Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"A million bin Ladens will bloom"

Whatever else it offers, Twitter often serves up some remarkable juxtapositions.

Last night, someone posted one more demonstration that The Onion is our oracle of Delphi, except that it speaks unambiguously (cf. Bush's inaugural: "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over"). On March 23, 2003, the paper published a Point/CounterpointThis War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No It Won’t. Startling verification of one of those representative opinions also turned up on Twitter yesterday.

The Onion's "point person" argues that an attempt to impose democracy by force on a foreign culture is doomed to fail. It includes a prophecy:

If you thought Osama bin Laden was bad, just wait until the countless children who become orphaned by U.S. bombs in the coming weeks are all grown up. Do you think they will forget what country dropped the bombs that killed their parents? In 10 or 15 years, we will look back fondly on the days when there were only a few thousand Middle Easterners dedicated to destroying the U.S. and willing to die for the fundamentalist cause. From this war, a million bin Ladens will bloom.
Also found on Twitter yesterday: an October 21 report in The Nation by an academic researcher, Lydia Wilson, who works as part of a team interviewing people in various parts of the globe in hopes of determining "when and why humans commit the most extreme sacrifices." The article focuses on a 27 year-old prisoner of Kurdish forces, sentenced to death for planting car bombs around Kirkuk that have killed scores of people. He has a sixth grade education, is the oldest of 17 children and has two children himself. ISIS, according to his testimony, offered him employment when had no other means to support his family.  But that's not the whole story:
At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

This whole experience has been very familiar indeed to Doug Stone, the American general on the receiving end of this diatribe. “He fits the absolutely typical profile,” Stone said afterward. “The average age of all the prisoners in Iraq when I was here was 27; they were married; they had two children; had got to sixth to eighth grade. He has exactly the same profile as 80 percent of the prisoners then…and his number-one complaint about the security and against all American forces was the exact same complaint from every single detainee.”

These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. A later interviewee described his life growing up under American occupation: He couldn’t go out, he didn’t have a life, and he specifically mentioned that he didn’t have girlfriends. An Islamic State fighter’s biggest resentment was the lack of an adolescence. Another of the interviewees was displaced at the critical age of 13, when his family fled to Kirkuk from Diyala province at the height of Iraq’s sectarian civil war. They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe. This is not radicalization to the ISIS way of life, but the promise of a way out of their insecure and undignified lives; the promise of living in pride as Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which is not just a religious identity but cultural, tribal, and land-based, too.
The Onion piece was for sure not conceived as a brilliant expression of original thought. As half a satire, it was channeling the representative utterances of a certain segment of the U.S. commentariat. The piece is a reminder that we were genuinely warned. Some among us saw clear in the runup to Bush's Sicilian Expedition.

Unfortunately, the Counterpoint carried the day:
No it won't.

It just won't. None of that will happen.

You're getting worked up over nothing. Everything is going to be fine. So just relax, okay? You're really overreacting.

"This war will not put an end to anti-Americanism; it will fan the flames of hatred even higher"?

It won't.

"It will harden the resolve of Arab states to drive out all Western (i.e. U.S.) influence"?

Not really.

"A war against Iraq is not only morally wrong, it will be an unmitigated disaster"?...etc.
That's the usual response, I guess, to Cassandra.

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