I have a few prickings of conscience about this, but not that many – can’t find a link to it on-line, so here’s Alan Moore’s commentary on the US govt and their actions in Iraq from the US-published magazine “Arthur”.
R o l l i n g C o m m e n t a r y
Snooty English liberal Alan Moore reviews our government’s recent activities.
Here’s a joke: What do you call an eight-year-old Iraqi kid with no arms, surviving family members, or unblackened skin below his waist? I don’t know. I was shouting at the TV and I didn’ t catch his name. Don’t worry if you don’t get it. We’ll no doubt be telling it again in another dozen years or so. And still not getting it. It’ s the repetition that grinds us down. All this Groundhog Day shit. The history classes of the twenty-second century, assuming that we can be bothered to hold one, will hate us for doing everything twice and messing up their grades. “So which Bush was Gulf War II again? Was that the wimp or the chimp?”
The British have been running this bayonet-porn loop for more than a millennium, since the 1090s and the first Crusades, waged to safeguard holy Christian sites (which, being also Muslim sacred places, were not actually threatened in the first place) rather than for Freedom and Democracy, although strangely enough the invading forces were even then led by Franks. Back then, those territories blocked England’s access to the Silk Road, but that wasn’t why we were going to war. It was those Christian monuments we were concerned about. Richard the Lionheart addresses his men with that Tony Blair weasel-in-a-slaughterhouse look in his eyes: “Look, okay, I know there’s always a conspiracy theory, but I can honestly say this is not about silk.”
Fast forward to the early twentieth century and we find Britain still stoically putting the Mess into Mesopotamia. While Johnny Arab had helped us out against the evil Turk, we now needed his oil to lubricate the gears of burgeoning British industry, and that necessitated a regime-change. Thus we liberate the area, and set it on its proper path towards Iraq and Ruin.
Forty years later, with Britain still running the country, we have Winston Churchill proclaiming that he has no serious objection to RAF aeroplanes bombing rebellious Kurd natives with poison gas. As with so many great cultural high points like, say, concentration camps, chips, or colonialism, you’ll fi nd that the British are usually ahead of the curve.
Around about this time, during the 1930s, Prescott Bush had made the family fortune through his business deals with the Third Reich (he was even able to make a gift of Hitler’s dinner service to the Skull &Bones; fraternity), these carried out enthusiastically and profi tably right up to the afternoon in 1942 when Roosevelt screwed the pooch by making trade with Nazi Germany illegal. This, no doubt, came as a great relief to Winston Churchill, with England having been at war against the Reich since 1939, and the American diplomats in London urging him repeatedly throughout those years to take the side of Germany.
Now, since the late nineteenth century, Millennialist Christians had been lobbying the British Parliament to create an Israeli homeland in Palestine, their reasoning apparently based on Biblical prophecy rather than on political or humanitarian considerations. If the prophecy of God’s Chosen People coming to a home within the Promised Land was fulfi lled, this would presumably be followed by, successively, the Second Coming of Christ and the Apocalypse. And you have to admit, they were pretty much on the money, except for all that second coming shit.
When the Second World War ended with its spectacular unveiling of the world’s first genuine weapon of mass destruction, the momentum to create a Jewish State had become considerable. Taking advantage of advances in technology and thus media coverage that war had brought, a group of Zionist freedom-fighters (including in their ranks a young Menachim Begin) bombed a British Army Canteen in the area. The way in which this drew world media attention to what would be an ultimately successful cause quite clearly created the modern concept of, uh, freedom fighting, and gave all subsequent freedom fighters an excellent workable model to follow: blow stuff up and get on television.
Of course, it turned out that the Land Without A People wasn’t seen in quite that light by, well, the Palestinians, as an example. This led to all sorts of trouble, but within a couple of decades, Israel had the cushion of a number of Pro-Western regimes that had been established in the area, such as that of much-missed torture impresario the Shah of Iran. The oil, not that this has ever been about oil, was relatively safe.
Then Jimmy Carter somehow wins the ?76 elections, appoints clean-up crusader Stansfi eld Turner as head of the C.I.A. and subsequently halts clandestine C.I.A. cash payments to Iran’s mercenary Ayatollahs, made on the understanding that the clerics would ignore the torture and imprisonment of ordinary Muslims, and would leave the Shah alone. Naturally, that went down real well, and by 1979 the Shah had been deposed, fundamentalist Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was in charge of Iran and had taken an plane- full of American hostages to show he meant business.
Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, it was around this time that the Western powers found it in their best interests to support the military government of handsome forty-two year old Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq. He may have been a psychopath and murderer, but at least he wasn’t an Islamic fundamentalist, and he was our psychopath and murderer, just like President Marcos had been “Our son-of-a-bitch” in the Philippines, and Slobodan Milosevic was the Balkan we could do business with.
During the inevitable Iran-Iraq War, we helpfully supplied Saddam with the munitions and the poison gas he used on the Iranians. In fact, that’s how we can be so certain that Saddam has hidden weapons of mass destruction like, say, anthrax or Sarin gas: Donald Rumsfeld (whose company was selling these aforementioned commodities to the Iraqi dictator until just before the first Gulf War in 1991) was thoughtful enough to keep all the receipts.
But while Johnny Iraqi had helped us out against the evil Iranians, it now looked like he might be thinking of acquiring all his country’s oil wealth for himself, along with that of neighboring Kuwait. We were fairly certain about this last point, since according to several reports, Saddam’s minions had been in touch with Madeline Albright at the U.S. State Department regarding whether the U.S., as a valued ally and weapons-provider, would have any objection to such an invasion. The State Department didn’t say no.
Which brings us to the first Gulf War, courtesy of former C.I.A. operative and Nixon- booster George Herbert Walker Bush.
After staging what amounted to a brilliantly media-managed Arms Fair in the region (where after all most prospective arms-customers were conveniently situated) , Bush senior seemed to lack the necessary resolve to finish off Saddam Hussein’s regime, perhaps because of his most senior military advisor’s firm assurances that such a move would almost certainly lead to the Iraqi leader, with nothing to lose, launching weapons of mass destruction at Israel and precipitating “Armageddon in the Middle East”. Interestingly, the same advisor, whose views are believed to be identical with those of Bush senior, made exactly the same point when advising against the current Iraqi conflict, but presumably the younger Bush, possessing even less of “the vision thing” than his father, was not persuaded. Cue one thousand points of light over Baghdad.
The elder Bush had not, it turns out, been the first to offer other Middle Eastern powers relief from the widely- despised Saddam. Accomplished American-trained freedom fighter and millionaire heir to a Saudi builder, Osama Bin Laden, fresh from having successfully repelled the evil Soviet Union from Afghanistan at the request of the U. S., apparently tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Saudis that his growing band of Mujahedin freedom-fighters, AI Qaeda, could remove Saddam if only permitted to base themselves within Saudi Arabia. Perhaps mindful of how difficult it might be getting rid of AI Qaeda after such a conflict was concluded, the Saudis declined and instead placed their trust (disloyally, it seemed to the grudge-prone Bin Laden) in America. With retrospect, you can see how this carefully-balanced, teetering pile of megalomaniacs was beautifully set up, and only needed one disaster to be escalated into almost unbelievable catastrophe.
That disaster happened at the 2000 U.S. elections, which many of us might have mistaken for an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard if only there’d been a little banjo music playing in the background. Elected by the slenderest, some would say actually non-existent majority, George Walker Bush the younger obviously needed something to make him appear legitimate if he was to hang onto office long enough to accomplish all that his corporate backers required of him. Surrounding himself with enthusiastically pro- war figures such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (who’d been recommending an invasion of Iraq to safeguard oil supplies since 1998), Deathrow Dubya announced during the early months of his administration that the time had come to wage a war on Terror, taking in such rogue states as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Afghanistan was, at that time, the Bush administration’s first priority. A pipeline through Afghanistan with which the estimated thirty trillion dollars’ worth of oil remaining in the former Soviet Union could be pumped to the Gulf, reducing the United States’ worrying dependence on Arab resources, was a favored option by the U.S. oil corporations in the 1990s. Clearly, such hopes were dashed by the emergence of the strongly anti-U.S. Taliban regime during the decade’s later years, and just as clearly it would have been against International Law to overthrow a country’s leadership simply because they didn’t comply with American commercial interests.
At this point it was recalled that former anti-Soviet Mujahedin hero Osama Bin Laden was believed to be residing, with his AI Qaeda cohorts, in Afghanistan. The U.S. had semi-legitimate reasons for wishing to pursue Bin Laden, since he had, after all, been behind that first terrorist bomb at the WTC, and also behind the attacks on America’s African embassies. Accordingly, during a diplomatic summit taking place over the Summer of 2001 and subtitled “Brainstorming Afghanistan”, American diplomats communicated with the Taliban using the intermediary of Pakistan, informing them during the informal “phase two” period of the meeting that the U. S. would be launching a War Against Terror sometime in September, invading Afghanistan for the purposes of unearthing the AI Qaeda leader. This information was presumably passed on to Osama Bin Laden by his contacts in the Taliban and, unsurprisingly given that the Pentagon war-machine has promised to descend upon him in September whatever he did or didn’t do, it seems he opted to get his retaliation in first.
