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Iraq: The Moon Is Down, Again!
(William Marina, The Independent Institute, 4/23/2004)
Art, films and literature often offer insights that help to explain human situations perhaps better than does history. My favorite book on the integral interaction between occupiers and those being occupied, is John Steinbeck’s The Moon Is Down (1942), shortly thereafter made into a film starring Cedric Hardwicke, Lee J. Cobb and Henry Travers. I first saw the film in the 1950s, but it is not shown these days. It is a story about the German invasion of a small town in Norway in 1940 and the developing reactions of the inhabitants as the Nazis seek to insure that the mines nearby continue to send coal to the Third Reich’s war machine. Readers this year may be tempted to replace the term "Norway" with "Iraq," "coal" with "oil," and "Germany" with the phrase "Coalition." The story even has a "fifth column" Ahmed Chalabi-like character, who sets up the town for an easy occupation, imagining he will be dearly beloved by the people. The central confrontation of the book, however, is between Mayor Orden and the German officer in command, Col. Lanser, a Wehrmacht veteran of occupied Belgium over two decades earlier. Lanser urges cooperation rather than violence, which will lead, he warns, inevitably to more violence on the part of the Germans. The Germans, like imperial conquerors back to the Romans and beyond, sought to legitimatize their occupation in the eyes of the people. They understood that quislings wouldn’t work in the long run. John Lukacs devoted a large part of his book, The Last European War: September, 1939-December, 1941, (1976) to demonstrating how they failed in a attempt to establish legitimacy over the nations of occupied Europe. "Legitimacy," to paraphrase, Franklin D. Roosevelt, "Ah, there’s the rub!" It is clear the occupiers, despised by the people, are in for a long and bloody time ahead. In a New York Times op-ed piece (4/11/04), "Nasty, Brutish and Short," Thomas Friedman mentions the word "legitimacy" four times and flip-flops on whether it can be bought with cash or compelled with force before finally concluding that the U.S. cannot do so. He adds that with all of the retaliatory killing, "we have a staggering legitimacy deficit." I wonder if legitimacy is something you can have in gradations as he suggests. Either one is an occupier, or one is not! As reported in The London Telegraph, (4/11/2004) among our major partners in the so-called "coalition," the British senior officers, speaking anonymously, have already expressed a growing sense of "unease and frustration," about American tactics in the occupation. Part of the problem, a British officer said, is that Americans tend to see the Iraqis as "untermenschen," the term for "sub-humans." British rules of warfare allow troops to open fire only when attacked and to use the minimum force necessary and at identified targets-not a massive use of firepower in urban areas, as do the Israelis on the Palestinians and now American troops on the Iraqis. In short, The Moon is Down again.
*****The use of the term "untermenschen" is extremely important and relevant in the Iraqi context. It is fostered by the current Administration in the approach they take to the occupation. It is also the approach they are beginning to take regarding the American citizen. Can't you just feel the love?******* But, that's just this old Curmudgeon's opinion...
posted by An Old Curmudgeon 1:59 PM