DEMOCRACIES THEMSELVES CAN GET BURNED, WHEN THEY PLAY WITH FIRE: WHY THE INVASION OF IRAQ WAS A MISTAKE, AND HOW TO GET OUT.
Roger Cohen wonders: "Does Bush’s fraudulent, blunder-ridden rush to war matter more than the prizing of 26 million human beings from a sadistic tyrant who modeled himself on Hitler and Stalin?" (New York Times, January 17, 2008).
Numerous are the debatable points underlying this statement.
Before getting in the meat of the matter, let's observe that the verb "to prize", from the French prendre and Latin prehendere means: 1. Something seized by force or taken as booty, especially an enemy ship and its cargo captured at sea during wartime. 2. The act of seizing; capture.
As we will see below, Anglo-Saxons like to capture Iraq, indeed, as Mr. Cohen puts it eloquently.
After the catastrophe in Iraq, the Bush administration changed tac, and accepted to negotiate with Libya, North Korea, and Iran. In all these cases, so far, so good. There were reasons to the way Iraq was, and they were not restricted to one man. One should not exaggerate the importance of "tyrants". When dealing with an antagonistic regime, one often deals with more than one man. In July 2007, Muammar Khadaffi agreed, as a personal favor to the spouse of the French president, to facilitate the release 5 Bulgarian nurses and a doctor maliciously condemned to death. Unfortunately, as the lady was sitting in the presidential jet at the airport, other officials in the Libyan administration refused to let them go. Cecilia Sarkozy then suggested it was high time for the French secret service agents of her security detail "to show what they had in their pants". The French agents got off the plane, went to the Libyan prison, fired their guns, destroyed locks, freed the Bulgarians, and everybody happily flew back to Sofia, French flags flying. Morality: never underestimate the seduction of speech, and truth, even with "tyrants", and do use appropriate amounts of force, as authorized by the discourse agreed upon prior. Just as Khadaffi has recently cooperated with the Western powers, Saddam Hussein was cooperating with the UN in 2002/2003. And just as in Libya, the political system in Iraq (the Baath party) was a dam against the raw Quran. A war of choice is always bad, of course. And so it is for fascism. Fascism is bad when it is a fascism of choice. But often, as we will see, only then.
It is often assumed that Hitler and Stalin were principals in German and Russian fascism, and it superficially looks so. Superficiality can be misleading, though: neither of these tyrannical creatures really instigated the culture of fascism they were exposed to in their youth. Having learned well, they went beyond. They did not create the basic ideas, emotions and ways of behaving of their realms. They just amplified them.
The Prussian General staff of 1914 was culprit of the exact same charges that were made against their spiritual children, the Nazis, in 1945. In essence those charges were war of aggression and militarily instigated war crimes. When fascists in Germany saw that the Prussian generals of 1914 had not been subjected to universal reprobation, and hanged, they proceeded to accuse a city in France, west of Paris, of the crimes of the First World War, and decided to do the same as their distinguished predecessors, in the apparent hope that more would be different. It was. Stalin learned all his tricks from Lenin, and then bettered him, so to speak.
Both of these historical deep contexts generally get the silent treatment, because shallow historians prefer short range versions of causality which serve better the immense intellectual following Nazism and Stalinism enjoyed. Many people viewed as top intellectuals and academics were, curious to say, fanatical groupies of fascism (Heidegger, Sartre and many renown French thinkers). To this day, many intellectuals repeat word for word arguments invented by Hitler and Stalin (and which are still just as wrong as when they were first uttered).
This personality cult, which makes Hitler and Stalin more important than they were, exonerated the cultures they came from, allowing those to keep on thriving. It also made the concept of the personality cult bigger than it deserves. Although it's true that personality cult is at the heart of fascism, since fascism is the surrender of the many to the one, the deeper question is: why did the dominant cultures in Germany and Russia become so friendly to fascism? Well, history provides the answer. Clearly, for example, Luther and Ivan the Terrible were forerunners of Hitler and Stalin (Ivan had more excuses than Luther, by the way). Exhibit a few more examples like these, and a thick maze of entangled causalities starts to weave historical substance into reason. Hitler did to the Jews what Luther called for. All those who revere Luther are accomplices of Auschwitz, knowingly or not, whether they like it or not. When Luther was made king, that's called Hitler.
