James Carroll, Ted, and Alice
Not to be outdone, or outdrugged, by Kofi’s hallucinations, the Boston Glob’s James Carroll asks: Is America Actually in a State of War? (Hint: no.)
The so-called “insurgents,” who wreak such havoc, are not America’s enemy. They are not our rivals for territory. They are not our ideological antagonists. Abstracting from the present confrontation, they have no reason to wish us ill.
I am reminded of Bill Cosby’s early comic routine in which God speaks to Moses from the burning bush. All I can say is: “Who is this, really?” and “Right…” Carroll elaborates:
Americans who bother to imagine the situation from the Iraqi point of view — a massive foreign invasion, launched on false pretenses; a brutal occupation, with control of local oil reserves surely part of the motivation; the heartbreaking deaths of brothers, cousins, children, parents — naturally understand that an ”insurgency” is the appropriate response. Its goal is simply to force the invaders and occupiers to leave. Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds have intrinsic reasons to regard each other as enemies, from competition over land and oil, to ethnic hatreds, to unsettled scores. No equivalent sources of inbuilt contempt exist among these people toward America. Taken as a whole, or in its parts, Iraq is not an enemy.
Is this the same “massive” invasion and “brutal” occupation that critics complain employed too few troops, deployed too respectfully, the same local oil reserves that remain local (else why our high gasoline prices)? He’s right about the deaths, however: they are heartbreaking. In wartime, all deaths are. But there were many sisters and their cousins and their aunts who died during the so-called “peacetime” of Saddam’s Iraq. Tortured, murdered, raped, starved, were their deaths any less heartbreaking? Or are those the above-mentioned “false pretenses”?
Of course Iraq is not an enemy–not anymore.
But Carroll is not done dismissing America’s enemies as so many bad acid trips:
If Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not an enemy, what is? True enough. But the war on terrorism is not real war either, since the Pentagon has proven itself incapable of actually engaging Al Qaeda. That, of course, is because Al Qaeda is a free floating nihilism, not a nation, or even a network. Al Qaeda is a rejectionist idea to which deracinated miscreants are drawn, like filings to a magnet, but that drawing power is generated in Washington. Bin Laden was a self-mythologized figure of no historic standing until George W. Bush designated him America’s equal by defining 9/11 as an act of war to be met with war, instead of a crime to be met with criminal justice. But this over-reaction, so satisfying at the time to the wounded American psyche, turned into the war for which the other party simply did not show up. Which is, of course, why we are blasting a substitute Iraq to smithereens.
Where’s Fred Rogers when we really need him? “Can you say ‘free floating nihilism’ and ‘deracinated miscreants’? I knew that you could.” The only free floating nihilists I know of are the ones vaporized by the Predator drones in Pakistan and Yemen. I don’t know what a deracinated miscreant is, but Saddam and Kalil Sheikh Mohammed are deloused miscreants, which is close enough.
To James Carroll, 3,000 deaths belong on a police blotter, not in the Situation Room. (How’s that Saddam trial going, by the way?) Terrorsists (my name for the misfloating nudniks, or whatever he calls them) are simultaneously drawn to battle, yet never show up. They bomb mosques, schools, Christians, Muslims, foreigners, and Iraqis–yet, to Carroll, we are the ones blasting Iraq to smithereens.
In sum, James Carroll’s brain is so addled by addiction to liberal tropes, he’s like the aged Timothy Leary or Hunter S. Thompson–writing decades beyond the time when he last made sense. Which is why…
James Carroll’s column appears regularly in the Globe