Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Remember Iraq?

Hardly anyone in the U.S. seems to remember that we blew a trillion dollars to eliminate the existential threat of Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction™, and bring the blessings of freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, which would then miraculously metastasize throughout the Greater Middle East™ and bring about everlasting peace.

I spent much of the time whilst we were blowing that dough along with more than 4,000 American lives and, oh yeah, a few hundred thousand or a million Iraqis but who's counting, following events there very closely, as a contributor to Today in Iraq. (Now Today in Afghanistan, see the sidebar.) Actually, Americans pretty much forgot all about Iraq around 2007 or so, even though the last (officially acknowledged) U.S. troops didn't leave till 2011. So let's remember for at least a few seconds, okay?

I don't need to remind you that the Weapons of Mass Destruction™ didn't exist. Perhaps you do need to be reminded that even if they had existed, they would not actually have been nearly as massively destructive as the weapons the U.S. used in Iraq; chemical weapons and anthrax are highly overrated. But I digress. How's that democracy thing coming?

You probably won't have any idea if you rely on the U.S. corporate media for your information, but al Jazeera is reporting that the country is on the brink of renewed civil war; the alternative being that it break apart before that happens. At least 77 people are so far reported dead in sectarian violence today, and 200 injured. If you want some background on this you can read the Irish Times, where David Hirst explains the pretty basic history. The U.S. invasion ended up replacing a Sunni Arab minority regime with a Shiite Arab majority regime. (Kurdistan actually was already quasi-independent, and remains so.) Sunni Arabs have no political influence or rights, they don't get basic government services, and their leaders are being persecuted. So they are rebelling.

This was basically inevitable. The U.S. political leadership and corporate media had no understanding of Iraq when they launched the war, and couldn't be bothered listening to anybody who did. Democracy does not ride into town on the barrel of tank or a one-ton bomb. We would do well to remember this as president McCain and the Sunday yammerers try to taunt the administration into blundering into the Syrian conflict. The situation in Iraq, and Syria, is very bad already and in grave peril of getting worse and spreading further. That is true. It does not follow that "we" must fix it. We can't, and if we tried it would be for all the wrong reasons, i.e. to try to install a regime that would be friendly to our perceived interests, mostly having to do with insuring that Israel remains completely unaccountable to international law and the basic norms of civilized behavior. That absolutely will not happen.

We can join the international community in trying to ameliorate the worst of the consequences of the conflict, but you know darn well the U.S. isn't going to spend serious money taking care of Arab refugees or getting humanitarian aid into a combat zone. Not when we aren't even willing to feed our own people. So it's very tragic and sad. But the people involved are going to have to work it out, and president McCain needs to shut the hell up. For once.

1 comment:

D said...

Hey, Cervantes--great timing! (See my comment, concerning NPR and Iraq, from Friday's column.) The collective amnesia is stunning but, then again, when I go to the gym I see up to twelve large-screen teevees and everything playing on them--except for sports--is lies ("news") and pornography. It is revolting and sad. So people's heads are being filled with more soma than ever. Couple this with the fact that too many folks are scrambling at one, two, and three jobs just to stay afloat, and the reason for political disinvolvement (if that's a word, even if it's not) becomes apparent.