Fifth year in Iraq

To commemorate Year 5 of the Iraq vanity war, everybody seems to be publishing a retrospective. These two posts are what we wrote on March 17 and 18, 2003:

Monday, March 17, 2003

The WP headline reads: Baghdad Panicky as War Seems Imminent and the first graf reads:

"People cleared stores of bottled water and canned food, converted sacks of Iraqi currency into dollars and waited in long queues for gasoline. Merchants fearful of looting emptied their stores of electronics and designer clothing, while soldiers intensified work on trenches and removed sensitive files from government buildings. Cars stuffed with people and household possessions drove out of the city."

Surely there must be a mistake. Isn't it the Washington Post that has insisted for over a year that Iraqis will greet American soldiers with flowers? I imagine they are simply stocking up on those essential items now, before their streets, buildings, florist shops, kids and pets are flattened by liberating American bombs. It is so hard, climbing through the rubble, to find good orchids.

This weekend we listened to a call in show -- yes, we are going crazy -- about the war. A woman called in and commented that she supported it. She remarked that the government needs to keep us secure from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. She said that 9/11 proved this.

She seemed like a reasonable American citizen. She wasn't bloodthirsty. There is a standard comment that floats around about this time to the effect that no one wants war. Of course that is nonsense. The Bush administration has wanted war since early 2002. But this woman didn't strike me as the warmongering type. The host of the show was resolutely anti-war. But, as is the case with so many anti-war people, he asked her questions about the morality of killing people. He asked her, in other words, about justifying the war morally. This, we think, is merely doing the devil's work for him. The case against the war doesn't begin with the morality of war in general. It begins with looking at the justification of this war in particular. Remarks like this woman's are simply passed off as [obvious]. This P.O.V. has been released into the American system for a year by the media and the government, to devastating effect. The goal of propaganda is to make you believe what you are told instead of what you see. Here is what we have seen. We have seen two giant structures, two skyscrapers, collapse. We have seen around 3 000 people killed. And we have seen the Weapon of mass destruction that did it. It was two jet airliners. And we have discovered how they did it -- they were hijacked by men bearing boxcutters. We have seen this, and we have decided not to believe it. We have decided, instead, to believe we are threatened by secret weapons stockpiled in secret places that only the U.S. seems to know about. We have decided that Saddam Hussein is not only our enemy, but a threat that requires the deployment of 200,000 troops, the shock and awe of 3,000 missiles, and a conflict that will, according to all accounts, be extended to a two year occupation of Iraq.

The 19 hijackers cost around 1 million dollars, to wine, dine, and train. If our new doctrine is that American security over-rides international law, let's forget the Weapons of Mass Destruction excuse. Any country that is both hostile to the United States and can cough up 1 million dollars is, according to this doctrine, justifiably a target.

This is madness. It is blindness. This war will not end when the press expects it to end, will be paid for out of the skin of the Iraqi people, will destroy the few shoots of civil society that exist in Northern Iraq, will entail an occupation that can only be a temptation, an overwhelming temptation, to the periodic staging of guerilla attacks, and, no doubt, the politiicization of those attacks as the Republicans try to jingo their way to re-election in 2004. The war is a crime, the excuses a sham, the warmongers a junta bound together by bad intents, and led by a man of outstanding ignorance. This is, I think, the beginning of a very bad cycle.

"It may easily be observed," wrote David Hume, "that, though free governments have been commonly the most happy for those who partake of their freedom; yet are they the most ruinous and oppressive to their provinces: And this observation may, I believe, be fixed as a maxim of the kind we are here speaking of. When a monarch extends his dominions by conquest, he soon learns to consider his old and his new subjects as on the same footing; because, in reality, all his subjects are to him the same, except the few friends and favourites, with whom he is personally acquainted. He does not, therefore, make any distinction between them in his general laws; and, at the same time, is careful to prevent all particular acts of oppression on the one as well as on the other. But a free state necessarily makes a great distinction, and must always do so, till men learn to love their neighbours as well as themselves."

Goodnight David. Goodnight ladies. Goodnight sweet ladies. Good night.

March 18, 2003
As I've said before in a previous post, I can only retain my sanity in these maddening times by using second hearing -- which is rather like second sight, except that it goes backwards. I've been hearing the War through Burke -- but Bush's address last night overwhelmed the rather ornate and beautiful structures of Burke's thought. One needs something more scabrous. I looked up a piece Swift wrote, on the art of political lying.

In that Swiftian way, he begins by admiring the devil for inventing the lie, but then registers an objection: the devil's lies, as is often the case with the initial run of a product, were full of glitches. Luckily, man has added an infinite amount of features to the devil's machine, making it much more useful for all ocassions And among the most useful of those occasions is the government of man, herds of which can be entranced by very simple lies, sworn to vehemently by a bunch of cut-throats who are otherwise known as "men of peace," "presidents," "undersecretaries of defense," "editiorial writers" and such others (known, since school days, to be lackies, taletellers, cheats, braggarts and snobs) who are attracted to power but who lack the courage to assault the innocent in the street by night; and so, to the temproary applause of the cowed populace, devise mass murders in their offices by day. About the political lie Swift has this to say:

"But the same genealogy cannot always be admitted for political lying; I shall therefore desire to refine upon it, by adding some circumstances of its birth and parents. A political lie is sometimes born out of a discarded statesman's head, and thence delivered to be nursed and dandled by a rabble. Sometimes it is pronounced a monster, and licked into shape: at other times it comes into the world completely formed, and is spoiled in the licking. It is often born an infant in the regular way, and requires time to mature it; and often it sees the light in its full growth, but dwindles away by degrees. Sometimes it is of noble birth, and sometimes the spawn of a stock-jobber. Here it screams aloud at the opening of the womb, and there it is delivered with a whisper. I know a lie that now disturbs half the kingdom with its noise, which, although too proud and great at present to own its parents, I can remember its whisperhood. To conclude the nativity of this monster; when it comes into the world without a sting it is stillborn; and whenever it loses its sting it dies.

No wonder if an infant so miraculous in its birth should be destined for great adventures; and accordingly we see it has been the guardian spirit of a prevailing party[2] for almost 20 years. It can conquer kingdoms without fighting, and sometimes with the loss of battle. It gives and resumes employments; can sink a mountain to a mole-hill, and raise a mole-hill to a mountain: has presided for many years at committees of elections; can make a saint of an atheist, and a patriot of a profligate; can furnish foreign ministers with intelligence, and raise or let fall the credit of the nation. This goddess flies with a huge looking-glass in her hands, to dazzle the crowd, and make them see, according as she turns it, their ruin in their interest, and their interest in their ruin. In this glass you will behold your best friends, clad in coats powdered with fleurs de Us and triple crowns; their girdles hung round with chains, and beads, and wooden shoes; and your worst enemies adorned with the ensigns of liberty, property, indulgence, moderation, and a cornucopia in their hands. Her large wings, like those of a flying-fish, are of no use but while they were moist; she therefore dips them in mud, and, soaring aloft, scatters it in the eyes of the multitude, flying with great swiftness; but at every turn is forced to stoop in dirty ways for new supplies."

But what am I doing? This is not satire, but pure fact, and as such surely seditious, in the best traditions of our wondrous attorney general.

Storm, clouds, and crack your cheeks.