Since World War II, wars of aggression have brought an odour of ill-repute to their perpetrators, since such wars are the crystallisation of all of the crimes wrought by the 20th Century's fascist regimes.
To that end, it is heartening to see, (in today's Age), that at least some people can think through the false distinctions between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Typically, the former is seen as the 'bad' war, a disaster, more or less, whilst the latter is 'good', and praised as a legitimate war of liberation. As I've argued elsewhere, the historical facts do not bear out this thesis, but this has not stopped the myth from circulating all the same. Simon Jenkins' article begins to question (all too gently, in my view), the standard propaganda:
Iraq is post-imperialism for fast learners, Afghanistan for slow ones.
While the concept of a benign outcome in Iraq is strictly for armchair crazies,
such an outcome remains received wisdom in Afghanistan. The British ambassador,
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is building himself an embassy to compare with
America's in Baghdad and has forecast a British military presence in the country
for 30 years. Brigadier John Lorimer in Helmand says he can suppress insurgency
in 10 years but will need "longer than 30" to establish good governance. Such
things were being said in Iraq until two years ago, when the body bags began to
A number of other interesting articles have emerged in recent days. In an article that provides a reasonably succinct beginner's introduction to modern US foreign policy, Der Spiegel reports that, last week, Washington officials announced a deal to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Saudi Arabians. This was met with consternation on the part of the much-maligned Europeans, such as German official, Karsten Voigt. 'The Islamic kingdom might be a US ally in name, but it wasn't "particularly democratic," said Voigt, and its oppressive family regime continued to be a fertile breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.' He added: 'The region is not suffering from a lack of arms, but from a lack of stability'. Who'd have thought?
Also on the receiving end of US military savoir-faire were those other bulwarks of Middle Eastern democracy, Egypt and Israel. In fairness, Israel is a legitimate democracy for the citizens under its aegis, at least, as long as those citizens are not Arabic Israelis, or, worse still, Arab Palestinians.
Naturally, these proponents of American capitalism, and sowers of peace and stability have good reasons for selling all these weapons, as:
[S]uch arms deals have a long tradition in Washington. "The enemy of my
enemy is my friend" was a maxim of several US governments during the Cold War.
Washington's foreign policy often sanctioned selling weapons to questionable
regimes promising to help contain the communist threat regardless of the
potential consequences... US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the
latest string of weapons deals during her recent diplomatic tour of the Middle
East. "We are determined to maintain the balances -- the military and strategic
balances -- within the region," she said.
It is refreshingly honest on Rice's part to drop any pretences of 'democracy-spreading' in her apologia. Obviously, the 'balance' of which Rice speaks is one tilted rather heavily in the direction of Washington's 'strategic' interests. On this form, the much-demonised Hugo Chavez (among others) is only behaving rationally when he attempts to increase his arms spending, and seek allies. History points to his people (among others) being liberated via bombs, or being massacred and mutilated by some new Contras.
Over in Iraq, the Coalition of the Drilling continues to win 'hearts and minds', by exerting direct influence (and indirect influence, by way of the Vichy-esque regime installed in the country) over Iraq's oil. Two-thirds of Iraqis, across religious, ethnic, and sectarian lines, want to see Iraq's oil retained under Iraqi control, and not 'opened up' on the ironically-titled 'free market' of the Western world. According to John Hilary, (inter alia) the Coalition itself has drafted the oil laws of Iraq, and the Iraqi government has been complicit in this 'democratic' takeover of its country's resources, by banning trade unions from participating in any debate over the laws. So there we have it - Iraq's future prosperity sacrificed at the altar of global (or in this instance, Western) capital, and the influence of unions completely shut down.
Of course, there remain those stragglers, those last few, degenerate imbeciles who have their doubts as to why 'the left' opposed the invasion of Iraq, and who continue to block their eyes and ears, and shout apologias for bloodshed. Surely, by now, ignorance can no longer be an excuse for the scales upon their eyes.
With that theme in mind, I was interested to read this piece by Neil Clark, calling for a reckoning of the pro-war 'liberal interventionists' and 'neoconservatives'. He writes from a UK perspective:
Both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition supported the Iraq war.
So too did their front benches. Tony Blair may have gone, but warmongers still
abound in the Palace of Westminster, with Iran next in their line of fire. And
in the media, pro-war commentators such as Nick Cohen, Niall Ferguson and
Melanie Phillips continue to impart their "wisdom" on international affairs as
if the humanitarian
catastrophe in Iraq had never happened.
The lesson for Australians should not be lost, as our 'opposition' and media differ from the British only in degree, rather than type. The humanitarian disaster of Iraq, with levels of bloodshed that nobody (other than vilified medicos) even bothers to count, with malnutrition at epidemic levels, and with infrastructure collapsed, are all obvious and entirely predictable consequences of war. This fact is ignored, as ever, by the likes of Sheridan and Bolt, for whom the invasion was a raving 'success'. One wonders what degree of annihilation would constitute failure for this cheersquad of brutality.
It ought to have been obvious, really, that war is a bloody thing, leading to many of the 'unintended consequences' that so-called conservatives like to warn us about. The occupiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is portrayed almost as nothing more than affable nightclub bouncers, tossing out the riff raff on behalf of patrons. If one were to take this delusional view of occupation and apply it, say, to Russia's involvement in Chechnya, or to China's in Tibet, one would shunned as a dribbling idiot. Our victims are unnamed, and unnumbered, and to compare their suffering to that experienced by invaded, occupied peoples elsewhere in the world is to invite allegations of 'moral relativism'.
Perhaps Fukuyama, (always more idiot than savant), was right after all, and we have reached a kind of Hegelian 'end of history'. Everything is 'relative', even as regards death and destruction. The 'sublated' exception, of course, is the Coalition, which has apparently evolved through the various stages of spirit, and whose will and dictates now constitute das Absolut.