Saturday, August 07, 2004

Iraqwork Orange

I've been having this wee discussion with a friend of mine of conservative bent by e-mail over the last couple of days. The initial point was an article I read in the Independent in which Robert Fisk contends that news of what's really going on over in Iraq is not getting out over the mainstream media...

August 1, 2004

'Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?'

The Prime Minister has accused some journalists of almost wanting a disaster to happen in Iraq. Robert Fisk, who has spent the past five weeks reporting from the deteriorating and devastated country, says the disaster has already happened, over and over again...

...and anyway, his response was something to the effect that since this guy was telling us about it, therefore the news is getting out and it's not a secret. I'm used to this sort of specious argument from him; it's the sort of juvenility he resorts to in debate because he's too lazy to think for himself or do any research... and supposedly he used to be a journalist. Today he also responded to a posting I sent saying that large majorities in Western countries oppose US unilateralist policies by pointing out that the United States is still the number six in the world in terms of immigration per capita, so if people are moving there, they must be doing something right. In other words, because a quarter million people or so move to the US every year, therefore fifty million Frenchmen can't be right, to coin a phrase. This is the equivalent of arguing that Wal-mart is justified in firebombing Joe's Department Store over the objections of Sears because Wal-mart has more customers.

I tried to make a point to him that regardless of his political bent or mine, if Fisk is right and information is being withheld from the electorates in the US and UK, then we have a real problem here. How can we claim to have democracy in the West if the electorate isn't kept informed of the outcome of policies undertaken by governments in their name? How can the people steer policy if they're not informed? Maybe that's the point, I said.

In thinking about it afterwards, I started wondering what my response would be if the "good" news weren't getting out. I was opposed to the war in Iraq from the start. But suppose things had gone really well there. Would I be as upset if the news focused on all the bad things, and never about how the country was being rebuilt, how democracy had really taken hold, how cheering crowds had waved to the tommies and doughboys as they shipped out, up, up and awaaaay!...? I'd like to think I'd want balanced news, the good with the bad, all that.

But it occurs to me that even if things had gone really well, there'd be another problem that would trouble me. It would be setting a bad precedent. It would be proof that blitzkrieg can plant democracy. Let's face it; right now what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan—even if you ignore all the self-serving plutocratic reasons for the US and UK et al. to be in there and completely swallow the whole "we're instilling democracy" guff—is nations being held down at the point of a gun and brutalized to behave in ways they wouldn't otherwise... ways that suit Uncle Sam, not the people themselves. Isn't this exactly what we were warned about on an individual level in A Clockwork Orange?

Conservatives go on and on about what a shitheel Saddam was... and yeah, he was, but no more so than three or four dozen other dictators around the world; why do they rate "Get Out From Under the 7th Fleet Free" cards? Because they don't have oil, they didn't cost Daddy his election, and they don't (for the most part) look like the guys who crashed the planes on 9/11. That's why. Eleven of those fifteen hijackers were Saudis, but since Saudi Arabia's already in the pocket of this administration, all I imagine they got was a stern talking-to behind closed doors. Saddam, though... wow, this guy was running his own country like he had the right to run his own country or something! Imagine the nerve! Pricing oil in euros in favour of his largest trading partner (the EU) and against the interests of the US (floating along on oil-based fiat currency since the Nixon administration)... No wonder this guy took his lumps. It's just too bad tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and thousands of naive Allied soldiers (so far) have had to take his lumps too.

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