Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the Palestinian Intifada. One of his recent documentaries, Suicide Killers, explores the psychology of suicide bombers. It is based on interviews with the victims of suicide bombers, the families of suicide bombers, would-be bombers themselves, and experts on suicide killer mentality. He is currently in Iraq filming a new documentary on the psychology of suicide killing.
FP: Pierre Rehov, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Rehov: Thank you.
FP: So let’s begin with why you decided to go to Iraq.
Rehov: After the success of Suicide Killers, and you have to remember that I invented the term by contraction of “Suicide Bombers” and “Serial Killers,” I decided to make a new film about the “proliferation” of suicide killing. After addressing this dangerous trend in “Suicide Killers,” I decided to go deeper into the psychopathology of individuals who are ready to sacrifice their lives as long as they kill others.
The question I am asking myself in making this film is: “What do kamikazes from WWII, Palestinian suicide killers, the murderers of Columbine, Cho at Virginia Tech and other suicide criminals around the world have in common?” “Proliferation” (The tentative work title for now) is a new survey of this phenomenon.
I am trying to answer another very important question: “How do we stop it?” Knowing that the US attacked Iraq in part as a response to 9/11, I wanted to see how this was handled. That’s why I went to Iraq.
But we also went to Japan to interview former Kamikazes, to Virginia Tech to understand what really happened there, to Gaza so we could follow the “making” of a suicide killer, to Bethlehem to find families and neighbours of these killers, and also to interview the family of Professor Librescu — who sacrificed his life also at Virginia Tech, not to kill others, but to save as many lives as he could.
FP: Your impressions in Iraq?
Rehov: I came to Iraq not knowing what I was going to find exactly. To report on war is not always an easy thing. Since I am here to include Iraq in my next documentary on suicide bombing (the international part of SK), I have been trying to find an angle to use the events here. The army actually found it for me.
The job that the US army is doing here is remarkable. Forget all CNN, left wing NYT and other anti-Bush critics, reports, images. The strategy that they are building here is to interact with the Iraqi population, make them understand that they care, try to solve their daily problems and, at the same time, show them that US soldiers are strong, and that they won’t let them down.
Basically, the US army is replacing a corrupt, non-efficient government, and it is trying to train the population to the idea of democracy. For a long time, I thought that you could not change things among Arab-Muslims, since their culture is so different from ours. But I was wrong to a certain extent, since I forgot one part of the deal. Yes, you can make changes by bringing hope for a better life and help the growth to grow, but on one condition: you have to take care of it yourself.
Corruption is so embedded in the Arab mentality (and accepted by the non-corrupted ones) that you cannot just “give them” things. The first thing you have to show them is strength. I would actually call any article I would write “Strength and wealth.” You cannot give anything to the leaders and let them take care of their populations. But, when those nice boys with a high ideal go, everyday, at high risk, in every single house, to talk to every single mother, father, of each family, asking questions, gathering intelligence, offering help, you can see the streets of Baghdad crowded again, and people waiving with enthusiasm when the US Humvees go down the street.
FP: So is this really an “occupation” then?
Rehov: Not at all. I have memories of my childhood, when my father was telling me about how the US army conquered Algeria, and delivered them from the Nazis and the French collaborating government. Sixty years later, the US army is acting the same. It is not an occupation army. It is an army of liberation.
When I was a kid, my father always told me about the night when the US Army delivered his city, in Algeria. Jews suffered a lot under the Vichy regime, and even in Algeria they knew how Germans treated the Jews. So, during one full night, while sounds of war could be heard in a distance, the rumor spread that the Germans had defeated the Allies and that they would arrive in the morning. French people and Arabs would go down the streets where some Jews lived, chanting : “tomorrow we’ll get you, tomorrow you’re dead.” At dawn, a first armored car arrived in the city. It was bearing an American flag. Next day, life changed for everybody.
Everybody who has been through this, remembers the US army bringing freedom and amelioration to their life. The well known image of American soldiers distributing chocolate, coffee, food rations and cigarettes to the population is vivid in my memory, like as if I had been there, in 1942, many years before I was born.
