IDENTIFYING THE ENEMY
I have been thinking a lot lately about why some people don’t understand that we really are fighting a war -- the war on terror is a real war… with bullets, bombs, and casualties. I just don’t understand how they can think that if we just “leave them alone” they will leave us alone. (See second post below for a list of leaving us alone.)
Now I have done no scholarly research or polling on this, but in my view, I believe that much of the disconnect of a large segment of the American populace with the War on Terror is for three principle reasons.
First, there is no defined place that people can say, “we landed at Normandy”, “we held at Bastogne” or “the French held the Maginot Line” (no need… the Germans went through Belgium). All wars with which Americans are familiar -- how they view war -- had identifiable theatres: the Pacific, Europe, Vietnam, Korea. They do not view the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan as having anything whatever to do with the War on Terror because they define wars as being attacked and they argue that Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t attack us. They judge all things based on empirical knowledge -- an a posteriori mind set. And this “war on terror” doesn’t fit their experiences… it is ephemeral, disjointed. In most peoples’ minds it has no start date and isn’t represented by a daily confluent timeline. It ebbs and flows -- they can't get their arms or minds around it. In most minds, it pivots solely on the events of 9/11 -- and none before and few after (because we haven’t been attacked again.) They do not connect all the attacks that preceded 2001. They aren’t connecting the dots. (See post below for a timeline of this war on America). They haven't accepted yet that the battlefield is Planet Earth. Any time. Any place.
Secondly, with a “mere” 137,000 troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan -- compared to 16 MILLION deployed in WWII (457,000 in Vietnam) -- 99% of the American people are unaffected by the battles that occur across oceans, continents and time zones and, therefore, disconnected from those who fight and the real face of the war on terror. The only view of the war they have is what the legacy media tells them… and they’re too lazy or too unaffected or perhaps too naïve to search out other sources of information that might give them perspective. Except for perhaps those who live or work in NYC, LA and Chicago on occasion, virtually the entire population of the United States is oblivious to any threats posed by terrorists. They live in smaller cities and towns and think “Terrorists are not going to do anything to this town…” and they go to Starbucks, and work and the gym and baseball games and soccer practice every day and never give it a second thought… that there really are people out there that want them and their children dead just because they are Americans. Frankly, just because you are not "them".
Finally -- and I think the most significant of the three -- Americans cannot IDENTIFY their enemy. They cannot point them out in pictures. The enemy can be Saudi, Pakistani, Iranian, Syrian, British, American... The “enemy” is faceless and amorphous: people just can’t identify the “bad guys” in a personal and real manner; they could be anyone and everyone and that keeps many from understanding and from focusing on the danger. It keeps them from accepting that it’s a real war.
In World War I, everyone knew the enemy was the Germans. In WWII, everyone knew it was the Japanese and the Germans (some even considered the Italians the enemy). During the Cold War it was the former Soviet Union and other Iron Curtain Countries. And there was Cuba. People could point to all those places on maps and globes. They could name the “bad guys”: Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Khrushchev, Castro, Hirohito. The enemy could be found in each case all in one place. Each of these countries had a government that was responsible for its actions and the engagements of its militias. The armies wore uniforms and the uniforms had insignia and other identifying marks. They had identifiable command structures.
During the violent years of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, in the aftermath of all the wars and conflicts, sets of “rules” about how war would be waged and how soldiers would conduct themselves evolved. In fact, after most of the wars since man stood upright, each war -- or its aftermath -- occasioned men to decide what were the “right” ways and the “moral” ways to fight wars. The rules covered treatment of prisoners, retrieval of the wounded and the dead, the use of chemical weapons, the use of conventional weapons and the policies covering civilians in the field of warring nations.
So horrified were the peoples of the world about the horrors and atrocities that after the “great” wars they formed commissions and tribunals to determine the guilt or innocence of those accused of committing crimes against humanity -- those having broken the Rules set out in many treaties and conventions that were supposed to govern the “civility” of war -- and to punish them accordingly.
So horrified were the peoples of the world that after the “great” wars great world bodies were formed to codify the conventions of conflict and to act as intermediary to resolve disagreements and to write rules on the use of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, biological, chemical. Again, mostly honest and honorable men came together so that there would be no more world wars and whatever wars were still to be fought (after all, this is humankind we’re discussing), that people sought to write rules of engagement that would ensure that future wars would be kinder and gentler.
And people in “Western” societies frame all discussions of conflict and war -- they define them -- by these rules, guidelines, conventions and treaties.
Then, starting in the 1970’s, a war broke out and the world hardly noticed. Americans certainly didn't.
The enemy -- the attackers in all cases -- wore no uniforms. They answered to no government.
They did not come from any one country… but represented membership in a violent and bastardized form of Islam. They believe that all non-Muslims need to be killed, converted to Islam or forced into slavery and they don’t care how long it takes them to accomplish this goal. And they don’t care how they achieve it… don’t care who or how many they kill or how they die.
They fight under no rules -- not rules of war and not by rules of civilized societies. They are not bound by morals except their own monsterized version of their own -- skewed and twisted and contorted to fit the murder they promote. They are not signatories to any of the treaties and conventions and think of them as “infidel” words. Their tactics are to terrorize and kill. The aim is death -- theirs, yours, ours. Death is both their aim and their reward.
They do not have negotiable goals. They do not want property, goods or money. They want to deprive you of your freedoms which encompass and embrace ideas and ideals that run contrary to their oppressive theocratic doctrine. They use death… preferably civilian deaths, which instill the greatest horror -- the greatest terror -- in the general populace. Their aim is to terrorize -- to deprive citizens of their freedoms. And horrific death of innocents -- children, women, men -- without warning is the greatest degree of terror possible. And they are not afraid to die themselves… they believe that death glorifies their God and grants them entry to Paradise. Life is meaningless to them.
They say that they do this for justice… they say they have political grievances… they say that their religion demands this of them. They lie. Those are excuses to murder innocents… not reasons. They need reason to die and these excuses are expedient.
Until Americans modify how they view war -- how they view this war… and accept that there is a whole new set of “rules” and a whole new enemy, they will never “get it”. And sometimes I don’t care if they ever understand; I just want them to not get in the way of the rest of us who do.
Second, I heard this news talker (they’re not really newsmen or newswomen… even if they are standing on the Israeli/Lebanon border) say, “Well, it’s not like you can disarm Hezbollah and make it go away. After all, Hezbollah is an ideology… a philosophy.” Which of course made me start talking at the television, saying, “OK… even if this is their ideology -- doesn’t entitle them to guns, bullets and missiles that they can fire at the country next door!” An ideology? It's T-E-R-R-O-R-I-S-M. They are TERRORISTS. That's not an ideology any more than is any other form of criminal behavior. An ideology?? Get a grip, boy!
Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2006. All rights reserved.