22 February 2011

Lest we not forget

I never thought this was really a powerful motivating feature for why we invaded Iraq. Perhaps it was, and perhaps it remains clouded from me because I felt it was probably a lie at the time, and really a useless diversion away from a more pragmatic and honest explanation; something on the lines of "we, the American government, feel Saddam Hussein is deserving only of dethronement and death, and submit this course of action to you, the American people".

This explanation alone probably could have sold many people in the wake of 9-11's overly simplistic neo-conservative explanations for the machinations of terrorist plots. I feel it probably did, simply because many people have abandoned the weapons of mass destruction prospects years ago, but some have clung to associating Saddam with 9-11. A proposition which made even less sense to me than the WMD claims, which he did at least use the chemical weapons we gave him against Iran. Nevertheless, we arrive now at the point where people are willing to admit that the overriding factor, the real desire, was the desire to depose (and probably kill) a reigning tyrant. I feel no sympathy for the Saddam regime, and no great sorrow that he is gone.

But the Iraqi people suffer regardless because we went into this war with the false show that somehow this liberation would matter to them, that they would know how to build stable unified institutions that are the hallmarks of a liberal democracy and oh by the way, there were these mythical bombs and anthrax factories out in the desert. Somehow in the haste to kill one man, and maybe a few others, we sort of forget to mention that there was a country we were bombing, invading, occupying, rebuilding, and rearming. That this has always been a project undertaken both in stable quasi-western republics (Germany, Korea, Japan), and still lasting years, seemed to have escaped notice.

And in retrospect, this is probably because many people convinced themselves, at least temporarily, that we were invading because if we did not some mushroom clouds, or maybe just some poisonous mushrooms, would show up in an American city near you. Fear kind of blocks out the ability to look at things critically.

I don't begrudge "Curveball" for taking the opportunity to take advantage of American fear and a mutual hatred of the Iraqi regime to potentially benefit himself, and perhaps misguidedly thinking his people would also benefit (after all, it's not his fault the Americans subsequently carried out the invasion-occupation elements incompetently but the toppling Saddam part went swimmingly).

The fact that there were not leaders, elected or appointed by Americans, to make even partly clear-headed thoughts regarding foreign policy strikes me as a little bit of a problem. The departure of Obama from Bush is pretty slim in terms of actual policies being pursued (particularly the Bush that deviated from the Cheney-Rumsfeld playbook after 2006), but the one thing I do get from them is that these policies are being pursued with a much greater icy calm. I don't think that makes them any better, but it at least gives me some optimism that someone somewhere could explain that they are wrong and receive an honest hearing instead of being told to manufacture evidence supporting a pre-conceived notion. Or to fuck off.
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