Monday, July 03, 2006


Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 movie, The Patriot, wreaked vengeance on the British after his family was murdered


It’s 1776. You are a South Carolina colonist whose friends and neighbors are fighting in the American War for Independence. You refuse to join the local militia and spend a week in the City of Charleston, arguing against the revolution and in favor of your King. Meanwhile, your oldest son joins the group hiding in forests and marshes, stalking British columns which are marching through the countryside, trying to pacify the locals.

You return home to find your house burned. The bodies of your wife, your small six year old child, and your indentured servant lay in the yard. Overcome with grief, you bury them. Your hatred for the British knows no bounds, and you vow to carry the fight to the death. After the burial, you visit one of your neighbors, an immigrant farmer from Bavaria, who informs you that British soldiers, German speaking Hessians, have been bragging about the murders in a local tavern, thinking that none of the locals would understand their language. One of them has proudly claimed that your wife was repeatedly raped before she was killed. The servant and your child were murdered to cover up the crime.

Later, you read in a local Gazette that British authorities denounce any criminal acts on the part of their soldiers. They remind the colonists that they are only there to put down the rebellion and shore up local colonists loyal to their King. They promise that the foreign Hessian troops will stay no longer than necessary to keep the peace and will leave once the rebellious colonists, only a small minority of whom oppose the British, lay down their arms. They also promise to investigate the alleged crimes by their soldiers and punish any who are found guilty. You take small comfort from that, and your rage does not lessen in the slightest as you plan to kill every British soldier you encounter, even if you lose your life in the attempt.


By now the astute reader is probably thinking, “Hey, I think I saw that movie six years ago! It was called ‘The Patriot,’ and was directed and produced by Mel Gibson, who also starred in it. I remember the scene when Mel, who opposed the war against the British, came home to find most of his family murdered, and he was instantly transformed into a fighting machine whose blood lust was only sated after he and his younger son killed an entire troop of British soldiers.”


Nope, not from The Patriot. Good guess, though, as the over the top Mel Gibson production created fictional British atrocities, the worst of which was when evil British Colonel Tavington, played by Jason Isaacs (the nasty blonde wizard dad of Harry Potter fame) herded men, women, and children into a church, locked the doors, and burned them to death.

However, before you read further, pause a moment and examine your emotions. If you will admit that you were even the slightest bit outraged as you read the story, or if you recall being outraged and angered when you saw the movie, and you cheered when Gibson's character shot and hatcheted about a dozen young British soldiers, none of whom had killed Gibson’s family, then I give you points for honesty. If you label yourself a patriot, if you agreed with Zell Miller in 2001 that we should bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age (not a long trip for Afghans, to be sure), if you wanted to rain down death and destruction on Iraq in 2003 because you wanted payback for the 9-11 attacks, if you sport a “Support the Troops” magnetic decal on your car while vilifying anti-war proponents, if you cheer on Republican Congressmen and Senators as they portray opposition Democrats as “cut and run” cowards, if you think the New York Times should be boycotted and stripped of their White House credentials for publishing stories about illegal NSA wiretaps and e-mail intercepts, if you think their editors and reporters should be in the dock charged with treason- if you fit any of the foregoing, then stop reading right now.

Because the above story, with the exception of a few dates (1776 was actually March of 2006) and places (South Carolina was actually Beiji, Iraq) and nationalities (the victims were an Iraqi family, including a small child and a young woman who was raped; the rapists and killers are alleged by fellow U.S. soldiers to be American soldiers), was true.

Now examine your feelings? Still outraged at the killers and rapists? Still want to kill everyone else who shares their uniform, regardless of whether or not they participated in the killings? Are you angry at me because you think I manipulated your feelings? Do you think the story was exaggerated by Iraqis or Al Qaida bent on destroying America? Tough luck, because the allegations reported came from members of the same platoon which committed the crimes. They came forward out of guilt and remorse.

If you can put aside your emotions for a moment, consider that these atrocities are common to all wars. They are inevitable. The minute a decision is made to go to war against another country, to invade it, then occupy it, these incidents are certain to occur. The only variables are how many innocents will die and which occupying troops will crack under stress and commit these awful crimes.

To Iraqis whose family members and friends have been killed by Americans- like the relatives of the two women, one pregnant, who were shot and killed as they approached a checkpoint, it is no solace to hear Americans claim that their troops were only following rules of engagement and intended no harm. The dead Iraqis were without question innocent human beings, in their own country, going to a hospital to deliver a baby. The Americans who killed them are foreign, speaking a different language, with a different religion. And they rule the country by force of arms.

By now the intelligent reader (and, I have discovered to my pleasure, I have more than a few) realizes that we can’t possibly win the “war” in Iraq. First, you can’t win a fight to change people’s attitudes by force of arms. Second, there is no war being fought- not in a military sense. As astute American commanders on the ground in Iraq have observed over and over, you can’t defeat an insurgency by killing, because for every one you kill, you have just created many more who were family or friends of the deceased. As Tom Lasseter, of the Knight Ridder Newspapers, reported on June 12, 2005:

“Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

'We can't kill them all,' Wellman said. 'When I kill one I create three.'“

So this holiday, as the remnants of the July 4th celebration are cleaned up, do something really patriotic to support the troops in Iraq. Tell your friends to vote out the cowardly chickenhawk gasbags who lie to the American people every day while dining at night in French restaurants with their meals paid for by lobbyists who are their true constituents. Return Congress to The People, and bring all of our troops out of harm’s way.


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