Following the Twin Towers attack, with the war on Afghanistan successfully underway, Dick Cheney retired from his executive position at the company engaged in building nuclear plants in North Korea, just in time for George Bush Junior to announce his rogue-state shopping list, the Axis of Evil, with Iran and North Korea right there following Iraq. Mind you, on taking up the office of Vice President, Dick “The Man of a Thousand Faces ” Cheney also declared that he was not currently being paid by Iraqi reconstruction contract winners Halliburton. This was technically true, but only due to Cheney’s new arrangement with the company where, for tax reasons, they’d agreed to only pay him every six months.
With the Afghani war wrapped up in its half-assed, inconclusive way and Saddam next in the Bush administration’s sights, we were assured that any attack on Iraq would be only engaged in for the purposes of ridding Saddam of whatever nuclear, chemical or bio-weaponry he still possessed. This was definitely not about oil, whatever those cynics who pointed out all the American main player’s links with energy corporations, or the fact that Condoleezza Rice actually has an oil tanker named after her, might suggest.
Then, during those months the U. S. and U. K. required to get sufficient forces for invasion to the Gulf, when they pretended to give a shit about what Hans Blix found or didn’t find, in face of the continued non-discovery of a clearly smoking warhead, they changed tack and made the Saddam regime’s supposed links with AI Qaeda and other terrorist organizations the focus of their self-justification. It was suggested that old weapons lying around in Iraq could fall into the hands of terrorists, although why any would-be terrorists would look for raw materials in Iraq, the world’s most heavily monitored country, when there’s pounds of the stuff going for a song out in the wilds of the largely bankrupt former Soviet Union is anybody’s guess. The touted AI Qaeda linkage also disappears before the simple fact that Saddam Hussein is a secular leader, while AI Qaeda are a bunch of headcase Islamist fanatics sworn to depose the hated unbeliever from his seat of power, or else wait for the coalition of the willing to do it for them.
As the long-established start-date for the war approached with no clear evidence for its necessity having emerged, the coherence and authority of the United Nations turned out to be its first casualty. This venerable institution was cast as a laughing stock purely for its refusal to state that black was white upon America’s say-so. The arguments and evidence served lukewarm by the coalition were a laughable, moronic embarrassment (like that British Intelligence document detailing Saddam’s WMDs that Colin Powell seemed so impressed by, and which turned out to have been mostly copied from a graduate thesis written by a Californian student more than ten years earlier), but for anyone to actually laugh or to point this out was spun by the Bush administration as equivalent to a bunch of smug and snooty French intellectuals pissing on the dead of the Twin Towers while eating snails and taking Jerry Lewis seriously. Apparently, you’ re either for us, or against us. This means, effectively, that unless we are all willing to accept every word that comes from the mouth of former cokehead, allegedly recovered alcoholic and corporate fraudster George W. Bush as literally God’s own truth, then we must expect to be regarded and treated as actual members of AI Qaeda.
The WTC plane-bombings, for the Bush administration that provoked them in the first place, failed conspicuously to prevent them and then shamelessly exploited this awful human tragedy for the advancement of its own shitty little agendas, have become the sacred touchstone of this proposed “War without end.” Any previously unthinkable political action can be instantly validated by the magic words 9-11, in much the same way as Ariel Sharon’s government in Israel can make horrific moral and humanitarian issues simply vanish by mentioning the Holocaust. The logic seems to be that if anything sufficiently dreadful has ever been done to you in the past, then you have complete license to do dreadful things to everyone else, forever. This, of course, is a logic that would set serial killers from bad homes free to kill as they pleased, would even provide them with the necessary chainsaws and electrical tape. It is a logic that states “Monstrous things have been done to us, so therefore its okay to behave monstrously.” It is George Bush’s logic, and also that of Osama Bin Laden. Or any four-year-old boy, for that matter. As a result of following this logic, it seems that since the September of 2001, America and Israel have been competing against each other in a breathtaking downhill slalom from the moral high ground, squandering public sympathy as if neither nation ever expected to have further need for such a thing.
