Why the people’s instinct can be wrong

I’ll take up Margo’s invitation in The people’s instinct on the war to answer the following:


What’s made the world split asunder over [the impending war]? What’s the really big picture here? What’s at the bottom of the intensity of feelings about it? Any ideas?

First, though, the question arises to what extent are “the people” – that imaginary crowd of individuals whose viewpoint is expounded in Margo’s piece – representative of the people that actually took to the streets that weekend? To what extent is the portrayal of “the people” a myth, to what extent is it accurate?

I believe it’s possible that some of the people who tagged along imagined they were mourning the victims of the imminent war in advance, without subscribing to any of the views of “the people”. Or without asserting anything – not even “I am against the imminent war”. Simply just mourning in advance.

Others would have rejected “the people’s instinct” and actually acknowledged the good the war would do, while also mourning in advance. They would have brushed off the ubiquitous messages to the contrary as an irritation, as constant noise that interfered with their private requiem.

I think it’s something of a national characteristic that some Australians just do things for private reasons, despite what everyone around them is doing and what the official purpose of an event is. Just the fact that a lot of people are to be mobilised on the same day, and the focus is on the imminent war in Iraq, is enough to agitate a person’s thoughts.

That’s about it, though, for the legitimate moral reasons – as I see it – for people to gather in this way on or near the occasion of a war of this kind, given the Iraqi reality. The other reasons for demonstrating, particularly in the light of the way it was actually done, cause the world to be torn asunder. My purpose is to explain this view.

One more view not held by “the people” would have been manifested by a tiny minority of demonstrators: As in Europe, especially Germany, where the movement is relatively strong in support of Arabs generally and Saddam Hussein in particular (this is surprising, but only on the surface), there were undoubtedly neo-nazis present in the Australian marches hoping for Saddam’s victory – meaning survival – and an American downfall.

So here are three examples that show how the concept of “the people” is narrower than reality. The reason is that adherents of this concept project a particular moral view onto the world and wrongly claim that “This is the world as it is”: In fact, life is bigger than theory, even antiwar theory. “The people” would find preposterous the near certainty that neo-nazis were present amongst their number at the antiwar rallies in Australia. Reality is stranger than theory.

Of course, we’re lucky enough to be living in a democracy in which we have the right to express more or less whatever we want. As with Tampa and SIEV-X, Australians are quite free to express all aspects of our national character, even abhorrent ones.

I want to explain why it’s possible to get the same sick feeling from the antiwar protests as with Tampa and SIEV-X. It’s not because of the neo-nazis, but the mainstream protesters – “the people”. Even the elderly, some of whom walked because they were sick of war and fighting, and were concerned for their grandchildren. The feeling is that of Australia selling her soul.

The feeling has nothing to do with whether one believes the imminent war is morally right or wrong. It has something to do with the way the protests were done.

It has a lot to do with our ability to recognize and accept responsibility for the consequences of our actions, especially our negative choices. The way we make sense of a foreign event such as the Iraqi crisis directly affects the kind of society forming around us through the sum of actions of people like us.

A repeat of the mistake Australians made with Tampa and SIEV-X was always on the cards because – as I will demonstrate – an inalienable part of both the pure leftist and pure pacifist positions is a denial of individual freedom, especially if winning this freedom requires the help of “imperialist” or capitalist forces (in the former case) or risk of loss of life (latter case). This denial occurs in a way that people aren’t normally used to thinking about. It nevertheless happens: It’s very real.

The critical point is that as they pursue their own ideological ends, adherents of these positions obliterate knowledge of the individual’s condition. Their moral failure lies in this obliteration – not in their apparent inadvertent support for a dictator.

Long before accepting this freedom-desiring individual as a kindred spirit – which you’d think is natural, considering we live in a country that supposedly loves liberty – committed leftists do everything in their power to stymie the forces that could give this individual what he or she wants. This has the practical effect of prolonging the reign of even the dictator who has caused the death of two million.

Today, we’re seeing the most extreme application in history of the words of Sir Stafford Cripps, a prominent left-wing member of the British Labour Party in the 1930s:

We believe Imperialism with its competition, exploitation and aggression to be an unjust and evil basis for a society of nations. We cannot, therefore, support wars – whatever excuses may be made for them – the objective of which is to perpetuate the system we not only dislike but which we believe to be the fundamental cause of war.

