U.S. tanks will roll out of Iraq on a road paved with excuses
November 14, 2006
Robert Fisk: Syndicated Columinist
"Great news from America!" the cashier at my local Beirut
bookshop shouted at me the other morning, raising her thumbs in the
air. "Things will be better after these elections?" Alas, I said. Alas,
no. Things are going to get worse in the Middle East even if, in two
years' time, the U.S. is blessed with a Democrat (and democratic)
For the disastrous philosophers behind the bloodbath in Iraq are now washing their hands of the whole mess and crying "Not Us!"
with the same enthusiasm as the Lebanese lady in my book shop, while
the "experts" on the mainstream U.S. East Coast press are preparing the
ground for our Iraqi retreat -- by blaming it all on those greedy,
blood-lusting, anarchic, depraved, uncompromising Iraqis.
I must say Richard Perle's version of a mea culpa did take my breath away. Here was the ex-chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee -- he who once
said, "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform" --
admitting he "underestimated the depravity" in Iraq. He holds the
president responsible, of course, acknowledging only that -- and here,
dear reader, swallow hard -- "I think if I had been Delphic, and
had seen where we are today, and people had said: 'Should we go into
Iraq?' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's
consider other strategies ... ' "
I find this self-righteous, odious mea culpa all the more objectionable
because the same miserable man was shouting abuse down a radio line to
me in Baghdad a couple of years ago, condemning me for claiming that
the U.S. was losing its war in Iraq and claiming that I was "a
supporter of the maintenance of the Baathist regime." That lie, I might
add, was particularly malicious as I was reporting Saddam's mass rapes
and mass hangings at Abu Ghraib prison when Perle and his cohorts were
silent about Saddam's wickedness and when their chum Donald Rumsfeld
was cheerfully shaking the monster's hand in Baghdad in an attempt to
reopen the U.S. embassy there.
that Perle isn't in good company. Kenneth Adelman, the Pentagon neocon
who also beat the drums for war, has been telling Vanity Fair that "the
idea of using our power for moral good in the world" is dead. As for
Adelman's mate David Frumm, well he's decided that President Bush just
"did not absorb the ideas" behind the speeches Frumm wrote for him.
But this, I'm afraid, is not the worst to come from those who
encouraged us to invade Iraq and start a war that has cost the lives of
new phenomenon is creeping into the pages of The New York Times and
those other great organs of state in the U.S. For those journalists who
supported the war, it's not enough to bash Bush. No, they've got a new
flag to fly: The Iraqis don't deserve us. David Brooks -- he who once
told us that neocons such as Perle had nothing to do with the
president's decision to invade Iraq -- has been ransacking his way
through Elie Kedourie's 1970 essay on the British occupation of
Mesopotamia in the 1920s. And what has he discovered? That "the British
tried to encourage responsible leadership to no avail," quoting a
British officer at the time as concluding that Iraqi Shiites "have no
motive for refraining from sacrificing the interests of Iraq to those
which they conceive to be their own."
the Brooks article in The New York Times was also frightening. Iraq, he
now informs us, is suffering "a complete social integration" and
"American blunders" were exacerbated "by the same old Iraqi demons:
greed, blood lust and a mind-boggling unwillingness to compromise, even
in the face of self-immolation." Iraq, Brooks has decided, is
"teetering on the edge of futility" and if U.S. troops cannot restore
order, "it will be time to effectively end Iraq," diffusing authority
down to "the clan, the tribe or sect" which -- wait for it -- are "the
only communities which are viable."
Nor should you believe that the Brooks article represents a lone voice.
is Ralph Peters, a USA Today writer and retired U.S. Army officer. He
had supported the invasion because, he says, he was "convinced that the
Middle East was so politically, socially, morally and intellectually
stagnant that we (sic) had to risk intervention -- or face generations
of terrorism and tumult." For all Washington's errors, Peters boasts,
"we did give the Iraqis a unique chance to build a rule-of-law
those pesky Iraqis, it now seems, "preferred to indulge in old hatreds,
confessional violence, ethnic bigotry and a culture of corruption."
Peters' conclusion? "Arab societies can't support democracy as we know
it." As a result, "it's their tragedy, not ours. Iraq was the Arab
world's last chance to board the train to modernity, to give the region
a future ..." Incredibly, Peters finishes by believing that "if the
Arab world and Iran embark on an orgy of bloodshed, the harsh truth is
that we may be the beneficiaries" because Iraq will have "consumed"
"terrorists" and the United States will "still be the greatest power on
not the shamefulness of all this -- do none of these men have any
shame? -- but the racist assumption that the hecatomb in Iraq is all
the fault of the Iraqis, that their intrinsic backwardness, their
viciousness, their failure to appreciate the fruits of our civilization
make them unworthy of our further attention. At no point does anyone
question whether the fact that the U.S. is "the greatest power on
Earth" might not be part of the problem. Nor that Iraqis who
endured among their worst years of dictatorship when Saddam was
supported by the United States, who were sanctioned by the United
Nations at a cost of a half a million children's lives and who were
then brutally invaded by our armies, might not actually be terribly
keen on all the good things we wished to offer them.
Arabs, as I've written before, would like some of our democracy, but
they would also like another kind of freedom -- freedom from us.
get the point. We are preparing our get-out excuses. The Iraqis don't
deserve us. Screw them. That's the grit we're laying down on the desert
floor to help our tanks out of Iraq.
Robert Fisk writes from the Middle East for The Independent of Britain