OPINION

Captured arrogance

The faces of the American soldiers held as prisoners of war by the Iraqis, their surprise and terror, has laid bare the hollowness of their political and military leaders who sent them into a foreign country, supposedly to liberate it through death. They were encouraged to believe they were invulnerable members of an invincible army that would have no trouble defeating a criminal state without bloodshed, and would raise its own flag in that state’s towns as easily as in one of their own war movies. But war is no movie, nor is it a map exercise. War, even if it pits the strongest military machine of all time against the remnants of an army that neither trusts its leadership absolutely nor possesses sufficient weapons, is a sequence of painful surprises and reversals. The invaders – James and Shawna from Texas, Edgar from New Jersey – might be taken prisoner, their faces losing the bronze mask of arrogance and made human by fear. Presidents, ministers, generals and propagandists were scared by the sight of these soldiers, seeing in them the ruins of their own conviction that they are almighty. The purveyors of death have panicked at the traps set by life. They interrupted their relaxed weekend to complain, invoking the Geneva Convention and its provisions for protecting prisoners of war from humiliation. Rightly so, but not so fairly, because it was they who had had fed the image market that they themselves control with scenes (be they authentic or staged, it doesn’t really matter) of Iraqis giving themselves up. Prisoners of their own arrogance, they suddenly became prisoners of their own methods, their own disregard for any law or institution. James, Shawna and Edgar will never forgive them, nor yet will countless others.