come The Odious Excuses
By Robert Fisk
14 November, 2006
"Great news from America!"
the cashier at my local Beirut bookshop shouted at me yesterday morning,
raising her thumbs in the air. "Things will be better after these
elections?" Alas, I said. Alas, no. Things are going to get worse
in the Middle East even if, in two years' time, America is blessed with
a Democrat (and democratic) president. For the disastrous philosophers
behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands of the whole
mess and crying "Not Us!" with the same enthusiasm as the
Lebanese lady in my book shop, while the "experts" on the
mainstream US east coast press are preparing the ground for our Iraqi
retreat - by blaming it all on those greedy, blood-lusting, anarchic,
depraved, uncompromising Iraqis.
I must say that Richard Perle's
version of a mea culpa did take my breath away. Here was the ex-chairman
of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board Advisory Committee - he who once
told us that "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform"
- now admitting that he "underestimated the depravity" in
Iraq. He holds the president responsible, of course, acknowledging only
that - and here, dear reader, swallow hard - "I think if I had
been Delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said:
'Should we go into Iraq?' I think now I probably would have said, 'No,
let's consider other strategies...'"
Maybe I find this self-righteous,
odious mea culpa all the more objectionable because the same miserable
man was shouting abuse down a radio line to me in Baghdad a couple of
years ago, condemning me for claiming that America was losing its war
in Iraq and claiming that I was "a supporter of the maintenance
of the Baathist regime". This lie, I might add, was particularly
malicious since I was reporting Saddam's mass rapes and mass hangings
at Abu Ghraib prison (and being refused Iraqi visas) when Perle and
his cohorts were silent about Saddam's wickedness and when their chum
Donald Rumsfeld was cheerfully shaking the monster's hand in Baghdad
in an attempt to reopen the US embassy there.
Not that Perle isn't in good
company. Kenneth Adelman, the Pentagon neocon who also beat the drums
for war, has been telling Vanity Fair that "the idea of using our
power for moral good in the world" is dead. As for Adelman's mate
David Frumm, well he's decided that George Bush just "did not absorb
the ideas" behind the speeches Frumm wrote for him. But this, I'm
afraid, is not the worst to come from those who encouraged us to invade
Iraq and start a war which has cost the lives of perhaps 600,000 civilians.
For a new phenomenon is creeping
into the pages of The New York Times and those other great organs of
state in America. For those journalists who supported the war, it's
not enough to bash George. No, they've got a new flag to fly: the Iraqis
don't deserve us. David Brooks - he who once told us that neocons such
as Perle had nothing to do with the President's decision to invade Iraq
- has been ransacking his way through Elie Kedourie's 1970 essay on
the British occupation of Mesopotamia in the 1920s. And what has he
discovered? That "the British tried to encourage responsible leadership
to no avail", quoting a British officer at the time as concluding
that Iraqi Shia "have no motive for refraining from sacrificing
the interests of Iraq to those which they conceive to be their own".
But the Brooks article in
The New York Times was also frightening. Iraq, he now informs us, is
suffering "a complete social integration", and "American
blunders" were exacerbated "by the same old Iraqi demons:
greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise, even
in the face of self-immolation". Iraq, Brooks has decided, is "teetering
on the edge of futility" (whatever that means) and if American
troops cannot restore order, "it will be time to effectively end
Iraq", diffusing authority down to "the clan, the tribe or
sect" which - wait for it - are "the only communities which
Nor should you believe that
the Brooks article represents a lone voice. Here is Ralph Peters, a
USA Today writer and retired US army officer. He had supported the invasion
because, he says, he was "convinced that the Middle East was so
politically, socially, morally and intellectually stagnant that we (sic)
had to risk intervention - or face generations of terrorism and tumult".
For all Washington's errors, Peters boasts, "we did give the Iraqis
a unique chance to build a rule-of-law democracy".
But those pesky Iraqis, it
now seems, "preferred to indulge in old hatreds, confessional violence,
ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption". Peters' conclusion?
"Arab societies can't support democracy as we know it." As
a result, "it's their tragedy, not ours. Iraq was the Arab world's
last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region a future...".
Incredibly, Peters finishes by believing that "if the Arab world
and Iran embark on an orgy of bloodshed, the harsh truth is that we
may be the beneficiaries" because Iraq will have "consumed"
"terrorists" and the United States will "still be the
greatest power on earth".
It's not the shamefulness
of all this - do none of these men have any shame? - but the racist
assumption that the hecatomb in Iraq is all the fault of the Iraqis,
that their intrinsic backwardness, their viciousness, their failure
to appreciate the fruits of our civilisation make them unworthy of our
further attention. At no point does anyone question whether the fact
that America is "the greatest power on earth" might not be
part of the problem. Nor that Iraqis who endured among their worst years
of dictatorship when Saddam was supported by the United States, who
were sanctioned by the UN at a cost of a half a million children's lives
and who were then brutally invaded by our armies, might not actually
be terribly keen on all the good things we wished to offer them. Many
Arabs, as I've written before, would like some of our democracy, but
they would also like another kind of freedom - freedom from us.
But you get the point. We
are preparing our get-out excuses. The Iraqis don't deserve us. Screw
them. That's the grit we're laying down on the desert floor to help
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited
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