Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Reporter Toby Harnden of the British Daily Telegraph describes a conversation with an American journalist. Hat tip to the fine co-operative blogsite Winds of Change for this one. Harnden writes:
But then she came to the point. Not only had she "known" the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the "evil" George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. "Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out." Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.

She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry's poll numbers. "Well, that's different -- that would be Americans," she said, haltingly. "I guess I'm a bit of an isolationist." That's one way of putting it.

The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn't really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph's chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago.
The full article is available here.

UPDATE: OK, sorry about that Spectator link - you have to register. Looks like it's free, but if you don't want the hassle, a kind blogger has made the whole story available here. Worth the read.

Khalid Khawaja gives an interview with the National Post, in Pakistan. This is important enough to quote extensively:
Khalid Khawaja, a friend of Osama bin Laden's who calls the Saudi terrorist and his followers "the most wonderful people of the world," told the National Post that Canadians should not be surprised if suicide bombers want to strike their country.

"It is very simple," he said. "As Bush says, either you are a friend or you are an enemy. So if you are not my friend, you are our enemy. So it is very simple. When you are supporting the enemy [the United States] then you are a target."

He also said Canada was hated because of its military presence in Afghanistan and its treatment of the Khadr family, notably Abdul Karim, the teen who set off a public outcry when he returned to Toronto for medical treatment after he was wounded in a shootout in Pakistan that left his al-Qaeda father dead.

"Look at these Canadians. They have millions and millions of dollars to fight against Muslims, to send their troops, to send their weapons, and all of them put together, they have objections to giving treatment to this 14 year-old-boy who has been a victim of your terrorism." ...

A top Canadian terrorism expert said Mr. Khawaja's comments were typical of the way al-Qaeda followers view the world, as divided between two conflicting religious and cultural camps: Dar ul-Islam, the perfect Muslim world, and Dar ul-Harb, the immoral rest of the world.

"Canada, as a secular democratic society, is by definition assigned to Dar ul-Harb. From the perspective of al-Qaeda and associated Islamic militants, it is incumbent upon Muslims to wage a jihad, a holy war, against Dar ul-Harb in order to destroy its perceived evils and transform those societies into Dar ul-Islam," said Professor Martin Rudner.

"According to this doctrine, Canada is a religiously sanctioned target for terrorism, suicide bombing and political violence," said Prof. Rudner, Director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. ...

In an interview in Islamabad yesterday, Mr. Khawaja, who fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan and openly admits he supports jihad activities, provided a rare explanation of why terrorists wish to bring violence to Canada.

Suicide bombers are simply fighting back against the Western assault on their faith and Canadians should just learn to "take it," he said.

"Today you have the power in your hand. The other day the suicide bomber also has power. So you use your cruise missiles and atom bombs and all that, so he uses his power. So why do you cry at that time? When you say we are fighting a war against you, so better take it then.

"They are also fighting a war against you. They are fighting their way, you are fighting your way. So let's be happy. But only thing is, your faces are pulled down, you are scared, sitting in America and Canada. You are scared of a man sitting in the cave."

"We are not scared of you."

He described life as a "cage" and a "prison" from which he hoped to escape. "We love it like we want to live in a toilet, and we just want to get out of it." And the best way to leave life is in jihad, he said. "So how can you fight with us?"

Mr. Khawaja would not say when he last spoke with bin Laden but his recent activities include helping the families of al-Qaeda members killed in a 1998 U.S. cruise missile strike on a terror training camp in Afghanistan, and helping the Khadr family of Ontario.

The return of Mrs. Khadr and her youngest son Abdul Karim to Canada, and the broadcast of comments in which the mother and her daughter praised suicide bombings, outraged many Canadians. Thousands signed a petition calling for the deportation of the family.

"You have paralyzed [Abdul Karim], your system has paralyzed him -- although of course he's been paralyzed by Pakistan Army, but it was under order of this coalition. To me I call them governments of terrorists, the coalition of terrorists.

"So you paralyzed this boy with no thought, you paralyzed his father with no thought, now the whole Canadian nation put together, they are bothered about taxpayers' money, that this boy should not be treated with this money.

"You have all the money to kill the people, you have all the billions of dollars to make the people slaves, you have billions of dollars to torture the people, you have billions of dollars to put up in the media to create false enemies and you have no money to give treatment to one of your victims. So what treatment do you deserve?

