Sunday, October 14, 2007

Iraq -- a colonial war

How long has this malodorous war lasted? How long has its reek seeped into our political life?

Today, more than four years after its brilliantly plotted beginning, I have heard the word "colonial" used in relation to the whole criminal mess. This is the first time I have heard the word uttered on mainstream television. The first time! This word, which captures so well what is occurring there, spoken only now. And how many times have I heard clever words like "embedded" and "surge" and "IED" and "Salafi" bandied about? How much hot air has been expended discussing tactics, and strategy -- "practical" matters, as if reality were just a thing out there independently of our own desires and acts, a thing easily measured, photographed, described, solved? Oh, the sophistry is beyond belief. Even I have gotten used to this state of affairs, of newsmen and newswomen busily rushing here and there, full of words, but always confined within narrow limits of discourse.

Carter's former secretary of State or Defense, the guy with the Polish name I cannot spell, spilled the beans on Wolf Blitzer's "Late Edition." I can only say this for people who think CNN is liberal: if it is, then why have I not heard the word "colonial" or "colonialism" used in connection with Iraq, until today? Blitzer, like all journalists on TV, simply borrowed other people's words to ask his question. According to so and so (Secretary Rice, maybe), Iraq will be like Korea, or Japan. What do you say to that? If this kind of feeble lack of position is "liberalism," then I am a monkey's uncle. And aunt.

Brzezinsky's answer was sensible and so damn easy: Iraq is a colonial war, begun to control another country. World War II and Korea were not. Those countries accepted defeat, accepted the culpability of their former leadership. I would point out that indeed the Koreans, many of them, have seen the US occupation as "colonial," within the context of the Cold War (read Bruce Cumings on Korean history). But in the main, he was right.

For all the people who say But -- but all those soldiers over there really want to help the Iraqis! All I have to answer is, Do you really think all the soldiers of colonial occupations past were brimming with hatred for the peoples they policed? Did not British troops in India fill themselves with pride for the good they wanted to do to the unfortunate locals? Individual good intentions mean nothing compared to the logic of the political system which, like a bridge whose supports soar above our heads, carries us to places we never intended or imagined. We did not go to war because all the soldiers -- excuse me my lack of reverence, "Warriors" -- got together and had a referendum that they wanted to "help Iraqis." They are there as servants of a political project originating far above their (and our) heads.

I am not holding my breath that this momentous utterance will spark a fire of truth telling. There is neither the courage (on the part of the Blitzers out there), nor the historical honesty (on the part of most political figures) to have a real discussion about the war. The conservative know-nothings, like South Carolina's Graham who appeared before Brzezinsky, repeat the lie that we can ignore the past and "move on" without ill effect. But such people are not interested in reality, nor their own un-innocent involvement in it. They are only drawn to the shaping of power, like sculptors enamored of their material to the point that it becomes their sole god, mastering them, making them tools of its own impulses.

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