The spontaneous, day-long "sit-in" initiated by Congressman John Lewis and others in the House of Representatives echoed Fannie Lou Hamer: "I'm sick 'n tired of bein' sick 'n tired." At one point Wednesday evening, a Republican House member stood off and shook his fist at an insurgent Democratic speaker focused on reasonable gun legislation. The man simply hollered, "Radical Islam! Radical Islam!" The next morning, Chris Cuomo on CNN debated Republican House member Sean Duffy from Wisconsin on the stand-off. Duffy's response was this: "The threat is not guns; it's radical Islamic terrorism!" It has to be one or the other; it can't be a little of both with a host of other things mixed in.
Fox News studio warriors Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly -- and let's not forget the king of hate sleaze, Donald Trump -- work this absolutist line hard. It feels like a matter of life and death for them that they jam someone like Omar Mateen into a box labeled RADICAL ISLAM. The term itself has become magical. If one shuts out everything else but these magical words, we're led to believe the solution will appear as clear as Jesus rising on the third day. We need to re-invade, re-occupy and re-bomb-the-crap-out-of Sunni Anbar Province in western Iraq and reaching into Syria.
I was in Falluja as a peace activist in December 2003. A blond-haired westerner slunk down in the backseat of a blue Opal with a cracked windshield, I soaked up what I could of normal, on-going life in Falluja. My Iraqi guides were looking for the forward operations base where the son of the man in the front seat drove a fuel truck. While all this arguing goes on, I can't help seeing that tragic Anbar Province city's fate hanging in the balance.
Most people don't know it, but before Falluja became a famous US invasion battle-zone, it was a resort town around the large Lake Habbaniyah. The city was famous for the tastiest kabobs in Iraq. Whenever I hear the militarist right intone their magic words RADICAL ISLAM all I can think of is the famous line from Vietnam, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Some 65 percent of the homes in Falluja were destroyed; we lost 95 Americans; many thousands of Iraqis were killed and maimed. The iconic quote from The Battle of Falluja came from a Lt. Col. Gary Brandl: "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him." Today, Falluja is a basket-case of pain and desperation.
The New York Times reports that Iraqi forces have taken control of Falluja from ISIS. That sounds good. The problem is, when our comfy right-wing warriors speak of renewing the US military assault on ISIS in places like Falluja, they're not talking about the real Falluja and real Fallujans caught in a vice between the US and ISIS; what they're talking about is a Falluja-of-the-mind that's on TV.
It's clear to me the current calls for re-mobilizing the US war in Iraq have little to do with Iraq and ISIS. They have more to do with vanity and self-image. Making America "great" again for Mr. Trump means making America feared again. The feeling of being feared is a narcotic for these guys. Historically, it's too often been the case that we attack a much weaker element in order to feel the potency of our power. The point is the feeling of our own power, not the solving of an international problem involving us.
The classic example of this was in 1983/84 when the right's beloved Ronald Reagan tucked the tail of the United States between his legs and fled from Beirut four months after 241 Marines were ignominiously blown to hell in a poorly guarded building.