As I read my colleague Rick’s piece from Saturday about the ongoing attacks on Christians by Muslims in Iraq, and discusses whether or not it was fair to blame the US for the violence. The theory behind that thought is that when Saddam Hussein ran Iraq, it didn’t happen. He maintained his monopoly of violence with an iron fist; the only massacres that went on were at his command. Since the US led the coalition that overthrew him, we ought to be responsible for the consequences of that — including removing the threats against those who would commit unauthorized mayhem.
It’s a plausible theory. After all, it does tie in to Colin Powell’s appropriation of the “Pottery Barn” principle — “you break it, you bought it.” But it has an underlying implication that I don’t think that many people who buy into it have considered.
But there’s an underlying assumption in that argument that I think needs to be examined carefully. It’s the idea that the massacres and other atrocities going on are our responsibility for not preventing them.
Which means that the people actually doing the killing are not really to blame.
Why is that? The only plausible explanation for why we should not hold them responsible is because we cannot reasonably expect them to act like civilized human beings. That we should think of them simply as dumb animals, acting purely on instinct and incapable of anything more.
This phenomenon is not simply limited to Iraqi Muslims. It seems to be common among Muslims around the world — in the Philippines, in Malaysia, in Indonesia, in Pakistan, in India, across Africa. The saying that “Islam has bloody borders” is, if anything, an understatement. The bloodiness is not just on the surface, but runs deep into places that are pretty much purely Muslim.
This is the crux of the “it’s our fault that Muslims are killing Christians and each other in Iraq” argument: that the Muslims doing the killing are not and can not be held responsible for their actions. That the rage and urge for violence is so great within them, so overwhelming, that it’s not fair to hold them responsible for it. That they simply can’t handle freedom and the responsibilities that go with it, and need to be oppressed and repressed — by force — for their own good.
It’s like the laws on dogs in the United States. Dogs simply can’t be allowed to run free, they need to be leashed or fenced in. And if the dog misbehaves, the dog isn’t punished — the owner is, for not controlling the dog.
And if a dog goes too far, then it is killed — and the owner is even more liable. The dog isn’t blamed, per se; it’s simply exercising its nature. But it’s considered beyond redemption, beyond saving, beyond re-educating, once it attacks (or even kills) a human: then it has to go.
That’s how Saddam Hussein treated his subjects: he kept them penned up or on leashes. And when they got too rambunctious or got loose, he put them down.
So they behaved themselves, by and large. But now, without their master, they’re running wild. And the blame is being places on those who took away their master.
So, are these Iraqi Muslims simple animals? Are they dogs who have slipped the leash and gone feral? Have they forfeited their humanity, and not only deserve to be treated like animals, but need to be? Have they no responsibility to act like civilized human beings, and as such no right to be treated as such?
I’m not saying that. But that is what those who are insisting on blaming the US for the atrocities going on in Iraq and Afghanistan are saying.
Just not in so many words. They won’t come out and say it. But that’s what their message says.