September 03, 2003

Two Shiite Views of the "Resistance"

Here's one, as reported in Yahoo! News:

Lebanon's top Shiite Muslim cleric warned that Iraqi Shiites would join the armed resistance against U.S. and British forces if the occupation of Iraq persisted for too long.

Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said Iraqi Shiite political leaders and clerics have been united in their rejection of the occupation and in their public calls for U.S. and British forces to leave the country.

"So far, the (anti-U.S.) resistance does not have clear objectives. When we examine the message of (Iraqi) Shiite leaders and clerics, we find that there is a single voice in rejecting the occupation and in calling on the occupation to leave Iraq to the Iraqis," Fadlallah said in a live interview with the Lebanese Future television station late Tuesday.

"(Joining the resistance) is not very far if the occupation continues to afflict the Iraqis, becoming a tool to restrict the Iraqis' freedom," he said.

Fadlallah, 67, strongly opposed both the regime of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

And here's another in the Times of London (subscription required) from Iranian journalist Amir Taheri in Europe:
Despite the gloomy impression given by the Western media, it is important to recognise that not one of the five major Shia parties wants the US to leave: in fact, all agree that they need the US Armed Forces. Sciri leaders I talked to yesterday insisted that there would be no change in the strategy of co-operation with the US-led coalition.
Who to believe? The anti-American Shiite blowhard in Lebanon? Or the pro-American Shiite intellectual in Europe?

Okay, so it's a spun and loaded question. But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists and are almost always idiots, let's go with the report from the pro-American intellectual for now.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 3, 2003 11:27 PM
Comments

"But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists and are almost always idiots..."

Thank you for saying that Michael. I have been bothered by that for a long time and have felt that for me to say so would be letting go of the last tie to some friends I have. Let me go further, if I had told you the same thing three years ago, would you have called me a reactionary?

Two years ago, thousands of people died waking the peoples of the West to the reality that sympathy must have limits and one of those limits was self-loathing. Today we must honestly recognize the accomplishments of the West in order to once again build a better world upon them. This is not a matter of arrogant superiority but an acknowledgement of tremendous intelligent effort, meaningful communication, and decency of character. We must no longer accept the petty tirades of bitter fools.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 4, 2003 12:05 AM

Let me go further, if I had told you the same thing three years ago, would you have called me a reactionary?

It would have depended on the context and what you considered anti-Americanism to be. I don't think criticism of America is anti-American per se, even if that criticism is radical. I agree with some left-wing criticisms, but I certainly don't hate my country or think we deserve attacks from genocidal Islamofascists. It really does depend on whether the criticism is offered in good faith or is based in bigotry, ignorance, or hate.

Anti-Americanism has never been smart, and lately it has been even dumber and also more sinister. Self-criticism, on the other hand, is absolutely essential and is a part of the liberal Western tradition. Every person, left and right, needs to understand and respect the difference between the two.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 4, 2003 12:28 AM

For the two are, indeed, different.

Media, pundits, politicians, educators and entertainers sought to discredit the Iraqi Invasion before it happened, and they've been shown to have been so far out of touch with reality that their views have been widely discredited.

Yet they continue carping, sniping, kvetching, fault-finding, casting America as wrong albeit well-meaning; wrong but good-hearted; wrong in Iraq; wrong although highly-motivated...

The war continues, and I find many of the enemy in OUR camp, smiling while their day-to-day efforts twist small knives in America's back!

Posted by: Eye Opener at September 4, 2003 01:22 AM

Michael, I would draw the distinction this more fair and balanced way:

Who's view on Iraq are you going to trust - the guy living in Iraq, who actually knows what the situation on the ground is and whose life will actually be affected by the occupation (or lack thereof), or the guy a thousand miles away in a country currently occupied by Baathist thugs?

Posted by: George at September 4, 2003 05:59 AM

For the purpose of understanding, I think they both mean what they say. The question is, why are they each saying it? What do they each want to accomplish?

Posted by: Stephen at September 4, 2003 07:55 AM

"It really does depend on whether the criticism is offered in good faith or is based in bigotry, ignorance, or hate."

Other than Christopher Hitchens, who could you have pointed to three years ago that was offering meaningful criticism of America in good faith? I understand that not everybody can think in those terms, rolling their mind back to a relatively clear impression of their understanding some time ago. My understanding at the time was that there were not many people around who were educated, liberal, and free from the cancer of self-loathing. September 11th exposed the tumor and reasonable people excised it from themselves.

