Two faces of evil: hate and disdain

Fallujah, holy city to some, a place of inhumane horror to others… southwestern vertex of the Sunni Triangle, where four American civilians not only died but their bodies were desecrated this past week. Mogadishu revisited eleven years later, four-hundred leagues North by Northeast.

Much of the press throughout the world condemned such behavior as barbaric, but most strong censure I heard or read did not go beyond that. Possibility of reprisals was almost exclusively limited to the domestic media, particularly those which choreograph the exultant virtues of the Bush administration and wear an invisible Hawks rampant over the American flag in their lapels.

The “let’s nuke them” group is not an aberration in America, but rather a vociferous mainstream element which does not only include foreign enemies in their nuke-able list, such as the Sunni in this particular case, but would happily add to that list all domestic “liberals.”

Leave it to Kathleen Parker to nuke the Sunni Triangle, “… but then, we are not animals,” she states in her syndicated column this week, excusing that impulse for revenge. What a restraint in our part that must be, Ms. Parker!

For much of the foreign press, as despicable as those actions in Fallujah were, hate was at the forefront of what happened there… pure and simple hate for America. But criticism for such base behavior was not much different from that given to the Americans for their “shock and awe” campaign or the denigrating American military raids on the civilian population to fight the postwar insurgency. The Iraqis, at least the insurgent element and its followers, are showing their hate… while the American invader is accused of a more sophisticated form of hate which takes the shape of arrogance or disdain.

We proclaim to value life and decorum. But to people beyond our borders, the life we value is for our very own… and that applies to decorum. A few months back, a similar situation to that in Fallujah happened to a group of Spaniards (intelligence agents dressed in civilian attire) and little was made of their death and desecration of their bodies.

For some inexplicable reason we expect our enemy to follow our rules of engagement. Never mind that the duel is to be fought on our terms and conditions and that we are the only ones allowed to carry a mortal weapon.

Insurgents, patriots and nonconformists are all de-facto terrorists if they insist on leveling the field in some fashion so they may combat us, which in their view is limited to stealth and terror.

It is precisely that attitude, fairly common in Main Street USA, which brings us to this “us-them” cataclysmic moment of choice where Americans feel forced to circle the wagons, oftentimes to defend the indefensible, as it was with much of the war in Vietnam , and now with another fiasco of our own creation, the quicksand of Iraq .

Until we, Americans, get ourselves off our high horse and mount the donkey that is reality, we will stay an island in an ocean world, getting smaller and smaller until we disappear. The Romans enslaved many of their enemies by freeing them from their “barbarian ways.” In an age of holocaustic weaponry we seem bent on outdoing the Romans.

At the end of the day, the face of arrogance or disdain can be equally as repugnant as the face of hate. Both faces show up in the same mirror where the glass reflects only the image of evil, it’s just a question of whether is “us” or “them” looking at it. Until we come to recognize and accept that “us and them” are people, of equal value and deserving of the same respect, evil will not be a foreign empire… but an empire of choice for us as well.