Don't Send An Elephant To Kill A Mosquito
GROUND ZERO PLUS 29, New York City, Oct. 10-- “You never send an elephant to kill a mosquito--you send a wasp.”
I leaned closer to Joe, listening to his heavy Israeli accent, trying not to ask him to repeat himself as I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of his words, scatter his thoughts as they rolled off his tongue to my barrage of questions.
“I was in Israeli intelligence,” he said, looking over the rim of his glasses, drilling me with eyes I knew had seen the bitterness of war, the ugliness of death, the frustration of battles never won but always fought.
“Why did the Terrorists attack America? What can they gain?”
“They want to globalize Terrorism. They want the world to know they can attack anyone anywhere anytime. They want to form their own state, go back thousands of years in time--isolate the Middle East from Western influence.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense. Won’t their people suffer?”
“They don’t care. They are fundamentalists. They are like your Amish. They live back in time--their way. They hate Israel because it is the West in the midst of their culture. They hate America because it is the symbol of modernization, of democracy--something that won’t work for them. They want their dictatorships--their way of ruling their land that doesn’t involve free speech, or social justice, or human rights. That’s the problem with America. Everyone here thinks everyone else wants democracy...and they don’t. The Terrorists are the extreme.”
“What about our bombing? Will it work? Will it destroy their will to fight.”
Joe didn’t smile. I’d never seen him smile the many months I had been writing at Starbucks. He was always there on his cell phone or reading the paper--a stern look about his face of a man deep into himself, doing his thing. But this morning I had given him the address of our web site, and told him to look us up so he could see what we were doing. And he invited me to sit with him, and talk. Instead, I was listening, eager to learn more about his viewpoints so I could broaden my own.
“America is foolish to think bombs will kill Terrorism. The public thinks that if we kill Bin Laden we have cut off the head of the monster. That’s not true. Bin Laden is only a figurehead. The real Terrorists are Arabs. They use Bin Laden to raise money, to make people think he’s the source. It is the Arabs who are behind it. They want America out of the Middle East. They want the puppet governments America supports to crumble. They want Israel out. So they can hold back time. Go back to their way of living--as they have for thousands of years.”
Joe took me on a quick spin of history. “America knows no history of the Middle East. It is complacent. It only knows its way. The Middle East has been fighting for its fundamental rights to live under its own rules for centuries. In 1849 the Afghans killed 45,000 British trying to flee the land. There were a thousand or more military and the rest were families. They slaughtered them all. They don’t want Western ways in their land.”
I scribbled notes as he talked.
“The Koran is the only religious doctrine that supports a Holy War,” he said. “In the Jihad, it allows for the execution of all non-believers--and we’re all non-believers in their eyes. They signed the Holy Decree...the Fatwa...vowing to eliminate all infidels from their land. Not just Afghanistan--all of the Middle East.”
“So how do we fight them?” I poised my pen for an answer.
“Propaganda. We must tell the people of Afghanistan the Arabs are behind the violence. They are the ones stimulating it, strategizing it. Bin Laden is only a vessel, a face. The Terrorists use his training camps to learn how to fight, and then go back to their countries. Bin laden is a front man. Americans are stupid to think that he’s the target. It’s the Arabs. The Lebanese. The Saudis. You wait. America will have no allies in the Middle East. Only Israel. The rest will side with themselves. The puppets America has installed will bark out support, but it will not be real. Americans must not be ignorant of the truth. If they are, they will be very disappointed, very shocked by it when it happens.”
I wanted to ask Joe his age, if he was married, had any children. But I didn’t want to stray into the personal. He was issuing out the meat of his meaning--the core of his beliefs.
“There is a saying among the Arabs, that if they invite you into their house they cannot kill you. You are safe. But, once you leave, they can cut your throat.” He took his finger and dragged it under his chin to make his point. “So you back out of their house. You don’t turn your back on them. They have the Holy Decree. They can kill you with a smile on their face.”
I told Joe about my former college roommate at the University of Oregon, Tony, who had warned me a few weeks ago America stood alone in its battle with the Terrorists. He had said the same thing as Joe--that when the rubber hit the road, or the crap hit the fan, we would have no allies in the Middle East to help us wage war on the Terrorists. That we would lose the battle if we counted on them.
I told him about how Tony kept warning his daughter, who was about the same age as mine, to not trust the Arabs who were her friends. She refused to accept her father’s paranoia, his words of caution that sounded like racism, or ethnic slurs to the young, uninitiated. Still, he kept his warnings loud even though his daughter fought to believe there were no real degrees of separation, that assimilation of cultures was more possible than retreating back to the poverty of fundamentalism.
