Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Beeman--Religious Zeal Makes 'Short War' in Iraq Doubtful--Pacific News Service, March 19, 2003

Religious Zeal Makes 'Short War' in Iraq Doubtful
Commentary, William O. Beeman,
Pacific News Service, Mar 19, 2003

In the car lot of foreign relations, Americans have been sold a lemon -- a clean, fast "war in Iraq." Americans should not be fooled, writes PNS commentator William Beeman, into thinking any war so deeply cast in terms of religion will be short-lived, or that its consequences will be limited to Iraq.

In the car lot of foreign relations, Americans have been sold a lemon -- a creampuff called "the war in Iraq."

Just as car dealers know that luxury features can be key to selling a vehicle, the promised "short war" feature appears to be the clincher in selling the war to many Americans.

However, the invasion of Iraq is not a conventional war. It is a war being cast in terms of crusade and mission, and it is seen from some corners as anti-Islam. And religious wars are never over quickly.

The short war theory is the latest in a long string of advertising messages used by the Bush administration to sell the Iraq conflict to the American public.

The bottom-line justification for the war has been based on the systematic demonization of Saddam Hussein. Like a persistent used-car sales team, the White House has tried many of these calumnies to convince the public to buy the war. "Trust me," says President Bush: Iraq will spread anthrax in the United States. Iraq will someday develop nuclear weapons and bomb us. Iraq will continue to kill babies in its own territory if merely contained. The list goes on.

Like articles of faith, all of these arguments are speculative, improbable and impossible to verify. Once any argument is questioned by anyone in the public sphere, White House spin doctors quickly vilify the questioner and then abandon the doubtful justification for another one.

The "short war" ploy plays to American utilitarianism. The White House has told Americans that even if they are skeptical about the reasons for war, they should accept it because it will be over very quickly. Moreover, because the war will be short, the administration's claims will be immediately verifiable -- like a 90-day guarantee.

This is an attractive argument. Anthropologist Margaret Mead noted at the end of World War II that Americans look upon organized violence with distaste. It can be supported, but only if there is a justifiable cause, and if it is conceptualized as a task that is self-terminating. In short, "We have a job to do, and we won't quit until it's done."

Americans should kick the tires. This is not going to be a short "do our job and come home" kind of war.

Savvy commentators from every corner of the political spectrum note that the chief advocates for the war have been planning it since the end of the first Gulf War.

The documentation is overwhelming, starting with statements by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 1992, moving to the white paper supplied by Richard Perle, now chair of the Defense Science Board, to letters, documents and books prepared by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Vice-president Cheney and others as part of the efforts of the hawkish Project for the New American Century. At least a dozen other key Bush administration officials have been involved in this enterprise. The most complete documentation of the decade-long campaign was published by Pat Buchanan, hardly an extreme liberal.

A closer look shows the war planners' designs are not limited at all. Giddy with their success in selling the conflict to, by the latest polls, 70 percent (and climbing!) of the American public, they are speculating on which country to invade next: Syria? Iran? Libya? North Korea? William Kristol, editor of the right-wing magazine The Daily Standard and charter member of the policy group promulgating the war, sees the Iraq invasion as the opening move in a long effort to completely reshape the Middle East.

The limited surgical strike against Saddam Hussein then becomes a campaign -- "a crusade," to quote President Bush immediately after the tragedy of Sept. 11. The term "crusade" was widely seen as merely an ill-chosen word, reflective as it was of the Christian Crusades against Muslims in the late medieval period. But it resonated mightily with the Arab world.

The Arab world remembers well the words that British General Allenby, a descendent of the English Crusaders, uttered when he entered Jerusalem on December 9, 1917: "The Crusades have ended now!" French General Henri Gouraud, when he entered Damascus in July 1920, stood over Saladin's tomb next to the Grand Mosque, kicked it and said, "Awake Saladin, we have returned. My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent." Americans are seen as direct descendants of those latter day crusaders.

From the granddaddy of all wars fought for religious purposes -- the devastating Thirty Years War in the 17th century between Protestants and Catholics -- to the horrific Taliban campaign in Afghanistan, religious wars are never self-terminating. The perpetrators never give up, because they feel that they are doing the work of God, which justifies every sacrifice.

The parties in the war were not fighting for religion. They were fighting in the name of religion.

America is currently fighting a secular ruler in a secular state, but it is only a matter of time before the American religious campaign is matched in the Middle East by an equally fervent Islamic campaign, also fighting in the name of religion. Al Qaeda has already been widely reported to be using the war as a recruiting tool.

The "short war" then becomes a false selling point -- something that will, in the long run, make the machine of war tremendously costly for the whole world.

Beeman ( teaches anthropology and is director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. He is author of "Fighting the Good Fight: Fundamentalism and Religious Revival" and the forthcoming "Iraq: State in Search of a Nation."
gregg on Apr 14, 2003 17:40:03, said:
jeez, most of these people are not only heavily biased, but wrong.

persistent evil should be snuffed out.

even in the Congo, and Zimbabwe.
Sana Karakan on Mar 27, 2003 18:49:37, said:
Certainly this war is viewed as nothing less than a subtle phase in the latest Crusade against Islam by almost every Muslim alive.
What is it that the extreme right evangelists in the American administration are so terrified of? Muslims have never claimed America. Why so much hatred?
Zac Barton on Mar 27, 2003 18:46:40, said:
Remember the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, who was this country’s representative to the International Conference on Military Trials in August 1945 and the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He told his colleagues then that "we must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."
John Allen on Mar 27, 2003 18:44:00, said:
Ahh, how easy it is to criticize. In all of this anti-war rhetoric I have yet to see/hear mention of a real alternative solution that can solve this situation. Obviously the UN is unable to disarm Saddam through inspections (take, for instance, the use of ILLEGAL SCUD's launched into Kuwait today!). Therefore, if not the UN, what other country out there has the means to do what we are doing (disarming Saddam and freeing the Iraqi people)? So, who out there can offer up a true solution and not just finger-pointing and whinning about "the Evil, war-mongering, oil-hungry, George Bush."
Ahmed Asgher on Mar 27, 2003 18:39:18, said:

Even in countries like Iran, Bahrain and Iraq, people do not resent Americans. We only dislike American foreign policy which has brought so much injustice to the Middle East. Put yourselves in our position and see if you like another superpower, say the USSR, to control you and have troops in all your states.

