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Sunday, February 08, 2004

ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT TRIES TO CLAIM IRAQ SUCCESS FOR ITSELF Well I suppose this was just waiting to happen, but it appears there are the first signs that the doves are trying to claim a potential success in democracy building in Iraq for themselves. The Normblogger links to a piece in the Nation by Naomi Klein, she of No Logo fame, which outlines what direction the campaign of arguments might take. (Also don’t miss this fantastic posting.) The general gist of her argument seems to be that with all the lies, that were falsely presented as reasons for going to war, exposed as such, the anti-war movement should utilise the lie of democratisation to force the Bushies into really democratising Iraq. Well, I'm not sure all of this was lies or just a one-sided sales-pitch, as sales-pitches tend to be, and it's not like the anti-war crowd normally presented itself in a balanced fashion by carefully weighing the pros and cons of taking action either. I'm not trying to exonerate our governments from the charge of lying yet but I think we need to put into perspective why they lied. They lied, because the real reason could not be sold in either diplomatic or public relations terms. As Thomas Friedman put it:

The real reason for this war-which was never stated-was to burst what I would call the "terrorism bubble," which had built up during the 1990s.
This bubble was a dangerous fantasy, believed by way too many people in the Middle East. This bubble said that it was OK to plow airplanes into the World Trade Center, commit suicide in Israeli pizza parlors, praise people who do these things as "martyrs," and donate money to them through religious charities. This bubble had to be burst, and the only way to do it was to go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something-to let everyone know that we, too, are ready to fight and die to preserve our open society.

Personally I don't buy this in full, but I'm convinced Blair, Bush and their allies and advisers did. And it certainly worked on the psychological level. For example, public support for military action against Saddam shot up in Australia and Britain after the Bali bomb, which on the surface wasn't connected to Saddam. To make it clear, I believe it was a mistake not to state this as the reason, perhaps couched in more diplomatic language, but our leaders did what they did, and under the circumstances it was probably the next-best thing. (If you need to be reminded of how you felt back in September 2001, I found this, found via Medienkritik, pushed all the relevant buttons for me.)
But I digress, now to Mrs Klein. I can see where she's coming from. The best argument in favour of any given policy, including military intervention, is success. All the big failures the doves were expecting have so far failed to materialise so it's quite understandable that they might try and find a way in which they can then claim the success somehow as their own. I know, it hurts to have been wrong, especially on such a big issue, but wouldn’t it be more appropriate to admit to one’s failings and move on from there?
I mean, I'm perfectly willing to accept that the wmd issue was hyped up and evidence proving their non-existence ignored by our governments. On the other hand that's presumably a little easier for me than for Tony Blair for example, because for me the actual possession of wmds was a secondary issue. No, that's perhaps not quite right. In fact for me it worked the other way round: the greater my doubts about the presence of wmds in Saddam's hands became, the more pro-war I became. The reasoning behind that was fairly simple and I wouldn't be surprised if that's what many people in government though as well: Saddam plus wmds - not good, must be stopped - topple him; toppling him when he has wmds – oh no, do we really need to?; toppling him when he hasn't got the actual weapons yet – yes, yes, yes. The hyped up argument over wmds was primarily to scare parts of the public into supporting the intervention and because Blair insisted on going the UN route which was only possible through the actual existence of banned weapons, rather than the possibility. Quite obviously deposing an unarmed Saddam was better than waiting until he was armed and consequently an invasion would become too bloody to contemplate under any circumstance except for desperate national defence. The result would have been to leave the Iraqis suffering under Saddam and then his psychopathic sons, an option I don't think decent people could have welcomed. But I'll leave this debate for now.
I've just realised this is already quite a long post, when in fact I only wanted to make some rather silly points about Naomi Klein's argumentative structure. Let's think about some alternative applications of Klein's logic. Perhaps we hawks should start getting tough on our governments to put into reality the "lies" with which they so cunningly "tricked" us. Why not call on them to go and plant some fake Iraq "weapon of mass destruction" somewhere in Iraq? Why not stage a capture of "bin Laden" in the spider-hole next door to Saddam's? Why the possibilities would be endless. And why stop there? Why don't we try and argue that the anti-war movement start faking and staging all the big catastrophes they predicted, such as hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of dead Iraqis due to bombing and starvation? What fun arguments we could have. Or alternatively, we could all just admit that some of our predictions were inaccurate, some were outright wrong and some are hard to prove beyond doubt.
Anyhows, I've gone on for far too long already. Have a nice Sunday

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