Which brings us back to the current Iraqi conflict, the way in which it has rolled inexorably into being despite the glaring lack of proof for its necessity, despite the condemnation of the world’s religious leaders and the previously unimaginable millions worldwide who marched against the war in February. Because, in a way, it’s actually true when they say that this war is not about oil… or at least, not entirely about oil. It is, as they say, an “effects-based campaign.” Part of its major intended “effect” must presumably be to terrify other potential enemies into submission by convincing them the world’s last Superpower/first Ultrapower has fallen into the hands of a shrieking, masturbating lower primate and is now constantly a hair’s-breadth away from going absolutely foaming fucking mad and killing everybody. It almost makes you long for the cosy and nostalgic days of the Nixon/Kissinger “Madman” ruse. I mean, say what you like about Richard Nixon, but he was at least enough of a human being to know that he was wretched and cursed, and to writhe and lie in order to conceal his shame. George W. Bush, on the other hand, has been Damned so long it looks like Saved to him. Being blissfully unburdened by moral considerations, anyone questioning the ethics of his administration will he met with that same half-amused, half-genuinely puzzled look in those remarkably closely-spaced eyes. Clearly, we don’t get it. He’s the President of the United States. He can do whatever the fuck he likes. Isn’t that what the job’s all about? Doesn’t it say that in, oh, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or one of those other pieces of ass-wipe that he means to read if he ever finishes The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
Another effect of this effects-based strategy is presumably to intimidate and stifle opposition back home in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave itself. Buy a “Give Peace a Chance ” Tshirt and prepare to take your next shit blindfolded in Camp X-Ray. So that’s the Free taken care of. And by occasionally giving the electorate another squirt of Orange Alert, George “The Omen II ” Bush can apparently reduce the Brave to sitting at home in their Hefty XXL Haz-chem suits with the windows taped up. As for any hold-out mouthy liberal celebrities, with the noble exception of Michael Moore, they can probably be convinced that discretion is the better part of valor, if only by taking a peep at the hate-mail received by poor old Martin Sheen for portraying an American President who is unlike George Walker Bush (This last point frankly confuses even keen America-watchers such as myself. I mean, I saw The Dead Zone, and I’ ve got to say that I thought Sheen really had that dot-eyed fundamentalist fuckwit down.)
Perhaps the most important effect is the message sent to the rest of the world, which would seem largely to be the announcement of a new age of American unilateralism. (As one senior U. S. military source said regarding the real reasons for a war on Iraq, “We did it because it was doable.”) If America decides that the assassination of foreign heads of state is now permissible, whatever international law might have to say on the subject, then that’s just how it is. If America decides that it will stand alone in not recognizing the new International Criminal Court in The Hague then America has the military power to insist upon that stance, and it seems that military power has it all over that moral authority stuff that used to be so much of an issue. Might turned out to make right after all. Bullies everywhere punch first the air and then their wives in celebration. And of course, having made it plain that America no longer feels that it needs friends or allies amongst the world community, this tends to put the burden of responsibility for the relationship upon those increasingly nervous former allies themselves. The question becomes not “How much do we genuinely like America?” but “How scared of them are we? Wouldn’t it be better to be inside the American tent and pissing out?”
This would certainly seem to be the position that Tony Blair has taken. Swearing allegiance to George Bush and his policy makers, Blair has obviously been prepared to alienate most of his own party, the greater part of the British population and a disturbingly large section of his former friends in what we laughingly refer to as “the European community”. That’s how important it was to him. He would echo every pronouncement from the Oval Office, and then would express his deep indignation at the way in which most of the world’s people continued to see him as “Bush’s poodle.” One can only imagine how cross he’d be if the phrase “Bush’s cock- puppet” achieved similar currency.
Now, though, with the seeming collapse of any organized Iraqi resistance and the apparent disappearance of Saddam Hussein and most of his Ba’ath party inner circle, it seems that any moral considerations that existed before or during the war have been somehow retroactively neutralized by this ambiguous, heavily qualified victory. The Hawks feel vindicated. They showed all those peaceniks that they could invade Iraq after all, and seemingly fail to remember that the debate wasn’t about whether they could, but whether they should. Wasn’t there some stuff about weapons of mass destruction that Saddam would be sure to deploy if he had nothing left to lose? Weapons that even the highly motivated, specially-created-to-retroactively- justify-the-war “US-movic” forces have thus far failed to find any sign of. A minor quibble. Let’s gloss over it and get on with the victory parades and the award ceremonies. George and Dick, having been conveniently occupied elsewhere during that Viet Nam thing, finally get to take part, albeit from a safe distance, in a real, honest-to-gosh war. Tony gets a special Ellis Island medal, and perhaps a decoder ring. The Iraqi people get their freedom and democracy, although that means that the Shi’ar majority will almost certainly vote in an Ayatollah, and reject America. Or at least, they will if that big demonstration in Karbala chanting “No to America, No to Saddam! Yes, yes, Islam!” the other day was anything to go by. The Kurds get Kirkuk. The Turks get cross. AI Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, get a free recruitment drive. And I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how many Tim McVeighs or John Mohammeds (both Gulf veterans) came home from the war with a party in their head this time round.
