I hadnt intended to write what follows, but I did. Alas. In all its late-night incoherent screedy screediness, here it is. Warning: I am too tired to edit, let alone spellcheck.
Happy fun merry tot-related parade news tomorrow. Promise!
Okay, gear up. En garde.
I got a letter today from a fellow who was one of the more gentle critics of my position on the Iraq war always a welcome break from the stuff that accuses me of being paid by the Bushitler-Rethuglican-Murdock-Fox-Zionist Christocracy, or words to that effect. The gist was this: of course Bush isnt like the Nazis, but . . Oh, my molars ache when I hit the BUT. This letter was occasioned by my mention in the Bleat than I'm watching the "World at War" documentary; the emailer wanted to point out the similiarities between then and now. Specificially Adoph and Dubya. Bad idea. Right now I'm steeped in the details of the horrors of WW2, of the wretched consequences of fascist aggression. I'm in no mood for the equivocating BUT. Nevertheless: the emailer said a war of aggression is a war of aggression, and whats the difference between taking Frances art and champagne and taking Iraqs antiquities and oil?
As the old salad-dressing commercial might have said: Ten French Derrida-schooled Marxist deconstructionist chefs say: no deeferance!
What I found fascinating was the assertion stated as a common fact, known to all that the US emptied Iraqs museums, and glugs Iraqi crude into Texaco tankers as we speak. As Mark Twain so memorably said: its not what people know that gets them in trouble, its what they pick up from the comments section of indymedia sites. It took me about 45 seconds of googling to come up with a long, boring press release from the IMF about the disposition of Iraqi oil revenues. Theyre audited by the international community in accord with a UN resolution. How did that happen? How did a Unilateralist Cowboy War for Oil fumble the ball at the goal line? Perhaps the UN threatened to deploy Crack French Bureaucrats who'd unleash the indifferent shrug and the chastening frown. No! Not the lowered eyebrows! Anything but that! Here take the oil money, all of it! Anything but a facial manifestation of Gallic disapproval!
It doesnt surprise me. I would have been surprised if the administration had said they were diverting Iraqi oil revenues to pay for American war costs, just as I would have been surprised to learn that we insisted our Iranian disaster relief package contain Gideon Bibles. Doesnt track.
My point? Simple: we live in an era of non-contiguous information streams. I believe one thing; someone else believes another and the bedrock assumptions are utterly contradictory. This is what drives me nuts about discussing current events with some people. Its like discussing the Apollo program with people who think it was all faked, or discussing archeology with those who believe the world is six thousand years old. I think the Iraq Campaign was part of a broad war against Islamicist fascism and the states that enable it; others think its all about oil and Halliburton jerking the strings of a Jeebus puppet. No. Middle. Ground.
This Iraqi WMD debate is a perfect example. What had been a consensus has fractured into two irreconcilable camps, one being he had them and the other being Bush LIED! I go back a long way on this issue. I remember. I was in DC during the first Gulf War. Everyone thought Iraq had bugs and gas. Later we all read the accounts of the Kurdish atrocities. Paul Wellstone signed on to the 1998 attack on Iraq for reasons that could have come from the lips of Bush himself.
Nine months later, we havent found them. Havent found Hitlers charred femur, either. Im not one of those who say well, it doesnt matter, because the liberation of Iraq and the establishment of a beachhead in the Middle East were more important. Im not going to forget about the WMD. I take Bill Clinton at his word: Saddam had em. They may be in Syria, they may be in the Tigris, they may be buried, they may be hidden in those unimaginably vast munitions fields weve yet to explore. Its important that we find them or learn what became of them, because it will close the parenthesis.
Viewed a century out, the murky present will seem stark and obvious, white bones on a black slab. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, the terrorist organizations in the Levant and Indonesia, the Islamist elements of Pakistan, the behind-the-scenes support of North Korea history, in its blunt custom, will color these factions alike. The people who insist that secular Saddam would never hook up with a radical Islamist group will seem like doddering backbenchers in Britain who muttered that Hitler hated Bolsheviks too much to strike a pact. I suspect that a century hence, those who sniffed at the threat of Saddam and his sons will be regarded as equally irrelevant.
Maybe Ive just been watching too many old documentaries. But sometimes you read the news, and you see big red arrows moving hither and yon. You imagine how it will look when its long over, when its a tidy corpse handed over to the morticians of history. How will the future view those who thought we shouldered our way into Iraq to loot the museums and suck up the oil?
I dont know. The standard text of WW2 was set in stone early on. (People who complain today of a monolithic media would have experienced spontaneous personal combustion in the 40s and 50s.) Its different now. As long as there remains that hot iridescent strain of pissy anti-Western self-hatred, therell be a warm spot in the historians hearts for those who insisted that the Afghan campaign was really about killing brown-skinned folks to build a pipeline. And even if the pipeline was never built, well, the pipeline is a metaphor for Orientalism, for the imperialist urge, for the abominable consequences of the Exceptionist Fallacy.
What doesnt happen in the literal sense becomes proof that something really did happen in the figurative sense. The metaphor becomes the reality and its even better than reality itself. As a metaphor it's ever apt, ever immune to empirical refutation.
I know this: if 9/11 had never happened, Afghanistan and Iraq wouldnt be on the radar of those who wake up perpetually inflamed with global injustice. Theyd be fixed on Israel and genetically modified food. Would there be rallies in the Western cities demanding the end to the Taliban and the Baathists? Of course not. And thats what history might well remember. God forbid, but they might end up reduced to a footnote about a rally in Paris in the year before a hijacked jet took out the Louvre. Id like to think no one in the west would write well, we destroyed their museums, and now they destroy ours. But you know someone would.
One can only hope that Christopher Hitchens would meet that author in a pub the night the article hit the stands, and that Hitch would stagger over, draw himself up, fix the scribbler with a baleful look, summon the necessary arguments and facts . . .
. . . and throw up in the idiots lap.