In the case of Iraq, the "sadistic tyrant" aspect of Saddam Hussein is not most important. A quick look at Saddam's life shows that becoming a sadistic tyrant was all too natural: from early on, he was living in a very bloody atmosphere. Any leader of Iraq would have been a "tyrant", more or less sadistic. The real question is why is fascism so prevalent in Iraq? Do some forms of fascism in Iraq have excuses?
First of all, Iraq is a Muslim country, and the Quran is more than fascist friendly. The Quran ORDERS the believers to obey absolutely those in power as long as they are Muslim (the Quran orders other things, besides that fascist principle, of course, but so did Himmler; Himmler recommended to play beautiful classical German music at night, after killing Jews all day long). Since the Quran is so short and repetitive, many of the Muslim priests know about this, and preach it . Yes, they don't like to be called priests, that's part of their war against the West, but that's what they are. And that is a related point: the Quran is anti-Western in a fundamental way. It was concocted by desert dwellers against the huge proto Western civilizations which threatened them, the Greco-Roman and the Persian. Muhammad personally led a giant army into the Roman empire, in a raid towards Palaestina (the Greco-Roman occupied and half-destroyed Israel). Thus a lot of Saddam's anti-Western activities were in line with the Quran's fascist sense.
A closer inspection of Iraqi laws under Saddam, though, shows that a lot of his anti-Western rhetoric may have been more of a smoke screen than real substance: de facto, as Saddam himself pointed out, many of his laws were good, pro-western laws (in contrast with Quranic, anti-western "laws"). The status of women and Christians in Saddam's Iraq, for example, was much better than under raw Quranic Islam (and has faltered since the USA installed its mess in Iraq).
So sure, Saddam was a fascist dictator, and so were Stalin and Hitler. But hundreds of millions of people followed the later two not just because they were terrorized, but because it was hip to share their ideas. Most Germans were not really terrorized by the Gestapo, they had been coaxed and induced (in part by media manipulation, but mostly at school) to think in a Nazi way. Stalin and Hitler were political adaptations of deeply fascist cultures they grew in (the most obvious of these perenial fascist mental structures being anti-Judaism, a stapple of Christianity that the deeply Catholic Hitler and the seminarist Stalin learned early on).
Was some of Saddam's fascism justified? After all, there were no Islamist suicide bombers in Saddam's Iraq.
Let me explain. It feels good to criticize the monster Stalin, but, as he put it: "we must industrialize in ten years or be annihilated." Without Stalin's extremely fascist and homicidal methods of forced industrialization in the twenties and thirties and the demoniac way he fought WW II, Russia, as a population, may have been annihilated by the Nazis (Putin has noticed this). Stalinism, viewed that way, becomes a mixed bag. Even the USA rejoiced that its pet Stalin monster, well fed and supported by the American way of war, killed up to 50 million Russians in his successful global effort against Germany.
Another example of benevolent fascism: when Churchill became PM, he went all out against Hitler too. As France lost a crucial battle, and got invaded, Churchill proposed to the French National Assembly an instant union of France and Great Britain as one country (that would have allowed France not to surrender; the idiotic French PM, ill advised by his anti-British mistress, refused). Not to be bowed, he soon ordered the destruction of the French fleet, over the virulent objections of the British Navy, who was not keen to assassinate her dear friends and colleagues. But that was Churchill's point entirely: he wanted to immolate a lot of friends, to encourage the others. His logic would have been familiar to Hitler or Stalin, and was an old British tradition (as Voltaire noticed). Finally, secretly, the British PM gave orders thoroughly violating the Geneva Conventions to make sure that if any Nazis landed erroneously in England, they would wallop in poison gas, drink out of poisoned water works, in burning cities. Even Hitler did not fight that dirty in 1945, but Churchill would have. Churchill was of the opinion that fascism in the ultimate defense of democracy was no crime. He was 100% right. It's the oldest tradition: primates evolved that way. Fascism was always the ultimate weapon of the savannah dwelling social primate.
