Sunday, June 20, 2004

The devil's advocate...

In the spirit of diversity and perspective, I've been graciously invited by E.E.A Eaton to post on this blog and make my views known to the world. Now that he's hit the big time (with over 500 hits daily!) it seems this forum would give me a louder voice than my own paltry little blog.

As a disclaimer, I feel it necessary to point out a few things. First, I am Canadian, and technically Christian. I was raised with (mostly) all the same values the American people have and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I even properly met a (barely)Muslim person (that we have shared the same bed since then should, hopefully, not impact my objectivity). This, coupled with some traveling, has allowed me to broaden my perspective on the world and made me able to argue points of view that are usually very unpopular here in America. My only desire in entertaining these views is to stimulate debate and hopefully creative some objective conclusions (as opposed to our mass-media incubated opinions...)

So to get right down to it, I'd like to give my own spin on (what else?) the Paul Johnson story. Most people have been calling these acts of beheading barbarous, inhuman and plenty other epithets whose uniting thread is the implication that these terrorists are nothing more than a sub-human band of rabid dogs, whose only possible use on this planet would be as soil fertilizer. Most people seem to dismiss their tactics as nothing more than simple murder and their combined efforts wholly unworthy of even the name "war". In other words, according to these people, America is fighting a just "war" on terror, whereas the terrorists are simply responding by hitting below the belt. They contend their actions should not be considered self defense, simply because their methods are untraditional, and what's more... inhuman.

While I agree that acts of violence such as the one committed on Paul Johnson ARE disgusting, they are not more so than any act of war. War is never pretty. Only now, as opposed to just about every other war, with the internet, its vile beauty is easily accessible to the planet at the click of a mouse. This simple fact has very far-reaching implications I'll discuss shortly.

Many people (especially over at Hot Abercrombie Chick's website, on this post) contend that the terrorists actions are NOT war because their efforts are aimed at civilians, non-combatants. That this alone should disqualify their actions from even being called a resistance, let alone a war. I disagree. Back in 1945, the U.S. dropped two bombs on Japan, killing over 100 000 civilians (100 000!! 15 times more than Pearl Harbor and the WTC deaths combined...). These deaths were calculated, and not the result of "collateral damage". The desired effect, the message the U.S. wanted to send to Japan back then was: "Hey, I just killed 100 000 of your people. And I can do it again and again, until you come crawling to me on your hands and knees." Which of course is what Japan did. It was a psychological game of poker, and civilians were the currency. That bombing was, and always has been, called an "act of war", and I see no reason why the terrorists tactics should be considered any differently? Why? Because their methods are untraditional? Because they're decentralized and answer to no one in particular, making their surrender virtually impossible? I don't think so. That's not their problem. It's America's problem, and it just might be their undoing. America is now "fighting a war on terror", except they're doing it on the terrorists terms, and there isn't much the U.S. can do about it.

You see, what the terrorists are doing to America, is what America did to Japan 60 years ago. They're putting the game on its head, just like the US did back then. I'm sure Japan said, after the first bomb dropped and 50 000 of it's civilians were vaporized: "Crap!! What's the U.S. doing??! They can't do that! It's not fair, it's not right!" Just like we all are now. Because, you see, back then, no one had A-bombs. The bomb was America's ace in the hole, and it's what won it its war. Well, ladies and gents, I contend that these beheadings are the terrorists "ace in the hole".

The advent of the internet has made it possible for anyone (in this case, the terrorists) to reach us, to show us what's happening. Before, the only way we could get information was through the media. And of course, editors made sure we got to see only what they wanted. Now, it's a different game. This opens the door for a game of psychological blackmail that just might lose us (by "us", I mean America...) another war. It took decades for the general public to catch on that things weren't going right in Vietnam. Decades. Now, with the internet, it's taken less than a year.

The irony is that the one thing that America pioneered (the internet) is the one tool that might actually be successfully used in its own undoing. That may be a bit of an hyperbole, but you get the picture. I hope.