Friday, April 04, 2003

The fire next time. The New York Times today is full of reasons why we shouldn't have gone into Iraq except as part of a broad international coalition. The military situation has improved greatly for US and British troops this week, and for that we should all be grateful. But what a hell of a mess they're going to leave behind.

The problem is simple, and it's one that was widely predicted by antiwar critics before the invasion: too many people in the Arab and Muslim world hate us. Even if you concede that we're going to some lengths to keep civilian casualties to a minimum (and we are), the images of dead and injured children and families is going to make them hate us even more.

Anyway, three things you should check out in today's Times:

  • Susan Sachs reports that the Arab media are combining images of civilian casualties with horrors from the Palestinian territories to paint a picture of "one continuous brutal assault by America and its allies on defenseless Arabs, wherever they are." The understatement of the day comes from an Egyptian observer, Abdel Moneim Said: "In the longer run, these images can breed a certain type of people, not the ones who are looking to develop our societies but those who think how to sacrifice themselves."
  • A Lebanese journalist named Rami Khouri offers a more measured view of the Arab media on the op-ed page. (Be sure to look at the graphic, too.) Still, he concedes that depictions of coalition troops as humanitarians are greatly outnumbered by "images of dead and maimed Iraqi children, parents wailing over the coffins of relatives killed by American bombings, extensive damage of Iraqi civilian buildings and Iraqi civilians being humiliated by American and British troops."
  • Perhaps most horrifying of all, Laurie Goodstein reports that US-based anti-Muslim hate groups are itching to get into Iraq and start converting the populace to Christianity -- the very image of the "Crusaders" that Osama bin Laden has used to whip up anti-American terrorism. The evangelicals are George W. Bush's base. Does he dare risk alienating them by insisting that they stay home?

The president loves his biblical metaphors. Well, here's one that he ought to think about long and hard: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

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