The Battle for Baghdad

Stealing heavily from Catfish this post:

“The only way you “win” a war of occupation is the old-fashioned way, the way Rome finally defeated the Carthaginians: kill all the fighters, enslave everyone else, raze the cities and sow the fields with salt.

Otherwise the occupied people will fight you to the last peasant, and why shouldn’t they?”

This is from this column in the Independent, which paints a grim image of our war and regime.

Even grimmer is “The Battle of Algiers”, a 1965 documentary-style portrayal of terrorism and insurgency in French-occupied Algeria. Went and saw it yesterday, and it’s a real eye-opener. It’s so like the Israeli problem and our own tarpit in Iraq that it’s hard to remember what historic setting it actually depicts. Lessons in the film are many, but it takes special care to show the mentality of the terrorist/freedom fighter. These people aren’t “freedom-haters,” or lunatics, or an extremist minority. They fight for their families and their homes with the cold, calculated violence of people whose families have been killed in airstrikes or stinking prisons. Liberals often are criticized for wanting to understand terrorists instead of fight them. Well, yeah. Until we understand that every fatherless son born is another suicide bomber, we’re doomed to die by their explosions, the movie seems to show.

In one epiphanic moment, a Rumsfeld-like French military officer presents a press conference with a captured insurgency leader. A reporter asks if it’s cowardly to use ladies’ purses to carry bombs. The rebel responds that it’s cowardly to fly overhead and drop napalm on defenseless villages.

“Give us your bombers, and we’ll happily give you our baskets.”

And he’s hustled off by the cold soldier. This isn’t good versus evil. This is two warring populations bearing different methods of desparate, hopeless violence. One plants bombs in discos, the other fires missles and tortures captives for information. Violence begets only violence in the film, until all the urban terrorists are dead. Then more people come from the mountains, hundreds of them, enraged to the point of mass revolution.

We’re fucked in Iraq. I would highly recommend The Battle of Algiers, for no other reason than it’s a great movie. But there’s a reason this was standard viewing for the Black Panthers in the 60s and at the Pentagon recently.

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