Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Smack, Iraq and Afghanistan

Our Maddy's waiting; before she is willing to "move on", she's looking for an apology from the "cheerleaders" of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Marcus is feeling a little sorry for our Mads because none of said "cheerleaders" seem particularly interested in helping her gain "closure" on the issue. Disappointing perhaps, what with her being in such a muscular mood. Yet while I'm not sure I qualify as a "cheerleader" - I can assure you no pom-poms, fetching little dresses or twirling batons were involved in my support - I feel similarly disinclined.

Our Mads really should take on the possibility that in "moving on", few be there that are particularly interested in whether she comes along or not. One of the reasons for this is maybe we don't recognise ourselves in her description. It may well be the case that neoconservatives saw democracy as the "default position" Iraq would return to post-regime change - but since that was never my position, it would scarcely be my perogative to apologise for it. Fukuyama may have changed his mind - but then again, someone who is on record as announcing the End of History has got used to his ideas breaking on the rocks of reality.

Some may have - and they can speak for themselves - but the notion that installing a democracy would be an easy matter has never formed part of my position with regards regime-change in Afghanistan or Iraq. Nevertheless, the idea that political democracy has been consistently under-rated as an essential prerequisite for long-term political stability is basic, fundamental - and it is here that one wonders what Ms Bunting and the rest are all about when they refer to "the naivety of the government's approach to complex, tribal, sectarian cultures." There's something slightly insidious behind this, something that carries more than a whiff of the "Arabs don't do democracy" idea - although unlike so many who occupy Ms Bunting's camp, I'd decline to call this racism.

Rather, is it not merely a misreading of history? Those who have been putting the word "democracy" sneeringly in inverted commas have never answered to my satisfaction the question as to why, if it's such a Western, imported concept, have modern dictatorships - even those as brutal as Saddam's - almost always felt the need to create a facade of democratic legitimacy to cover their rule. Not even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can claim to govern by God's annointing alone - and the significance of this has not been properly understood. Do those who are now saying the "tribal" are not ready for democracy not realise that they used to say this about the Catholics? Then they said it about non-Christian cultures. They used to say it about women more recently than we care to remember. And let us never forget they said it about the labouring classes in this country.

If someone would rather be vindicated in their opposition to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan rather than embrace this understanding and support democrats, socialists, trade unionists and liberals in the post-regime change situations in these countries, it serves only to illustrate their extreme narcissism, a desire for their claim to a monopoly in moral discernment to be recognised.

As far as I'm concerned, this they cannot have - because apart from anything else, their claim to stand in solidarity with the world's oppressed is rather suspect. One of Ms Bunting's justifications for opposing the invasion of Afghanistan illustrates this point:
"Their make-believe fantasies are a world away from the garrison democracy increasingly suborned by the warlords they've installed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush's "free society" and Blair's democracy is, in reality, the most efficient narco-economy in the world. As you read, the new shoots of opium poppies are being nurtured by the spring sunshine over 320,000 acres, promising a bumper crop. Ninety per cent of Europe's heroin now comes from Afghanistan. These two world leaders have so prostituted words such as democracy and freedom that they have lost all meaning."
Can I entreat you to read the above again, allow what she is actually saying here to sink in: the logical inference is that the terrorist-harbouring, statue-destroying, women-enslaving, culture-annihilating, Shia Muslim-murdering Taliban should have remained in power to protect Europe's heroin-users.

Her solicitude with western drug-addicts is really quite touching, but it leaves me with a few questions. Should we, for example, assume that this is a relatively new interest for her - and that's why she didn't make reference to the fact that it is Iran that has the highest concentration of heroin-addicts in the world? A surprising omission for someone who likes to wear her solidarity with the Muslim world on her sleeve.

I'm also wondering why she didn't mention the Taliban's rather ambivalent approach to the production of opium - or the fact that heroin-production effectively saved the Pakistani economy from collapse in the 1990s.

She might also have mentioned that despite the world increase in the supply of heroin post-regime change in Afghanistan, the number of heroin-related deaths in Europe has continued to fall and that, in any event, it always was dwarfed by the sheer scale of alcohol-related deaths.

This forms part of a more basic question: as with the production of heroin, isn't there something utterly insular and Euro-centric about the general position of the antiwar left? It's all about us - the Taliban should have remained in power to protect western junkies, better that than facing up to our own responsibilities with regards to this social problem; containment should have continued because although the theocratic and absolutist side in this civil war raging across the Muslim world may be unpleasant, it doesn't affect us.

Hence the indifference Marcus identifies. What is the point in engaging with those who exude self-righteousness, who value individual moral vindication above all else, who wish to demonstrate that they alone are blameless and have kept their garments white and unspotted from the blemish of imperialist capitalism? Narrow, insular, morally self-aggrandizing is what they are. If she can take time out from her busy schedule of fawning over reactionary clerics, Ms Bunting and her ilk should try and understand this: no-one on our side cares if they are able to "move on" or not. We acknowledge the mistakes of the coalition - from the case they made for war to the handling of the occupation - but we have picked our turf and we stand on it, win or lose. I appreciate they find this hard to understand but I wish they'd try. Some of us are not like Blair at all; we are not waiting for the "verdict of history" because we think the result is already in: with regards to Ba'athist Iraq, we already hear the haunting voice of History in the words of the farmer from Safwan who declared himself to have "come from the grave". To those who have ears to hear and yet refuse to listen, be reminded of his words: he said "You're late".



Update: On the question in the last paragraph, Norm has made some suggestions of his own - six, no less.

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