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Thursday, October 06, 2005

an evening redness in Iraq

Following up on LI’s last post, about miracles, there is a story in the Guardian today that begins with a sentence that could have been ripped from the Victorian book of prejudices:

“Italy remains a profoundly superstitious country and there was uproar recently when a group of scientists queried a religious rite in Naples in which the dried blood of a saint beheaded in AD305 "miraculously" liquefies.”

Ah, those superstitious Italians, always being fooled by the priestly caste. The superstition in question is the famous transformation of a liquid in two vials in Naples into blood on the Feast of San Gennaro:

“This time, members of the Italian Committee for the Investigation of the Paranormal (Cicap) have said the red-coloured contents are a thixotropic substance, based on iron chloride. This means that it liquefies when stirred or vibrated and returns to solid form when left to stand. According to Cicap, the substance was probably stumbled upon by an alchemist or a painter in medieval times.
Attempts to explode the myth about Naples' much-loved patron saint has however, reignited the debate about science versus faith in Italy.

Members of Cicap, who include Umberto Eco and two winners of the Nobel Prize, have been accused of trying to undermine the religious beliefs of the dwindling numbers of the faithful. They have also been called spoilsports and compared to magicians who reveal their tricks.”

Compare this story (funny foreigners will believe anything!) with the headline story, in which the funny, credulous PM proclaims that Iran is importing weapons into Iraq. Of course, this isn’t superstition – this is merely lying to buttress a shabby imperial venture that is falling apart. The PM’s proclamation comes after a meeting with the favorite Iraqi government official, Jalal Talabani, the for show liberal secularist for foreign consumption. Far more interesting would have been a meeting with Iraq’s PM, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, whose first act was to go to Teheran and apologize profusely for the Iraq-Iranian war.

The deep level of the press’s complicity and ignorance regarding the Iraqi debacle is shown by the way in which stories like this are simply shoved down the chute, instead of provoking the question: why would Iran try to destabilize a state headed by a group Iran nurtured for twenty years? Hasn’t the very government that British soldiers are fighting to protect, the “democratically elected” Iraqi government, said over and over again that it wants a military alliance with Iran? What part of that doesn’t the PM get?

As we have repeated ad nauseam, the policy of Double Containment was one of the chief causes that Saddam Hussein retained power in Iraq during the nineties. The policy is being retained by the ever superstitious British, who obviously believe in miracles much more harmful than a little redness showing up in two vials on San Gennaro’s feast day. There’s a whole lotta redness showing up on the streets and fields of Iraq, and no magic wand will transform it into the blood of liberation.


Paul craddick said...


Your pen was spilling purple ink at the end there ...

I think I get it: we take sides with whichever Iraqi politician talks the talk that we believe - or would like to believe - is the case.

What you seem to be suggesting is a strange non-sequitur. The fact that al-Jaafari has been keen to establish congenial relations with Tehran doesn't argue for taking seriously his denials of any Iranian-sponsored mischief (or mayhem) in Iraq.

As to what you or I believe ... one can't help but have an opinion, perhaps, but your categorical insistence that Blair is prevaricating is a judgment that far exceeds your competence. You seem to want to skirt the small matter of evidence by posing "a-priori"-style rhetorical questions which aren't telling; not least because they assume a homogeneous and "rational" Iranian strategy, and imply a fanciful reading of the political fortunes of the Dawa party.

roger said...

Paul, obviously, if one has to judge by some omniscient standard, one can judge neither Blair's assertion nor the Iraqi P.M.'s denial. Of course, usually in these cases, we believe the leader of the country that is supposedly being attacked, n'est-ce pas? It would be rather bizarre if, say, Britain insisted the U.S. was being attacked by Canadians, and the U.S. President said we weren't.

Who would you believe in that case?

As for Blair's credibility --well, in my opinion we can nave a pretty rational sense of how far Blair will distort the truth to get his way. Let's put it in terms that we do know. We know that the attacks on the British in Basra stem mainly from groups associated with Sadr, and we know Sadr's strong suit is his anti-Iranian rhetoric. And we know who is attached to Iran in Iraq -- Sciri. If your idea is that Sciri and Dawa, both very openly friendly to Iran, are being targeted in a double game by Iran, which has bizarrely chosen to arm paramilitaries that attack Shi'ite areas, I'd have to say that the evidence for this claim better be immaculate. But, until the immaculate chain of evidence is delivered by Blair, probability tells heavily against that chronic prevaricator. If anything, Iranian interference is copacetic with the use of American forces as shock troops to establish a Shi'ite theocracy in Iraq.

The one area where it is credible that Iran would be arming paramilitaries unfriendly to the Iraqi government is in Northern Iraq, which is precisely where there are no british soldiers.

Paul craddick said...

"It would be rather bizarre if, say, Britain insisted the U.S. was being attacked by Canadians, and the U.S. President said we weren't."

This won't do, Roger. The case you lay out would be bizarre indeed - unless the British had troops garrisoned in, say, Michigan, and the Canadian attacks were on British Troops. Under that scenario - parallel to the case at-issue here - there certainly is no presumption in favor of the opinion of the "leader" of the country. And, anyhow, the "leadership" of Iraq does not speak with one voice on this matter - on your reasoning, the testimony of Talabani has to be factored in to the mix.

Furthermore, while it's not telling, by any means, neither is it irrelevant that al-Jaafari is a friend to Tehran. He may be dissembling, or in denial. In fact, it's not clear how to identify exactly what kind of a judgment is involved here. What has been alleged, publicly, is that the munitions used are of the type that the Iranians provide to Hizbollah. There are aspects of deduction and identification at work here - both of which may elude the specific competence of al-Jaafari.

You'll have to say more about Blair's alleged untrustworthiness. I think I know what you mean .. He's such a good deceiver about, say, Saddam's likely possession of WMD and the threat(s) entailed thereby that he tricked Paddy Ashdown into recording in the latter's memoirs that back in '97/'98 Blair had expressed grave concern about those issues! He foresaw back then that one day he'd have a ranch-hand dunce as his counterpart in the big, bad U.S. with whom he could co-fabulate about such matters, cooking the books for a little imperialism on the cheap (the Chicago '99 speech was another instance of such prescience). And he's such an adept fibber that he hoodwinked the Butler and Hutton enquiries.

You lost me with your last point about the North ... the supposition of Iranian interference is predicated on their desire to harm the occupier, especially in their preferred sphere of influence (the Shia south).

roger said...

Last things first: The Kurds are being persecuted in Iran at the moment. That is why, if Iran wants to interfere, it would interfere there.

As for the weapons being traced to Hexbollah -- well, no surprise there. Dawa worked with Hezbollah in the eighties.

More interesting is the interminable collapse of the legitimacy of the occupation. Who, exactly, is Britain fighting for? Either the Iraqi government, after that there purple revolution, is sovereign and can make friends with Iran (and cry if it wants to), or the purple revolution was a farce and the occupation is treating Iraq the way Putin treated the Ukraine, as a convenient facade for its own interests. In the latter case, I'm sure you will agree that insurgency is justified. However, I think the anger at Iran is more sore loser type of talk -- in the next two, three years, Iran is definitely the winner in the North Gulf region. As for showhorse Talabani, I noticed that he said nothing to confirm Blair's statements. And I also noticed that only he is quoted in the Washington Post. Heaven's, wonder why.

If you are going to start defending New Labour's probity, well, what can I say? Soon you are going to be quoting Polly Toynbee.

Paul craddick said...

Heh. Not likely.

I'm no fan of "New Labour" (though I do sympathize, to a point, with a group that is formally committed to the welfare state having to dismantle it by stealth).

I thought you were alluding to alleged deceptions, on Blair's part, vis-a-vis Saddam specifically - my mistake.