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Friday, April 11, 2003
By Paul Ford
Notes from a cold morning in Brooklyn.
“Where are you protesters now?”
Me, one of millions around the world, I'm here, in Brooklyn, watching the mop-up after the fait accompli of British and American victory against a weak dictatorship in Iraq. I don't feel a single regret for my stance against the war; just because we won the war doesn't make it somehow right. Good, in the relief of suffering of the living, may come of it, evil may come of it in the form of further suffering, but I still can't see how the precedent of “pre-emptive war” set by the world's only remaining superpower, done outside of the auspices of international accord, does the world any good. We set a bad, destabilizing example, and when Russia gets the Imperialist itch, we'll be in the position of saying “do as I say, not as I do.”
“Didn't you see the Iraqis laughing?”
Yes, and I saw them looting, and I saw them legless. The media only shows us a fraction of what actually happens in war. I mean, come the fuck on.
“This is just sour grapes.”
In the short term, things may become better for a majority of people in Iraq. Or not. It's really hard to guess by any objective measure; time will tell. The sanctions will be lifted, and that will ease things, but 30 years of strong-arm dictatorship, along with powerful tribal allegiances, doesn't prepare a country for functioning democracy. And the U.S. is kind of weak on follow-through, if you look at Afghanistan. But you have to go with what happened and hope for the best. If they get a functioning democracy, they'll be one better than most nations, including the U.S.
“You secretly wanted another Vietnam.”
Oh, no way. But it does bum me out to see that the lesson the U.S. learned from Vietnam was strategic, not moral. We know how to occupy a nation effectively and quickly, which we didn't then, but our reasons are no more clear than they were during the cold war.
Ah well. Fuck it, I hate writing about this shit; 25,000 people die daily from lack of basic care, not to mention those dying in wars all over the place, and we all look at that statue toppling and feel good. I want to sit around and tell stupid stories about dogs and show you my pictures. But a couple of people have written to tell me what a big shithead I am for not being behind our troops. Which hurts me; my brother, father, and grandfather all served in the miltary and I have nothing but respect for their goals and what they believe and believed. And I feel that if I don't write something out here, people will feel that I've backed off from my beliefs.
I hate writing about these things because I'm not exceptionally interested in politics. I'm interested in morality and power, and I like to make fun of powerful people, past, present, and future. Since the war is (not was--there's lots left) an immoral abuse of power by powerful people, and Iraq has been run by an immoral, powerful person for dozens of years, I am fascinated by the conflict. What I want to know is how a man who is a born-again Christian can honestly claim to respect Islam? How can he can say he sleeps at night when his orders mean thousands killed? What kind of president, according to USA Today, can be described as "being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began." I have empathy; I, too, need to give up sweets, but this is war, not lent. Do Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle, and Cheney have coffins in the basement of the White House where they sleep during the day? Is Ari Fleischer secretly their hunchbacked errand boy? How are these people formed? What combination of parenting, and weather, and genetics, and ideology makes them so different from me, gives them the hunger to see their visions turned into action, into dollars and blood?