Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi is dead
I'm told you should only speak good of the dead. Zarqawi is dead. Good. Nobody liked him and we're glad he's dead. Now What?

Zarqawi was a psycho and a thug, but, despite his media role as the poster child for all that violent stuff over there, he was not mastermind or sole cause of all our problems. Iraq has several wars happening at once. The insurgency against our occupation kills the most Americans. The inter-communal civil was kills the most Iraqis. And then there are the foreign jihadis who slip back and forth between the two wars. Zarqawi was the leader of one faction of the last category. I have no idea how large his real influence was. I suspect it was considerably smaller than his image.

I will stick my neck out to make a few predictions. First, anyone who expects all that violent stuff over there to stop now that we've killed its leader will be disappointed. Fortunately, there are very few people that naive anymore. Second, Zarqawi's group will stage a few vengeance attacks and then fade into insignificance. If we're really lucky, they might even kill each other in a succession struggle. Third, Bush might get a teeny bounce from this, but it won't last. Fourth, we're in for a round of the chickenhawks strutting and talking tough. Some of them will taunt the liberal strawmen who are sad at the loss of Zarqawi and who only exist in fevered right-wing imaginations. Let them have their day; life will be rough enough for them when they sober up tomorrow and notice nothing has really changed.

Being a bleeding-heart liberal, I couldn't help but notice that some news stories make a passing mention of an unnamed woman and child killed in the bombing. I don't mention this as a criticism of the American troops who carried out the bombing. From the information we have so far, it sounds like hey did a superb job of working their intelligence sources, tracking him down, catching him with his criminal colleagues, and killing them with a minimum number of innocent bystanders. The blame for their deaths rests squarely with Zarqawi, who brought his highly bombable self into their presence. And yet, I wonder who they were. Why were they there? Were they guilty of any crime other than perhaps being related to the owner of the house or working there? I know the strutting chickenhawks won't think about this today, but this kind of death is inevitable when leaders choose to go to war.

As an unwavering Bush-hater, I have to point out something else. When the clock radio went off this morning, my sleepy battle with the kitten was interrupted by our President's prissy voice informing me of the death of Zarqawi.
At 6:15 p.m. Baghdad time, special operation forces, acting on tips and intelligence from Iraqis, confirmed Zarqawi's location, and delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq.

I am always offended when Bush uses the word "justice" as a synonym for "kill." It combines a number of his most offensive personality quirks. On the surface, it's part of his strutting cowboy act and should be more embarrassing than offensive, but it goes deeper than that.

It's also part of his code language to the religious base. Vaguely Old Testament sounding phrases play to their comfort zone and make them feel that Bush is one of them. Although, as a religious message, it's a disturbing one. When we invaded to Afghanistan to catch some guy whose name escapes me, he called it "Operation Infinite Justice" to the great offense of Moslems everywhere. To Moslems, as well as to many Christians, only God can deliver justice. His frequent declarations that he will deliver justice have the appearance of blurring the line between Bush and God. I would hope that some of his supporters would be upset by this blurring, but they seem to be some of the most enthusiastic blurrers.

The idea that he can personally deliver justice has a second--secular--disturbing side. When Bush declares his ability to deliver justice in the form of summary execution, he is eliminating the entire justice process. There is no indictment, no public trial, no confrontation with witnesses and victims, and no appeal. Bush alone decides the charges, the guilt of the accused, and the sentence. As the saying goes, he is the judge, jury, and executioner. This, of course, is sometimes necessary in war. I don't know whether Zarqawi could have been capture without a great cost of life, or captured at all. What is disturbing is that this appears to be Bush's preferred method of justice.

Bush and many of his supporters seem to have no respect for the judicial system. They treat it as if it were nothing more than one possible means to an end. That end being the killing or imprisonment of people whom they have already decided to kill or imprison. The judicial system doesn't even appear to be their preferred method.

On one hand, this disrespect for the judicial system appears to be part of the psychology of George Bush. He hates having his decisions questions and hates having anyone in the position to be able to question his decisions. But, beyond George Bush, there is a crowd of people who hold this unitary, authoritarian, and hierarchical ideal as a philosophical position. Cheney, Alito, Rumsfeld, Ted Olsen, and Scalia are all on record pushing this theory long before they ever hooked up with George Jr. This preference for a unitary, authoritarian, and hierarchical ideal is part of the conservative mind-set, but this group carries it further. If given their way, they will transform the American system of democracy into something it hasn't been before--something far less democratic.

Zarqawi is dead. Good. Life goes on as before and the same jerks are in charge. Not so good.

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