DUSTY RHOADES: White Hats: In Mideast, Good Guys Hard to Identify
It's not just the current brouhaha in Lebanon. My confusion is much more comprehensive than that, stretching from the shores of Lebanon all the way to Iraq. Here's what's got me bumfuzzled on such a grand scale.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke recently in front of a joint session of the U.S. Congress, where he assured us that "Iraqis are your allies in the war on terror" and asserted that the people who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, were "the same people" whom we now fight in Iraq.
Yet when it comes to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization which is currently under heavy attack in southern Lebanon by Israel, al-Maliki is not, shall we say, quite so vigorous in his condemnation. In fact, Maliki didn't have much to say at all about Hezbollah's nasty little habits like kidnapping Israeli soldiers and lobbing rockets more or less randomly at Israeli civilians.
All his ire, it seems, is directed against Israel. He said of Iraq: "We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, to stop the killing of innocent people and to stop the destruction of infrastructure." He called for an immediate ceasefire, which Washington has been dead set against.
Al-Maliki's refusal to condemn Hezbollah isn't surprising when you consider the ties between Hezbollah and al-Maliki's own Islamic Dawa party. According to an article in Newsday, al-Maliki was "the exiled representative of the Iraqi Dawa Party in Syria and Lebanon in the mid-1980s. The Dawa Party in Lebanon merged with Hezbollah in 1983 or 1984."
A group known as the "Dawa 17" was arrested in Kuwait for bombing the American and French embassies there, killing three Americans. Hezbollah terrorists frequently made the release of the "Dawa 17" one of their demands during the 1980s. "Asked later about Dawa's ties to Hezbollah," Newsday states, "National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said he was unaware there was a relationship." But hey, that's OK. I don't remember a lot of the '80s either. Good times, man. Good times.
Anyway, some Democrats found al-Maliki's call for condemnation of Israel and for a cease-fire reprehensible. Some refused to attend al-Maliki's address to Congress. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean went even further. Referring to al-Maliki as an "Anti-Semite," Dean told a group of Florida businessmen, "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."
Republicans reacted with their usual reflexive outrage.
"It is incredibly troubling," sniffed a press release from the Republican National Committee, "that Howard Dean would seek to score cheap political points by attacking the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq."
The RNC, of course, never ever tries to score cheap political points over stories in the news. Oh, no, not them.
So here's how the administration's policy plays out, as near as I can figure it:
We should support what is Good, and oppose that which is Evil.
Terrorism is Evil.
Hezbollah are terrorists. They are therefore also Evil, and we should oppose them.
Israel is fighting Hezbollah. Therefore, Israel is Good, because they oppose terrorism, which is Evil.
The Iraqi government are our allies in the War on Terror. They are therefore also Good, because, again, terrorism is Evil.
Here's where it gets a little confusing.
Prime Minister al-Maliki, who is Good, thinks Israel, which is also Good, should lay off Hezbollah, who are Evil. Al-Maliki therefore does not support what is Good, and does not oppose what is Evil.
Howard Dean and the Democrats think al-Maliki should lay off Israel, which, let us not forget, is Good. Therefore, Democrats, who support Israel (which is Good), are Evil, while al-Maliki, (who opposes Israel) is Good.
You can see why I'm confused.
Of course, this kind of tangle is inevitable when you start trying to apply black-and-white, bumper-sticker-ready political philosophy to the knotted mess that is the Middle East. "You're either with us or with the terrorists" sounds good as a sound bite, but it only takes you so far.
On the one hand, Lebanon is Israel's Afghanistan, the place where they're going after a terrorist organization that's killing Israeli civilians and that the Lebanese government is unwilling or unable to get rid of.
On the other hand, Israel's got more than its share of innocent blood on its hands. With every civilian killed by Israeli bombs and shells, it creates a dozen new recruits, another generation out for yet another round of bloody vengeance. And even the "democratically elected government of Iraq" knows it.
I'd seriously question whether we should even be picking sides in this mess, but if we do, we need to be honest that the side we pick may not have always worn the white hat, and may not even be doing so now.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. His third novel, Safe and Sound, will be released next year.
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