Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Dear friends, it appears that my illustrious compatriot, the learned Diodotus, has been led astray by a pair of fiends, i.e., P.W. Singer and Elina Noor, as referenced in a recent letter to the forum.

To set the record straight, had FDR called Adolf Hitler the 'leader of the National Socialist Aryan patriots' or dubbed Japanese soldiers fighting in World War II as the 'defenders of Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,' he would have been right on the money (Herr Hitler being exactly that throughout the war, and the Japanese after Midway clearly fighting a defensive war against an American foe bent on their total defeat.)

America and her allies have no particular claim on the title of patriot - in fact, Georgian England would have had quite another term for the Founding Fathers - traitors!

Not quite such a nifty ring as patriot, I'm afraid -sadly, "insurgent" was not in vogue back in those days, although that would have been another, more accurate description of those rascally rebels.

A pity, really - don't you suppose people would have just thronged the theaters to see Mel Gibson star in "The Traitor"?

Radical Muslims ARE on a jihad; just like radical Christians a few hundred years back WERE on a Crusade. Not all Christianity endorsed the sack-and-pillage, conversion-or-death approach applied by such dubious ambassadors as those Bad Samaritans, the Knights Templar, just like not all Muslims today back the bloody antics of their fundamentalist brethren. However, to claim that today's suicide bomber or turbaned warrior launching an RPG is not a "true" jihadist is about as ludicrous as attempting to claim that the Lionheart's men who slaughtered the surrendered garrison at Acre were not "true" crusaders.

We must remember that there's two sides to every story, (and every battle), and those who apply their own labels to their opponents ought to be rightly scorned as mere propagandists and demagogues.

If you want to know the properly descriptive and politically correct salutation for Muslim fundamentalists (sorry, lads, I had to call you something!) - I strongly suggest that you go ask them how they prefer to be addressed.

Once that's been straightened out, you might ask them some other simple thing, like, what's your favorite color, what's your political agenda, and is there anything we could do to resolve this without further violence. (Hint - the answer might be similar to the one we gave ol' King George a few centuries back - get your redcoats off our land, and leave us to manage our own affairs - even if we do wish to, oh, I don't know - enslave our fellow man? prevent women and minorities from voting for a few decades? exterminate the majority of some native population and confine the rest? burn a few heretics at the stake, or engage in a brutal civil war for several years...)

Anyway, it's called dialogue, and yes, it's a tad more difficult (though probably more useful) than sitting around debating which distasteful colloquialism to apply to our military opponents.

Finally, a word from a warrior about the importance of language.

Ancient warriors honored their foes. Achilles does not scorn the Trojans as thugs, gooks, hajjis, barbarians, hirabis or terrorists. Instead, he exults that they are indeed mighty opponents, so that when he defeats them, great credit will redound to him, or, if he is defeated, it is not by some lesser creature.

What glory is there in crushing a weak opponent? That is mere slaughter, not battle, a task best confined to the abattoir and left to a lower class of man.

By labeling an opponent, you take the first step in dehumanizing them, and simultaneously, in dehumanizing yourself.


Charli Carpenter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diodotus said...

Rubbish. You dehumanize an enemy by calling them names like "rat" and "snake"; you condemn certain behaviors engaged in by your enemy (such as beheading unarmed prisoners or burning children alive in their buses) by calling them what they are - war crimes, unlawful violence, barbarism.

And Japan was not fighting a defensive war when it brought "Co-Prosperity" to Nanking through rape and slaughter, or dissected pregnant Chinese women under the rubric of scientific "research." Don't think this is an apology for America's own "barbarous" behavior during World War II. We should be willing to apply the same standards to ourselves, and yes I agree we should embrace dialogue with our enemies. But that doesn't mean we have to endorse their methods.

Chloe said...

Jihad doesn't mean holy war; it means "to strive to uphold the will of Allah" - most Muslims interpret it along the lines of Zen "right practice." In the Islamic laws of war, right practice does not include the killing of civilians.

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