iraqi guerrillas fleeing Fallujah as saying they had run out of ammunition and many fighters who stayed behind were badly wounded.

U.S. troops in the northern city of Mosul found the bodies of nine Iraqi soldiers Saturday, all shot in the back of the head. The military first reported that seven of the victims were beheaded, but a second statement issued later Saturday said those reports were false.

Four decapitated bodies found earlier in the week in Mosul have not been identified, the military said Saturday. American and Iraqi forces detained 30 suspected guerrillas overnight in Mosul, the U.S. military said. ...

But the widespread clashes in Baghdad -- which broke out early Saturday in at least a half-dozen areas -- and other areas of central and northern Iraq (news - web sites) underscored the perilous state of security in this country after 18 months of American military occupation -- and just more than two months before vital national elections.

One American soldier was killed and nine were wounded in an ambush in central Baghdad. Five other U.S. soldiers were injured in a car bombing on the road to Baghdad's airport -- considered by U.S. authorities among the most dangerous routes in the country.

The heaviest fighting in the capital took place in the Azamiyah district, a largely Sunni Arab quarter, where insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and small weapons at a police station, killing one policeman, Iraqi officials said.

Anger among Sunnis rose after Iraqi troops backed by U.S. soldiers Friday raided the Abu Hanifa mosque in Azamiyah -- one of the most revered sites in Sunni Islam. Three worshippers were killed, witnesses said.

A number of U.S. armored vehicles were seen in flames, including a U.S. Army Humvee with what appeared to be a body in the driver's seat. Smoke rose from burning shops along a commercial street as U.S. helicopters circled overhead and ambulances raced to the scene. ...

A suicide driver blew up his vehicle shortly after noon at an intersection on Saadoun Street, a bustling commercial street. One Iraqi civilian was killed and another wounded in the blast, which sent black smoke rising above the city center and set several cars ablaze.

Gunmen chased down a vehicle carrying Ministry of Public Works employees on their way to work Saturday, opening fire and killing four of them, a ministry spokesman said. Amal Abdul-Hameed -- an adviser to the ministry in charge of urban planning -- and three employees from her office died, spokesman Jassim Mohammed Salim said.

To the west of the capital, U.S. troops clashed with insurgents Saturday near the local government building in Ramadi, and hospital officials said nine Iraqis were killed and five were wounded. ...

Elsewhere, saboteurs blew up an oil well near the northern city of Kirkuk -- the sixth such attack in the last 10 days, oil officials said. Insurgents regularly attack Iraq's oil infrastructure, which provides much of the revenue for reconstruction.

Clashes occurred between U.S. troops and insurgents in Qaim along the Syrian border and in Samarra, where mortar shells struck a U.S. base but caused no casualties. Five Iraqis were hurt in the Qaim fighting, the local hospital reported.

In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, police said gunmen killed an Iraqi police colonel and his driver as they headed south to Baghdad.
After reading all these details, we then happen upon this delusional passage, delivered straight from The Twilight Zone:
In New York, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations (news - web sites) said his government has "a good chance" of being able to hold the elections in January but might have to postpone them if violence escalates or Sunni Muslims decide to boycott.

Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie told a news conference Friday that "what happens in the next weeks will be important" in determining whether the insurgents can rally after losing their Fallujah base.
Yeah, "losing their Fallujah base" seems to have done the trick.

You truly have to wonder how much evidence it will take before the war planners begin to question the assumptions upon which they rely. How many people have to die for God's sake, before they start to grasp that what they are doing is not working? This is why I have said many, many times that the psychological imperatives that ultimately explain what is happening in Iraq are beyond and inaccessible to reason. There is no number of deaths that will satisfy these monsters without consciences.

All of which reminds of a profoundly repellent column by neocon hawk extraordinaire, Ralph Peters. There is a great deal that could be said about this piece of absolutely sickening garbage, especially in light of the fact that it is an almost perfect clinical example of an eliminationist pathology of immense, unreasoning hatred. So much evil concentrated in one newspaper column is an achievement rare to behold. So I will confine myself to noting one aspect of Peters' hate-filled rant, as captured in these excerpts:
We should move against Fallujah immediately -- with the support of Iraq's interim prime minister. We have an ideal window for action while our enemies, from al Qaeda and the French to al-Jazeera and the BBC, are bewildered by their failure to dictate our election's outcome. Their vicious attempts to change our government failed. Now they're wondering what on earth to do.

While they're scrambling, we should be shooting. ...

And when the president gives the order to finish the job in Fallujah, the Washington civilians need to get out of the way of our Marines and soldiers. Send the lawyers on a Caribbean cruise. Our troops know how to do this job. We need to trust them.

We must not be afraid to make an example of Fallujah. While we always seek to fight humanely, the most humane thing we can do in that tormented city is just to win, to burn out the plague of fanaticism and prove to Iraq's people that the forces of terror will not be allowed to enslave them.

We need to demonstrate that the United States military cannot be deterred or defeated. If that means widespread destruction, we must accept the price. Most of Fallujah's residents -- those who wish to live in peace -- have already fled. Those who remain have made their choice. We need to pursue the terrorists remorselessly.

