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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Monday, December 19, 2005

five points about iraq

To understand what is happening in Iraq through the medium of the American press is much like estimating the height of a distant mountain through a heavy fog. But sometimes the fog lifts. This election, for instance, has thrown a startling, and no doubt ephemeral, contrast between the agencies of projection – the media, the D.C. clique, and the Snopes cocoon - and reality. The NYT today, which had based its delusional reporting on John Burns’ paen to the latent Americophilia in the Baghdad streets on election day and an account, echoing an account in the WP, of an obscure secularist candidate in Basra to which reporters had been herded, no doubt, by U.S. army spokesman, now gives us this hilarious phrase:
“What was also apparent was the staunchly religious nature of the electorate, in a country that many experts had proclaimed before the American-led invasion to have a large secular middle class.”

Ah, the passivity of experts, and the coyness of reporters. The machine has written, and having written, passes on.

Still, for that vast, vast minority that actually pays attention, a few things to note.

1. The election was proceeded by the publication of a poll, conducted by the Oxford Research Institute and supported by the BBC, ABC, etc. The poll was much discussed on the blogs. LI thought that the poll vastly overcounted one segment of the Iraqi population – that “large secular middle class.” Well, LI can gleefully say we were right. The ORI poll isn’t even within shooting distance of the results. While that seems a small and parochial thing, it indicates a large and non-parochial matter – the American press, and the American political establishment, simply can’t penetrate to or establish any relationship to an Iraqi populace that, at the moment, is undergoing incipient civil war plus incipient Great Depression. If Iraq really is suffering a rate of unemployment of 60%, the underlying and real American policy towards Iraq – privatize the oil – is a pipe dream. It is not only a pipe dream, but it is being pursued by means that are blowing up in our face.
2. The neurotic pattern for discussing this war is to ignore these moments of clarity and delve, infinitely, into the American cocoon. That is why the hot issue remains the invasion itself, instead of the occupation. LI was opposed to the invasion, but our opposition was not based on what was good for Iraq. It was based on what was good for America. It was good for Iraq that Saddam Hussein fall – that was obvious, and has been obvious. It would have been good for Iraq that Saddam Hussein be captured by Iraqi partisans and be given the Mussolini treatment.
3. However, what was bad for Iraq from the getgo, and is now a disaster for America, was acceding to the imperialist impulse and occupying a country that could handle its own affairs better than any foreign proconsul could. Immediate elections, a cancellation of Iraqi debt and war reparations, and withdrawal of the Coalition forces by the end of 2003 – that would have been the wisest course for both parties.
4. We know how Iraq has suffered due to American incompetence and war crimes. But take a look, for a second, at how American interest has suffered. American interest can’t be to liberalize and seize the oil sources in the Middle East – that will lead to less oil, for one thing, as oil becomes a victim to violence. American interest should be to stabilize the Middle East to the extent that two of the region’s main players, Iran and Israel, come to some non-hostile accord. Instead, this happened: just as the Iranian revolution led to a surge in Islamic fundamentalist violence throughout the region, the American incubation of Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq has been the predictor of the hard line victory in Iran. First Basra, then Teheran – that is the structural logic here. It is, of course, not even seen by Americans who think the world is watching American Idol with breathless anticipation. The world isn’t.
5. To those who think that it is good that America loses in the Middle East, I would ask who bears the cost of that loss. True, American prestige is probably fated to either diminish or transform as time goes on – this is what happens to debt-ridden empires. But American power is a wild card, and simply baiting it is a game in which other people – millions of people – are hurt. And, frankly, living inside the Behemoth, I have no desire for the Behemoth to be scattered to the winds. Jeremiah was ascetic enough to like living in the well into which he’d been thrown – but yours truly likes his trips to Whole Foods. The idea that American losses under Bush give us room to jibe at Bush is, well, a contagious infantile disorder. There is more going on here than sticking it to the retarded Texan. American narcissism knows no ideological boundaries.

PS - those who like their news from Iraq to be all happy and pro-war might be interested in this column in the New York Sun -- which is somewhat to the right of the NYPost -- written by one of those adorable Iraqi bloggers cultivated by the Neocon crowd. Lovely stuff like this:

"Iran's mullahs, who are increasingly getting belligerent across the board, pulled off a coup in Baghdad right under the very noses of the United States."

We also liked the comment about Sistani being a communist. Wow, and I thought the Iraqi communists, solidly supporting Allawi, were proof positive of the new, democratic wave sweeping through the Middle East! I guess it is time for the old switcheroo, and bringing out the commie menace card. We are menaced by the commies that we are fighting for... A little confusing, no? I'm just so... surprised that Chalabi has a constituency of 0.00001 percent in Iraq, when it comes down to it. Gee, besides having guessed it in almost every post I've ever written about Iraq, I gotta say: who coulda guessed it? Especially as the NYT and the Washington Post have featured him with a monomaniacal intensity every time they talk about the political leadership of Iraq. How to put the whole ridiculousness of that? It is as if one were to include a discussion of Jerry Brown in every article about the political leadership of the U.S.


Jay said...

Hi I'm looking for info on something for work and found your blog. Nice site interesting post

Brian Miller said...

Unofortunately, roger, you have no choice but to live with what we have sown. For one thing, I don't think we can blame Bush, or the GOP, or a minority of the executive class. The American People LOVES being lied to and believing myths. 40% of the population STILL support the war in Iraq.

roger said...

Jay, I'm glad you found this site! A word of warning: Oneclick books do shuffle money to terrorist groups in Iraq. They are on several watch lists, and if you even click on their site, you are liable to be visited by the FBI, the CIA, Dick Cheney (disguised as a fuller brush salesman) and various members of the Texas House delegation.

So remember: Oneclick books will lead directly to your arrest, your extradition to Egypt, and electrodes being attached to your genitals. Don't go there, for the sake of the kids.

roger said...

Brian, I agree with you up to a point. But I think we are always sowing. The structures of the given aren't necessarily unalterable. Even that 40 percent is not sending their kids to Iraq.

But... I admit I am more depressed about the situation in the Middle East than I was last year. I think the movement towards a very right wing Islamism is a depressing phenomenon. It is one of the results of the occupation, and, as much as I understand its attraction, it is generally a very bad thing: bad for human rights, bad economically (like conservative Christians, conservative Islamists favor neo-liberalist policy-- the man who is the biggest advocate of privatizing Iraq's oil industry is one of the Badr Brigade leaders), and bad, of course, for all kinds of social reasons.

Although I despise the skew given to the elections by the NYT and by the WP, I would have preferred a stronger showing by the murderous Allawi and the felonious Chalabi -- since those two seem to be the pillars of the secular opening in Iraq. My first, but impossible, preference would be that the neocons were serious about civil society in Iraq and had protested vigorously in 2003 against associating civil society values with criminals who delegitimate them in Iraqi society -- who would, in short, have denouced Chalabi and Allawi. But that didn't happen, partly because neoconnery is a sham, with no large political conceptions at all, and especially no sense of what makes for political legitimacy, and what destroys it -- hence, the neocons love of the useful lie.

Brian Miller said...

This was kinda interesting, roger. We've been cozying up, even facilitating the creation of the monstrous force (and as a secular cosomopolitan, I most definitely feel that conservative Islam is a monstrous force)that bedevils us now from the beginning. Our "realpolitic" always reaches back and bites us.

I admire Ike to this day. I wonder what he would say about our current situations, which in some ways he helped create???