Yesterday, reporters Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily released an article discussing claims that the American war in Iraq is a religious war against Islam. In the article, there are allegations of widespread vandalism against mosques and Korans by American soldiers. “Photographs are being circulated of black crosses painted on mosque walls and on copies of the Quran, and of soldiers dumping their waste inside mosques.”
The article itself does not show those photographs. Searching online, I can’t find any photographs of black crosses painted inside mosques. I can’t find much news about them either, or even blog discussions saying that they exist. I did find a transcript of Amy Goodman interviewing a soldier who was in Fallujah, referring to the rumors of vandalism. The soldier, however, said he had not seen any himself.
This is not to say that the claims are false. Certainly, many people in Iraq don’t have reliable access to electricity right now, much less access to the Internet through which they could publish evidence.
More fundamentally, it doesn’t matter whether Americans have really been painting black crosses inside mosques in Iraq. What matters is that many Iraqis believe that this Christian vandalism is taking place. What George W. Bush and his pro-war followers never seem to have considered is that their war, instead of bringing clarity, would damage the ability of people, in Iraq and in the United States alike, to determine what is real and what is not. Given this ambiguity, the rumors of black crucifixes painted in Iraqi mosques acquire an operational reality.
No surge in the number of American soldiers can overcome the news of outrageous acts that have not been seen but are nonetheless believed. In 2008, we need to choose a new President who understands that beliefs are stronger than bullets, and will seek to persuade rather than invade.