Pharsalia

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Candy Wars II

One of the inevitable aspects of war is action and reaction. As one side innovates the other side innovates in response, less they collapse altogether. Nothing focuses the mind quite like the imminent prospect of death and defeat. Last month I wrote of the powerful impact individual acts of kindness and generosity by American soldiers was having on the Iraqi people, particularly the children. Tens of thousands of next generation Iraqis will have the fuzzy memory of a giant smiling American handing them candy bars, shoes, or coloring books. That good will is a deadly danger for the long term viability of the jihadi movement.

True to form, Al Qaeda has adapted to the Candy War in the most horrifying way possible. Yesterday, jihadis in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad set off a carbomb to attract an American patrol, and more importantly to attract the children that flock to bomb scenes looking for treats. A suicide bomber driving an SUV packed with explosives waited until several dozen children were gathered around, pressed on the accelerator, and detonating his lethal cargo in the midst of the Iraqi children.

At least two dozen were killed instantly. Many more maimed. One American soldier was killed. There are no words in elvish, entish, or the tongues of men to describe such infamy.

The intent is clear. The terrorists seek to divide the coalition forces from the Iraqi people. Americans are making inroads to Iraqi adults through kindness to their children, and the way to stop that is to make Iraqis fear for their childrens lives. There is a definite sick logic to it.

There is a famous scene in Apocalypse Now where Kurtz recalls the following:

We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms...

And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger.


Some have proported that this is a true story, passed on from military advisors to Copola. Whatever the case may be, Kurtz was wrong. True soldiers risk death for causes, and therein lies their strength. A warrior who begins to prey on the innocent while avoiding the strong is quickly unmanned. Aside from the literal sadists, Nazis manning concentration camps took to alcoholism and suicide almost to a man. A warrior reduced to atrocity will lose his ability to act, which is precisely why insurgents attempt to goad occupiers into brutality.

In this, Al Qaeda has failed miserably, and in so doing completely lost their path. Instead of provoking Americans, AQ has succeeding in provoking Iraqis against them, while causing Americans to pity Iraqis, the opposite of their intent. Drugging up some Morrocan and having him drive into a preschool is not a sign of moral clarity and mental strength. It is a sign of impotence and confusion of purpose.