Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Boys With The Arab Trap

I was already aware of the whispers on the Right about reporter Jill Carroll prior to her release yesterday. Many, through innuendo or outright accusation, portrayed her as something less than loyal to her country. A traitor even. As evidence, some pointed to her observable displays of sympathy for Iraqis and her cooperation with locals. Others, to her knowledge of Arabic, embrace of Arab culture and her decision to, on occasion, adorn her head with a traditional Muslim head scarf - the last bit was as much a decision based on a desire for self preservation, and keeping that scarf-wrapped head attached to its neck, than it was a show of solidarity or religiosity.

It is no secret that reporters, contractors and other westerners in Iraq are prime targets for attacks, killings and, ironically, kidnappings. Some knowledge of Arabic, local customs and proper attire can be a female journalist's equivalent to camouflage - even if not a guarantee of anonymity and safety. Many native Iraqi women have also resorted to donning the head scarf to avoid attention and aggression from the "pious."

Perhaps worse, in the eyes of her critics, than any manifestations of compassion for the plight of the Iraqi people, or symbols of local culture, Carroll has been vocal about her opposition to the war, and an observer of the ravages of this war on Iraqi citizens. The Moonbattery blog excerpted a story about Carroll back in January which read [emphasis mine throughout]:

Though as a reporter she always complies with the strictest requirements of objectivity and impartiality, Jill has been from day one opposed to the war, to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

More than just being sympathetic with average Iraqis under war and occupation, Jill is a true believer in Arab causes.

From Arabic food to the Arabic language, Jill has always wanted to know and experience as much as possible about Arab identity, and she is keen on absorbing it, learning, understanding and respecting it.

She doesn't just "like" Arab culture, she loves it.
Which elicited this reaction from the site's author:

[Jill Carroll is] among those who have managed to get themselves abducted by the very terrorist goons with whom they sympathize.
So showing an interest in, and admiring, Arab culture and opposing the Iraq war is the equivalent of sympathizing with "terrorist goons"? Better to hold Arabs generally, and Iraqis specifically, in contempt as the "terrorist goons" they are? While showering them with the blessings of freedom and democracy and issuing heartfelt odes to the beauty of purple stained fingers. Can you do both at the same time? I guess you can try.

With this in mind, I was expecting to hear a new round of slander against Jill Carroll after she had the gall to suggest that she was treated relatively well by her abductors (despite the fact that these statements came while she was in an obviously vulnerable position as she was still unsure of her status as freed person or abductee, and was likely looking to remain non-confrontational). Further, it is also entirely possible that she was more or less treated well in that she was left alone while in captivity - spared physical and/or sexual assault (not beheaded is big) and was observing this with some qualified gratitude. At the very least, we should withhold judgment until she has had the time to compose herself and issue a statement while not under immediate duress. Nevertheless, we get this from the popular Brothers Judd website [hat tip to Think Progress and commenter Jay C]:

[Carroll] might as well just come right out and say she was a willing participant.
Worse still, check out this exchange on Imus's morning program the other day between Imus (who, to his credit, seems reasonable on this issue), a producer and sidekick:

MCGUIRK: [Carroll] strikes me as the kind of woman who would wear one of those suicide vests. You know, walk into the - try and sneak into the Green Zone.

IMUS: Oh, no. No, no, no, no.

MCCORD: Just because she always appears in traditional Arab garb and wearing a burka.

MCGUIRK: Yeah, what's with the head gear? Take it off. [...]

MCCORD: Exactly. She cooked with them, lived with them.

IMUS: This is not helping.

MCGUIRK: She may be carrying Habib's baby at this point. [...]

IMUS: She could. It's not like she was representing the insurgents or the terrorists or those people.

MCCORD: Well, there's no evidence directly of that -

IMUS: Oh, gosh, you better shut up! [...]

MCGUIRK: She's like the Taliban Johnny or something.
Charming. Not only a traitor, but a slut and a future suicide bomber targeting Americans to boot. Again, Carroll's empathy, compassion and desire to understand the culture equals terrorism and treason. You can't respect Arabs without embracing terrorism I guess.

These attitudes represent a dilemma for the GOP. A fundamental contradiction in the Party members' outlook that results in a predictably confusing mix of policies and rhetoric. A passage from Fareed Zakaria discussing Bush's speech at the Republican convention back in 2004 - which I have cited more than once - captures the essence of this "Arab trap" and its broader implications.

Bush is right to note that after World War II, because "generations of Americans held firm in the cause of liberty, we live in a better and safer world." But in those years the United States adopted a series of wise, generous policies and a conciliatory style that made it much loved in the countries we were trying to help. Spreading democracy requires allies, particularly among the targets of one's affection. [...]

The Republican convention had two alternating approaches toward foreigners. On the one hand, it repeatedly ridiculed them. The cheapest applause lines in New York last week were ones that ended in "the French," "Paris" or, worst of all, "the United Nations," which was probably meant to conjure up images of envious Third Worlders plotting against America. On the other hand, Republicans constantly declared they were going to deliver the blessings of liberty to the far corners of the world. This is the party's dilemma -- it wishes to spread liberty to people whom it doesn't really like.
With the other justifications for the Iraq war receding into the distance of history's rear view mirror, the Bush administration has been forced to tout the democracy promotion angle - an adjunct to the humanitarian cause of relieving suffering from Saddam's rule in Iraq. According to this narrative, we are expending trillions of dollars, sacrificing thousands of lives and diverting tremendous amounts or resources from homeland security and combating al-Qaeda to bring Iraq a better future. After democracy takes root there, the rest of the Muslim world will succumb to the irresistible pull of democratic dominoes, and the redemptive power of democracy will expunge terrorism and radicalism from the region. To buttress this argument, it is not uncommon to hear accusations of racism hurled against the Left for opposition to this "noble" war, doubt about the means employed and questions about the wisdom of the strategy.

