Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Award Winning Gene Lyons: Orwell Had No Idea How Sinister the World Could Become. Orwell Didn't Know elChimpo

Imperialism in Iraq

Posted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Gene Lyons
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

" The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. "—" Heart of Darkness, "Joseph Conrad

Anybody whose jaw didn’t drop at those photos of Saddam Hussein’s portly younger brother taking charge in Fallujah in his crisply pressed Republican Guard uniform must have a weaker sense of irony than a dairy cow. OK, so Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh isn’t actually kin to the deposed Iraqi dictator, although they definitely appear to share the same mustache stylist. But Saleh’s history in what TV invariably called Saddam’s" elite Republican Guard" is real enough. He played a key role in brutally repressing a 1991 Shiite rebellion, so after four days of strutting around as commander of the all-Iraqi "Fallujah Brigade" replacing U.S. Marines there, he got replaced by Gen. Mohammad Latif, an intelligence officer formerly imprisoned by the regime.

It remains to be seen whether fedayeen gunmen celebrating the American retreat will accept Latif’s authority.

Ahmed Chalabi, the longtime Iraqi exile and convicted embezzler ticketed by Pentagon "neo-conservative" theoreticians to run the country, argues that giving Baath Party members a role in the new government is like turning Germany over to ex-Nazis in 1945. But with Newsweek reporting that Chalabi himself has been leaking U.S. secrets to his Shiite pals in Iran, it’s unlikely he’ll get the final say-so, either.

Watching this ghastly comedy of errors, I wondered if Americans shouldn’t stick to what we know best and hire FOX to produce a reality TV program: "Iraqi Idol, the Search for a New Strongman."

The theme song selects itself: "Won’t Get Fooled Again" by The Who. I can’t imagine how Pete Townshend’s caustic anthem would sound to Iraqi ears, but the concept would definitely translate to Arabic: "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss."

But enough desperate jokes. Finding the right tone to write about Iraq is very hard. Only today, I read about the funeral of Capt. Arthur "Bo" Felder of Little Rock, a 36-year-old gentle giant, his mother said, who taught troubled adolescents and served as youth director at his church. Felder left behind his fiancée and two children, Jaelun, 8, and Amara, 4. He was one of five Arkansas National Guardsmen killed in Iraq last week. By way of reassurance, CNN reports that Iraqi combat deaths in April outnumbered Americans almost 10-to-1.

Only a couple of weeks ago, all the GOP warrior-professors argued that the U.S. needed to demonstrate resolve by cracking down against Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and Shiite extremists in Najaf.

Writing in The New York Times, British historian Niall Ferguson chided Americans, President Bush among them, for their naivety in "denying that America is in the empire business."

Ferguson offered lessons from his country’s experience in Iraq. "Putting this rebellion down," he wrote, "will require severity. In 1920, the British eventually ended the rebellion through a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions. It was not pretty.

" Even Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for the air force, was shocked by the actions of some trigger-happy pilots and vengeful ground troops.... Is the United States willing or able to strike back with comparable ruthlessness?"

Well, we all know what a brilliant success the Brits made of the Middle East. At roughly the same time Iraq was being pacified, a young Estonian named Eric Blair joined the Indian Imperial Police half a continent away in Burma. Writing under his pen name, George Orwell, he later immortalized that experience in "Shooting an Elephant," one of the great essays in the English language.

Having decided that imperialism was "an evil thing," Orwell described himself "stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down... upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts."

Such emotions, which Orwell calls "normal by-products of imperialism," don’t entirely explain those degrading photos of American MPs and contract workers torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners. But they’re a beginning. Meanwhile, somebody needs to remind the Professor Fergusons of the world that much has changed since 1920. Thanks to the communications revolution, gentlemanly "village-burning expeditions" can no longer be conducted in discreet good taste; hence, the U.S. Marines’ wise restraint in Fallujah. Disturbing images from the Abu Ghraib prison are broadcast instantaneously across the Muslim world, evoking a maelstrom of defiance and making mad Osama bin Laden look like a prophet. The tragedy of Iraq is that, ultimately, Americans have no appetite for empire.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.


Post a Comment

<< Home