You control your governments and must see through the media game playing. Time has come to redeem your own principles.

God bless
Ahmed Asgher

Eric Lopez on Mar 20, 2003 21:46:48, said:
A good point is made here. A point that has been said many times but for some reason it has passed through deaf ears. Will this war quell our fears of terrorist attacks? No. It will only throw gas to an already out of control fire, and it will not be the president paying for the consequences (for he has his own security to protect him), but the American people.
Ron Koelbel on Mar 20, 2003 21:23:19, said:
Prof. Beeman, I applaude you for this article. I've been trying to figure out where the Republican party I belong to went. The party that was against government intrusion into people's lives and against the idea of globalism has now become the party of Homeland Security and of Operation Iraqui Freedom. I can't help but ponder that bin Laden, on the beautiful September morning, could never have envisioned the true havoc that he's caused. He must be happy!Thank you prof. Beeman. A dedicated but loyal conservative who feels abandoned by the republican party.

Nathan Walker on Mar 20, 2003 19:31:30, said:
I came to this website to learn the viewpoint of anti-war protestors. I'm 17, and I look for my own answers. Most anti-war activists seem to dismiss ANY war as immoral and unjust, however I have read up on Saddam and the history of the middle east for the last several years. I've seen the things he does to his own people, and can believe the reports that his sons have been commiting these same acts. (I apologize ahead of time for my poor spelling. I've been pretty worn out all day.) My questions are: 1) Why is this war dismissed so easily as a war for oil? If we were so interested in oil, how come we didn't take the oil fields during Desert Storm?
2) Would any of you support war under ANY circumstance?

Steve Kauffman on Mar 20, 2003 17:11:59, said:
It is interesting that prior to the war's commencement, the Administration was leading everyone to believe that this war would be very quick, but Bush has now noted this war will be a lot more difficult and take longer than everyone expects. In addition to botching the diplomatic aspects of this war, the Administration has unleased a public-relations time-bomb. By leading the public to believe the war will be short lived, the Administration has put itself in a no-win position. If the war ends quickly and successfully, this is merely what was promised; any other outcome will be viewed as a failure.

Geoff Pizii on Mar 20, 2003 17:09:08, said:
I wanted to commend you for this article. It is how I have been feeling since this whole mess started. Our president is leading us down a very slippery slope and very few people really understand the dire consequences.
Geoff Pizii
"A quiet patriot"

John Doe on Mar 20, 2003 17:06:28, said:
What we are seeing is the Pope being far more active in showing his opposition to war in comparison the Arab Muslim clerics and insitutions, which have been quite the opposite. The leaders in the Arab Muslim world need American support because their own people do not support them. The people of not only the Arab Muslim world but Indonesia (largest muslim country) and other Muslim states need to realise that they would be better off with a leader who has been selected by the majority of the people not by the American administration.

Al Hembd on Mar 20, 2003 17:02:40, said:
Thank you, Professor Beeman. By the way, there are those of us who are conservative, Bible-believing Christians, who don't fall for this war rhetoric at all--who recognize that the neocon agendum has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.

It's a disgrace to Christianity, really. We're supposed to be showing the world the kindness of God as revealed in Christ saving sinners--not destroying lives. Luke 9:56 "For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." John 3:17 "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

The Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples when they wanted to bid fire to come down from heaven, to destroy a village that had not received Him. He told them that "they knew not what spirit they were of." (Luke 9:56) It wasn't the Spirit of God.

As a serious Christian, I am ashamed and disgusted with the crass and even blasphemous use of Christ's Name, and terms like "Biblical principles" used to defend this current oil conquest.


Al Hembd

Bill Thomas on Mar 20, 2003 17:00:15, said:
Unfortunately, the American public has in large part bought into all the propaganda being pushed by the Bush administration. As the article infers, I also believe that this war is just the beginning salvo of things to come. And we may long regret the ending of this asinine play.

ahmed. rasheeduddin on Mar 20, 2003 16:58:25, said:
Mr. Beeman,

There are still people on Earth telling the truth? I am optimistic that, despite diversity, we sons of Adam can survive. May God bless you Prof Beeman.

Your brother in humanity,
Rasheeduddin Ahmed

Gus Mccrae on Mar 20, 2003 16:55:01, said:
I would like to confess, with my head hung low, that I held my nose and voted for this murderous, dimwitted, low IQ, pathetic stooge of a man - because I mistakenly assumed that the rampant criminality and arrogant, contemptuous disregard for the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Rule of Law that was exhibited by that Arkansas cockroach who preceded him could not, in a million years, be duplicated. I was wrong.

Rachael Bowie on Mar 20, 2003 12:52:57, said:
When will American aggression end? World domination? ...a scary thought. Bush et. al will go down in history as murderers. Anti-American sentiment is on the increase, and yet they wonder why?!
Chris Hewlett on Mar 20, 2003 04:41:04, said:
These opinions I agree with; however, we are all just sitting around prognosticating. In truth, we really don't know, do we?
Jeff TeKippe on Mar 19, 2003 17:29:56, said:
I remember that the vaunted "Republican Guard" was going to cause tens of thousands of U.S. casualties in 1991.

Not all history is 4 centuries old.