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The War Nerd September 4, 2004
 
Shi'ite! Holy Shi'ite!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
 

We've been fighting the Shi'ites for months now, and nobody seems to want to ask the obvious question: who are these loonies, anyway?

War Nerd Alert!

Special nod to Jon Dickey, who sent me a story on Darfur from the Guardian newspaper with a note: "Dude you should check out this sick shit." Well Dude, I did. And it was pretty amazing. Turns out that while the Janjaweed Arab militia is raping the women in black villages, these Janjaweed women, sort of backup singers, sing songs making fun of the women getting raped.

Some of the insults in the songs are a little surprising. For example, one song goes, "You are gorillas, you are black, and you are badly dressed." Who would've thought these Sudanese peasants were such fashion snobs? It's not bad enough being raped and killed, but insulting somebody's clothes -- that's a low blow, ladies. Somebody better call the UN about this.

Well, for starters, there's that embarrassing name, "Shi'ite." I can't help it if it reminds me every time I see it of a certain four-letter word. But that's not their fault either. I don't claim to speak Arabic -- my Spanish isn't even that good -- but from what I've read, in Arabic, "shiat" means something like "party," as in political party, and "Shi'ite" is short for "Shiat Ali," which means "the Party of Ali."

Ali was Muhammad's adopted son. He saved the Prophet's life and became his favorite. Muhammad even gave Ali his favorite daughter, Fatima. But the most important thing to remember about Ali is -- he lost. And Ali's son Husain, another loser, was killed in battle charging the Caliph's whole army with a few friends -- a couple dozen riders against a horde.

To us, that's just stupid. To the Shi'ites, it's glorious. That's what's hardest for Americans to understand about the Shia: they don't think winning is everything. It'd be closer to the truth to say that they think losing is everything, that losing is a sign of being in the right.

The point is, they don't think like us. A whole lot of what's gone wrong in Iraq comes from thinking that everybody in the world wants to be like us. That's just plain wrong. Hell, I'm not sure I even want to be like us. And I know for certain the Shi'ites don't.

We believe in winning. Remember the beginning of Patton, when George C. Scott stands up in dress uniform and says, "No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country -- he won it by making some other poor son-of-a-bitch die for HIS country"? That sounds pretty obvious to us, but it's not the only way you can think about war.

In fact I'd say Patton (Patton in the movie, not the real Patton) is wrong. You can kill twenty of the enemy for every guy you lose -- and still lose the war. That's what happened to us in Nam. We made a million or so of them die for their country, vs. 60,000 of us, and still lost. The British killed dozens of Kikuyu for every settler or soldier they lost fighting the Mau-Mau, and they still got run out of Kenya. Body count is the WORST way to figure out who's winning a guerrilla war.

If the Shi'ites wrote the script for Patton, George C. Scott would get up and say something like, "Go ahead and kill us -- you'll be sorry!" We're talking about a martyr culture here, where dying makes you stronger. You know, that shouldn't be so hard for us to get, because we've got Christ, who won by losing, by dying. But that was a long time ago, and it's so prettified by now that Mel Gibson had to make a whole movie to remind people that martyrdom actually hurts.


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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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