This neo-Wilsonian off-shoot offers a more uplifting rhetorical vantage point to many on the Right who grow weary of the morally unsatisfying demands of realpolitik. But it's not a natural fit. It doesn't exactly track well with the conflicting desire on the part of others in that camp to make somebody pay for 9/11 - with any old Muslim stand-ins suitable as targets. The indiscriminate desire for revenge doesn't really go hand in hand with the purple fingered hagiographies. Nor does the lingering and underlying hostility to Arabs and other heathen Muslims that inevitably percolates to the surface - as exemplified by the reaction to Jill Carroll's positions on these matters.

Some examples of the incongruity of rhetoric and agenda to follow. First, popular conservative personality Michael Savage in May 2004 describing the difficulties facing our humanitarian mission in Iraq:

Right now, even people sitting on the fence would like George Bush to drop a nuclear weapon on an Arab country. They don't even care which one it would be. I can guarantee you -- I don't need to go to Mr. Schmuck [pollster John] Zogby and ask him his opinion. I don't need anyone's opinion. I'll give you my opinion, because I got a better stethoscope than those fools. It's one man's opinion based upon my own analysis. The most -- I tell you right now -- the largest percentage of Americans would like to see a nuclear weapon dropped on a major Arab capital. They don't even care which one. They'd like an indiscriminate use of a nuclear weapon.

In fact, Christianity has been one of the great salvations on planet Earth. It's what's necessary in the Middle East. Others have written about it, I think these people need to be forcibly converted to Christianity but I'll get here a little later, I'll move up to that. It's the only thing that can probably turn them into human beings....

...I'm going to lead up to something of what we must do to these primitives. Because these primitives can only be treated in one way, and I don't think smallpox and a blanket is good enough incidentally. Just before -- I'm going to give you a little precursor to where I'm going. Smallpox in a blanket, which the U.S. Army gave to the Cherokee Indians on their long march to the West, was nothing compared to what I'd like to see done to these people, just so you understand that I'm not going to be too intellectual about my analysis here in terms of what I would recommend, what Doc Savage recommends as an antidote to this kind of poison coming out of the Middle East from these non-humans.
Non-humans? Muslims are non-humans? Interesting. Others have resorted to campaigns promoting the "I Heart Gitmo" logo - which I'm sure most Muslims appreciate considering that many of those detained and abused at that prison were innocent victims fingered by bounty hunters and bitter neighbors. But who cares, they're terrorist goons anyway, right? And that nonsense was endorsed by Time Magazine's "Blog of the Year."

Not to be outdone, highly influential conservative voice Rush "Frat Pranks" Limbaugh has his own glib version of respect for Iraqis with the "Happy Abu Ghraib" laugh-fest. Maybe Zal could try that one out around the negotiating table to break the tension in the room. "Hey Jafaari, before we get started, I just wanted to say, Happy Abu Ghraib!!!" A real gut-buster no doubt.

Speaking of respect, I shouldn't leave out Ann Coulter's warning to all the "ragheads" which she issued at one of the most important annual gatherings of conservatives in America. Her derogatory revelry garnered rousing applause.

And then there was the Marla Ruzicka affair. Similar to Carroll, though the underlying story was more tragic in the end, was the treatment that human rights worker Marla Ruzicka received for her sins of compassion. Check out the outrageous crimes of Ms. Ruzicka who was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb - acts that earned her the moniker: "Treasonatrix Barbie."

Marla Ruzicka was nothing more than a traitor cross-dressing as a peace activist. She formed the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the goal of which was anything but CIVIC during the War on Terror or ever. Ruzicka's aim was to force the U.S. government to get an "accurate" count of "innocent civilian" deaths by U.S. troops and blackmail America into paying monetary settlements for each death.
Note the scare quotes around the words "innocent civilians." Surely civilian bystanders killed as a result of collateral damage in Iraq could not be properly labeled as "innocent." Even Iraqi civilian non-combatants are, after all, terrorist goons by virtue of being Arabs. Or Muslims. Or both. And Ruzicka's concern for their suffering is tantamount to treason. Debbie "Treasonatrix" Schlussel offers her take on Jill Carroll here.

And there's more elsewhere. Prominent rightwing pundit Bill O'Reilly offers his own analysis of those Iraqis we are trying so hard to help - out of the kindness of George Bush's magnanimous heart.

Now, it's a small little thing, but I picked up on it, because here is the essential problem in Iraq. There are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them. And I don't -- we're never gonna be able to control them. So the only solution to this is to hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible. Because we just can't control these crazy people. This is all over the place. And that was the big mistake about America: They didn't -- it was the crazy-people underestimation. We did not know how to deal with them -- still don't. But they're just all over the place.
When you put it that way, Bill, it's obvious that Jill Carroll must be nuts too to sympathize with, and try to help, such crazy people.

Pulling up the rear both figuratively and, to some extent, literally, is none other than the more sensible conservative pundit, John Derbyshire. Says the Derb about the people we are trying to help with our gifts of freedom, democracy, whiskey and sexy:

In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don't care about Egyptians.
And just in case you thought that was an aberration, Derbyshire reminds us again of his outlook:
One doesn't want to be accused of inhuman callousness; but I am willing to confess, and believe I speak for a lot of [Americans] that the spectacle of Middle Eastern Muslims slaughtering each other is one that I find I can contemplate with calm composure.
Yeah. Just put on Bach's Cantata No.140, pour a tall glass of Chianti and allow yourself to be rocked to sleep by the calming sounds of Middle Eastern Muslims slaughtering each other.

Happy Civil War!

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