"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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Tuesday, August 17, 2004
  Guns Interrupted - By Morality
Ralph Peter's new op-ed column Guns Interrupted gives a succinct summary of our failure to do what is necessary to remove Al-Sadr. Highlighting the fact that we have continually approached the "edge of victory", Peters criticizes our lack of will to finish the fight. The blame for this rests with the policy of the Bush administration:
The new American way of war is to quit on the edge of victory.

This really isn't hard to figure out: When we fail to win fast, we lose. Our military is slowly digesting the lesson, but our political leaders ignore the truth entirely. They don't want "excessive" casualties or collateral damage. So we dither. And, over months and years, the casualties and damage soar beyond what a swift victory would have cost.

and later
If we cannot fight to win, we're foolish to spend our soldiers' blood for nothing. If Iraq lacks the will to save itself, our troops won't be able to save it. And then there is the bogus issue of mosques, which our leaders approach with superstition, not sense. While Najaf's Imam Ali shrine truly is a sacred place, the fact is that there are mosques and there are mosques.


Peters is right, that if we aren't fighting for victory, we shouldn't fight at all. He laments that our leaders approach the issue of Mosques with "superstition, not sense". But what is sense in this case? If we admit the Mosque is a holy place, that should not be violated, then we have accepted the enemy's moral premise - we who would shell to stop the militants are the violators. Our moral cowardice is perfectly captured in the cartoon "Sensitive War" from Cox and Forkum
Sensitive War

Sense in this context means that we do not consider any building, whether a kindergarten classroom or a "holy" Mosque to be outside the jurisdiction of war. As John Lewis so eloquently put it in his article House of God, House of War:

The only way to protect Americans--and, coincidentally, good Iraqis--is to bomb the Najaf mosque into a parking lot, and to announce that any building used for such purposes gets the same treatment.


But in order for us to take such action, we need to uphold the morality of selfishness, and our right of self-defense. As long as we believe in sacrifice as a moral ideal, we will never feel justified in taking the selfish action of defending ourselves. We must believe in the righteousness of our cause, and assign the blame for destruction of the Mosque where it truly belongs - with those who turned it into a battleground. There is nothing intrinsically holy about a Mosque or a church, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with demolishing them. When people choose to use them as a base of operations to fight us, they are legitimate targets, and should be destroyed. This would end forever the absurdity of trying to kill the militants while simultaneously striving to preserve the mosque. The reductio ad absurdum of this idea would be to have one set of soldiers shooting at the militants whilst another group systematically patches up any damage done to the mosque.

What Al-Sadr represents for the US concretely is George Bush's failure to understand the nature of the fight - we are not fighting against terrorists, we are fighting against the ideology of Islamism. By pretending that anyone associated with Islam is somehow holy and innocent, we have left ourselves wide open to attack. Those who want to be Muslims in peace are not our enemies; but those who would try to force Islam on others (including ourselves) are. We should kill the latter, and do our best to protect and support the former.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 9:50 AM


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