September 15, 2007


It is amazing how the media defines things for people. When the press labels something, right or wrong, the label acquires a permanence it does not deserve. If you watch how these labels change over time, and how they change everywhere at once, you can learn a great deal about how media is used to shape public perception.

Listen to any news story on Iraq and you will find that every action, person, or group opposed to American occupation (and rule) is apparently connected to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is, after all, our enemy. They're very frank about it. Even when we make "progress" in some area, it's usually phrased as progress made against Al Qaeda.

Trouble is, there are hundreds of different opposition (insurgent) groups in Iraq. Some of these opposition groups are allied with Al Qaeda and others are just as hostile to Al Qaeda as to the United States (they want both Al Qaeda and the US military out of their country). These opposition groups are nationalists. They're fighting for their own vision of Iraq. If the old Soviet Union were occupying Iraq instead of us and these groups were fighting against them, then we'd call the freedom fighters. We'd be supporting them with arms and money, just like we did the contra forces in Nicaragua during the 1980's. Unfortunately, we're the occupying army today and these brave patriotic Iraqis are killing our brave patriotic Americans. This may make them terrorists, but it does not make them Al Qaeda.

Calling all these groups Al Qaeda is an intentionally deceptive error. Remember back before the war, when the administration tried to force some link between Sad dam Unseeing and Al Qaeda? Remember that they failed to do so, because there just was no connection between them? But now, if you listen to the coverage, all we're fighting in Iraq is Al Qaeda. That is untrue. What we are fighting in Iraq is a broad cross-section of the Iraqi people who are nationalists and who want us to get out of their country.

OK, so if we're mislabeling all Iraqi nationalists as Al Qaeda, what exactly is Al Qaeda anyway? Al Qaeda is a loose confederation or alliance of militant Sunni extremists. They're people who like to present the world in a religious context. As extremists usually do, they like to misrepresent events. They like to present the US invasion of Iraq as a religious war of Christians against Muslims. They take real hardships and real injustices and claim that they all stem from the same evil origin: USA (that's you and me). Because the hardships and injustices are real, they get followers who are good, dedicated men and women who want to be on the side of right (just like us).

If we'd made a deal with the people of Iraq in 2003 that they'd overthrow Sad dam Unseeing and set up a democratic government under UN supervision and in exchange we'd give every single man, woman,and child in the country $200,000 to do with as they pleased, there'd probably be a lot of happy Iraqis with a lot of good things to say about their good friends in the USA. We didn't do that. We spent the same amount of money to overthrow a repressive regime that had been repressing a lot of ethnic and religious rivalry and contention. We blasted apart the country and destroyed most of the infrastructure and support services for the people, thus making them instantly hostile and ready to blame us for anything bad that happened to them. And an awful lot of bad things did happen and continue to happen in Iraq. Al Qaeda is irrelevant to all this.

Just recently, Iran has been figuring more and more in our description of our enemy in Iraq. This makes me very nervous. We don't need another thirty million people hating us and blaming us for everything that's wrong in their country, too. Right now, a lot of the young folks in Iran are justifiably pissed-off with their own leaders. That is a good thing. We should encourage them and help them to make their country a better place to live for all Iranians. This good thing will end the minute we attack Iran.

If I were to define my own personal enemy, it would be the people who:

I feel sad to live in a country I feel is basically good, but is being lead to do bad things. I feel ashamed of my country when we do such a bad job taking care of our own citizens. I know we can do better than this. I know we are better than this. Luckily, we live in a country where we can get together and do something about this state of affairs, where we can make changes in our government without resorting to revolution (where we can impeach a bad ruler instead of assassinating him). We need to do a better job of taking ownership of our government, so that it can become again the friend to all the peoples of the world.

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