I found it strange but yet reassuring that both Joe and Tony sang the same song. I wanted to reject it on the same grounds as Tony’s daughter--racism, racial profiling, prejudice, ethnic slurring--but there was something far beyond a cheap portrayal of a people as being sworn enemies of a way of life. There was a reverence in the warning--a reverence that indeed this might be a Holy War, the one that such books as the Bible talk about, where the blood of so many innocent are spilled in the name of God. An apocalypse in the making, in which America had been dragged kicking and screaming into the middle of--forced to shove its face into a world it had turned away from for so long as far too distant and inconsequential to worry about. But the Terrorists had changed that. Now, their country and their purpose was on the map. And I wondered if it came to push and shove in the long run, if we might not want to retreat rather than piss in the wind.
Joe swung my attention back to him.
“People in America do not understand Terrorism. We are searched in Israel before we can go into a grocery store. We live with it every day. Democracy suffers under Terrorism. You have a police state wrapped up in human rights, social rights--and your freedoms are given up to remain safe. I don’t think America understands that. Or is willing to accept a state of constant threat, and willing to sacrifice many of its Constitutional rights. America is in for a big shock to democracy. We call it, Democracy under Siege. Terrorism puts a gun to democracy’s head. It has in Israel, and it will here if the attacks continue.”
“Why do they hate us so much? What have we done?”
Joe hesitated. He looked at me hard, prefacing his statement with an aura that was both defensive and offensive. “I will sound like a communist answering that question, but I’m not. You are hated because you support criminals. The puppets America keeps in the heads of state steal the people blind. They are thieves. It goes back to the Carter Administration when they let the Shah of Iran fall. And Khomeini took over. He gave birth to fundamentalism. He was the spore of hate. People knew they were getting raped and pillaged and plundered by America’s support of leaders who lined their pockets and let the people starve. The real hatred started then. It has just grown. Bin Laden is a rookie--a virtual newcomer to it all--yet everyone thinks he’s behind it.”
“Then the people see us as the thieves, stealing from them because we support the thieves?”
“That’s basically it. Americans are the greedy, Westerners who support leaders who starve children and wreck a way of life by imposing Western ideals on Middle East traditions. It gives Terrorists and extremists a great forum. It tells them democracy sucks.”
“So what should happen. How do Americans defend themselves? What can we do?”
“Ignorance. That’s your greatest enemy. Americans have no knowledge of the Middle East. They only know what they are told. They have to learn the history of the people, the countries, the cultures. The Middle East wants America out of its hair. Just as it drove out the British. It wants to put up walls around itself. Kick out Israel. Contain itself. It doesn’t want its people to want what you have. So it seeks to close it borders. This war is about creating a sovereign state of Middle East philosophy versus Western philosophy. It wants the power to bargain on its terms with the world, not through puppets of the West who use their military might to threaten subservience. When America finds its weapons of destruction do not destroy Terrorism, when it finds itself stranded alone in a battle against people who have a Holy Decree to fight a Holy War, it will be like Vietnam. Just ask the Russians. A senseless, wasteful war.”
“So why doesn’t the U.S. government tell us all this. And turn the strategy to propaganda rather than violence.”
Joe didn’t laugh. I expected it. It was a loaded question.
“Your government is as ignorant as the citizens of America. Israeli’s all know what’s going on. We fight for our freedom--as limited as it is in a police state--every day. But we know the history and the reasons. Let me give you an example. In Israel there are over a million Arabs who are citizens. They enjoy free speech, the right to vote, all the rights Jews have. But they do not have to fight for their country. Every Jew is required by law to serve in the military. Everyone defends Israel but the Arab citizens. They don’t have to lift a finger. When I hear about the oppression of Arabs in Israel, it sickens me. They have more rights than we--they don’t have to die to defend their country.”
“So, Joe, what do we do?”
“Get rid of complacency. Get rid of ignorance. Don’t think killing Bin Laden is the answer . Focus on the Arabs, not the Afghans. The Arabs are the real leaders of Terrorism. They always have been. Don’t be taken by your government’s strategy. It’s wrong. The elephant cannot kill the mosquito. Because there are thousands of mosquitoes. Only the wasp can. Only the wasp.”
With that, Joe collected the remains of his newspaper, shook my hand and left.
Overhead, in the city of New York, thousands of miles from Afghanistan, I heard the roar of an F-14 jet scream overhead. Down the street on St. Marks Place, I spotted the camouflage uniform of a military man walking up the street, catching the subway to go to some duty station at Grand Central or Times Square where young boys without guns stood guard as the first step toward our police state.
I thought about going to the grocery store, and wondered how long it would be before they started to search us. Perhaps, I thought, as long as we remained ignorant and complacent.
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