Friday, May 21, 2004

Always Remember Charles Stuart
The news has claimed that the US bombed an Iraqi wedding party that was taking place near the Syrian border. Later, news stories suggested some confusion as to whether the event really was a wedding party at all or was, as the US military asserts, a hideout of enemy insurgents. Was it an innocuous wedding party? Was it a base for the enemy? Did the enemy stage the attack to look like a massacre of a wedding party? No matter what truth eventually emerges, the initial impression has been generated that the US killed innocents. This impression has been echoed and repeated through multiple news stories in media outlets worldwide. The effect has been amplified. What is going on here reminds me of the peculiar and tragic events that involved a Boston man named Charles Stuart. Let me explain.

The story of Charles Stuart is well known. A man, in hysterics, calls Boston authorities and reports that a black man shot him and his pregnant wife. Cameras and paramedics arrive on scene and the region and the nation learn of the horrible incident involving Charles Stuart and his wife, Carol. While he survived the gunshot he sustained to his abdomen, his wife did not survive the gunshot she sustained to the head.

Boston police immediately set out to find the suspect. What followed afterwards was an inglorious set of actions and circumstances that involved the incarceration of a black suspect thought to have been responsible for the crime. However, in a surprising turn a few months later, the brother of Charles Stuart confessed to family and eventually to police that he assisted Charles in staging the shooting for the purposes of pulling off an insurance scam. As the police conducted a search for Charles Stuart, word of the brother's confession hit the news. An abandoned car at the crest of the Tobin Bridge brought an end to the search. Charles Stuart had jumped, ending his own life.

Charles Stuart thought that he could get away with murder by taking advantage of the prejudices of a large part of the population. Knowing that he could count on that prejudice, he staged his wife's murder in a manner that would feed into that prejudice, providing him the means to get away with the crime and enrich himself.

Our enemies employ similar tactics. They know that when facing us on the battlefield they will not win. Their success and victory depends on the use of different weapons, the greatest of which is how deftly they can manipulate and take advantage of the prejudices held by significant portions of people in our own Western society. Indeed, as Charles Stuart relied on there being ample numbers of people who held anti-black prejudice, our enemies in the current fight rely on the prejudices of significant numbers in the West who are reflexively suspicious of and/or completely against the US. Events are staged to take advantage of that bias, whether it be claims of Baby Milk factory bombings, allegations of physical defects caused by US military munitions, charges of "massacre" in urban warfare clashes, pictures of craters in marketplaces the result of American bombs. The enemy will stage anything, and even sacrifice their own in the process, so long as a perception can be crafted that will feed and animate the prejudices that assist the cause.

Charles Stuart killed his wife and blamed it on a black man, all so that he could be a rich man. The prejudices held by significant members of society were an unwitting accomplice to his crime. Similarly, the enemies we fight today have no problem killing their own people, so long as they generate an opportunity to blame it on the US. Our capitulation in the fight is the victory they seek. How they secure that capitulation will depend on how deftly they manipulate and marshall the anti-US prejudices of people in our own society. Democracies in the West cannot, and do not ignore the rising tide of dissent. Our enemy knows this, and counts on it for victory. It remains to be seen whether the enemy will be ultimately successful in staging enough death to energize those prejudices to the necessary level where the din of anti-US fervor breaks our will to carry on the fight.


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