HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

July 16, 2007
Implication for the Long Run

Developments Last Week

John Turner


Perspective

It's becoming increasingly evident that just about the only people in the world who care about Iraqi nationalism are American officials and and their Iraqi puppets who are hiding out under American protection in the Green Zone of Baghdad. Certainly, the people of Iraq generally care little for it. For most of them it has been a source of oppression and nothing else.

Americans have a hard time understanding that the people we have decided to call Iraqis are not interested in building the great nation of Iraq. What they care about is, first, simply staying alive and, second, their own religious compatriots.

The question arises: how many lives do we have the right to sacrifice in order to impose nationalism on the people of Iraq? Evidently, in the mind of George Bush, the number is virtually endless.

In 1991, when most of the people of Iraq rose up against Saddam Hussein, his government would have toppled had we given them even a dollop of support. No invasion of 2003 would have been called for because there would have been no central regime to get rid of.

But, we didn't help them, because, as Brent Scrowcroft explained in the mincing words of one who didn't have to watch his children raped, gassed and dismembered, "neither the United States nor the countries of the region (how he could speak for the countries of the region is hard to fathom) wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Breaking up Iraq would pose its own destabilizing problems."

It was much better, I suppose, to sit back and watch Saddam massacre the people our president had urged to rise up, and then wait twelve years to take over the whole country ourselves. No destabilization there.

The historical background to the invasion of 2003 doesn't get much attention in the American press. That would require paying attention to events which are ancient history to most Americans. The problem is they are not ancient history to the people whose lives were ripped apart by them. They have a mental habit which is foreign to Americans. It's called memory.


Insignificant Incidents

Let's consider what the news coverage would be if in the United States an army convoy ran over and killed a ten year old boy and his animals and, then, the subsequent investigation showed the convoy had barely slowed down. Might we say that the coverage would be active? But in Iraq, an incident of that sort is ho-hum stuff.

If you want to know why the United States is not going to win the war in Iraq (whatever that insane phrase might mean) then take a little time to try to find out what happens to ordinary Iraqi people, day after day, in their encounters with American troops. The latter continually testify through their actions that Iraqi lives are virtually worthless. Another dead Iraqi. So what?

Katie Couric can rhapsodize all she wants about American soldiers saving starving Iraqi orphans -- and it's a good thing they did -- but that's not going to change the general opinions of America being created by daily contacts.

Why do you suppose a recent poll found that 69% of Iraqis think their lives would be more secure if the U.S. military got out of their country? Are they just crazy?

The inability of the U.S. political classes to take account of long range consequences is not simply ineptitude. It is a pathology, a sickness bred by a nearly-complete failure to imagine that people other than Americans value their own lives and the lives of their family members. How long is it going to take for the Iraqis to forget the horrors brought by the American invasion? If you listen to Bush administration officials you would think it's about two weeks. But if you pay attention to history, centuries is a better answer.

The Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the cost of the US. invasion in dollars would approach two trillion if the occupation were to end now. But he doesn't factor in the cost that might be exacted by the relatives of the little boy crunched under American treads. God only knows how much that could be.


Transmogrification

So now, let's see. The Americans are shooting it out with the Iraqi police. Or is it just a portion of the Iraqi police? Hard to know.

One of the benchmarks that didn't get met was for the Iraqi police to become something other than what they are. But that appears to require the Iraqi government to become something other than what it is.

It can all seem fairly mystifying until you step back and recognize that the entire adventure in Iraq, from the beginning, was somehow to make the Iraqis into non-Iraqis. Exactly what a non-Iraqi is -- other than a puppet of the U.S. government -- is hard to say. There never appeared to be a good blueprint for that.

Of all the delusions in the whole mess, the most bizarre is the notion among Bush and his votaries that they are attractive people. All they have to do is show up, hang out for a while, and the lesser folk will be so dazzled by their effulgence obedience will become automatic. That, for example, was Paul Bremer's entire program during the time he was viceroy in 2003-2004. He always thought very well of himself.  There's something wrong with the Iraqis, though. They don't get it.

Since they can't recognize the natural superiority of men like Bush and Bremer, since they have no talent for emulation, their ineptitude might raise the question of whether our occupational endeavors are realistic. But not till September, of course.


Perspective

I notice that as a result of being chosen for the Simpsons premier, Springfield, Vermont was mentioned in the New York Times online as being a "tiny New England hamlet."

Here in Vermont, we think of it as a pretty big town. It has a larger population than my city of Montpelier, which is the state capital. And I know several people round about here who hesitate to come into Montpelier because it has become so big and crowded.

I wonder how the New York Times would describe places like South Ryegate, or Ripton, or Pittsfield. Maybe even gigantic sprawls like Brandon and Bristol would be beneath the Times's radar.


Virility

I notice that Tucker Carson -- that manly creature -- has said, "Well, everybody knows that a book club is no place for a man." I'm not sure exactly what Tucker meant. Is it that real men don't read books, or that they don't talk about the books they've read, or that he just wants to take a swipe at Barack Obama and make him seem no more than an effete Oprah? Tucker, of course, thinks he's cute -- which perhaps he is among girls who think Ann Coulter is smart -- and, so, cuteness may have been his only motive.

Still, since I'm a member of a little reading club, I'd like to go on his show and poke at him a bit about what he did mean. It might be useful to bring more to the fore the literary propensities of the right-wing paragons in the media and in politics. I've been fascinated for weeks by Mitt Romney's declaration that his favorite novel is Battleship Earth. I wouldn't have expected Romney to name Jane Austen, or Dickens, or Dostoevsky as his favorite novelist. But L. Ron Hubbard? That strikes me as being worth more attention that it has received (People Magazine taught me that among the favorite songs on his I-Pod are the productions of Toby Keith, something else to be noted about this presidential material).

Can a case be made that the value prized most by Republicans is stupidity? I wouldn't have thought so until recently, but the more I pay attention to the Tucker Carlsons and Mitt Romneys of America, and to their sidekicks who make a living tickling the funny bones of fascists -- guys like Neal Boortz, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh -- I begin to be more and more suspicious. Maybe they really do think that ignorance and masculinity are indissolubly joined. If they do, that's okay. I just want the public to know about it.


............................................................................................................................................................................


Comment On This Article
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)


Return to the Table of Contents



Home           Contact Us           Mailing List           Archives           Books on Sale            Links



Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.



This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner at Neil Turner Concepts