Sunday, July 15, 2007

‘Anyone, no matter how ignorant, can discover what is repulsive and absurd in standards different from their own; and one’s learning, no matter how detailed, is wasted if one gets no further than that.’
-Hilaire Belloc

I was going to write a short story, and I was going to write ‘I is for…’, but I’m not doing either of those things right now. You may have noticed I haven’t written anything ‘political’ for some time, not because I have stopped thinking about ‘political’ things, not because I am not continually agitated and disturbed about ‘political’ things. I do not write because I have nothing new to say. I have no original ideas, no insights, can offer no glimmer of hope that is not but a faded shadow of a glimmer of hope I once offered in years gone by. My incomprehension of my own civilisation, which daily more and more ‘goes into exile for lack of understanding’, is near total. The number of classes of statements I am liable to hear on the ABC radio news that impel me to angrily change to a neighbouring station continue to grow. So it was that today I changed to a commercial station, and there heard half of a song called ‘Dear Mr President’ before I changed it again.

Q. Can you even look me in the eye and tell me why? (Pink)
A. Yes. To keep the barbarians from the gate, you silly bint. (suggested by Dr Clam)

Like I said, I have nothing new to say. I remain baffled by the position of the Labor Party, of the Democratic Party, of the average fellow-citizen who reads the Devil Bunny City Morning Herald, or works at the same institution as me, or- if the opinion polls can be believed- walks the streets and drives the roads of any city in the Western World. I do not comprehend their narrative. Specifically, that part of their narrative which connects and explains events in Iraq over the past twenty-five years. I cannot imagine a rational vantage point from which that narrative, as it has been communicated to me by the Devil Bunny City Morning Herald and its fellow travellers, makes any sense at all.
Since I have nothing new to say, I am going to present my narrative to connect and explain events in Iraq over the past twenty years. Please, if it offends you, offer up your counter-narrative for the same events!

Let us begin with the way the world was twenty-five years ago. It was in the last years of a titanic struggle between two great powers, and every single event that happened anywhere in the world was seen, and had to be seen, firstly and most importantly in relation to that titanic struggle. What opportunities did it afford for the advantage of our side? What opportunities for the other side? Who benefited in the long term, in the short term? It was an age of game theory in international relations, of conspiracy theories that were credible and even true, of brinksmanship and mind-numbing terror. Perhaps you do not remember it like that. This is my narrative, and I am saying how I remember things.
In that titanic struggle our side, the West, supported many unworthy allies; in a calculated fashion, because those allies were important in in the existential struggle. Hence Suharto, the Shah, Pinochet, at certain times a certain Iraqi strongman.
In the milieu in which I lived, I breathed in a certain cynicism about this titanic stuggle. Sure, our side was ours, but we were not enthusiastic partisans. Our side had high ideals, and failed to live up to them; the other side, too, professed high ideals, and likewise failed to live up to them. They were two great grey colossi locked in an interminable struggle. We were weary unto death of their fighting and wanted something, anything, to make it end.

One day it ended. We had won.

Over the next few years- the next several years- it gradually dawned on me that my cynicism had been misplaced. The other side had been, in its essence, wrong and evil, and our side was, in its essence, right and good. The crimes that had been committed by our side had been committed, rightly or wrongly, as calculated moves in a struggle against a far greater evil. The crimes of the other side had been committed as calculated moves to still all voices of opposition and dehumanise mankind.
I realise this must sound breathtakingly naïve to many people. But I think there is no other plausible reading of the historical evidence. I am prepared to justify it at appalling length in subsequent posts.

Almost the last, but far from the least evil to spring from this titanic struggle happened in the first half of 1991. A tyrant who had made unprovoked war on most of his neighbours, who had caused the deaths of upward of a million people, who was a bad egg overall, had been brought to bay by a vast alliance of many nations. He could have been cast down, as all tyrants should be cast down, with relative ease. And yet he was not. President George Bush called upon the oppressed people of Iraq to rebel against their ruler, and did not aid them as they fought and died. The vast armies were dispersed and sent back to their homes. The tyrant remained in power. Why was this allowed to happen? I believe it was the final catastrophe of the Cold War. Forged in the crucible of a Cold War spy agency like Vladimir Putin, President George Bush the Lesser could not bring himself to make a move in the great game that was beyond the bounds of precedent, that might throw out too far the balance of power, that might unleash too many uncontrollable variables. This is the first axiom of my narrative. Saddam Hussein should have been removed from power in 1991. The crimes he had committed up until then fully justified his removal by force. All that happened in the next twelve years did nothing to diminish these crimes.

I remember the removal of Saddam from power being a bipartisan policy throughout the 1990s, once the habits of thought of the Cold War began to recede. I was angry about sanctions. I was angry about the bombings of 1998. I was angry then because these things because they impacted disproportionately on innocent civilians, and they had no hope of achieving what is most precious to God, in the words of Baha’ullah, which is justice. The invasion of Iraq was carried out to make amends for the shame of 1991 and bring this long overdue justice. It was obvious that it should be done, long before 2001.

Now for the marvellous thing I have seen with my own eyes in my own time, the success of the Big Lie. Ceaselessly, everywhere, it is repeated that the leaders of the West lied to us, because they said that the Despot had Weapons of Mass Destruction, when he did not. They say this, and they say this: but it does not make it true. I was alive in 2003, and I remember. The Ministry of Truth cannot erase the following from my mind:
* It seemed quite clear from the pronouncements of George Bush et al that the goal of the invasion was what I have said above, to crush an evil despot like a weevil.
* In a move stupid in retrospect, George Bush et al sought to obtain an imprimatur from the United Nations for the invasion. This brought the Weapons of Mass Destruction issue to the forefront, because the UN resolutions that Iraq had flouted were concernd with these.
* Because Iraq had not complied with these resolutions, a murderous regime of sanctions was daily punishing the Iraqi people.
* Everyone was agreed that the Despot had Weapons of Mass Destruction: the French, the Russians, Uncle Tom Cobbley.
* The ‘fact’ that he had Weapons of Mass Destruction was a commonly used argument against invasion, and by far the best one in my opinion. You cannot bring a tyrant who has Weapons of Mass Destruction down unless the situation is desperate, because you cannot know how much he will be able to destroy in his death throes.

There was an invasion. For a little while, the unelected unrepresentative swill governing states near Iraq had trouble sleeping. Libya decided to make nice. Was the Coalition of the Willing happy to throw down the tyrant and then leave? No, that would be irresponsible. They stayed behind to reconstruct things. They made a lot of appalling mistakes while doing so. There was an election. They stayed on at the request of the elected government.
Everything in Iraq was better, except for security.
Security was absolutely appalling primarily because of the interference of unelected unrepresentative swill in neighbouring countries, primarily Iran.
I have these last two statements not from some right-wing blog, but from an actual Iraqi, unprompted and unaware of my opinions.

This is my narrative.
It is a narrative in which the role of President George Bush the Greater is, in its essence, heroic and decent. It is the narrative of a wrong and an attempt to right this wrong, an attempt admittedly limited and flawed, but an attempt that has not failed and need not fail.

I welcome alternative narratives. Any plausible counter-narrative must, however, supply a plausible alternative motivation for George W Bush to initiate, carry out, and persist with, such a deeply and widely unpopular action.

Success to the old fashioned doctrine, that men are created all free;
and down with the power of the despot, wherever his stronghold may be.
Wherever his stronghold may be, wherever his stronghold may be;
and down with the power of the despot wherever his stronghold may be.

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