"Your civilization is selfish and self-centred. Just you want to live and enjoy yourselves and that is all, you don't give."

He said terrorist attacks would end only when the West stopped trying to dominate the Muslim world.

"We don't believe in killing innocent people but we would certainly like to send you into the Stone Age the same way you have sent us into the Stone Age."
Via [Little Green Footballs] - yes, one of the sites Toronto Star "columnist" Antonia Zerbisias was frothing at the mouth over last weekend. Good thing she doesn't know about lil ol' me, hehheh.

This is quite an interesting article that refutes the frequently heard contention that the Americans who go to Iraq (and this contention is never applied to the Poles, Danes, Thais, Brits etc.) are mainly underprivileged and disadvantaged minorities (and white underclass) who would have no job opportunities otherwise. The young people this author meets are sacrificing in a very honourable way - not because they have no choice, but because they made a very conscious moral choice to contribute.

Gen X in the Green Zone
"I can't sleep. I lie awake in my luxurious trailer and my mind is racing through possible scenarios. A few days ago there was a stretch where we were attacked several days in a row at 8am...like clockwork. Thankfully they have subsided since but for that stretch each morning my 'alarm clock' was a loud BOOM and a shaking trailer."

So begins an April 16 diary entry of 25-year-old Brendan Lund. Brendan and his cousin, Craig, are in Baghdad, working with the Iraqi Ministry of Finance in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). They're just two of the scores of young Americans who have volunteered since March 2003 to live in a war zone, sleep in bare-minimum trailers, work 16-hour days (or more), and wake up to rocket attacks -- all in the name of building democracy in Iraq.

I think it's clearly taken a beating lately. After all the high sounding stuff about the public's right to know, the ethical necessicty for placing the terrible truth of the ugliness of war in front of the public's face and damn the consequences, suddenly the same media editors are shy about admitting when they've jumped the gun in their excitement. At least the Daily Mirror, mentioned here a few days ago, was big enough to indulge in their trademark 5 inch headlines by saying "WE'RE SORRY, WE GOOFED" (or something to that effect). At least they were taken in by a relatively well-done hoax in the prisoner abuse photo department. But the Boston Globe..... pathetic. Not even minimal checking before running pornographic pictures on their front page. A city councillor and a Nation of Islam guy hold a media event, with the prop being a signboard mounted with several blown-up photos taken from an internet porn site. The Globe takes a picture of these two "activists" adjusting their prop, and all the porn pictures are clearly visible to anyone opening his morning paper to read with his coffee. Any idiot could have seen that this was dress-up "war porno" but the Globe's editors and writers just couldn't be bothered to be the least bit sceptical. And even after it's been proven to have come from an internet porno "Sex in War" website, the Globe makes a half hearted apology, admitting only that the photos were "unauthenticated".

This just points to the attitude which seems to be the default these days. If it has any value towards making Americans feel ashamed, making Arabs hate Americans more, feeding the "Iraq as Quagmire" meme, generating embarassment for the coalition and especially for President Bush - run it immediately and repeatedly and pound the heck out of it. If it's something which might show Iraqi support for the project (like the Iraqi blogs I'm always asking you to read), or if it shows US military doing any acts of kindness or valour, or if it might make Americans angry toward Arabs (the pictures of desecration of the bodies of contractors in Fallujah, the gut wrenching stills of Nick Berg's murder or the Italian civilian shot on video), or especially if it might show President Bush in a postive light - just forget it. It either isn't news worthy enough, or it's too graphic and disturbing.

That's a headline I would bet a lot of newspapers would love to run. And to somehow answer in the negative, if they could. A lot of the Euro-left think this way already, and even some American journalists are close to that, as we see in today's first item. I've read people saying that it's not wrong to work for the defeat of one's own country, if one's country is evil. The reason most often given is that the country has been hijacked - the word coup d'etat has even been used - by a lunatic neo-nazi clique bent on world domination, making use of an idiot chimp in the White House for their evil plans. It might make a good script for a movie, or the basis for some internet conspiracy sites, but it's just so hard for me to believe that intelligent people could buy into this.

