Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Osama Youth

They say that the moment you bring up Hitler or the Nazis in an online discussion, you've effectively lost the argument. But what the hell, I'm going to bring them up anyway. I learned on the radio yesterday (and heard again this morning on television) that al-Quaida is now training children and teens to be fighters. We're supposed to be frightened by this new front in the War on Terror.

But in World War Two, when the Third Reich began putting children on the front lines, it was (and still is) seen as proof that they were do desperate for manpower that anyone who could hold a gun was being sent off to get themselves shot, and people felt sorry for the poor bastards, who were suddenly expected to be soldiers when they should have been hitting the books, playing with toys, or learning to shave. Why don't we view al-Quaida's recruitment of children as proof that they've run out of adults stupid enough to get themselves killed in a hopeless cause? (I mean really. It's hard to watch the GMA video, and listen to what's clearly a pre-pubescent child spout Islamic slogans, and take the kid seriously as a threat. We can barely bring ourselves to take ten year old gang members seriously, despite the fact that most inner-city schools have tighter security than most banks.) When the Hitler Youth hit the front lines, or were being pressed into service as fighter pilots, pretty much anyone with a secure hold on reality understood that the Nazi regime was circling the drain. So why are Moslem children barely taller than their weapons being billed as a sign of al-Quaida's strength?

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed [and hence clamorous to be led to safety] by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken.
Al-Quaida has taken on a reputation (fostered by the current administration) of being homicidal supermen, hiding under pretty much every rock you care to lift with a knife, gun or bomb, just waiting to murder an American. On top of that, everything they do, no matter how poorly it turned out for anyone else who tried it (like using children as soldiers - which has been something less than a rousing success in sub-Saharan Africa, for example), is seen as the pinnacle of evil cleverness. The reality is nothing close to this. While there have been a few high-profile successes since the attacks on the World Trade Center, it's a pretty safe bet that the gangs of Los Angeles did a better job of murdering western civilians last year than al-Quaida did. While there are people (Moslem and otherwise) who view this fact as a reason to claim that all reports of Islamic terrorism are trumped-up lies, a more reasonable stance might be that Islamic terrorism isn't anything near the threat that it's often cracked up to be.

No comments: