Monday, July 28, 2003

“Went the Day Well?”

I got an e-mail. “Hey Scary,” it said, “what’s your opinion on the Iraqi War and the WMD crisis?” I replied that it’s hardly my place to comment on the UK government’s vindictive attack on BBC journalism and veiled threats against the future of the Corporation. I couldn’t possibly comment on suggestions that by daring to suggest that someone in government may have actually lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq and that there may be some sort of hidden agenda where the BBC is made to suffer to the benefit of Rupert Murdoch’s news and television empire. That would be an abuse of my position, I said Then I thought “fuck it”, there’s some stuff about the whole affair that I want to get off my chest, not just about government double standards, threats and lies, but about the whole mire that Bush and Blair have led us into. I’m spitting mad, and I haven’t done a good op-ed piece for nigh on nine months. Your time is now.

The war is over. The war continues. Endless, endless war. Endless lies. Endless death. What’s it all been about? Was it really all about those WMDs? Or was it about removing a ruthless dictator from power? Or should I be putting on my tinfoil helmet and blaming it all on oil, global economic and political hegemony and blind revenge of September 11th?

Let’s bare no bones about this, Bush and poodle Blair rode roughshod over world opinion in their haste to get on the road to Baghdad, spitting out threats to anybody who stood in their way - we’re still waiting for America’s threatened “revenge” on Germany and France who thought invading a sovereign state on the flimsiest of evidence may, in fact, have been A Bad Thing.

Chapter One, Article Four of the United Nations Charter states:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Even with the Iraqi regime under double secret probation over its alleged weapons programmes, it is clear that a line has been crossed. The inspections, as repeatedly pointed our by Herr Blix and the late Dr Kelly, WERE working, and given enough time and support the truth behind Saddam’s programmes would have come out either one way or the other. Then, and only then, would a case for war been made.

But the weapons were never found, and I’ll be willing to march naked down the Fulham Palace Road if so much as an illegal aspirin turns up in Iraq. Because, so our leaders tell us, it wasn’t about the ACTUAL weapons, but the fact that Saddam has a weapons programme. What a load of arse. The North Koreans have a nuclear weapons programme, and so, I suspect, have Iran, Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan, France, Britain, Russia, China and the United States. And who’s going to stop them?

Anyone can have a weapons programme. I myself have pretty advanced plans to train an army of heavily-armed penguins to sweep through Europe and corner the world fish markets, but it ain’t gonna happen. I’ve even got some fish in my freezer at home if anyone from the UN wants to come and check them, but I have no intention on using them on helpless and frightened civilians, except perhaps if the in-laws come over for a barbecue.

Even the US administration has admitted that the whole WMD was more-or-less a front to find an excuse for war which America and her allies could agree on. Never mind that actual evidence was rather thin on the ground. Never mind that the intelligence communities of both Britain and the US said that the likelihood of finding gallons of anthrax and kilos of enriched uranium lying about is about as high as my penguin hordes being uncovered.

America now finds itself fighting a war on two fronts. Already mired in Afghanistan, where the situation is just as bad, if not worse than it was when they first arrived. Outside the major cities, the warlords which were supposedly swept aside in the name of Afghan Freedom are firmly in control, and the opium market is doing record business. The War on Terrorism? They didn’t even finish off the War on Drugs.

Despite overwhelming firepower and technology, the Americans in Iraq find themselves slipping down the slope into the same mire they faced in Afghanistan, and dare I say it, Vietnam. Having the most and biggest toys is nothing compared to a determined guerrilla force, something that many analysts pointed out before the Iraqi invasion, and advice which was seemingly ignored.

The problem facing America in its dealings with any country is its desire to impose American culture and ideals onto it. Sometimes, the ideas get through if you witness the growing globalisation of culture, brands and the dominance of Hollywood. Try selling western democracy to a Gulf Arab where democracy has hardly flourished in the past decades. You’re not going to find too many buyers, especially in Saudi and Kuwait where the democratic process is merely tokenism.

Hollywood. Iraqi TV was blown off the air at a late stage in the war, and such Iraqis that have electricity can now tune into Iraq Media Network. While Saddam-vision was a tedious procession of patriotic songs and news, INM is a bizarre hybrid of rabidly pro-US news, happy-clappy wedding music and the kind of violent Hollywood movies you rent three for a pound down your local Blockbuster. How well this is being received by Iraqis is unknown, but if the hostile reception greeting American TV channels beamed into Iran is anything to go by, where the amount of swearing and violence has been met with public disgust and a certain can’t-rip-your-eyes-away awe, they are facing an uphill struggle.

Exporting the Christian-American ideal has always been problematic. The Bush administration has returned to Reagan’s idea of America as a “shining city on a hill”, its manifest destiny to led the world, export American values, moulding civilisation into the American way through hearts, minds, and if needs be, big pointy weapons. And the question that they fail to address is “What if they don’t want us?” Does America understand the countries it is “liberating”, or does it even want to understand them? When “democratising” means “make like America”, a culture so alien, so opposite to the one they are replacing, is it surprising that they find open hostility? Not that democracy is anywhere near close in Iraq - the current governing council being nothing but a talking shop while L Paul Bremer calls the shots.

The killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein only makes martyrs of them to their supporters, another concept that is alien to the Anglo-American value system - showing their bodies on TV not only gave focus for anger among their supporters but displayed breathtaking double standards after the outrage following the Iraqis showing American prisoners of war. And still the cultural divide - the photos were released late on a Thursday - there are no newspapers in Iraq on a Friday.

Despite what many commentators think, I still don’t think the policy of endless war following September 11th 2001 is solely about oil. The black stuff is a factor - witness the shameless promotion of oilmen into key administrative posts, and Halliburton subsidiaries into Iraqi oil contracts, there’s got to be something in it for all the money that’s being “invested” in the region. Yet one gets the feeling it is all one shameless diversion.

The Cold War - based on false assumptions of Soviet expansionism - ended in 1991, and now the Reds Under The Bed have been replaced by Mad Murdering Muslims. The current administration freely linked Iraq to 9/11 before the invasion, an accusation quietly dropped as the tanks rolled. Now, once again you can freely be denounced as un-American just for criticising the President. So, what was it called when the entire Republican Party was out to get Clinton over a spunk stain and a soggy cigar? And all the while, laws are passed “for our protection”, civil liberties are eroded “but you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve nothing to hide” and men in suits talk slowly and meaningfully in stage-managed press conferences repeating the lie enough times that it becomes the truth.

There’s still the hope that the lie will unravel, and despite all the media-spinning and the smokescreens in which media criticism is turned into government criticism of journalistic integrity to hide their own shortcomings, the truth behind this war will out. America may even get over the trauma of electing a stooge of the military-industrial complex, using aggressive foreign policy and ultra-patriotism to hide the fact that the domestic economy is melting around his ears. Fat chance of that though. The 2004 election results are held safely in a vault under the Pentagon, along with the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Where’s me tin-foil helmet?

“A frightened people losing dignity
The shadow of an island in their minds
While fools are bent on making history
With nothing gained, is this our destiny?

We ask is this some kind of victory?
Where is the dream, where is the sanity? “ - Killing Joke

(With thanks to Reporters Sans Frontiers for their help in writing this article)

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