"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, March 24, 2008

New news on Saddam's terrorist Rolodex


On a different front, here's an interesting article about the "Harmony" program, an assessment of over 600,000 documents, audio/video records, and computer files captured from around Iraq. It provides further evidence about the extent of Saddam Hussein's support for various terrorist organizations, including 'marriages of convenience' with al Qaeda-affiliated groups. It doesn't purport to link Hussein directly to bin Laden; but it further demonstrates that Saddam was an active state sponsor of terrorism and that his efforts weren't restricted merely to the Middle East. That the administration has said nothing about this report is simply more evidence of its mind-boggling willingness to cede the information war to its critics; but perhaps the Harmony program's revelations will at least make it into the history books.

One more completely unrelated note: our intra-office gaming group has switched from Warcraft III to Command and Conquer: Generals, a game I've never played before. This may elicit a giant "who cares?" from you. However, after the playing the game a few times, I'm struck by just how honest pop culture could sometimes be about the world's state before 9/11 (the game was released prior to that day). Its premise is eerily prescient: in the near future, three factions - America, China, and the "Global Liberation Army" - are duking it out. The GLA is especially striking: it's a thinly disguised Islamist terrorist organization, specializing in vehicle and suicide bombings and the use of WMDs to overcome its technological inferiority. I won't delve into the morality of a computer game that offers an opponent so sadly familiar: my point is simply that it's funny remembering how much more honest we were about who the 'bad guys' were before 9/11 (also, kudos to the software company for including China as the third major power; they may well have identified the rising star of the 21st century before any politician or diplomat). Before 9/11, pop culture was surprisingly good at foreshadowing future tragedies. You may recall the movie Executive Decision, in which Muslim radicals hijack an airliner and rig it with a massive chemical bomb designed to wipe out much of the Eastern seaboard; it even featured a terrorist leader justifying his actions by quoting the Koran, as bin Laden and his ilk are fond of doing (though 9/11 managed to change that too: the DVD, released after the attacks, re-dubbed that particular line with something non-offensive, and it was hardly an accident since that was the only difference between the DVD and VHS versions). Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears is a worst-case scenario of what Islamists would do if they could: detonate a nuclear weapon in a major American city (this, too, was whitewashed after 9/11; the movie version cast neo-Nazis, not al Qaeda, as the villains). It's a strange, and potentially self-destructive, cultural inversion that called a spade a spade when the bad guys were on the periphery, and then relabeled it a heart when war was brought to our doorstep. Post-9/11 pop culture has recast the heroes as villains and the villains as, at worst, victims. Virtually every Iraq movie made in recent months has cast soldiers, the military, and American authorities in general as the real
terrorists, while genuine bad guys like Zarqawi or the fiends who used women afflicted with Down's syndrome as suicide bombs get a pass. This is not to say that pop culture needs to crank out pro-war movies and TV shows at WWII levels; but when addressing the subject, try to apply at least a modicum of reality. And while I'm wishing for things, I'd like my own private island complete with monkey butlers.

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