Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The Wrong Target

The (Sunday) Times Online (UK) carries an excellent opinion piece, describing what is widely misperceived as The Wrong Target. As its subtitle states simply, “Terrorism, not America, is a real and present threat to our freedoms.”

Would that the rest of the world could display such sanity. (Okay, I’d settle for the adult population of the Opposition Party in the US.)

The Times bases its exceptional essay on the focus of today’s media frenzy, Haditha:

Al-Haditha, a town on the Euphrates northwest of Baghdad, is still a place where fighters blend into the populace and literally use civilians as cover. Coalition forces may shoot only when threatened, ground rules that call for exemplary discipline and courage in conditions where their observance increases the risk of injury or death.

That should be acknowledged in the context of what appears to have been an appalling collapse of US military discipline in al-Haditha, where 24 Iraqi civilians were allegedly murdered by a company of US Marines after a member of their patrol was killed and two were injured by a roadside bomb. America’s determination to demonstrate zero tolerance of such crimes should also be acknowledged; they in no way reflect US policy, or typify the conduct of American forces. Al-Haditha must not be made the subplot of a spurious morality play whose demon king is not terrorism, but the use and alleged abuse of US power.

America-bashing is in fashion as it has not been since Ronald Reagan accurately described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”. Anti-Americanism is not confined to the usual radical chic suspects of the Left; in Britain, it infects the High Tory Establishment, “good Europeans” and little Englanders alike. So why are we all anti-Americans now?

American stumbling on the rough road since 2001 has played some part. Yet had there, inconceivably, been no wrong steps, had America been positively obsequious in courting international support (and it has done more on that score than its critics admit), anti-Americanism would still be on the rise. The US is never less popular than when it is aroused and determined in defence of democratic freedoms, never less trusted than when the world is most reliant on its unmatched ability to project power.

With allies like the Times and Tony Blair, one can almost imagine that we could yet win in the War of Ideas. And yet.

The Times echoes what Mark Steyn has been telling us in one form or another, “The strength of disdain is a measure of Europe’s weakness.Americans would be foolish indeed to mistake disdain for reasoned opposition. Jealousy and resentment say more about the state of envy, than about its object.

We have been fighting the forces of our fanatic enemies in one form or another for over 20 years, out in the open for nearly 6, all against a backdrop of heightened European and Western opposition against any approach to terror that strays from diplomatic, appeasement, or pacifist centered orthodoxy. History might remind us what evil these same critics were allowed to achieve when last they held such positions of power militarily.

We are indeed the last best hope. We must remain vigilant to the real threats, no matter whether our erstwhile friends self-defeat themselves in paroxysms of Western guilt, Al Qaeda guile, or multicultural genuflection.

UPDATE: A few digressions and an examination of other controversies.

I came across another link to the Times piece, this time from that remarkable bastion of Liberal thinking in the UK, Harry’s Place (As in the old Liberalism, before the word was mal-appropriated by Big Government Liberalism.)

Wardytron examines what might end up as over-the-top reactions on the part of some Conservative US bloggers (Malkin et al), who, ignorant of political and terror-fighting stances of the UK press, label a reliable wartime partner as “America-bashers and troop-smearers.” Talk about "Wrong Targets."

This was in the context of the controversy surrounding the UK Times's report including a photo of terrorist-assassinated Iraqis from a prior incident, with the caption, “Victims in Haditha.”

Neither of Malkin’s initial pejoratives accurately describes Gerard Baker of the Times, who immediately sent Malkin this reply:
Thank you for pointing out the dreadful error on our website involving the wrong picture and capture of murdered Iraqis. I have asked that it be removed immediately and an apology issued.

I'm sorry you have jumped to the conclusion that this was a deliberate misrepresentation and the result of slanted journalism and sorrier that you have shared that view with your readers without any attempt to verify it. The Times has been meticulously fair in its coverage of the Iraq war and of US policy in general. Our editorial line has been to support the war and we continue to do so, though not without some reservations, of course. We have eschewed completely the sort of vile anti-Americanism so common in much of the British press and our correspondents have done their level best to paint a fair picture of conditions in Iraq today.

I'm personally offended both by the error on the Times website and by your association of me with what you call the intentional slander of US marines.

You're probably not aware of my writing but I think I think most readers would probably describe myself as one of the most pro-American columnists currently employed by a British paper. I have repeatedly defended the Bush administration's foreign policy; I supported the Iraq war, and continue to do so. Please be apprised that this was a genuine and very unfortunate error.
Milbloggers, of all people, have every reason to remain vigilant and aggressive to confront pro-terrorist propaganda. But friends are friends, and some make honest mistakes from time to time. Newspapers are rarely uniformly left or right on either side, and there are reporters and editors involved whenever headlines, stories, rewrites, photos, and photo captions are all compiled together. Just a word of caution about who we strike, and how.

Christopher Hitchens in his Monday piece in Slate demonstrates forcefully why war is hell, but not always foggy at all.
It's not amusing to see fascist killers hiding behind human shields and then releasing obscene videos of the work that they do. Nor is it rewarding to clean up the remains of a comrade who has been charred and shredded by a roadside bomb. To be taunted while doing so must be unbearable. The humane George Orwell, writing of his life as a colonial policeman in Burma in Shooting an Elephant, told his readers that there were days when "I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest's guts." But he did not, in fact, succumb to this temptation. And the British were unwanted colonial occupiers in Burma, while the coalition forces are—until further notice—the guests of Iraq's first-ever elected government and the executors of a U.N.-mandated plan for the salvage and reconstruction of the country.

There is no respectable way of having this both ways. Those who say that the rioters in Baghdad in the early days should have been put down more forcefully are accepting the chance that a mob might have had to be fired on to protect the National Museum. Those who now wish there had been more troops are also demanding that there should have been more targets and thus more body bags. The lawyers at Centcom who refused to give permission to strike Mullah Omar's fleeing convoy in Afghanistan—lest it by any chance be the wrong convoy of SUVs speeding from Kabul to Kandahar under cover of night—are partly responsible for the deaths of dozens of Afghan teachers and international aid workers who have since been murdered by those who were allowed to get away. If Iraq had been stuffed with WMD warehouses and stiff with al-Qaida training camps, there would still have been an Abu Ghraib. Only pacifists—not those who compare the Iraqi killers to the Minutemen—have the right to object to every casualty of war. And if the pacifists had been heeded, then Slobodan Milosevic, the Taliban, and Saddam Hussein would all still be in power—hardly a humanitarian outcome. People like to go on about the "fog" of war as well as the "hell" of it. Hell it most certainly is—but not always so foggy. Indeed, many of the dilemmas posed by combat can be highly clarifying, once the tone of righteous sententiousness is dropped. [emphasis Dad]
‘Nough said, but more commentary from Prairie Pundit, Clive Davis, Blue Crab Boulevard, and John Donovan at Castle Argghhh!, The Real Ugly American

UPDATE #2: Glenn Reynolds linked to the Milblogs cross-post, which generated quite a debate amongst the Milbloggers and their readers. Check it out...

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