I talked to you and Sean a fair amount before the day and a lot afterwards. You two changed. That you changed towards viewpoints that I already held just shows your natural brilliance, of course. But your tolerance for anti-Americanism was excised. Remember Sean's tirade against the guy in the France office? Would he have excourciated that attitude before the day? He would certainly do so tomorrow.

I hope to see you at the wedding Saturday even if you are a little unclear on what RSVP means... The post reception party is built so people can talk.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 4, 2003 11:41 AM

Other than Christopher Hitchens, who could you have pointed to three years ago that was offering meaningful criticism of America in good faith?

Lots of people, Patrick. Every day, then as well as now. Check out Dissent Magazine some time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 4, 2003 12:40 PM

The speaker of the quote's own attitude toward America doesn't seem to be a good standard by which the evaluate the correctness of their opinion. Rather, how well their opinion correlates with the known facts. It seems to me that the truth comes down somewhere in the middle, but tending toward the Lebanese cleric's opinion. The Iranian journalist says that the SCIRI plans to work with the United States, and it's true that Hakim has so far retained his seat on the governing council, a good sign. However, it is also true that he denounced the occupation and asked the Americans to leave Iraq in his eulogy for his brother, lending credence to the Lebanese cleric's opinion. There's also the fact that none of the prominent Ayatollah have been wiling to meet with occupation authorities. On the other hand, they haven't openly denounced it either. The thing that I think tips it toward the Lebenese is the fact, widely reported, that the SCIRI's private militia, the Badr brigade, has begun patrolling along with the cops in Najaf. Mobilizing your own army is not a positive indicator of willingness to submit to the co-alition's authority and belief in its ability to carry out its goals. Such a lack does not indicate support for the resistence per se, but I don't think it's a step in the right direction.

Posted by: obliw at September 4, 2003 02:34 PM

Let's deconstruct:

Who to believe?

(We must believe one of them at the exclusion of the other, instead of looking for evidence to support their conclusions and possibly find that neither is fully correct. Further, all of their positions must actualy be totally incompatible.)

The anti-American Shiite blowhard in Lebanon?

(anti-American = intellectually dishonest. No one could possibly oppose American interests from genuine lack of amity. Lebanon is an uncivilized country.)

Or the pro-American Shiite intellectual in Europe?

(Since anyone who disagrees with American foreign policy is bad/dishonest/et cetera, those who agree with it are good! Also, a person in Europe is somehow more connected to the feelings of Iraqis than someone who lives in the Middle East.)

Okay, so it's a spun and loaded question.

(Having disclosed the fact that I am trying to manipulate you, I am now free to continue trying to manipulate you.)

But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists,

(And pro-Americans are not. Pay no attention to the McVeigh behind the curtain.)

and are almost always idiots,

(It doesn't matter if you're an honest patriot who risked his life to oppose a horrible despot. If you don't like it when we invade your country, you're an idiot.)

let's go with the report from the pro-American intellectual for now.

(...because it fits my preconceived biases, not because of any support. What's more, we imply that since Taheri is right, Fadlallah must be wrong about everything; because the Shia leadership is not bolting right now, we will not see a Shia resistance at some point in the near future. They could easily both be partially correct.)

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 4, 2003 03:05 PM

Kimmit, rethink that notion that McVeigh was "pro-American", please. I don't often agree with you, but I rarely find your statements this insipid.

Posted by: Phil Smith at September 4, 2003 06:44 PM

McVeigh certainly believed that he was "pro-American," seeing as he sought to spark a popular revolt against what he saw as a repressive Federal governmental structure. He believed himself to be a patriot of the highest order and put what he saw as the best interests of America ahead of risk to his life.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 4, 2003 08:25 PM

Kimmit,

I would argue that McVeigh was more interested in ephemeral qualities of liberty than in ephemeral qualities of America. To put things into a much more stark context, do not forget Ruby Ridge and Waco. For a lot of people, those were very frightening events indicating a dangerous abuse of power by some quite badly managed bureaucracies.

