Monday, February 7, 2011

Sticking to the Script

"If the sun and moon should ever doubt, they'd immediately go out." -William Blake

Reading excerpts from George W. Bush's recently published memoir, Decision Points, and listening to Condoleeza Rice and Rudy Giuliani in interviews, and Tony Blair's statements to the British Iraq Inquiry, I was struck by the near-verbatim consistency with which all of them defended the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. It was as if they were delivering the same lines from a carefully prepared script. While they all repeated the argument that Saddam Hussein had developed and was developing WMDs (an argument that has since been completely discredited), they insisted that transforming Iraq into a semi-stable, multi-ethnic, nominal democracy was worth the destruction and loss of life that the invasion wrought.

The vacuum left by the ouster of Saddam Hussein - a monster created by Ronald Reagan - has emboldened Iran to assert itself as the new regional superpower. So we are back at square one: the problem of a hostile Muslim state arming itself with WMDs simply shifted to the east. But the notion that democracy is something that can be exported or transplanted from one country to another, that it can simply be handed over to people who have a history of nothing but tyrants or colonial masters is as foolish and offensively racist as the line from the movie Full Metal Jacket, delivered by a gung ho American general in Vietnam: "Inside every gook there's an American trying to get out

I happen to live in one such country, the Philippines, that modeled its constitution and government structure after its former colonial masters, the United States. Yet more than sixty years into its independence, it is no closer to being a true democracy than any of the Arab states in current turmoil.

I believe that it is safe to conclude that the decision to invade Iraq was a foregone conclusion for at least a year before it happened, based on one of two scenarios: either the intelligence evidence of WMDs was uniformly false, but fooled everyone anyway - in which case it represents a systemic and historic intelligence failure, or the evidence was known to be weak but that the Bush administration was aware that it was the only thing that could sell the war to the UN, and the American and British peoples.

Listening to Condi, Rudy, and Tony deliver their lines on television was amusing but also chilling. They gave me the distinct impression that they would carry the truth with them to their graves. It reaffirmed my conviction, not just that people in political office are professional liars, but that politics itself is an instrument designed to obscure the truth. As with so many historical events in the past fifty or so years, we will simply have to make up our own minds and try to get on with our lives here in the free world.


Jelly Bean said...

So, you're saying that it's recist to think that everyone has a right to have a say in who runs their country? I think it's racist to claim, as you do, that some people aren't ready for democracy. Isn't that what Mubarak is telling the Egyptian people?

Dan Harper said...

I'm saying that people who have been stupefied by hundreds or thousands of years of tyranny, like the Russians or Chinese, would probably arrive at something I might recognize as a democracy only after several generations of struggle - if they started today. Neither country was ready for socialism, since they were made up of mostly uneducated peasants instead of the workers that Marx expected would create a socialist state. Both wound up totalitarian - no different from the czars or emperors of the past. Democracy requires, I think, a basic understanding and respect for the sovereignty of the individual - a condition that doesn't exist in most countries.