30 March 2003
An Iraqi in a taxi containing explosives has become the first known suicide bomber of the war to succeed in taking some of the US invaders with him. By itself, his attack is simply another bit of bloodletting in this unnecessary war. But what makes the event so significant is not that it happened (though the fact that it did will be causing considerable unease among America and its allies), but the way in which Washington has reacted to this slaying of at least four of its soldiers.
The cry has gone up from the American camp that suicide bombings are the acts of terrorists, therefore this attack proves, beyond all doubt, the long-argued American case that Iraq is a terrorist state. Thus Washington was right all along to invade, and the sooner Saddam Hussein can be put out of business, the safer the world will be.
There is none so blind as they that won't see.
This ignorant and deeply stupid analysis just about sums up the level of what seems to pass for serious thought in George W. Bush's White House.
Put aside for a moment the obvious objection that had there been no invasion in the first place, there would have been no suicide bombing in reaction to it, terrorist or otherwise ‹ in other words, that the proof of this particular pudding was not in the eating ‹ and bring the debate to a level that the current mindset of the US administration is more attuned to.
Imagine instead that one of Davy Crockett's men had volunteered to charge a wagonload of explosives out of the fort and straight into Santana's forces surrounding the Alamo, in an attempt to break the Mexicans' aggressive resolve. Would not that man now be high in the pantheon of US heroes? Indeed are not Davy Crockett himself and the rest his volunteers roundly honored for their bravery and self-sacrifice, which held off an invader long enough for his campaign to lose momentum and falter?
Were Davy Crockett and his men terrorists for throwing away their lives in a hopeless action against vastly superior might? If an American answers that they were not, then he is accepting that neither was the Iraqi suicide bomber in his taxi.
Davy Crockett is a hero to the Americans. Every citizen remembers the Alamo. Can Washington therefore appreciate that the Iraqi in the taxi is going to be a hero as well, when his name and his self-sacrifice become known, and that he will be a hero not just in Iraq but throughout the Arab world?
If they can imagine this, maybe the Bush White House will go the extra intellectual mile and understand that the guy in the taxi in Iraq was no more laying down his life for his president in Baghdad than the guy in the raccoon hat was dying for his president in Texas. Both men chose to die because they loved and wanted to defend their homeland. An attack against one Texan or one Iraqi was an attack against all Texans and all Iraqis.
But America of course cannot ascribe to its enemies the noble and decent motives it is happy to honor among its own heroes. For Washington, there can be no equivalence between Iraqis and Americans. Yet consider this: One of them has a warmongering, bloodthirsty president, elevated to his position in a sham election, who is happy to slaughter innocents to promote his world vision. The other has Saddam Hussein.