In the New York Times Book Review today is a review of Joker One: A Marine Platoon’s Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell: “Soldiers of Misfortune” by James Glanz (dated March 19). Glanz recounts an incident from the book, in which American Marines in Iraq encounter the children of jihad:
Almost immediately, Campbell sensed that something was wrong in the city he had been told was “on the glide path to success.” On an early patrol, the men of Joker One hand out candy and pencils to local children, who seem delighted: children are the same everywhere, he reflects. Then, after the Marines have handed out everything they have, the children begin showering them with rocks “” large rocks. Incredibly, the unit still does not have a translator, so there is no way to find out why this is happening or even to tell the kids to stop.
But after Campbell pulls out of the area, one of his men radios that he has fixed the problem the Marine way. “I grabbed some old man standing by, pointed to the little kids throwing rocks, and he chased them away,” the Marine, named Carson, says. “We”re good to go, sir.” “Oh. Good work. Thanks, Carson. Keep it up,” Campbell radios back.
At the base later on, still unnerved, Campbell begins to realize that something is seriously amiss in his understanding of the city he must patrol for seven months. He muses, “What kind of child tries repeatedly to stone someone who has just given them a present?”
How about one steeped in a belief-system involving hatred for unbelievers (“the most vile of created beings” according to Qur’an 98:6), and the proposition that kindness from those unbelievers should be regarded as a trick (“Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion” — Qur’an 2:120) and/or a sign of weakness? Such attitudes are inculcated into the children of true believers from the earliest ages.
The Times at the end of that paragraph was on the verge of a thought. It could have embarked at that point upon an actual elucidation of the jihad doctrine and Islamic supremacism. But of course it can’t countenance any discussion of that. Glanz instead draws back, leaving Campbell’s provocative question unanswered, and blaming the Marines’ “ignorance” to their “pathetically insufficient training,” but never getting around to explain how that insufficiency might be remedied:
Welcome to Ramadi, gents. Having been wrapped in a cocoon of ignorance by their pathetically insufficient training, Campbell’s Marines are left to deal with the consequences as the insurgency explodes on the crooked streets of one of the meanest and deadliest places on earth. What follows might be characterized as a cross between the Battle of Agincourt as seen from the French side and the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan,” with no one to save.
Near the beginning of his book, Campbell reflects that “it’s so hard to tell the truth, because the telling means dragging up painful memories, opening doors that you thought you had closed and revisiting a past you hoped you had put behind you.”
He never quite puts his finger on the meaning, if any, of the extraordinary violence that imbues the truths he tells in “Joker One.” But he has laid it all out for anyone else who wants to have a try.
If Campbell never quite puts his finger on it, the Times is, if anything, even farther away from any genuine understanding of the significance of that “extraordinary violence.”