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Very Different Playbooks
Them vs. us.


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Michael Ledeen

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill came over and addressed Congress. He asked, rhetorically, “Who do they think we are?” It was an important question, because we must understand what our enemies think about us. Churchill’s implicit answer was “They think we’re suckers, and they think we won’t be able to beat them.”

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The fascists believed that we had become soft and effeminate, that we were so hooked on materialism and self-indulgence that they, the representatives of a younger, more virile, and more spiritually robust race (or nation), would easily dominate us and impose their will on us.

The terror masters have the same contemptuous vision of us. And if you look at the way they deal with our governments, you will see a mixture of contempt and bemusement, as they repeatedly get us to go for the same tricks and deceptions.

In the past few days there has been a great to-do about a possible Iranian role in Iraq, mediating between us and Moqtada al Sadr. In the end, it came to nothing. Iran’s deputy foreign minister was either unwilling or unable to deliver Moqtada, blamed us for the “failure,” and went back to Tehran. But the point of the exercise was not to solve a problem for us–on the contrary, the Iranians intend to create ever greater problems on the ground–but to deliver a message to the restive Iranian people: “The Americans are so weak and impotent that they have to turn to us for help. So just forget about any American help to get rid of us.”

If we can’t manage Iraq without the mullahs, we certainly can’t be strong enough to help the Iranian people get rid of the mullahcracy and achieve freedom.

It would have been embarrassing enough if this were the first time the Iranians had played such a game. But this was a humiliating replay of the “We’ve got al Qaeda guys for you” joke that they played on us at least twice in the last year. Remember when Deputy Secretary of State Armitage announced that his Iranian buddies were going to deliver al Qaeda terrorists in a matter of weeks? That never happened either, and again, the main point of the game was to demonstrate that the Bush administration was perfectly willing to negotiate with the mullahs. And therefore the United States wasn’t going to remove them.

There is an additional stratagem involved in these little games: The mullahs figure that, if they can keep us engaged in the games, we won’t crack down on their nuclear program. And the more time they can gain, the greater their chances of building an effective supply of atomic bombs. It’s working.

As I have long argued, they may be crazy, but they are anything but stupid.

The “keep the Americans talking to us” game exploits one of our main weaknesses: the belief that when foreign leaders talk to our top officials, they will generally tell the truth. No doubt the secretary of State and our top diplomats know they have been lied to from time to time, but a more realistic team would have concluded long since that you can’t trust anything that comes out of Tehran. It seems they haven’t.

In like manner, the terrorists present the world with an endless supply of lies, which generally take the form of accusing us of what they do (and we don’t). Many of their actions are staged precisely for the benefit of reporters (like the horror scene of the four dead American contractors a couple of weeks ago). They brought in the television cameras the other day to film the execution of an Italian hostage, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, but something went wrong. After forcing him to dig his own grave, they put a hood over his head and ordered him to kneel so he could be killed. He wouldn’t go for it. He tried to remove the hood, and defiantly yelled at them “I will show you how an Italian dies.” The scene was a propaganda disaster for them, and good old al Jazeera, the modern mother of lies, announced that they had the tape but wouldn’t release it because it was too terrible to witness. It was terrible, but not in the way al Jazeera wanted us to think. It showed Western bravery, not Arab domination, so they couldn’t show it.

Take the case of another hostage, the Canadian aid worker, Fadi Fadel. He was shown on Arab television, saying he was an Israeli and a spy. But after his release, Fadel said the audio portion of the videotape was doctored and that he never said anything of the sort, even when they stubbed their cigarettes onto the bare skin of his neck and back.

“I never said I was working with Israel,” he said.

“It was dubbed.”

He shouldn’t have found it necessary to say it, because the “story” on Arab television was obviously a lie. His captors would never release an Israeli spy unless they got the release of one thousand terrorists in exchange.

But I didn’t hear any American TV commentator make this obvious point, nor did I read it in any American newspaper, nor did I hear any Canadians say any such thing. I’ll bet that lots of them thought it might have been true.

That’s why they think we’re suckers and losers.

Our other great weakness–remember we are looking at ourselves through the eyes of the terror masters, not passing judgment–is respect for individual human beings, and a great reluctance to take military action that will likely kill innocent civilians, especially women and children. A couple of weeks ago, an Italian general who commands the national peacekeeping force in Nassiriyah told journalists about the enemy’s method of fighting. First they launch a surprise attack. The Italians take some initial casualties and fight back, gradually gaining the upper hand. At that point, small children start walking toward the Italian positions, followed by women draped in black. The Italians stop shooting. The terrorists regroup. The women and children go away. The terrorists start shooting again.

Marine sharpshooters are reporting that when enemy fighters move through the streets of Fallujah, they drag women and children in front of them, so that if the Marines shoot, they will likely kill the innocents.

This tactic goes back a long way. Once the terrorists realized that we (and the Israelis) would balk at attacking targets that contained innocent civilians, they took care to locate themselves in such areas. In the Eighties, for example, most every time Hezbollah attacked us, its leaders quickly repaired to villages and neighborhoods with lots of hospitals, churches, mosques, and schools. That was an effective deterrent. Both we and the Israelis made the painful decision to accept higher casualties on our side, in order to prevent killing women, children, nurses, priests, and other noncombatants.

The terrorists hate that, and they do everything in their power to make the world believe that we are like them, that we lie, that we kill indiscriminately, that we do not care about innocent lives. Thus, in recent weeks, reports attributed to sources in Fallujah hospitals have spoken of huge numbers of women and children shot in the head by U.S. Marines (one particularly imaginative version had it that Fallujah doctors were digging out bullets from the brains of the victims in order to prove our criminal acts. That one was racing around the web for a while, until some militarily unchallenged bloggers noted that our ammunition would go right through the heads, and wouldn’t be stopped by brain tissue). And the BBC came up with some casualty figures showing that more than 90 percent of the dead in Fallujah were innocents. That too, was changed after a while. But the lies continue.

We’re not going to start the mass murder of Iraqi civilians, and we’re not going to shoot at a jihadi who’s holding a child in front of him, and that’s going to cost American lives and limbs. We must explain all this to a world, and above all to an American public, that is inevitably swayed by the torrent of lies.

As in the war itself, we cannot win this thing by playing defense. We’re not going to get help from the Iranians, who plan to be our gravediggers in Iraq, just as they were years ago in Lebanon. We have to expose the hollowness of the mullahcracy and support the Iranian people. And we have to answer Churchill’s question, and show that our enemies are still wrong.

The president put it nicely the other day when someone asked him about our exit strategy. He said that the only acceptable exit strategy was to win.

Faster, please.



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