I have to admit here, I was certainly not on Bush's side during the last election. I was extemely disappointed with the Supreme Court decision, I thought he was a bit dim, and I even collected many of the famous "Bushisms" for my quote files. I didn't think that he stole the election or that it was a bloodless coup - the Court decided and that was that. A close election, either man would have been a legitimate winner, in my opinion.

But what I saw in this man following Sept. 11 changed my opinion of him. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but I realised that this person does have some depth. He was not just a talking puppet, but he showed what he's made of. I felt that he said exactly the right things, he showed exactly the combination of toughness and tenderness that his people needed - and yes I know how hokey that sounds. More than that, whether it was the body language or the tone of voice or something else that can't be qualified, I sensed something from him that I'd not seen (or maybe, noticed) before. There are a lot of things I still don't agree with him about, but I very quickly came to see the qualities of GW Bush that the country needed at that time. I saw a man who was not afraid to show his own emotion while he was giving courage and comfort to a deeply hurt people. The event had raised a tremendous challenge, with a man in the White House generally accepted to be a shallow light weight, and I saw him rise to the challenge in a very admirable way. Basically, he was real, in a way that I don't think Al Gore would have been capable of. I realised in those few unforgettable days, that I had severely misunderestimated him.

Some of my changing views about things, that were occasioned by those events and others closer to home here, had caused problems for me with certain people back home. One old friend got very angry and frustrated with me, because I could not agree that America was evil. Never mind that no other country had maintained such a consistent and principled position on Tibetan rights (to take but one example which obviously is important to me), or with a big number of other issues spanning the whole world and administrations from both parties. This "politically correct" style of thinking seemed to me to be a holdover from another era, that certain social or political groups just could not let go of during the 1990's. One of the issues this person had with me, was that he could judge who had empathy and who had none. He knows that I have empathy, so basically I've been fooled into not seeing America's evil, and especially George Bush's evil (there's a lot of conspiracy stuff about dark forces, secret groups and the Federal Reserve, which I'll leave out of this). Fundamentally, George Bush was known to be evil because he is completely devoid of compassion or empathy.

Yet this is precisely which I felt I had seen in Bush, rising right up to the surface in those days when it was sorely needed. I could clearly sense a deep well of empathy and human feeling from this man - even during those televised addresses to the nation which struck me in a very powerful way. I don't doubt that along the way since then, that mistakes and even wrong decisions have been made. Humans who never make those simply don't exist. Being in agreement or in opposition to the directions chosen can be done in a civilised way - I happen to think that the general response has been the necessary one. Terror groups who aim to make us all relive the glorious 7th century have misunderestimated what we sometimes euphemistically call the "free world" (and I fervently hope we can continue to make that statement) - and let that term stop meaning Yankee-lovers, or running dog imperialist lackeys, and instead be seen to refer to the worldwide community of democracies on every continent.

I admit: I used to sneer when I'd hear Ronald Reagan say the words, "the free world." I never really questioned why my gut reaction was different, if I ever saw newsreels of John F. Kennedy saying the same thing. Somehow, Kennedy saying it was truth from an inspiring statesman. When Reagan said it, it was cold war rhetoric from Bedtime for Bonzo. (Funny, that Reagan was laughed at for having played a human role opposite a monkey, has anyone seen the sets of pictures that directly compare Bush with an actual chimpanzee?)

The point of all this was the answer to the question I asked at the top, which my old friend would seem to have answered to his own satisfaction in the negative. Humanistic qualities would have to include empathy, and his contention is that the absence of empathy is evil. He was incredulous when I told him that I believed Mr. Bush to be an empathetic person, and that I knew this with my own eyes and senses. The following news item is one that I've seen mentioned in a variety of writings - not the mass media ones. I wasn't going to bother with it until after having seen the link proffered many times on various personal sites of people I've come to respect. It's from a small, inconsequential newspaper. The local reporter was at a place where Bush was meeting citizens while campaigning about 2 weeks ago. As he passed by a teenaged girl, her father was heard to say, "This girl lost her mother in the World Trade Center." Bush had already passed, but he stopped and came back. He took the girl in his arms, pulled her head to his chest and held her tightly. There was no New York Times, Washington Post or CNN photographers to catch the moment - or if they were they weren't interested. The girl's father took one quick snap with his camera. He mailed a few copies to relatives and friends, and I gather it's been passed around further. But you won't see this in the "big" media. Personally, I think it's a powerful image.
You decide.

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