Patrick Ruffini

April 09, 2003

YES, I'VE BEEN READING FALLACI: This MoDo column, while perhaps not rising to Immutable Laws levels of idiocy, does elicit a certain je ne sais quoi...

Mr. Cheney's war guru, Victor Davis Hanson, writes in his book "An Autumn of War" that war can be good, and that sometimes nations are better off using devastation than suasion. Mr. Hanson cites Sherman's march through Georgia, the 19th century's great instance of shock and awe, as a positive role model. Polls and interviews show that in their goal of making Americans less rattled by battle, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney have succeeded: most Americans are showing a stoic attitude about the dead and the wounded so far. (Perhaps the American tolerance for pain is owed to the fact that much of the pain is not shown on television, embeddedness notwithstanding.)

Stop. What was not shown on television was precisely the thing that justified this war. The hundreds of thousands Saddam has killed were not shown on television. The Halabja massacre was not shown on television. Bemoaning a few dozen war casualties the TV cameras might have passed over seems is legitimate, but strikingly misplaced if you yourself refuse to grasp the magnitude of Saddam's atrocities precisely because you didn't witness them on television.

It would take a hundred Al Jazeeras, broadcasting at all hours of the day and night, to give us a sense of what these tragedies mean in proportion to its extensive coverage of the bloodshed in civilian areas. For every day you spend protesting the 1,200 civilian casualties the Iraqi government claimed, you'd have to spend a minimum of 200 days protesting Saddam's reign of terror, and since Ms. Dowd seems to be worried about Syria, 30 days protesting Hafez Assad's Hama massacre, alone. This doesn't include the countless days they'd have to spend celebrating, at a rate of 1,200 a day, the tens of thousands of Iraqis who will now live because Saddam no longer soils the ground in Baghdad.

During the runup to this war, many people asked a lot of questions, and doubtless, some in the anti-war movement convinced themselves enough to ask, "What if we're wrong? What if Saddam is telling the truth and there are no torture chambers? What if Saddam is telling the truth and he doesn't condone terrorism? What if the Iraqis are willing to live with Saddam and don't want us there?" The war itself has exposed these worries as the ridiculous falsehoods that they are, and stripped away all the illusions we may have had about Saddam's innocence. Why Ms. Dowd continues to don a veil of ignorance, even at this hour, about the atrocities we're fighting against is mystifying.

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