Saturday, November 20, 2004

Intellectual Activism: A Moral Killing

Here's this week's Broadside column:

Last week, US Marines in Iraq stormed the hornet’s nest of Fallujah and dealt the anti-American insurgency a crushing blow, pacifying the mosques, murder dens and sniper holes used by the enemy to kill Americans and pro-US Iraqi policemen. They also found the mutilated body of a woman believed to be Margaret Hassan, the British aid worker held hostage by insurgents demanding the removal of United Kingdom solders from Iraq. Yet it was the video-tape of a US Marine shooting to death a wounded man that he believed threatened his life that became the top story out of Fallujah.

Images of the shooting, aired widely on Al-Jazeera television, have enraged Iraqis and other Arabs in the Middle East, prompting the US ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte to express regret for the shooting and promise that the marine involved would be held accountable under military law.

I disagree. The marine acted well within his rights. The battle for Fallujah has been particularly hard-fought; the insurgents have fought house to house, using snipers and booby-trapping the dead in an attempt to delay their inevitable defeat. The theory behind their action is simple; they do not believe the US has the stomach to endure a hard fight. They believe that if they fight ruthlessly, the US will quit Iraq.

The answer to such an enemy is ruthless force. In the American Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman knew as much when he wrote to the mayor of Atlanta that “war is cruelty” and that those “who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” The mayor had requested Sherman rescind his order that Confederate civilians evacuate Atlanta on humanitarian grounds. Sherman argued in reply that Atlanta was the wellspring of Confederacy and that to spare it for any reason would only serve to perpetuate the war. After years of defeat and needless suffering and loss, Sherman’s bold move helped secure the eventual Union victory that came seven months later.

In Iraq, the US is faced with an enemy that has no right to strike. There is no legitimate reason to oppose the US mission—there is no right for the Iraqis to set up a religious dictatorship to replace Saddam. If peace is the goal, the US must root out the Muslim insurgents; it must make action against America synonymous with individual ruin. Rather then apologize for US forces killing the enemy, our leaders should lay the blame for such death exactly where it belongs: with those who fight against the nascent freedom that the US is installing in Iraq.

Yet we are told however that if we act boldly in Iraq, we will incur the wrath of the Arab world. Have we forgotten that we are fighting in Fallujah now because the jihadists did not honor their earlier promise to disarm and return to their productive lives? As far as the Arab world is concerned, it seems the only acceptable deaths in Iraq are American ones. Have we forgotten that the lives of our own men and women are more important than those of the enemy that seeks to destroy us?

So when I see footage of a squad of marines engaged in house-to-house fighting, and one of the marines shoots a man he perceives to be a threat, I say “so be it.” Even if the facts show that the marine was mistaken in his perception of the threat, his actions were nevertheless moral. This marine was a man acting in self-defense against an enemy who has killed brutally in the name of an unjust cause. Such is the hard, yet just nature of war.

And truth be told, our war-fighting strategy in Iraq is ridiculously over-generous to the enemy. Why should we risk any American lives to defeat the insurgents? Why doesn’t the US bomb the jihadists and the cities they occupy into oblivion as it did with the Nazis in Germany and the Shinto cultists in Japan? Our government exists to protect American lives, not to sacrifice them in the name of preventing “collateral damage.” One American life ought to be worth more than 10,000—even 100,000 of the enemy.

So instead of placing our men in harms way in Fallujah and then apologizing when they kill the enemy, we should demand that the Bush administration open up the floodgates and unleash the full power of our military might. We should fight the war in Iraq as it deserves to be fought: as a righteous war to defeat a vicious tyranny that threatened our security. Those who stand with that tyranny or seek to replace it with a new one are an enemy that forfeits their right to exist. They deserve all the harm that comes to them.

That is why I cannot cry for the man killed by the marine. To win in Iraq, those who stand with the insurgents it must be brought to ruin. Until these men choose to put down their arms, that means our killing them. If not, there will be both more death—and no end to it in sight.

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