This, in many ways, whatever it sounds like, is a best-case scenario in that it makes the fairly unreasonable assumption that the “War in Iraq” was that three or four weeks of blowing our own people to bits in green-tinted pillhead night vision sandstorms that we’ ve all just seen on television, and that it’s over now. This assumes that the U. S. is not going to get pinned down, for years or perhaps decades, as an occupying force in an area largely hostile to its presence and already fraught with explosive religious tensions. It assumes that when the older British troops in this conflict ventured the opinion that Iraq could turn into “another Northern Ireland,” all they meant was that there would be more Guinness theme- bars and that you could maybe dye the Euphrates green on St. Pat’s Day. (Actually, to be strictly fair, there are significant differences between Iraq and Northern Ireland. One of these is that Ireland is relatively isolated in the midst of the cold and wet North Atlantic, whereas Iraq is slam in the middle of the hottest, driest political tinderbox in the world. Do the math, as they say.)
And meanwhile the world is gradually divided into Terrorists and Crusaders, white stetsons and black turbans. We have a war whose aims are so flexible and ambiguous that it could keep running for decades, simply hopping from rogue state to rogue state, designating new enemies as required if it ever looks like the wheels are going to fall off our current Axis of Evil. This is the world that we consider an appropriate gift for our children, and for their children. And when they look up at us with wide eyes and ask how we got rid of all those weapons of mass destruction, we’ll tell them that we developed a marvelous Massive Ordnance Air-Burst device specially to do just that. Imagine their little faces: Shock. Awww.
So, Islam good, America bad, is that what we’ re saying? Of course not. Islam is a noble and humane faith that unfortunately suffers from having no clear earthly chain of command, with a resulting vulnerability to self- appointed holy men who may wish to lead Islam into terrible conflicts, often against itself. Islam is one of the most important wellsprings of world culture, and if it wishes to preserve its considerable integrity into the foreseeable future, it needs to get its own house in order and do its best to isolate any dangerous crackpots who do not represent the ordinary, peace-loving average Muslim (much the same thing could of course be said about Christianity and Judaism. Islam hardly has a monopoly on blinkered sectarian fanatics whom we’d all be better off without).
How about America, then? Aren’t all of us snooty European liberals anti-American these days? Of course not. Who told you that? What, we’re anti Duke Ellington, Tom Waits, Herman Melville, Jackson Pollock, Chester Himes, Emperor Norton, Patti Smith, Tex Avery, Dorothy Parker, Edgar Allan Poe, Orson Welles, Billie Holliday, Raymond Chandler, Kathy Acker, Edwin Starr, Nina Simone, Raymond Carver, Paul Robeson, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Emily Dickinson Lou Reed, Wilhelm Reich, Thomas Alva Edison, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, William Burroughs, Emma Goldman, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Spike Lee, Allen Ginsberg, John Waters, Matt Groening, The Sopranos, Robert Crumb, Damon Runyon, Woody Guthrie, Edward Hopper and all the thousands of other wonderful people who express what the gigantic, unruly, thundering heart of America is really all about? No. You’re a great country, but you (and the rest of the world) got Bushwhacked. A spooky little clique who for some considerable while contented themselves with being part of America’s un-elected Shadow Government have now stepped boldly up into the footlights, where they feel (perhaps correctly) that they can now do or say whatever they want, and that nobody can or will do anything about it. They’ re ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille. There is no longer any need for secrecy or shadows. Covert wars were so last century, don’t you think? This is 2003, and they can be as overt as they like, dividing up the millennial pie with the fuhrer’s silverware.
As for the rest of us, if we’re all not very careful, we could get dragged into a ruinously destructive and avoidable ongoing sprawl of war with the Islamic world, a culture every bit as astonishing and important as our own. A culture with which an exchange of information rather than missiles would surely be to the greater benefit of all concerned. Let’s have a bit less cheap Shock here, and a bit more genuine Awe. Or at the very least, if we can’t manage Awe, simple Respect. Respect for others, and, even more importantly, respect for ourselves. There hasn’t been much of it around lately, between the Freedom Fries and the Friendly Fire.
So, you: give ‘im ‘is country back.
And you: smarten yourself up a bit.