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Asymmetric Warfare

By Jayne Lyn Stahl  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)     Permalink
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You may have read about the 3 detainees, at Guantanamo Bay, who hung themselves yesterday, and the perverse military term a rear admiral of the Navy, Harry Harris, told the Associated Press, namely that theirs was "not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us." This is skewered logic, a dangerously warped perspective, and statement.

Among many questions is this: if suicide is an asymmetric act, what is a symmetric act of warfare--training, arming, and planting combatants, like bin Laden and Al Qaeda, in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iraq, then turning around and calling them "insurgents," "enemy combatants," detaining them, without rights, due process, or recourse, confiscating their sovereignty, and their protections, under international law, when they refuse to relinquish their autonomy? When an act of violence against oneself is designated "asymmetric," the implication is that symmetry inheres in taking the life of another. One might well expect this kind of dubious reasoning back in the days of the great Crusades, but not in the era of the world wide web.

Kudos to the president; it's about time he promised a full investigation into something; too bad it has to be the suicides of 3 men who have been held, without charge, and without hope, for 4 years. Congratulations, too, on vowing to ensure that the bodies will be "treated humanely and with cultural sensitivity," as White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has suggested. (AP). Ironic, isn't it, that an administration that prides itself on being pro-life favors extending "cultural sensitivity" to the dead over the living. Why is it that, according to the military, the remains of these detainees will be treated with the "utmost respect," and not the detainees themselves, and what kind of statement does this send to future generations of enlisted men and women about arbitrary search, seizure, and confinement, as well as ongoing, and wanton, violation of international law, and treaties.

In the words of poet William Blake, nearly two centuries ago:

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"Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

What "fearful symmetry" has been concocted with the phrase "asymmetric warfare," by a member of the military; what monstrous negation of human despondency in this post-mortem phrase that is a poor excuse for a post-modern euphemism.


Jayne Lyn Stahl is a widely-published poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter who lives in California.
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