Friday, 24 May 2024

    But the Trains Ran On Time

    by Pete O’Brien

    In 1942, a short while after the US land in North Africa, several US soldiers were convicted of raping a local woman. They were tried and found guilty. The commanding general – George Patton, approved their sentence and had them hung. As harsh as that may sound to some, that is what civilized armies do in wartime. They do not terrorize the locals, they do not rape or loot, they do not murder innocent civilians. They do not torture prisoners.

    Do innocents get killed? Yes, they do. Sadly, a lot of them get killed if you end up in a total war, a war fought to remove another government. That is one reason you avoid wars if at all possible – they are horrible things. And sometimes even in the best armies some soldiers will go too far – and they commit crimes. And then they are tried. But all that hasn’t exactly slowed down humanity in fighting wars. If you just include the major civilizations for the last 6,000 years, there have been fewer than 250 years in history where there wasn’t a war someplace. And if you include smaller civilizations and the hundreds of woodland and plains tribes from the steppes of Russia to Africa to the Americas, that number rapidly goes to zero. 

    So? So, this past week there was a story about people on some social media  commenting on the letter Osama bin Laden wrote in November of 2002 explaining why he was attacking the US. The various “cognoscenti” then encourage everyone to “read the letter,” that it is “illuminating.”

    I first read the letter shortly after it came out. Osama wasn’t new to anyone who had spent any time in the Mid East or was in any way associated with the US intelligence community or the US military. But I went back and read it again this week, as it has probably been more than a decade since I last read it.

    Several things strike me, though I won’t go into a point by point commentary as it would take too long.

    Without getting into the badly skewed history he relates, there’s a glaring problem with his harangue – it comes to this: either you are the very first occupant of a piece of land, or you are a Muslim – all other occupants of a piece of land are wrong. 

    The problem with that, of course, is that the history of mankind is one of conquest. Folks who want to rush to give Plymouth Rock back to the Algonquin need to take a hard look at who was in Plymouth first. The never-ending wars of the American Indians is an unbroken string of raids and counter raids, millennia of looting and burning of villages, of taking of slaves, of raping of women. Before Hamas was gang raping women, so were the Comanche. And no one needed to teach it to them. Long before the first European arrived in the Western Hemisphere all that was talking place. Same in China, same in India and SE Asia, and Africa. No corner of the globe has a pass on that sort of evil behavior. 

    It has only been in the last millennia that there has been any serious effort at all to stop some of that behavior and that only by a small number of countries. Yes, before that, everyone has some sort of document on “just war,“ but it was rarely taken seriously, at least in regard to how the enemy and how civilians were to be treated. And even then, the record has not been unblemished. Consider the Red Coats raping and burning and looting their way the length of Long Island in 1776. And today, in much of the world, that sort of thing continues. Jump “all the way” back to World War II and the Russians sweeping into Eastern Europe and raping and burning as they advanced. What about the Japanese in Nanking? Or Manila? Or jump forward to today. Take a quick look at the Tigray War – a half a million dead, with both sides accused of thousands of war crimes, of rapine and plunder in little towns across Ethiopia. I’m sure social media covered the Tigray war in detail… And the Iran – Iraq War??? Use of chemical weapons, towns burned, civilians raped and murdered…

    So, what Hamas did is how most armies or raiders act. But not in the West, not the US, not Israel, not the IDF. But apparently it is okay to Osama. And Hamas. And the social media intelligentsia who suddenly found Osama’s letter.

    Fascinating that the various folks on social media – all Westerners, most of them I dare say, quite progressive, seemingly agreeing with Osama as he talks about, in fact, implementing Sharia. You know, the way it is implemented in Afghanistan today: women don’t go to school, don’t hold jobs, don’t appear outside the house unless covered head to foot, and with a chaperone. That version of Sharia.

    He comments on the enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq, blaming the US for the ills inflicted on the Iraqi people because of those sanctions. Never mind that Saddam Hussein was the one dropping chemical weapons on Kurds or burning the homes of the marsh Arabs. Or what about Assad in Syria killing his own people at Hama?

    He goes on to comment that the citizens of the US support the US government and that therefore American people are not innocent. Therefore American citizens are legitimate targets. And so, by extension, are the women who were raped and then mutilated in Israel. All legitimate, all something that the erudite social media hounds are, I am sure, well versed in.

    Of course, if that is so, then can’t Israelis legitimately bomb Gaza and kill civilians, as the people of Gaza support Hamas?

    But no. The Israelis aren’t radical Muslims. 

    Because that really is Osama’s argument: if you are Muslim you allowed to do anything to take and keep terrain. If you are not Muslim, you need to surrender and become Muslim or suffer the consequences. This is the Islam of the Taliban, that’s what is being proposed.

    Meanwhile, for all who think Osama bin Laden’s polemics are of note, I would encourage you to take a look at a couple of famous politicians who were powerful speakers – you know, perhaps Hitler. Or Mussolini; after all, he made the trains run on time. I’m sure someone will upload their speeches on some social media platform. And when you are done, go look up the word “sophistry.”