Cripps’s error lay in failing to recognise that ideas are contagious, that fascism is a system as much as the “Imperialism” he hated, and that a fascist dictator rarely lives in isolation: He easily attracts unscrupulous allies. Jorg Haider and Russian ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky have made several trips to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein. Haider even appeared in a long al-Jazeera interview in which at one point he labelled the genocide of the Kurds a “rumour”. Of course, we don’t know what went on at these meetings – perhaps these were no more than mutual moral support sessions between friends.

Cripps did support wars if they were (ostensibly) not in the cause of capitalism or imperialism. Today, he would perhaps be a supporter of a strictly UN-sanctioned war – though if a UN veto favoured imperialism by a smaller country, then his position would be shown to be inconsistent and his assertion that he supports justice for all a self-delusion – just as it has always been with the Leninists and Marxists. The antiwar obsession of the British Labour Party subsided after Mussolini invaded Abyssinia in 1935, at which point the party’s foreign policy was altered to reflect the fascist threat.

Preoccupation with the figurehead of the forces determined to neutralise the dictator’s power, and failure to take seriously the desires of the victim of totalitarian oppression, makes it seem that it is the dictator who is the kindred spirit of the leftists and pacifists. The sum of their actions always go towards helping him out.

George Orwell in the 1940s may have been the first to write this observation in English. But he didn’t explain it. This Webdiary piece develops George Orwell’s view. Of course, nothing I write is truly new. It’s just that all of it seems to have been forgotten.

I’m saying that when they claim it is unintentional, they’re not being completely honest: True, they’re not directly intending this consequence, but a destructive intention certainly exists.

The position of the committed pacifist, on the other hand, is an excuse for the status quo. It contradicts itself because it excuses violence in the past. For example, Mohandas Ghandi’s support for Palestine was an excuse for the violent conquest of the land by Arabs a century or more before. As I explained in Saddam’s Desire for Genocide, Ghandi’s philosophy excuses empire-building and genocide. When the Jews were faced with extermination by the Nazis, Ghandi advised them to turn the other cheek and thereby preserve their righteousness.

If the status quo is to be preserved through pacifism, why should I not build as great an empire as I can starting now, before the political effect of pacifism makes expanding my empire impossible? Unsurprisingly, some pacifists have through the years been attracted to French empire-building through diplomacy, which has always had elements of betrayal and collaboration with dictators.

The above outline of ideologies has been fleshed out solidly in modern history, and later (in Part 2) I’ll expand on them in the context of the Iraq crisis. For now, I’ll just cite George Orwell, from his Notes on Nationalism (May, 1945):

Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.

Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defence of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.

It is not claimed, again, that the Indians should abjure violence in their struggle against the British. [JW: Or nowadays, that the Palestinians should, against the Israelis.] Pacifist literature abounds with equivocal remarks which, if they mean anything, appear to mean that statesmen of the type of Hitler are preferable to those of the type of Churchill, and that violence is perhaps excusable if it is violent enough.

The world being “split asunder” is nothing new. In this essay, though, I’m focussing on the moral picture – what exactly is being torn? How does it happen?

My personal view is that the process of splitting asunder is caused by the forms that the human mind is prone to taking, the form a mind takes despite itself. Present-day resonances with these immutable logical forms – which are as real as the antiwar movement – explain why “the people” are so easily distracted by conspiracies about the Americans while paying virtually no attention to – and having little understanding of – the role of Saddam Hussein in the life of the Iraqi who thirsts for freedom.

Regarding “the people’s instinct”, I cannot agree with what it is purported to be. The Volksgeist can imbue an individual with any instinct – but in the case of the imminent war on Iraq, it is probably a confluence of unexamined fears that renders the individual easily manipulable towards making dreadful mistakes.

Instinct cannot resolve the terrible moral dilemma faced by the Iraqi desiring freedom. The final step has got to be an act of human will, because the situation is far outside the bounds of what is met in everyday life, especially in the West. The Westerner’s instinct shies away from understanding this Iraqi, from sympathising with him or her, from taking stock of this Iraqi’s existence at all. The elderly couple in Fremantle, Western Australia, for example, who walked because they were sick of war and fighting, and were concerned for their grandchildren, had no feelings at all for the Iraqi desiring freedom, even though their actions were contributing to keeping a regime in power that makes most Iraqi lives miserable.

