a word for people who say that democracy can't work in Arab countries,
and that word is racist."
– former CIA director James Woolsey
James Woolsey actually said that. It happened during last Tuesday's
Nightline "Town Meeting" on Iraq. Six big shots,
three for war and three against, fielded questions from an audience
at St. John's Episcopal Church in D.C. Although the audience was
cool to war, their comments piled lead on the eyelids:
we wait until we've convinced our allies to go with us?"
don't we concentrate on North Korea now and deal with Iraq later?"
The antiwar side of the panel was nothing to brag about, either.
It consisted of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), onetime diplomat to
Wilson, and progressive theologian Susan
Thistlethwaite. Their basic line: we mustn't bomb a country
back to the Paleolithic without Kofi
Annan's blessing. Bad form, you know. Anyway, about 84 minutes
into the 90-minute program, an attractive young woman in the crowd
finally raised an interesting point. (By the way, if she was not
Arab-American, she could have passed for it.) Why, she asked,
do you think that democracy is a panacea for the Middle East?
Since the U.S. insists on policies that galvanize
Islamic fundamentalism, who do you think will be elected in
a democratic Iraq, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia?
pounced. Even his allies jumped a bit. To his right sat Senator
John McCain, who has gone from brash young firebrand to senile
pity magnet without ever being a statesman in between. To Woolsey's
left sat Richard Land, a pompous
Baptist minister who managed to squeak his Princeton degree
into his opening sentence. The latter worthy pulled an admirable
race play himself, channeling
Martin Luther King, Jr., at one point to support war on Iraq,
but Woolsey outdid him. He called his detractor a racist. Touché.
Dees must have been proud.
be sure, the young woman never implied that Arabs are genetically
incapable of representative government. She did not even hint
that cultural factors might hinder the transition. What she said,
ever so slyly, was that if you want to keep bullying the Arab
masses, you had better not unleash them. Saddam, King Abdullah,
the House of Saud – you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Dees and his ilk prey
on such nuanced arguments the way Freudians prey on dreams. A
cigar is always more than a cigar in their eyes. States'
rights? Racism. Tax
protest? Racism. Strict
construction of the 2nd Amendment? Racism. A
skeptical view of government? Racism. Criticism
of Israel? Racism. There must be some sinister code lurking
behind any complex idea. Oh! I know! It's racism! And when the
hate police get lazy, they simply chuck their nemeses in with
some neo-Nazis and call it a day. Just take a gander at the entry
for "paleo-conservative" in this hate
glossary published by the state of Indiana.
his intellectual credit, Dees
doesn't believe a word he says. He knows he is nothing more
than a televangelist for the economically and geographically upper
bourgeoisie, a slick Jim
Bakker laying hands on the affluenza of Martha's Vineyard.
But do self-styled pragmatists like James Woolsey honestly think
that the antiwar camp is racist? Or, as leftists might ask, does
the War Party mask its own bigotry by pointing fingers?
leave the hermeneutics
to others. If you're looking for another essay on the racist motives
behind this war, you'll have to go to the A.N.S.W.E.R.
website. Some pro-war
racism is hard to miss, but the mania for exposing racism
can be just as blinding as prejudice itself. It limits the spectrum
of one's critical palette. For example, Harry Truman bubbled
over with anti-Asian bias, but is that all we need to know
about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? After all, Harry and St.
Franklin did nothing to spare equally innocent civilians in
Today, it's tempting to cry "racism" at National
Review's casual patter about nuking
Mecca, until you realize that the neoconservatives would
the same to France if they could. Their bluster reveals a
general disregard for human life, an equal opportunity sadism
that sees no color. That's why National Review and The
Weekly Standard have played Anti-Semitism's
Greatest Hits so often that the needle skips the
groove. The centerfold in our national demonology is the racist.
Murderers look good by comparison.
Woolsey has offered a superb new twist on the race game. Its dinner
bell leaves doctrinaire leftists slobbering in their tracks. Racism?
Where? Us? Huh? It also obscures an ugly truth about warfare.
Though racism alone has never caused any war, it is one of combat's
most frequent byproducts. Where do you think John McCain developed
his affinity for gook
jokes? At Ku Klux Klan summer day camp? Doing violence to anonymous
foes requires a firm sense of the enemy's otherness. Killing an
acquaintance is easy enough, in a sense, because one can catalogue
specific grievances against him or her. Killing an unknown schmuck
in the same position as oneself is another matter. Animosities
based on collective guilt must be cultivated, a task made easier
when the enemy looks different. E.B.
Sledge, no peacenik, describes a typical scene from the Good
War, Pacific Theater:
I was removing a bayonet and scabbard from a dead Japanese, I
noticed a Marine near me. He wasn't in our mortar section but
had happened by and wanted to get in on the spoils. He came up
to me dragging what I assumed to be a corpse. But the Japanese
wasn't dead. He had been wounded severely in the back and couldn't
move his arms; otherwise he would have resisted to his last breath.
Japanese's mouth glowed with huge gold-crowned teeth, and his
captor wanted them. He put the point of his kabar on the base
of a tooth and hit the handle with the palm of his hand. Because
the Japanese was kicking his feet and thrashing about, the knife
point glanced off the tooth and sank deeply into the victim's
mouth. The Marine cursed him and with a slash cut his cheeks open
to each ear. He put his foot on the sufferer's lower jaw and tried
again. Blood poured out of the soldier's mouth. He made a gurgling
noise and thrashed wildly. I shouted, "Put the man out of
his misery." All I got for an answer was a cussing out. Another
Marine ran up, put a bullet in the enemy soldier's brain, and
ended his agony. The scavenger grumbled and continued extracting
his prizes undisturbed.
the young Marine was born vicious. More likely, however, the propaganda
he absorbed about "Nips"
combined with the constant stress of battle to make him so. A
long guerrilla conflict between Americans and Arabs is sure to
ignite similar passions on both sides.
expect the War Party to surrender the race truncheon, though.
It's too good a weapon. They should show Mr. Dees their gratitude
by naming him first ambassador to postwar Iraq.
~ Matt Barganier
Barganier is a native of Ft. Deposit, AL, a tiny hamlet half an
hour south of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has only recently
joined the ranks of web punditry. Matt currently teaches middle-schoolers
in Baton Rouge, LA. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University
and the University of Alabama. His column appears Mondays on Antiwar.com.