Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Moore's "Minutemen"

Of all the stupid things written about this war, probably the most unnerving was this gem from lardy propagandist Michael Moore:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?

A spittle-flinging rant, but it's revealing. Moore is prone to say interesting things like this when he escapes his handlers and speaks his mind instead of sticking to talking points. What's interesting here is not the loopiness, but the degree to which he's right.

It's possible he simply wrote that to enrage people. But he published it on his own Web site, where his faithful go to hear his message. This piece was his reaction to a Bush State of the Union speech. And even if the intent was to provoke, the particular image he conjured up puts his thinking in perspective. This is not an insane person. This is an intelligent man, albeit one with a severe vision problem. The point at which his parallel shears away from reality is where we see into his nature.

Moore's making a historical comparison. Does it hold up? How were the American "Revolutionaries" and "Minutemen" like the modern Iraqi "resistance"?

Both were fighting the greatest military force on earth in their day. Both used unconventional fighting tactics that were denounced by their enemies. The 18th century was unblessed by Geneva Conventions, but the colonials' tactic of hiding behind trees and walls, firing and then running away, was highly "unsporting."

The thug-armies trying to bring down Iraq into chaos today terrorize and killed the people in their own land who prefered cooperating with the Americans or the new native government. American rebels had their dark moments and characters, too. Tories were hounded, beaten, terrorized, driven from their homes, and sometimes lynched. The word "lynch" seems to date from the late Revolutionary period. Of course, this work was mostly done by irregulars, and the military authorities, including Washington and Anthony Wayne, punished it severely.

The American rebels, like the Iraqi insurgents today, counted on other great powers, jealous of the one they were fighting against, to hamstring the giant. What France, Spain, and Holland did for the colonial rebels, Iran, France, and Syria try in their various ways to do in Iraq.

The American rebels, like the Iraqi insurgents today, knew they had important allies in the political opposition in the homeland of the nation they were fighting. Lifelong opponents of the Crown in Parliament continued to fight it when the rebellion broke out. Their speeches were widely reprinted and praised in the rebel territories.

The American rebels, like the Iraqi insurgents today, knew their strategy was not so much a matter of winning on the battlefield, but of making their enemy pay a prohibitive cost to stay the course. A battle like Bunker Hill, which by any military account the Americans lost, boosted rebel morale because they had managed to kill many enemy soldiers, even while getting chased from the field.

Indeed, the Iraqi insurgents enjoy advantages the American rebels would have envied. George Bush, despite the brayings of his enemies, holds nowhere near the power in his government that George III wielded in his. American Loyalists proved indispensible to the British, moreso than the Iraqis -- so far -- have proven to be to the Americans. And what would have been the effect on Britain of an 18th century CNN that would beam images of dead redcoats, or weeping colonials outside their burning homes, into every parlor in London?

The parallels implied by Moore's quip are on the practical level, and of the sort that will always be common among underdog rebels fighting world powers. The question that matters is, "what are they fighting for?" In both cases, the answer is both complex and simple. In any one man or woman, in Boston or Fallujah, it might be a mix of motives, some purely personal (grudges, thirst for revenge), some purely patriotic or tribal, some religious. But here is how the leaders of the Minutemen came to state their case:

"That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

And the Islamists, who are the most effective and dramatic elements of the Iraqi resistance, have stated their goal. If the common goal of the resistance -- driving out the Americans and collapsing the Allawi government -- succeeds, Iraq will become a Taliban paradise of crushing religious fundamentalism and terror colleges. The Islamists have their own declarations:

It seems, in fact, that the wild beasts in the White House have forgotten or have tried to forget one very important thing, which is, in all pride -- the Al-Qaeda organization. This organization, which strikes fear in the hearts of the infidel West, turns youth into people who have nothing in this world but their devotion to Allah and to His Prophet Mohammed, and who are the tormentors of the sons of whores [i.e. the West], and who are shining examples of estrangement from the sins of this world ... and of selling their souls to Allah.

... Therefore, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Even though the Americans have bombs possessing enormous power, Al-Qaeda is even more powerful than they, and it has in its possession bombs which are called "dirty bombs", and bombs with deadly viruses, which will spread fatal diseases throughout American cities .... The coming days will prove that Kaedat el-Jihad is capable of turning America into a sea of deadly radiation, and this will prove to the world that the end is at hand .... Yes, we will destroy America and its allies, because they have used their power for evil against the weak. And now, the end approaches at the hand of the enlightened [Islamic] youth astride their horses [fighting the war against the infidels].

[Abu Shihab El-Kandahari, Dec. 26, 2002]

And between those two passages lies all the difference that Moore and his friends fail to see. For all these coincidental similarities between Minutemen and jihadis, to fail to distinguish their difference is like saying a Red Cross blood drive is the same thing as a vampire attack.

The fault of Moore and those like him, I think, is to see only what goes on in American politics. They see only America. The rest of the world is something that reacts to America, or suffers under it. They don't know or care what the imams want to work on Iraq. The only thing that matters is getting rid of That Man in the White House.

They validate Moore's own line (the one he uses in overseas speeches, but not at home) about Americans being the stupidest people on earth.