Jewish World ReviewApril 5, 2004 / 14 Nissan, 5764
Theater of blood
The killing of four U.S. security contract employees in Fallujah on
Thursday was an act of guerrilla warfare.
Burning their bodies and hanging them from a bridge was sheer
There is now a suspenseful silence throughout the Middle East. The
Americans will write the next act, and people are waiting to see what it
American pro-consul Paul Bremer spoke the first line, denouncing the
Fallujah lynch mob as "ghouls" and "jackals."
This was the wrong note. The massacre may have been spontaneous,
but it was not mindless. It was a display of uninhibited inhumanity
intended to frighten off rational enemies.
Bremer's emotional reaction played right into that. After all, who wants
to fight against ghouls and jackals?
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt's response was much better. In a press briefing
he announced that the U.S. would unleash an overwhelming but
"We will kill them, or we will capture them," Kimmitt said. These are the right words, and, more important, they were delivered in the right tone. The Arabs watch Western movies, too. They know what happens when Clint Eastwood narrows his eyes and lowers his voice.
Of course Kimmitt is only a deputy. The real sheriff is President Bush.
After Fallujah, he reiterated his determination not to cut and run. But
after a generation of flight from weak enemies in Saigon, Beirut and
Somalia, American Presidents are not necessarily taken at their word.
Bush has demonstrated that he is willing to change a regime by force.
He has yet to prove that he is willing to maintain one that way.
That can't be shown in a single operation. The Marines will undoubtedly
go into Fallujah, find some of the killers and deal with them.
That matters. What matters more is how it is presented.
The right way is with a shrug. Did we get these guys? Sure, what did you
expect? Ghouls? Jackals? Naw, they're just a bunch of street thugs.
They have no chance up against real soldiers.
This sort of dismissive attitude is intentionally insulting. It is also
crucial to winning at guerrilla theater - in Iraq and on every other front
in the jihad.
The Muslim world suffers from low self-esteem, and properly so. It is a
collection of failed states and unproductive societies that glorify their
distant past because they haven't accomplished anything of
importance in 1,000 years.
Since contemporary Islamic political science usually rejects the
concept of personal responsibility, this state of affairs must be the fault
of someone else.
The Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks, the European colonialists, the
Zionists, the Americans - any or all are to blame for the poverty,
misery and backwardness of the House of Islam.
The jihad, from Fallujah to the Philippines, draws its inspiration from
this sense of grievance. The stolen birthright must be restored by the
fervor and force of young martyrs. With God on their side, they cannot
The thing is, deep down, most Middle Easterners only half-believe this,
or don't believe it at all.
They understand that beyond the bombast and the bravado, they are
weak and getting weaker. Shows of ferocity are all they have left to
boost their own morale and - if they are sufficiently bloodcurdling - to
scare away the enemy.
When America loses its cool over a theatrical spasm of violence, it
feeds this strategy, convincing guerrillas and their audience that the
U.S. can be fooled and intimidated. That is very much the wrong
message. The jihadis must not only be killed and captured, they must
be deflated, made to feel - and look - small and silly.
In guerrilla theater, when it is successfully conducted, a calm
self-possession can be worth a battalion of Marines.
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