October 16, 2003
"What do you mean WE, white man?"
Of Imagination All Compact - Recently hawks and Bush Administration supporters have been playing up this Washington Post story:I don't have enough context to judge the bulldozing of orchards here, but anything we do that looks like war crimes should be scrutinized closely, and criticized fiercely if criticism is justified. And as a tree-lover and Pomologist-at-heart I don't think orchards should be bulldozed even if it IS justified. [You mean you'd risk American lives to save some stupid trees?--I.C. Well, er, ummmm ......yes. But I'm glad I don't have to decide.]While doves and administration critics have highlighted one from the Independent:
'A Gift From God' Renews a Village
Iraqi Engineers Revitalize Marshes That Hussein Had DrainedIn one case, we ameliorate someone else's war crime, in the other we commit our own.
US soldiers bulldoze farmers' crops Americans accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers, while British are condemned as too soft
Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. And that's the problem: we've gone into the God business. And we expect to be loved for the giving and - not even given a pass on the taking away - no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too. Nor are they supposed to remember the actual sequence of events in 1991 that culminated in Saddam's ecological pogrom - the Shi'ite revolt the US encouraged and then allowed Saddam to put down. If they note that, according to the Post article, Iraqi irrigation officials and the occupation authority have only managed to restore about 10% of the original extent of the wetlands so far, they must not connect the 90% that is still parched with US decisions a dozen years ago. They are certainly not to draw parallels between Saddam draining marshes to deprive rebels of cover and punish the locals for rebellion and the US destroying orchards to deprive rebels of cover and punish the locals for rebellion. (The orchard is a lot smaller than the marshes. We're either much nicer or just getting started.) That would be anti-American. And that's what we can't have - Iraqis looking at things like Iraqis, rather than like us....
But I don't like the smell of the "moral equivalence" that seems to be emerging. I'd guess that we are going to be hearing about those orchards forever. (Sort of like how the My Lai Massacre is still much noted, but the fact that Communists were routinely working to provoke just such massacres is forgotten or excused.) The Marshes and the orchards are different in much more than size. It shouldn't have to be pointed out (but we will have to keep pointing, as history is re-written once again by Leftists) that we aren't bulldozing the farmers into mass graves. Or torturing their children or raping their wives.
And this other business, I don't know the word to describe it:"....no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too. Nor are they supposed to remember the actual sequence of events in 1991 that culminated in Saddam's ecological pogrom...." Where the hell is that coming from??? Are we supposedly beaming mind-rays into Iraq, causing them to love us and forget our mistakes? Or does he mean that "Bush Administration Supporters" are saying that that's what the Iraqis should feel? Who's "we?"
If so, it's a canard. That's NOT what the Administration or its supporters are saying. We ARE pointing out that polls and the reports of travelers show that most Iraqis do support us. But we are pointing it out because we are battling against a massive disinformation campaign, one that gives encouragement to the thugs we are fighting.
Over the last hundred years or so we Americans, (and other countries of the Anglosphere) have conquered various large parts of the globe. And every time we have encouraged the free expression of ideas, including allowing criticism of us. And every time, we have "un-conquered" the conquered countries, allowing and encouraging them to decide their own futures, even if it meant not being our friends. That Lord Acton--Power Corrupts stuff is just a mushy cliché. Sometimes it does, sometimes it don't. And the powerless seem to be corrupt fairly often too. American has repeatedly had absolute power over conquered areas, and we've repeatedly given up that power.
And we've never demanded that any of them love us! That's a nasty little lying jab. Right now in Iraq we are encouraging a free press, and allowing demonstrations, even though they are often critical of the US. And as the iraqis are given more control of their country, there will arise anti-American politicians and movements. We expect that, it's OK. Also, we are not concealing that we are helping Iraq because we think it will also help us, and they know that.
And we are not "going into the God business." What we are doing in Iraq is just practicing skills that are fairly basic for us. Setting up banks and neighborhood councils, and training policemen....that's stuff that Americans DO, like my mechanic does tune-ups. Or like the Swiss do hotels. If Mr Henley were drafted and sent to Iraq to train policemen, he would almost certainly do just fine. Most thoughtful people of the Anglosphere would. And Mr Henley would end up doing much the same things as the other administrators do, just like two good mechanics would do similar things to my car. We know this stuff. Nothing God-like about it. In fact the essence of the training would be that there should be checks and oversight and self-discipline, and that policemen should not have God-like powers. And Mr. Henley would impose these American values on the Iraqi policemen (And so would Noam Chomsky, if he had the job.) But he wouldn't try to determine the exact future of Iraq, because among the most-used tools in our toolkit is the idea that people ought to determine their own futures.
And if he's like most Americans, he will be glad to relinquish his power and come home. And when he does, he will probably be wiser and humbler than before, and more skilled for having worked with the toolkit of Western Civilization, and LESS CORRUPT than before.
Update: It's late, I should sleep, but I'm still bugged by Henley's post. "..and we expect to be loved for the giving and - not even given a pass on the taking away - no, we want the Iraqis to love us for destroying their orchards too ..." Where's this guff coming from? Did I miss something? I've read lots of accounts by Americans who went to Iraq, and nobody says: "Of course those towel-heads love us. We expect it of them. It's the least they can do." Actually Americans often seem surprised by how friendly the Iraqis are.
I think maybe power corrupts the guys who are working the "deep thoughtful criticism" racket. When you make specific factual criticisms you get feedback and argument. But when you start to speculate on the "psychology" of a whole country, you have total power to just make up stuff and wait to roll in the approbation. No facts necessary. Especially if it's the US. You can bullshit away about how America is a "psychopathic fascist zombie death culture" or some such and be called profound. (And then be "shocked' and "appalled" at the "dishonesty" of the Bush Administration.)
"...And that's what we can't have - Iraqis looking at things like Iraqis, rather than like us...." Sez who? When? Where? Jeez. We're bulldozing their orchards because people ARE TRYING TO KILL US, not because we are imposing thought-control or love-potions.Posted by John Weidner at October 16, 2003 1:32 PM