So let's backtrack, and this is not just about Saddam, it is pertinent to the opinion one should have of the various kings and emirs (Morrocco, Saudi, Jordan, UAE, Oman) and various presidents (Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt) and leaders (Libya. Pakistan), etc... All over the Middle Earth the anti-Western, fascist culture of the Quran, has bathed the whole place for more than a millennium in its deleterious atmosphere. OK, a few pretty ideas therein, but also some extremely poisonous ones, and it does not take much arsenic to spoil the soup. By being so anti-Western, and anti-Jew, and anti-science, and anti-law, and anti-progress, and anti-secular, and anti-female, and pro-war and pro-fascist, the Quran ended spawning an anti-civilizational culture (and it shows: the area of the world which was the richest, and most advanced, became the poorest, and most obscure, all on its own: invasions came later). This is the fundamental problem of Iraq, and of a lot of the Middle Earth. Only fascism can destroy fascism, so the most enlightened leaders of Quranic lands have to use enough fascism to keep the Quranists in control (since the apocalyptic Quran is so friendly to the outright destruction of "all cities", all exalted warriors and crazed maniacs approve of it highly and coagulate below its banner, making them a potentially lethal nuisance, and requiring, for survival's sake, to crack down on them enough to keep them in their burrows).
Of course oil vultures from the West have been able to use the civilizational disarray and fragility the Quran caused to their advantage. Anglo-Saxons imperialists, in particular, spent a goodly part of the 20C occupying Iraq, and killing Iraqis, to suck the oil out, under various pretexts. It's not the first time the Anglo-Saxons come and "prize" millions of Iraqis from the brutal tyrant of the moment; it was done before, nearly a century ago, in the twenties, by the Brits. Of course, a few years later, rebellious Iraqis, hoping for deliverance, expressed their love for German fascists. Guess what? The Brits swooped back again, and "prized" the Iraqis again! After killing all the Jews in Israel, Hitler's army was going to"prize" Iraq too, and deliver it from its British tyrant (those plans came to nought after defeats at Bir Hakeim and Al Alamein).
Conclusion: The outright military assault of Iraq, and the destruction of all its secular civil society by the USA was not just a crime, but a major mistake. By rushing into a war of aggression, with the "Neoconservatives" screaming from every US media outlet that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, the USA violated massively the Geneva Conventions. It's illegal to attack countries without a casus belli and it's even more illegal to make them pay for it. Moreover, it's unwise: Prussia did this to France in 1871, and this story ended, 74 years later with the total complete and irremediable annihilation of Prussia. Look at a map: Prussia is nowhere to be found.
What happened there? Bismarck's fascism was boosted (to Nietzsche's and Bismarck's dismay) by the next generation of Prussiano-German fanatics (the ones who ambushed the world with World War I). The next generation after that brought the Nazis. The danger is indeed that, once fascism is engaged, it's self-amplifying, from one generation of idiots brainwashing the next generation, of even greater, more hubristic idiots. And it can happen to democracies, lest they take care.
Just as the world turned its back on the increasing Prussiano-German fascism, after 1871, the world turned its back on the USA after 2003. The dollar collapsed, and the world has increasingly been unable to take the US seriously, except as a polluting nuisance melting icecaps. US leaders were taught the hard way that making Iraq pay for its invasion by the US was not an option; so the US treasure drained in the sands. Bush's war has turned out to be a diplomatic, economic, financial, intellectual and moral disaster for the USA. So as not to persist along the erroneous schemes of Prussia in 1871, it's urgent to give the Iraqi baby to the United Nations ASAP (just ask France how it's done). Since this sounds beyond the intellectual reach of the Bush administration, another US government will have to implement it.
As far as Iraq is concerned, there is good hope that, once the UN is nominally in command, with US troops executing what would have become UN policy, with the help of all of the planet's armed forces, it could be stabilized. The United Nations has, potentially, infinite resources, and it has never wittingly, or, at least, for long, violated its own charter, which incarnates Civilization, that very Civilization with a capital C, that the Quran was written to destroy. Incidentally, the same method would help Afghanistan. The immense physical and mental power of the UN may allow to install secular democracy in Iraq. The USA, by itself, will not.