That means killing. While we strive to obey the internationally recognized laws of war (though our enemies do not), our goal should be to target the terrorists and insurgents so forcefully that few survive to raise their hands in surrender. We don't need more complaints about our treatment of prisoners from the global forces of appeasement. We need terrorists dead in the dust. And the world needs to see their corpses.

Let potential terrorist recruits get a good, hard look at their probable fate. And let them see a U.S. Marine standing proudly and fearlessly in the center of Fallujah. ...

Many other difficult tasks lie ahead ahead, from helping the Iraqis conduct their country's first free national elections, through assisting the Afghans as they consolidate their remarkable progress, to hunting down Islamic terrorists wherever they go to ground.

We can do it. And the American people know it. They just said so.

Even if Fallujah has to go the way of Carthage, reduced to shards, the price will be worth it. We need to demonstrate our strength of will to the world, to show that there is only one possible result when madmen take on America.
Note the number of extraordinary details in this one piece: our enemies apparently include all "the French" and "the BBC" (and al Jazeera as well) -- so I assume they, too, will be hunted down and eliminated in the near future, since Peters lists them along with Al Qaeda; "We don't need more complaints about our treatment of prisoners from the global forces of appeasement" -- no matter how well-founded in fact (and videotape) those complaints might be, and no matter how counterproductive and self-destructive our behavior might have been; and so on.

But the most striking aspect of Peters' opening of his rotted soul is his entire perspective: "We must not be afraid..."; "We need to demonstrate ..."; "We must accept the price..."; "We can do it..." It's all about us -- despite the fact that we invaded a country that didn't threaten us, and despite the fact that we are killing an unconscionable number of innocent civilians. And regardless of the fact that our actions create more terrorists by the minute. Never mind any of that. We must show them that we mean business now! We must demonstrate that we can kill every single goddamned one of them, even if we have to completely destroy an entire country to do so.

And even when that inevitably will mean that more terrorists will take up arms against us, and try to do us much more significant harm next time. None of that matters to Peters. It's all about us -- which means it's all about him.

This is as pure an example of the deeply destructive mechanism identified by Alice Miller as you are ever likely to find (from Breaking Down the Wall of Silence):
This year [1991], another war has come to an end. Once again, it is clear that even the most efficient weapons cannot eliminate hatred. Even the most sophisticated weapons are powerless against the will of one single individual who would not hesitate to destroy the world so long as he could achieve his goal--to revenge himself for his repressed injuries, to amass power, govern, and take possession of the world around him, all to avoid his feelings of pain.

One might expect that the millions of people who, thanks to television, watched the events of the Gulf War unfold would be eager to understand the causes of this urge to destroy. Sadly, the opposite seems to be true, at least in the public domain. Neither politicians, experts of various sorts, nor even the majority of journalists asked the essential question: What makes a person wish to destroy the world? ...

We must acknowledge what can already be acknowledged, in order to prevent the destruction and self-destruction of humankind. The oils wells burning in Kuwait confront us inescapably with the sad truth that technology alone is not sufficient to protect us from the consequences of denied, and thus uncontrolled, emotions. Without facing up to their origins--the production of hatred in childhood--we will be unable to resolve such hatred and put an end to the work of devastation. ...

Such a person demands order and uses violence to achieve it, just as he or she learned as a child: order and cleanliness at any price is the motto, even if it is at the price of life. The victims of such an upbringing ache to do to others what was once done to them. If they don't have children, or their children refuse to make themselves available for their revenge, they line up to support new forms of fascism. Ultimately, fascism always has the same goal: the annihilation of truth and freedom. People who have been mistreated as children, but totally deny their suffering, use the mottoes and labels of the day. They thereby meet the approval of others like them because they have are also helping to conceal their truth. They are consumed by the perverse pleasure in the destruction of life that they observed in their parents when young. They long to at last be on the other side of the fence, to hold power themselves, passing it off, as Stalin, Hitler, or Ceausescu have done, as "redemption" for others. This old childhood longing determines their political "opinions" and speeches, which are therefore impervious to counter arguments. As long as they continue to ignore or distort the roots of the problem, which lie in the very real threats experienced in their childhood, reason must remain impotent against this kind of persecution complex. The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason. That is the lesson that all tyrants teach us. One should not expect judiciousness from a mad person motivated by compulsive panic. One should, however, protect oneself from such a person.
There is still more from Miller in that earlier entry.

Men like Ralph Peters reveal the truth of Miller's observations, including this statement: "The unconscious compulsion to revenge repressed injuries is more powerful than all reason." Reason did not lead them to their conclusions, and no amount of evidence will dissuade them from the course they are determined to follow.

Give up trying to reason with them. They will stop when the insurmountable accumulation of failures -- and of deaths -- finally grinds their efforts to a halt and not one moment before, just as the catastrophe of Vietnam demonstrated.

Just pray that they don't destroy the world before we reach that point. Pray as hard as you can.