In some ways, being at war makes it all so easy. Complex moral dilemmas vanish. Everything polarizes into black versus white, good versus evil, us versus them. “Major combat operations” have ended, but the war goes on, the War on Terror, the war that will never, ever end.
So with the killing of Saddam’s son’s, Qusay and Uday. They were guilty of horrible crimes, and it was war, and they were part of the enemy’s command and control structure, and so they were, of course, legitimate military targets. And the fact that Qusay’s 14-year-old son, Mustapha, was also killed is no cause for moral qualms; again, it’s war. These things happen.
And the showing of the dead bodies on TV; again, it was necessitated by the harsh realities of war. We’re fighting a guerilla campaign against people motivated, in part, by the dream that Saddam’s regime will be restored; images of his dead sons help sap their will, at least according to the judgement of Donald Rumsfeld. Remember that stuff about the Geneva Convention that Torie Clark brought up back when it was dead engineers from the 507th Maintenance Company being shown on TV? Well, that turns out not to be so important after all. Military advantage trumps international agreements, for us no less than for Saddam.
And the gruesome media parade that now follows the bodies of Qusay and Uday, as recounted in this story: Reuters Sees Touched Up Bodies of Saddam Sons; again, it’s all part of war. Interesting bit there about how our embalming of the bodies to make them look more lifelike doesn’t actually play the way we intended in the Arab street, since they don’t do such things with their dead. But look; we’re Americans. This is how we do things.
I’m not trying to be sarcastic. I’m resigned to the fact that, at least for the duration of the Bush presidency, the War on Terror is not a metaphor, not some marketing slogan like the “War on Drugs”. It’s a real war, with everything that implies. Hell, I’m surprised we haven’t stuck a couple of spears in the ground in front of the Palestine Hotel and put Qusay and Uday’s severed heads atop them. Maybe that will occur to someone over the next few days.
The only part that gives me pause is this: Because the enemy in this war isn’t a country, but is instead an idea; a vague, decentralized, anti-American antipathy that exists throughout the world, and which is in some ways actually strengthened, rather than weakened, when we oppose it in this particular way, this war will never end. Never.
Get used to those faces: bruised and blackened, or touched up with putty and paint. They’re the faces of war.