Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Sounds of Silence

On August 14th, two weeks ago today, four suicide bombers blew themselves up in two Iraqi towns, killing more than 500 people, injuring nearly 300 more, and totally destroying the towns. The dead were all civilians, and included men, women, and children.

The world's reaction to this act of barbarity is instructive. Here is a complete list of the condemnations of this act issued by senior Islamic clerics:

Let me repeat that in case you missed it:

And here is the full text of the statement of condemnation issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

This is the complete text of the statement of condemnation issued by Pope Benedict XVI:

Riddle me this, Batman: where is the outrage? Where are the voices of our religious leaders condemning the actions of a few twisted murderers who pervert their religious beliefs to justify the most heinous and savage acts of violence?

When the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison came to light, the story and photos ran 24/7 on Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and every other media outlet in the Middle East and around the world. When American servicemen were accused of murdering civilians in the town of Haditha, the howls of outrage around the world were deafening. What happened in these cases is instructive:

First, the Abu Ghraib abuses came to light because an American soldier, revolted by the actions of his comrades, reported the situation to his superiors. The case was investigated, and responsible individuals were tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It's true - and sad - that no senior officers went to jail, but the overall reaction is worth noting: America identified and punished the offenders.

The murderers of Hadita were identified, tried, and convicted.

The U.S. Army and Marines pay large amounts of money to Iraqi civilians whose property is damaged in raids or accidents, and compensation is paid in many instances when a civilian is accidentally killed or injured by U.S. forces. Here is the full list of compensation offered by Al Qaeda in Iraq, Hamas, and Hezbollah to the thousands of Iraqi civilians murdered in suicide attacks or other acts of violence, and the responsible individuals who have been convicted and sent to prison:

Quite a list, eh?

And our own government is at fault as well. Thomas Friedman wrote a superb article in the New York Times last Sunday titled "Swift-Boated by Bin Laden." It's been reproduced in several places, and is worth your reading. His thesis is that George Bush and the Republican Party skillfully used the accusations of Vietnam-era malfeasance by John Kerry while he served in a swift-boat squadron to smear him and injure his presidential campaign...so effectively that the use of past deeds to damage present political campaigns is known as "swift-boating." And so, Friedman asks, why are the President and the Republicans not swift-boating Osama bin Laden and the faceless murderers of the Middle East? Why are we not seizing the information war from bin Laden, al Zawahiri, Hamas, and the others whose only language is that of terror and murder? Why are we not exposing their ghastly crimes and calling for the world to acknowledge and condemn them?

As long as we fail to condemn the silence of the so-called Arab street ... as long as we give murderers and religious bigots a free pass ... as long as we silently accept the condemnation of those whose own actions are deserving of that condemnation, we are no better than they. War is a terrible thing. Murder is a terrible thing. But ask yourself this:

Who is holding its people accountable for their actions? How many Iraqi murderers are being brought to justice? Why are our so-called religious leaders - of all faiths - giving these evil animals a free ride?

But we're Americans...and we're always guilty. Blaming America is easy. Looking at yourself and seeing the image that Dorian Gray saw, that's hard.

Where's the outrage? Where's the justice?

When you find it, let me know.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



John said...

A fine post.
And I have to agree, "Where is the outrage? I spent my day off working for a co-worker Sunday. She was greeting her son, a Marine returning from his 7 month tour in Iraq. I have a close friend that will be redeployed to Iraq in just a couple of weeks.
How I wish they could all come home.

At one time, I might have had some understanding of this madness that goes on, but it has long since left me. If we(USA) are to blamed for the happenings in the Middle East, let's be blamed for having left them to themselves and their own destruction.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Expertly written. Full of questions that deserve asking but sadly few media people would do so.

Amanda said...

I have to echo John and Picard. This really was a great post. More people should be reacting to all this evil yet the opposite seems to be happening. The news is so saturated with Iraq (or other atrocities) that people seem to just take it as part of the weather.

noisms said...

I absolutely agree, and I think the answer to your questions lies in the unspoken racism that still exists in Western societies: unfortunately, we expect Arabs to be violent, murderous and irrational, and so when certain elements in an Arabic society behave that way, it simply confirms our suspicions.

This is also a large part of the reason why Palestinian terrorist violence is often excused by Western liberals, but Israeli violence is condemned. Arabs are usually held to a different - lower - standard in Western eyes, so their occasional brutalities are almost excused by the idea that they don't know any better. (This assumption is never voiced, but I think is implicit in the attitudes shown, which are often condescending and perpetuate victimhood - as if Palestinians are allowed to respond to oppression in a different way to everybody else just because they're Arabs and don't know any better.)

Until we hold Arabs in particular and all ethnicities in general to be equal, with equal responsibilities, there will never be the genuine condemnation that you're calling for.