Revenge breeds revenge?

Friday 9 June 2006

The big news from Iraq yesterday was the death of Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Most people were nothing but happy about the news that the terrorist had been killed by US airstrikes. If we are locked in battle with guys like this, I am glad that we are winning.

But I also sympathize with the viewpoint that no death is good news, and that rather than representing a step toward closure, Al-Zarqawi’s death more likely is simply another step on a very long treadmill of violence. I saw a headline about reactions to Al-Zarqawi’s death from the father of Nicholas Berg, the man beheaded in Iraq. Reading the interview, I was surprised to see that he feels 100% that the killing is bad on both sides:

My reaction is I’m sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that.

I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can’t end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a grown son brutally and publicly murdered, and in such a way that the entire nation is using his death as a call to arms. Michael Berg went through it, and remains committed to his viewpoint that all violence on either side is a bad thing. His resolution is impressive.

He goes on to compare Bush and Saddam Hussein, and he believes that neither is the worse, which I can’t agree with. I think there are times when violence is the only remaining course, and there have been times when it has been used successfully. Only history will tell whether Al-Zarqawi’s death or even the entire Iraq war has been one of those times.

Although I don’t agree completely with Michael Berg, I am glad that there are people like him willing to speak out against violence as a strategy, if only to open a few people’s eyes that there are other possible world views.

Comments

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Mikey 7:09 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Hoo boy...

"He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that."

How many murders does an individual have to be responsible for before our sympathy for his family diminishes? What about the many, the families of his victims?

I would rather have kept him alive for intelligence gathering, but having him off the board is helpful. The video game reaction was a little scary I'll grant - this isn't Quake...

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Ned Batchelder 8:03 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Mikey: The thing I like about Michael Berg's outspokenness on this is that his viewpoint does seem very foreign to most of us. He made you ask a question: "How many ...?" If you try to put yourself in his position, and try to imagine how you could then say what he says, you may find another viewpoint.

The thing that bothers me most about the rah-rah-we-killed-him cheering is that there's very little introspection, very little questioning. The whole "Support Our Troops" movement breeds groupthink around keeping the war going. I'm glad for another viewpoint, even if I don't hold it 100% myself.

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João Marcus 8:13 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Let's face it: that kind of terrorist *does* see death as an end, that's undeniable, not only some kind of Bush's speech. They don't want to negotiate. Their objective is to kill "infidels". Period.

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Mikey 8:33 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Ned, I can see his viewpoint, but I can't share it. That being said, I would fold "in his position", so kudos to him for not doing so.

As for supporting the troops, have you considered a scenario in which you had a family member in Iraq? Where would your support be then?

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Ned Batchelder 8:52 AM on 9 Jun 2006

JM: Al-Zarqawi definitely saw death as the goal, and they don't want to negotiate. That's very clear. I think Michael Berg's point at some level is simply that the news of his death is not all good news. There's a bigger picture here.

Mikey: My having a family member in Iraq would not increase my enthusiasm for the war there. And remember: I am glad Al-Zarqawi was killed. It's the better of two bad choices.

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andrew 9:27 AM on 9 Jun 2006

[insert Andrew's opinion here]

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Mikey 10:25 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Tee hee andrew.

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abdullah 11:22 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Marcus said:
They don't want to negotiate. Their objective is to kill "infidels". Period.

What is your position if somebody invade your country with thier supreme power and in the process kills your family. What will be your feeling?

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Joe Grossberg 11:36 AM on 9 Jun 2006

Ned:

Is it not possible that maybe, just maybe, Michael Berg isn't exactly *rational* about the subject of death and al-Qaeda terrorists?

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João Marcus 12:13 PM on 9 Jun 2006

adbullah: First of all, they don't only kill people who invade their countries. They kill any "infidel", *anyone*. Their regimes are always opressive. Is that a coincidence? If you want to ignore reality and live in your own world (where terrorists are poor people opressed by those evil bastards from USA), go ahead, just don't pretend it's real.

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Sylvain Galineau 12:32 PM on 9 Jun 2006

Having watched the full ghastly Nick Berg video, I have a hard time including any of the masked men involved into the larger family of human beings. As for Mr Berg, his implied moral equivalence of his son's life with that of Zarqawi's is made stranger and more absurd by his being Nick's father, rather than more respectable. But it is certainly much easier to accept such a statement from him, and respect it, than from others who tend to make such statements for rather less noble and more self-interested motives.

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