Gulf of misunderstanding

Shanghai Star. 2003-03-20

Superficially, an argument has been taking place over the wisdom and legitimacy of using military force to change the regime in Iraq. In fact, the chasm between the opponents in this "debate" has been too wide for meaningful discussion to occur.

Of all the sources of mutual incomprehension, none has been more decisive than the fact that, despite initial protestations of sympathy, no other country remotely shares the US sense of trauma over the 9/11 massacre. Worldwide, many even celebrated it, at least surreptitiously, out of resentment or fear provoked by US freedom, success, power and "hegemonism". Of course, the US cannot expect to be universally loved, but neither can it be expected to sympathize with the opinions of those who cheer (or merely sneer) at the mass slaughter of its citizens.

Where most outside the US see a war being started in Iraq, perhaps unnecessarily, things look different from within the US itself. Having suffered an assault more murderous - and certainly more despicable - than the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, it no longer has the luxury of beginning this new world war, but only the implacable resolve to prosecute it to the end. Peace has already disappeared from the US political horizon. War is no longer a "last resort" once it has been flagrantly initiated by hostile action.

Those who maintain that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has no connection to the international war on terrorism are in most cases the same people who deny that the anti-terrorist struggle is in fact a "war" at all. This is yet another symptom of the international dismissal of 9/11.

If al Qaeda were mere criminals, rather than avatars of a world-wide radical Islamist onslaught against the existing global order, then the US action against Iraq might indeed be considered an over-reaction.

If, on the contrary, following in the wake of Nazism and Soviet Communism, Islamism (the totalitarian perversion of Islam) is a coherent planetary threat to secular liberal civilization, this time crossing Nazi-style suicidal fanaticism with Soviet-style megadeath weaponry, then those substantially obstructing the US in this struggle are indeed "with the terrorists". Few seriously doubt that Iraq is a determined enemy of the US and a deceitful terrorist state, one manifestly obsessed with procuring weapons of mass destruction. Its alignment in the already ongoing world conflict is therefore beyond serious dispute.

The solution, for most of the world, is to shelter behind the illusion that the world is still at peace. This, even while the flames of Islamist terror - characterized above all by the indiscriminate murder of civilians - spread across the planet, fanned by international cowardice, irresolution and even complicity. After a decade of Clintonian appeasement, culminating in the Manhattan atrocity, the US has had enough of this.

Some disputes cannot be resolved by any amount of arguing. Especially when, as in this case, argument disguises bitter antagonism.

Much of the world has deliberately blinded itself to the depravity and menace of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Hopefully this cocoon of self-deception will be among the early casualties of the campaign.

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