Unlike a constitutional monarchy like the United Kingdom, we do not have a differentiation between the head of the government and the head of state. If we did, we might have found McVeigh protesting his loyalty to the King and his opposition to the current tyrannical Government. In the absence of a differentiation between the two roles, we have a substantial problem for people who consider themselves loyal to the principles of the State who despise the current Government. Bill Clinton was then head of both.

Oh yeah. Also McVeigh was an idiot who didn't check his facts and listened to incindiary rumors instead. Unlike the high minded folks at PETA, ELF, ALF, and the Klan.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 5, 2003 05:12 AM

Let's deconstruct:

Yes, let's.

Who to believe?

(We must believe one of them at the exclusion of the other, instead of looking for evidence to support their conclusions and possibly find that neither is fully correct. Further, all of their positions must actualy be totally incompatible.)

(Cripes. Big controversy, here - can't have that. It's unlikely that I can convince the readers that the guy I agree with is right, so I guess I had better go with option b and imply that neither necessarily are. I guess that it's time to pull out the academic blather and tell Michael what he's really thinking. God, how I do love indoor jobs without heavy lifting.)

The anti-American Shiite blowhard in Lebanon?

(anti-American = intellectually dishonest. No one could possibly oppose American interests from genuine lack of amity. Lebanon is an uncivilized country.)

(Crap! That's the guy associated with both Hizbullah and the current theocracy in Iran! Nobody's going to care about the nuances about that one, so let's pull out the sarcasm and hope nobody googles his name.)

Or the pro-American Shiite intellectual in Europe?

(Since anyone who disagrees with American foreign policy is bad/dishonest/et cetera, those who agree with it are good! Also, a person in Europe is somehow more connected to the feelings of Iraqis than someone who lives in the Middle East.)

(More sarcasm: if they swallowed the previous sentence, they'll swallow this one. Hopefully, the irony that I'm myself commenting on Iraqi matters from the other side of the planet won't register: by that logic, I shouldn't be suggesting that Fadlallah may be wrong, either. Dammit, why did he have to be associated with Hizbullah? People can be so unreasonable about that group!)

Okay, so it's a spun and loaded question.

(Having disclosed the fact that I am trying to manipulate you, I am now free to continue trying to manipulate you.)

(Whoops! Michael's noting his biases and being too engaging about it; time to be snide.)

But since anti-Americans are occasionally terrorists,

(And pro-Americans are not. Pay no attention to the McVeigh behind the curtain.)

(Got him! - and 'McVeigh behind the curtain' is quite witty, really. A pity that 75% of the population would immediately characterize McVeigh as anti-American in a heartbeat, but it's how the guy defines himself that's important... whoops. Oh, well, I'm among the unwashed anyway.)

and are almost always idiots,

(It doesn't matter if you're an honest patriot who risked his life to oppose a horrible despot. If you don't like it when we invade your country, you're an idiot.)

(Too much? Naah. Michael and I both know that he really just called a spiritual leader of Hizbullah an idiot, no matter that 'almost': but, just as long as nobody googles him, I can get away with characterizing Fadlallah as an 'honest patriot'. The people who agree with me mostly don't care about Hizbullah, anyway. I'm sure of it. Well, pretty sure.)

let's go with the report from the pro-American intellectual for now.

(...because it fits my preconceived biases, not because of any support. What's more, we imply that since Taheri is right, Fadlallah must be wrong about everything; because the Shia leadership is not bolting right now, we will not see a Shia resistance at some point in the near future. They could easily both be partially correct.)

(Because it doesn't fit my preconceived biases, of course - not that they're biases, really. Let's see: erm. If I wasn't a deconstructionalist, the fact that I haven't actually addressed the substance of either Fadlallah or Taheri's arguments might bother me. Luckily, I am, so it doesn't. Besides, if we don't shut down Taheri down now, and he turns out to be right, then the situation might get better, and then, God help us all, that rat-bast*rd simplisme smirking chimp cowboy Bush might get re-elected. We cannot let that happen. We cannot.)

Moe

PS: Michael, if any of the above violates your Posting Rules, please accept my apologies. To you. Kimmitt can wait until Hell freezes over.

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 5, 2003 07:11 AM

Okay, I totally failed to check on Faldallah's background beyond a cursory glance which apparently was essentially false. Thank you for bringing that error to my attention, as it was rather enormous.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 5, 2003 12:53 PM

You're welcome (no subtext or tone implied).

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 5, 2003 01:07 PM



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