The Baghdad Syndrome - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Baghdad Syndrome

Pacifism only makes sense in a world of pacifists. In a world saturated with evil and tyranny, pacifism is a flashing green light for aggression and an abandonment of the innocent to lunatics.

The opponents of a war against Saddam Hussein say that they are not pacifists. “We are not in favor of doing nothing,” they will say. But they are in favor of doing nothing — that is, nothing effective. Advocating ineffective means of combating evil is the same as doing nothing about it.

Some antiwar protestors recognize the weakness of their position. They see that conceding to Hussein’s evil undermines their counsel of passivity and their confidence in disarmament through diplomacy alone. So they have stopped conceding to his evil. This makes their position more coherent — and more disgraceful.

They are doing violence to the truth in order to buttress their position. They have transformed Saddam Hussein into a pacifist and George Bush into a warmonger. They have assigned good motives to Hussein and bad motives to Bush.

Hussein is benign (“He is no imminent threat,” they say) while they assert with equal certainty that crassness is driving George Bush to war. Their generosity of judgment extends to their enemies but not to their friends.

Everything has to be turned upside down for their position to make sense. They must say Bush is a crazy cowboy, then say Saddam Hussein is a man too rational to threaten America. They must fret over Iraq’s sovereignty, then tell Bush he must entrust the security of his sovereign country to a pacifist United Nations. They must decry America’s greed, then applaud German and French officials up to their eyeballs in business deals with Hussein for altruistic opposition to the war.

They do not trust George Bush — he is deceiving them about his real intentions, faking up Al Qaeda links, etc. — but they must trust Saddam Hussein. Their faith in him grows by the day. They are sure he is now cooperating with inspectors, and that he will disarm posthaste. Officials at the U.N. gave him a pat on the head Friday, saying he is making “progress” at coming clean. And then they accused America of fibbing about Hussein’s ties to terrorists.

Hussein wouldn’t hurt an American, they say, but Bush will hurt Iraqis. Bush is an “imperialist,” but Hussein, who has invaded a country, is not.

Ho Chi Minh said that antiwar protestors on the streets of America helped win the Vietnam war for him. Hussein can bank on the same defense. If he wins the war on terror, he can say that he first won it on the streets of the enemy. The enemy didn’t want to fight, except against its own leaders.

We are witnessing something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome. Psychologists describe the syndrome as an emotional attachment, “a bond of interdependence between captive and captor that develops when someone threatens your life, deliberates, and doesn’t kill you,” as one psychology book puts it. “The relief resulting from the removal of the threat of death generates intense feelings of gratitude and fear that combine to make the captive reluctant to display negative feelings toward the captor or terrorist…It is this dynamic, which causes former hostages and abuse survivors to minimize the damage done to them…The victims’ need to survive is stronger than his/her impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma. The victim comes to see the captor as a ‘good guy,’ even a savior…”

Perhaps the syndrome should be renamed the Baghdad Syndrome. Last weekend’s demonstrations make it clear that the antiwar protestors are willing to cast their defenders as captors and their captors as pussycats.

George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a senior editor at The American Spectator, is author most recently of The Biden Deception: Moderate, Opportunist, or the Democrats' Crypto-Socialist?
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