Ithaca Blog

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The headline in today's New York Times reads: "Bombs Aimed at G.I.'s in Iraq Are Increasing."

The sub-head says, "The insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to statistics from the U.S. military in Baghdad."

The story gives the details: "... the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January... 'the insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels,' said a senior Defense Department official... 'The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.' "

Sometimes, in discussing things like this, or trying to, if you're not immediately shut down by the sheer horror, you can be shut down by the seeming complexity. Of the geopolitics, the history, the factions, the torrent of events.

But for all the complexity, the story in the Times seems to reflect a simple truth: violence doesn't work.

Take it out of the realm of the Middle East, or geopolitics, or even politics. Take it back to the old neighborhood - or allow me to.

I read one time in a New York newspaper an interview with a Mafia captain. He was talking about conflict among Mob families and how "we try not to shoot anybody." The interviewer was a little incredulous. "Well, you know, " the Mob guy explained, "they shoot back."

We can probably say that he was expressing a practical consideration rather than a moral one. But the result can be the same, whatever the application.

Violence is wrong. Most religions and legal codes subscribe to that, even if our politicians don't, and somehow don't feel compelled to - and are not compelled to, either by courts or public opinion. But beyond that, violence doesn't work. Even if we can't be good enough to see that, we can at least be smart enough. And we can demand that standard from our leaders.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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