Propaganda Wars:

I guess this is understandable, but I have to laugh at the foolishness:

An al-Qaeda linked-group has launched what it calls a media jihad, or holy war, to "terrorise" United States-led forces in Iraq and their families by bombarding them with e-mails and by posting gruesome photos online.
You carry on with this, if you dare. Here you will find men just like you. "Not a businessman after all. Just a man. An ancient race... The future doesn't matter to us."

UPDATE: The above was edited for clarity, but I have also some additional remarks.

On re-reading this post many hours later, I realize it may not be clear to people who haven't recently watched Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. The movie is about a woman who inherits, because her new husband and his family are murdered, a plot of land that appears to be without value. It turns out, however, that it is sitting on the only ground in a patch of Arizona which has enough water to handle steam trains -- and the railroad line is coming.

As a consequence, a businessman named Morton had hired a terrorist named Frank to run off the family. Frank, it being his nature, found it easier to kill them ("People scare better when they're dyin'," he says. Firefly fans will recognize that a far gentler form of the sentiment was on display in Jayne Cobb: "Pain is scary.")

The two villians of the movie are symbolic, Frank of what Leone saw as the bad Old West, and Morton of what Leone saw as the bad New West. Morton is a businessman, and Frank thinks he wants to be one too -- rich, powerful, and cold hearted. The time of Franks is almost over, and he thinks he can become a Morton. In fact, he cannot. When he attempts to doublecross Morton, Morton bribes the members of Frank's gang to turn coats. Frank would have been killed in the ensuing ambush, except for the intervention of the movie's protagonist, a mysterious gunfighter who wants to kill Frank himself.

Morton is himself destroyed by his use of Frank. Frank's terrorist tactics include the use of false flags, by which he attempts to blame a famous local outlaw gang for the murders of the family. That gang, when it learns of the identity of the real killers, descends on Morton's encampment and wipes out everyone. It is their form of justice.

These are forces which are at work, which are bigger than and stronger than the villians. The bad actors bring on their own destruction, not from the legal system, but from each other. Frank is killed by the mysterious gunfighter, who turns out to be the brother of one of his victims. Morton is killed by the outlaws. The leader of the outlaws, himself, later dies from wounds he suffers in the fight. At last, all the violence spins itself out, and what remains are only the folk who wanted to build and run a railroad.

Of course, some of them are also outlaws -- members of that same bandit gang, who are put to work. They can have a new future in the world of honest work. They can make the transition to the new economy and way of life that comes with the railroad.

But not the gunfighter, who must simply ride off. "The future doesn't matter to us," he tells Frank before they shoot it out. What he has come to do is bring justice: to make sure the widow has her land and profits from it, to make sure that Frank gets what is coming to him. When that is done, he leaves. He does not care for the new world, or the old one. There is nothing in it for him.

There are many parallels between the movie and the current war, one in which we are also trying to bring justice to a barren place by building it, not just a railroad but a whole economy. We are also facing the violence of bad men, who turn on each other in their attempts to come out atop the situation.

It remains to be seen if the engine of progress will be strong enough to pull through the situation, letting the violence spin out around it without -- to extend the metaphor -- coming off the rails. It very well may; I think, in fact, that it will. I think it is likely that many of those Sunni tribal fighters will find themselves pulled into the new economy as they find that they have a stake in it.

There are also men like Frank -- hardened, terrorist killers who finally don't really care about the economics. They are not businessmen, not even in the business of insurgency. They do not want and will not be satisfied with a statelet; unlike most successful insurgent movements, they have no goals which might be granted them in negotiations. There is no "West Bank" to give them. They do not want territory, or wealth, or power over some piece of land. Like Frank, they can't get over "the fact that you're out there," and therefore they have no future. They must fight until they die.

In doing so, they are creating their own enemies. We have often heard it said that American policy is creating terrorists, but few reflect on the degree to which terrorist "policy" is creating anti-terrorists. When you kill a man and torment his family -- as they mean to do, with both American and Iraqi families -- some of those families will come back to haunt you. Not only their blood kin will come, but their families as extended through nationalism or patriotism.

The future won't matter to those men, either. They will only be thinking of you.

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