Sunday, June 4, 2017

So we don't have to fight them here

Palace of Justice, Damascus, March 15, photo by an anonymous stringer for AFP/Getty images, via Chicago Tribune.
Nobody should ever have to undergo the kind of horror Britain has been undergoing with the Westminster Bridge attack of March 22 (killing four and injuring 50), the Manchester bombing of the Ariana Grande concert May 22 (killing 22, many children, and injuring 116), and last night's London Bridge incident (killing seven and injuring some dozens, 21 critically).

Nor should it happen in Baghdad, where over the same period 23 were killed and 45 wounded by a car bomb in the suburb of Hayy al'A'amei on March 20, and a suicide truck bomber killed 17 and injured at least 60 at a police checkpoint in the southern part of the city March 29; seven people were killed and 12 injured in three bombings, one in a fish market in Yusufiya, one in a construction site, on April 5, and two more killed and 11 injured by bombings on April 6 and 7,  and a suicide car attack on a traffic police compound in the center of the city killed five and injured six on April 28; one killed and two wounded in separate incidents of May 3, two killed and three wounded in bombings in western Baghdad on May 6, one killed and three wounded by a bomb in southwestern Baghdad on May 9, and another killed on May 10, an employee of the education ministry, four killed and ten injured by a booby-trapped vehicle in Al-Sho'la on May 11, one killed and five wounded by a booby-trapped car near a bridge on Al-Rubaie Street on May 14, one killed and two wounded by an explosion in the north of the city on May 16, two killed and eight wounded in two shopping-district incidents including one at the market in al-Nasr wal Salam region in Abu Ghraib district of May 18, one killed and three injured in a blast near a market on May 19, 35 killed and 45 injured in four suicide attacks around the city on May 19, and three more injured on May 22, also near the market in al-Nasr wal Salam, and then on May 30, four days after the fasting month of Ramadan began, at least 30 killed and 40 wounded by a car that blew up outside the al-Faqma ice cream parlor.

Nor in Shi'ite Basra, what in the hell is the Da'esh doing there, where they killed eight and injured 41 in the same May 20 wave. Nor far from the Arab world in Kabul, where an assault on a military hospital in the Wazir Akbar Khan section killed more than 43, probably more than 100, and injured at least 63 on March 8, a suicide bomber killed six and wounded ten near the Defense Ministry on May 12, nine died and 28 were wounded by a suicide car bomber next to a NATO convoy outside the US embassy on May 3, and over 100 were killed and 463 injured by a car bombing in the diplomatic quarter on May 31. (All these numbers are Da'esh alone, leaving out numerous Taliban attacks for Afghanistan and anything attacking only military personnel.)

Nor even in the brutally ruled government-held sectors of Syria, such as Damascus itself, where twin Da'esh bombings in the Old City killed 74, mostly Shi'a pilgrims, on March 11, and on March 15 suicide bombers struck the Palace of Justice, killing 30 and injuring 45, and another attacker killed some unknown number, ten or 12 or more, blowing himself up in a restaurant in Rabweh district; or Homs, where on May 23, two days after the city was said to have been brought fully under government control, four were killed and 40 injured by a car bombing. If anybody tells you we in the West just need to respond more sternly to the threat, patrol our borders and throw more people in jail, ask them if we need to be sterner than Bashar al-Assad.

If you see what I'm saying. When President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were selling the idea of an Iraq invasion—

—they were carefully and repeatedly warned that it might not work out as planned; no less radical a figure than the almost Republican North Dakota senator Kent Conrad said, in the October 10 2002 debate on the Authorization to Use Military Force,
a unilateral attack by the United States could destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region and inflame anti-American interests around the globe. An American invasion could doubtless impact the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The backlash in Arab nations could further energize and deepen anti-American sentiment. Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups could gain more willing suicide bombers and raise even greater financial resources from the wealthy nations of the region. General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, put it succinctly: ``If we go in unilaterally or without the full weight of the international organizations behind us, if we go in with a very sparse number of allies. . . . we're liable to super-charge recruiting for al Qaeda.'' Let me repeat that. ``We're liable to super-charge recruiting for al Qaeda.''
As they did, at least until Al Qa'eda started seeming too tame for the recruits and the empire-building, Internet-savvy "Islamic State" climbed ahead in the ratings. Anti-American and anti-British, he might have said. (Senator Hillary Clinton didn't offer that argument, but did present a good one, saying that a unilateral invasion would set a bad example for countries like Russia, which was also true, as we've seen in Russia's behaviors in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria, Saudi Arabia's bombardment of Yemen, and no doubt many others; but then of course she and the other potential presidential Democratic candidates, Senators Biden, Kerry, Dodd, and Edwards, went and voted for the AUMF anyway.)

We are deeply grieved and angered over the suffering in London and Manchester, which nobody there in any way deserves, but we don't forget whose misguided invasion created the power vacuum in Iraq and Syria within which this violence was able to fester and grow until it started threatening the whole world.

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