Friday, November 24, 2006

Superficiality of the US debate suggests a worse catastrophe could be coming

Al-Hayat printed yesterday (Thursday November 23) an opinion piece whose argument goes like this:

Everyone recognizes that the Iraq policy was based on lies (AlQaeda, WMD and so on), but what is now under discussion is merely how to extricate the troops, and not the formation of a policy freed from those lies.

In fact there is another swindle going on, namely that lying and lawbreaking of the type that the Bush administration indulged in is nothing more than what you can see in the Dirty Harry pictures where the heroic detective breaks the law in order to catch the criminal. (In this case, in order to replace dictatorship with democracy).

Not only that. As befits a great nation with an intellectual infrastructure, the lies are anchored to a quasi-scientific set of arguments. (Terrorists are bred and thrive mainly because they live under dictatorial regimes, etcetera) . Naturally there isn't any point in refuting these assumptions and arguments, because their proponents don't let reality bother them. We know that AlQaeda came to Iraq with the occupation and achieved unprecedented expansion thereafter, but that doesn't matter.

And then suddenly and without prior warning or justification, the great nation then shifted to a polarizing, cold-war model, justifying its alliance with any regime, of any character whatsoever, based only on its contribution to the "war on terror". The enemy are "nazis and fascists", and the war against them is a world-wide affair. And this wasn't just some momentary reaction to a threat, which would naturally lack a certain degree of precision. Rather, his was a deliberately created framework usable to justify any number of things, just as you would expect in a world war against naziism and fascism.

So what started as a story of toppling a dictator in order to fight terror, became a story of the "war on terror" justifying alliances with dictators.

What makes this more than just another irritating piece of doubletalk is the fact that the US continues its efforts to topple regimes it doesn't like on the basis they lack democracy and foster corruption, even at the very time when occupied Iraq is making its mark in the world-corruption league-tables.

[The argument so far: US policy is based on no consistent foundation at all. It is a shifting structure of quasi-scientific gibberish, for instance on the "roots of terror in dictatorships"; mixed with world-war grade propaganda. These are the foundations of existing policy, if you can call them that. And now, with all the talk about new directions and new policies, and so on, what do you get].

If you need someone to propound new policies without any critique of the old, without conscience, and without even any reference to coherence in logic or in morality, you have just the man: Henry Kissinger. This pupil of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss doesn't see the need for coherence of any kind when the aim is to crush the enemy.

Going through the LA Times interview linked to, you can pile up the inconsistencies and the instances of gibberish. But what is really the most extraordinary part of this, is the failure to ask him: If your world involves the choice between either stability or democracy, how is it possible you support a war that brought about neither democracy nor stability? Putting it another way, Kissinger says the US should have concentrated on fighting Islamic jihadi fundamentalists instead of holding elections, failing to recall the fact that there weren't Islamic jihadi fundamentalists in Iraq to fight until the US troops arrived. And when Kissinger says the US should have immediately installed a military strongman instead of promoting elections, [the mind boggles]. Then there are his thoughts on promoting federalism and the involvement of neighboring countries. Public opinion in Israel and the US thinks all the US needs to do is express its needs and Syria and Iran will comply. Which however is not the generally accepted view in those countries.

America, which has failed in Iraq, now demands proof of good intentions from Syria and Iran, which until very recently American planned to subject to the same fate as Iraq. Clearly what is in question is the good intentions of America, not Syria and Iran.

In times like these, you naturally get a proliferation of committees, for instance one in the Pentagon and another emanating from Congress. Some are for taking the hit and withdrawing. Some are for another military push and then a gradual withdrawal. Some are for confederalism with the assistance of neighboring countries. Some are for not involving the neighboring countries. And for each there are the pros and cons. In all of this,

There is no guarantee that the result will not be catastrophic just as was the result of the discussions preceeding the 2003 attack, and the dissolution of the [Iraqi] army, and the dissolution of the [Iraqi] state, and the opening up of the gates of hell for the destruction of the country.
And the American papers are swarming with discussions of this and interpretative efforts, given the escalation in the vehemence of the opposition and of the sectarian violence and that of the occupation troops.
In fact the only thing that is diminishing in all of this is common sense: The common sense to realize that 40% of Iraqis live in what are called mixed areas of Shiites and Sunni, and to realize that separation will mean massive slaughter and migrations.
And yet: Kissinger lives on, with his interviews and his advice to presidents.

The author of this opinion piece is Azmi Bishara, who if I am not mistaken is the same Azmi Bishara who is a Palestinian Israeli and a member of the Knesset, and author of books on the histories of Jewish and Arab philosophy and other topics.

At risk of ruining a good read with unnecessary comments, I would like to mention something. One of Bishara's points is that the whole American debate is dishonest because it is limited to extricating America from a situation, while continuing to leave unexamined and uncritiqued the propaganda and the quasi-science that got them there. If you did that examination and that critique, what would you come up with? Maybe that is a secondary question. Maybe he's right and the only point worth making right now is that since basic attitudes in Washington haven't changed, there is a real risk this could turn into an even bigger catastrophe than people can currently imagine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the above is very interesting, it, with due respect, is ‘old hat’. There have been untold numbers of articles, especially on blogs, about the false reasons for the invasion of Iraq. Given that the governments of American, Britain, Spain, Italy, etc. fabricated reasons for the invasion, it is still nearly impossible to find analysis of what the “real reason” was for the invasion. We know why those governments did not invade; we still do not know why they did invade.

To my mind, the invasion and the persistence can be explained in one word OIL. Recent articles in Asia Times On Line discuss the increasing challenge that Russian and China are making to US/Britain Oil in the world market and the implications that has for the US dollar.

We have to stop talking about the Lies and get on with the Whys, if we are going to be able to affect change.

6:52 AM  
Blogger badger said...

anonymous, I think you might have missed something. Bishara's point wasn't to rehash the lies of 2003 the present. It was to point out that in the current discussions about "new directions" and so on, the basic assumptions are the same as they were in 2003, namely that the US can manipulate the political structure of Iraq to its liking. There will be new lies and there could be a new catastrophe (partition). This is not old hat, my friend.

11:31 AM  
Blogger tribalecho said...

Badger, I'm lovin' your blog. I discovered it awhile back but it got forgotten in my ever expanding, already substantial ME bookmarks. But now your on my prime time. Thanks.

10:23 AM  

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