Last Tuesday bombs went off in Baghdad in approximately sixteen locations and 78 people died. Two days before that, 58 people were killed while attending a Sunday mass in the Iraqi capital. News reports say militants are responsible. I understand why they have to use the word. It’s neutral, nonjudgmental, impartial and wholly inadequate. In fact, the most accurate summation of these kinds of attacks came from The Daily Show’s Jon Oliver last year, referring to the attacks in Mumbai:
“Details are sketchy. While we don’t know their specific name, the one thing that is perfectly clear is that it appears to be a group of unbelievable motherfuckers, working in tandem with giant assholes.”
These sorts of attacks are so common in Iraq now that they pass right through the news cycle. People die, and the living bury the dead. Next week, or the next day or the next hour the living go down to join the newly buried.
I am not about to write a ringing endorsement of Western presence in Iraq. Civilian casualties are not acceptable, though they may not be avoidable, and yes, there is a distinction. Sometimes there is clear blame to be assigned. Sometimes soldiers behave despicably. Sometimes a civilian dies under circumstances that are tragic for everyone involved. A mistaken identity. A fateful ricochet. A missed shot. However, I believe this much to be true: allied forces do not operate in Iraq with the express purpose of murdering civilians. That gruesome work has been carried out by the so-called “freedom fighters.”
I will not pretend to know what Al-Qaida think they’re fighting for, because I don’t think they know. For Islam, some say, but only the right kind of Islam. Others say it’s for Iraq to be rid of Western imperialism. If anyone can explain to me how blowing up a bunch of people outside a coffee shop helps defeat the American forces, please do.
I’ve tried to understand. As much as moral relativism would compel me to see these people as legitimate combatants engaged in a war, I can’t. A soldier puts on a uniform. This identifies him as a combatant. And while I recognize that for a group as small as the insurgents, open war would be suicide, the identification goes both ways. If you claim to be fighting to “free” Iraq, there is your enemy. You can see him. So why not kill him? Why bring everyone with three hundred feet into it?
We will leave aside the ones who claim to be fighting for Islam, under a definition that conveniently allows them to decide who constitutes an enemy, and what constitutes Islam . Not sure if you’re an enemy? As near as I can tell, there’s a simple test. Do you believe that your cause justifies the random murder of anyone that happens to be slightly at odds with you? No? If so, then you are the enemy. There is a fine line between a difference in belief and absolute moral wrong–what am I saying? It isn’t fine, it’s fucking huge, and these people are far to the wrong side of it.
I think what bothers me most about the methods of these terrorists is that there is no honour in it. You set off a bomb in downtown Baghdad? Congratulations. You’ve used one of the clumsiest weapons available. You’ve murdered dozens of people who did not, and could not, see you coming. Bravo. I do not care what else might be said…that is cowardice. The kicker is you’ve accomplished nothing. You’ve created death where there used to be life. If you were idiotic enough to blow yourself up, well, you’ve left behind a world that is just a little more painful than it was before.
Because that is what we need. More death. More violence. More grief. More pain. I applaud you, terrorist douchebag, your life was well spent.