Saturday, March 20, 2004

Iraq - One Year After

by Eamonn Fitzgerald at (suitably enough) Rainy Day

[reproduced, in full, without permission, but with gratitude for his saying what needs to be said, today of all days, and for saying it so well]

One year after, there is no “popular resistance” to the coalition forces who liberated the long-suffering people of Iraq from the crime syndicate known at the Baath Party. The vast majority of Iraqis are glad Saddam is gone.
One year after, a rag-bag assortment of terrorists are killing their fellow Muslims at random in Iraq because they have failed miserably to impact the coalition militarily. The way of the suicide bomber leads unto the grave.
One year after, the professional gloomsayers are still filling their newspaper columns and TV slots with bleak predictions about Iraq. The Arab street is not paying any attention, however.
One year after, Iraq has joined such moderate regional states as Turkey, Jordan and Israel in an attempt to escape a repressive past and embrace a modern present. The Syrian dictator, the Iranian theocrat and the Saudi autocrat and their thuggish enforcers have cause for concern.
One year after, the Iraqis are concentrating on constructing a civil society with a leadership whose priorities do not include invading their neighbours, developing weapons of mass destruction and ripping off the country’s natural resources. The criminal enterprise known as the “Oil for Food Program” will never be repeated.
One year after, Colonel Gaddafy has handed over Libya’s store of deadly weapons and A.Q. Khan’s role in selling Pakistani nuclear technology has been exposed. The collateral benefits of regime change are substantial.
One year after, the world owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the United States for its determination to reform the Middle East. The job has just begun.
Will Iraqis demonstrate on their streets a decade from now and shout anti-American slogans while doing so? More than likely. That’s human nature; one mustn’t expect gratitude. After all, Americans fought and died in Europe during the 20th century to save France from Germany (twice), and save Germany from Fascism and Communism, but hatred of America is a reflex action in both countries. Still, the French and the Germans who rant and rave are able to do so in freedom. Just as the Iraqis can now do. Hitler didn’t triumph, Stalin didn’t succeed, Saddam lost. One year after, this is a better world.

Lindsey German, we salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability

There are two great photos and one pointed comment at Semi-skimmed today. The “lying liars” are not restricted to the right wing of the US Republican Party.

Move On Up - to What, Exactly?

Our first post today carried a link to Harry’s Place, where the eponym and his colleagues are promoting the slogan “Do Something for Iraq” as an alternative to the (literally and metaphorically) washed-out parades of the anti-war nincompoops. Nick at 4 Glengate has also responded to Harry’s campaign:

“we can, at least, agree that on this point we can move on together, pro-war left and anti-war left (or, at least, some of us can).”

Well, yes, sort of.

When it comes to doing something for Iraq, what counts most is not what anyone in the West, still less any number of bloggers, may want to see done, but what the Iraqi people themselves want done. Not being Iraqis, we’re less confident than certain commentators are that we can speak in their name (though we can read opinion polls and watch the TV news as carefully as they can, and in some cases, quite clearly, much more carefully). However, if we were Iraqis we might well be asking ourselves what exactly can or should be done for us by western “leftists”, who did not just shut the fuck up and get out of the way when our country was being liberated from dictatorship, but actively opposed that very liberation, only to turn round afterwards and ask to be taken seriously as old friends of Iraq from way back, sincerely concerned to promote the best interests of its people. We might grudgingly concede some of them them some trust, even some respect, but it would be understandable if we were less easily convinced than they would like us to be.

After that little thought experiment, here’s another. What would be the most appropriate response to a surgeon who refused to take part in a life-saving operation, did his or her best to obstruct the work of his colleagues and to misrepresent the results, and then vociferously demanded to be consulted about the course of post-operative treatment? “Are you a total hypocrite, or just incapable of thinking clearly?” is merely the most polite of the appropriate responses that occur to us.

