William F. Buckley

The most touching declamation of the past period was by Iraq's prime minister. Nouri al-Maliki turned to his fellow Middle Eastern leaders gathered in Baghdad and said: "Confrontation of terrorism, dear brothers, requires ceasing any form of financial and media support and religious cover, as well as logistical support and provision of arms and men that would turn out to be explosive tools killing our children, women and elders and bombing our mosques and churches."

It is the crowning paradox in the war of the insurgents that there is so little criticism of their activity by the people they kill, or try to kill.

It's hard to come up with comparisons, but we can turn to lynchings in the South in the post-Civil War years. The Tuskegee Institute records that in the 70 years after 1882, 3,400 blacks were lynched. The figure is horrifying. But even so, it reduces to approximately 50 slaughters per year. Fifty killings in Iraq would be the work not of one year but of one week, or one weekend. How is it that slaughter on such a scale isn't more pointedly resented by the victims and their families and their tribes?

Everyone who met in Baghdad, representing 13 nations -- besides Middle Eastern countries, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China sent delegations -- joined in deploring the bloodshed, but reactions to the insurgents' ravages are on the order of reactions to occasional electrical failures in America. One deplores these, and waits a bit, and the electricity comes back on, and we dismiss the episodes as simply attritions of modern life.

So calloused are the people of Iraq that they were able to laugh off an incident during the two-day meeting. Two mortar shells landed nearby while the conversations deploring random violence were going on. As The New York Times reported, one participant told reporters after the conference that the shells landed while he was speaking, shortly before lunch. 'We assured them this was normal,' Mr. Zebari (Iraq's foreign minister) said with a smile. 'I thought, This is bad targeting. I was surprised there weren't more.'

This is a musical-comedy approach to people being killed by zealots who are receiving their afflatus from Allah (reportedly) and their arms (mostly) from Iran. It goes on month after month after month: men and women dying for peace and trying to make peace, but confounded by the bloody determination of the insurgents. If, finally, the whole of the United States could be inflamed by a rate of 50 lynchings per year, one would hope that an area of 27 million people would be inflamed by 50,000 deaths per year. But how are they to express themselves?


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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