Kyle Smith reports: The night of Sept. 1, 2009, Echo Platoon of Navy SEAL Team 10 headed out into the Fallujah night. Their goal: concluding a five-year search for the al Qaeda killer who had been responsible for the shocking 2004 murders of four American military contractors — one of them an ex-SEAL — whose bodies were then burned, dragged through the streets and hanged from a bridge.
This night the SEALs departed with these words from their commanding officer: “Gents, stay sharp, and expect a firefight.”
In the event, no shots were fired, but the SEALs faced another kind of ambush: a humiliating, baffling, infuriating struggle with the military-justice system that would end with an unsatisfying victory.
Because the man those SEALs captured — Ahmad Hashim Abd Al-Isawi, aka “the Butcher of Fallujah,” a man who lived for mayhem — somehow sustained a bloody lip on the night of his capture.
The contrast between the two instances of violence seems, like many of the details of the case, absurd.
On the one hand, four Blackwater contractors were murdered and beheaded as they pulled security in a convoy that was attempting to deliver food.
Jeff Wasserstrom writes: Communist Party spokesmen in Beijing have been talking a lot lately about the ‘China Dream’, President Xi Jinping’s call for national goals befitting China’s era of economic prosperity. Yet dark events — from food and pollution scares early in 2013, to July’s beating to death of a watermelon peddler, to the start of yet another crackdown on activist lawyers and bloggers critical of the government — have led to cynical online chatter about the ‘China Nightmare’ as better capturing the experience of many citizens of the People’s Republic. The currency of this ‘dream’ and ‘nightmare’ rhetoric in China makes this a good time to reflect on a different set of fantasies originating outside China. I mean what might be called the ‘Western China Dream’ (they’re about to buy our goods and convert to our ways!) and the recurring ‘Western China Nightmare’ (they’re so different and there are so many of them!).
These spectral visions of hope and dismay have roots stretching far back into the past. They continue to hinder clear-eyed views of China today, albeit taking different forms in different parts of the West, depending on everything from specific economic relationships to proximity to or distance from Asia. They are also now gaining traction, again in distinctively localised forms, in places such as Africa, where China’s economic influence is surging and more Chinese have moved in recent decades than at any time in the past.
The Western China Dream can be traced back at least to Marco Polo’s day and to Enlightenment thinkers who sometimes used Chinese phenomena as a foil to criticize the Catholic Church and autocratic rule in Europe. It assumed its modern form, though, early in the 1800s when missionaries sought to save heathen souls and traders grew dizzy with the prospect of selling their wares to customers across the massive empire of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The counterpart Western China Nightmare, while building on fears dating back to tales of Genghis Khan, found its most important modern expression in ‘Yellow Peril’ rhetoric. A century ago, its most significant personification took the form of Dr Fu Manchu, who first appeared in a novel in 1913 and whose ability to inspire horror was magnified by a series of famous — and infamous — Hollywood films. Read the rest of this entry »