Reality Check

On a day that has already been disfigured by fools, ignoramuses and admirers of dictatorship cluttering up the streets of all too many cities in the West - but not, be it emphasised, the streets of any cities in Iraq - it’s important to focus on the concrete and the everyday, and resist being distracted by the windy rhetoric spouted by those who are either stupid enough to believe what they are yelling, cynical enough to exploit the gullible, or demented enough to advocate appeasing terrorists and reneging on the Enlightenment.
Take, for instance, that much-abused buzzword “multiculturalism”. This vignette of a day out in Canberra says more about the lived meaning of the word than any number of earnest academic tracts; and William Dalrymple’s marvellous riposte to the vastly overrated V.S. Naipaul goes beyond the merely literary to remind us why multiculturalism matters, and what achievements it has been capable of.

Seventy-two Years On, Happiness is ...

Anthony Cox at Black Triangle draws our attention to this quotation from Bertrand Russell:

“Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the Earth’s surface relatively to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.”

Anthony then suggests that the results of this recent survey by the City and Guilds Institute (on a webpage with perhaps the longest URL we’ve yet come across) make it appear “that Russell’s theory is under attack”. Hmm ...
The survey is very interesting in any case, but we’re not at all sure that its findings are inconsistent with Russell’s generalisation. “Learning new things”, “being your own boss” and “fulfilling an ambition”, all of which are, predictably, highly valued by the survey’s respondents, are surely a lot more likely to be experienced by those who tell others what to do than by those who are told what to do, often without being told why and without having any chance to question or vary their instructions. After all, Russell was commenting on the employer/employee relationship - whether the employees in question are “blue collar” or “white collar” - rather than on the special case of self-employed “trade professionals”, who form the target group for much of the City and Guilds Institute’s sterling work in vocational training. (That work, by the way, matters far more, to the economy and to society, than its low profile and low status would suggest, but neither the Institute nor its clients can be blamed for the fact that so many British people are still so easily impressed by the mere holding of a university degree.)
More to the point, a bourgeois socialist of Russell’s rather high-minded but well-meaning type - let alone a Marxist - would see the difference between the job satisfaction of the self-employed and the dissatisfaction of most of the employed as supporting an argument for (at the very least) some increase in workers’ participation in decision-making, permitting workers some experience of “being your own boss”. But Russell was writing in 1932, not 2004. The fact that hardly anyone on the “left” these days talks about workers’ participation at all - never mind the workers’ control that used to be the central goal of much left-wing activity - is just another indication of how far today’s smug pseudo-Marxists and abstraction-befuddled “radicals” have strayed from any form of socialism that the pioneers of the left (Marxist and non-Marxist alike) would recognise.
It does not surprise us that - to use the phraseology of Clause 4, removed from the Labour Party’s Constitution long after the party had effectively ceased to believe in it - “workers by hand” tend to be more satisfied with their work than “workers by brain”. But the distinctions among different types of worker matter less than the condition that still unites all workers, whether they know it or not - that is, the fact that capitalism (to continue the quotation from Clause 4) deprives them of

“the full fruits of their labour and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry and service”.

The phraseology may seem dusty and old-fashioned, but there’s more wisdom and more practical relevance there than in any of the cretinous and vicious slogans that were being chanted on the streets of London and other cities earlier today.

Bertrand Russell (and Olaf Stapledon) Would Have Loved This

One way to get a proper perspective - not just on the liberation of Iraq, or the foolishness of those who opposed it, but on every single thing ever thought, imagined, said or done by any human being - is to look at these pictures, taken in May last year. One of them is “the first image of Earth ever taken from another planet that actually shows our home as a planetary disc” - and note that phrase “our home”, used here, not as a piece of tendentious ultraleft nonsense, but as a simple statement of a basic fact. (If you want the full effect, and don’t mind waiting while it downloads, click on the link “R05-00763.gif” near the bottom of the page.) Who needs religion, when technology and imagination - those uniquely human phenomena rightly praised by the greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment - can bring us wonders like this?

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