What I discovered in Iraq is very similar to these naïve but powerful symbolic images. Therefore, I believe that the impact of the US troops, in the long run, can be the same to the Iraqi population. Everywhere we go, kids are waiving at us, parents too. Every house we go in, the first word we hear is “welcome,” “thank you for being here.”
Certainly the dictators of the world don’t appreciate any kind of democratic success. But, on the field, no matter what political side I would be on, I have to admit a very simple thing: democracy is contagious, when it spreads among the people, despite all the efforts made by their leaders, whether religious or secular.
Yesterday, I saw something which could be given as a perfect example of what is going on here. A young kid, too young to talk, had been found in the street, crying, lost. Some of the volunteers working with the US army stopped our Humvee and started talking to the interpreter. They had found the kid, did not know what to do with him. They had gone to the local Imam, asking him to use the speakerphones he uses to call for the pray, to ask if any family had lost a kid. The Immam refused.
Therefore, our Captain called one of the translators and ask him to jump on a humvee and to go in every single street of our “mallaha” (neighbourhood) asking through the very loud speakerphones if any family had lost a 2 or 3 years old kid. The humvee moved. The captain said, half serious: “and now, the rumor will spread that the US army has kidnapped a kid.”This kind of anecdote is happening 10 times a day here. Families left alone, with the husband in jail for being an Al Qaada member. And, every day, the same patrol visits this family, making sure that they don’t need anything.
FP: Why do you think the Western Left despises such a promising thing that is happening? Why is it in league with the Islamists? Why does it gnash its teeth when America succeeds in bringing people freedom?
Rehov: I can talk about the European type of Left, but I believe their kind of thinking is similar to the American Left’s. The leftwing mentality in Europe is generous, but not realistic or romantic and certainly not courageous. Their system of analysis, mostly based on Karl Marx and his followers, is not updated, yet they can see the failure of most socialist systems around the world. Their “key of lecture” is economical at every level of their understanding. Since the simple 19th century black and white image of the “rich” against the “poor” has been proven to be outrageous, and no longer in service, and since poverty is not necessarily the result of exploitation of innocent populations by cynical capitalists, they have had to change their system of values and their icons of reference.
Actually, for left wing people, capitalism and liberal economy continue to be the enemy, no matter what. The “other” is always the good to protect and defend. In other words, you are not to be protected just because you are poor, humiliated, tortured, spoiled or expelled. You become of interest at the very moment you are the “victim of the capitalist system.” The same left wing “heroes” who would march in the streets each time an Israeli or American soldier fires a weapon, mostly do not protest when China invades Tibet, when Arab dictators massacre millions, or when Radical Islam expresses genocidal intentions and acts on them.
In the Left’s view, by definition, radical jihadists are not the enemy – they are the result of past accidental mistakes. Bin Laden ? He would not exist if he had not been trained by the CIA. Hamas? Well, it was created by Israel to undermine the PLO. According to this mentality, the West cannot have good intentions, only greed. How could greed succeed in an ideal world — that exists only in their imagination?
Of course, the US made a mistake when they attacked Iraq 6 years ago. The mistake was not to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who was a blood thirsty dictator. That was the right thing to do. The mistake was not to have a long-term plan to re-establish the sovereignty of Iraq, and to make it an ally of the West – in the same way Japan and Germany became allies after having been defeated. So, all leftwing intellectuals of the world could grab this mistake like a dog grabs a bone, and for 6 years it has been their main concern, while American families were losing their children on the battlefield. The U,S, government has been smart enough to understand this mistake, it took time, but I see that they are doing the right thing now. Once more, the Left has missed the train. They are still using the same arguments.
FP: What advice would you have for American policy makers toward Iraq?
Rehov: From what I see here, the worst of all mistakes would be for the US to withdraw now. They are on the right path. It will take a few more years, but the end result might be good. Iraq is a rich country, full of good people who are tired of the ancient Arab mentality and who want to see a better future for their children. This silent majority is what counts. As long as the US is here, taking care of their security, they can feel strong enough to defeat Al Qaeda and other radical groups from inside. If tomorrow the US withdraws, radical groups are still strong enough to take over power. It would be the biggest mistake the US could ever make. Iraq will plunge into darkness.
FP: Thank you Pierre Rehov for helping us see the light.
Rehov: Thank you.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.