It’s worth recalling that “the people’s instinct” was manipulated in the events surrounding Tampa and the SIEV-X catastrophe to the advantage of unscrupulous, power-seeking opportunists. The gut feeling of even a seeming majority of Australians can be dreadfully wrong.

Even a great literary and scientific nation such as Germany can become thoroughly corrupt and get a deep gut feeling that is abhorrent in hindsight. The Volksgeist drove half a million to protest in Berlin; and now 53 percent of Germans cannot tell the difference between a man who has perpetrated genocide on his own citizens and caused the death of at least two million, and a figurehead who has committed the lives of two hundred thousand of his nation’s sons and daughters to neutralise his power. This is extremely disturbing, because the view minimises the danger of fascism while blaming the world’s problems on those that fight fascism.

The vehemence of the obsession with the figurehead is stunning. An anti-personality cult has been set in motion around the world – it vilifies Bush, while the fact remains that a team plans US policy, not an individual. The team members with few exceptions have the opposite traits for which Bush is vilified. Valid criticisms of the Bush administration can be made, but we hardly ever hear them.

Dangerous, politically ambiguous chauvinism has been around for a century or more. Here’s an example. In May 1944, just before D-Day, at the height of the Nazi dictatorship in France (perpetrated by the collaborating Vichy government), Hubert Beuve-Mery, future founder and director of Le Monde, wrote (and meant it):

The Americans constitute a real danger for France, a danger that is quite different to that which Nazi Germany menaces us with, or the danger the Russians could threaten us with. The Americans could well stop us from starting a necessary revolution, and their materialism does not even have the grandeur tragique of the materialism of the totalitarian regimes. While they uphold a true cult of liberty, they do not feel the need to free themselves from the servitudes that are part and parcel of their capitalism. [Quoted in: “The Anti-American Obsession”, Jean-Francois Revel, 2002]

Similar “third way” sentiments – as well as orthodox pro-communist views – were expressed during World War II in the Stalin-initiated socialist resistance movement, the National Army, which comprised about 10 percent of the entire anti-German resistance in Poland. The difference in Poland, however, is that communists came to power after the war, and the misguided “moderate” socialists were swept away after betraying mainstream Polish military: they’d fought for an illusion. This led, for one thing, to the murder of several thousand Polish military and intellectuals, who had fought for the Home Army, by the Russians immediately after the war. (This was after Katyn. The Katyn murders – in which 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were murdered by the Russians, occurred in 1941.)

With the Americans now seemingly opting for eventual extended military occupation of Iraq, it is worth mentioning that according to Revel, the political left was against the Marshall plan in Europe, as it considered the plan a neo-colonialist and imperialist manoeuvre on the part of the United States. Half a century later, with leftist opposition to planned American occupation of Iraq, little has changed. After WWII, the left wanted a Marshall plan for Africa instead. If the left had got its way at the expense of the Americans, Germany would have been an economic backwater today.

“The people’s instinct” is probably a confluence of unexamined fears that renders the individual easily manipulable towards making dreadful mistakes, for it cannot guide the will in the crucial final step when this involves a terrible moral (or other) dilemma. In my next column, I’ll show how “the people” (remember, I’ve defined this specifically) – having lost the ability to drive out the demons awoken by these unexamined fears, with science, logic and history – are captive in a hell of their own making. Moreover, instead of seeing the thing as it is, they are distracted by side-issues that – although often important in their own right – are not the most important thing. My aim is not to vilify or confront, but to diagnose, clarify, and offer a way out.

For now, I’ll just outline the main points, leaving the factual back up to my next column. “The people” have lost the passion for knowledge and the necessary patience for precision, and they steal certitude that neither they nor anyone else are entitled to. Just these one or two failures are enough to kick off a chain of imprecision and false certitude, like Chinese whispers happening inside their head, which causes an evolving view to diverge ever further from reality until it reaches one of a few plateaux that are familiar to all of us. Reality checks don’t work, as new facts are overwhelmingly used to confirm neurotic fears rather than explode them.

In what matters most, “the people” have retreated from the world of documented fact into a world of congealed phantasms. They project their rationalisations and obliterate reality rather than expound on reality. Of course, “the people” are not the only ones who can suffer from this, but the subject here is Iraq, and I’m focussing on recent actions of “the people”.

The historians among them falsify history and stubbornly never apologise for teaching falsehoods or for damaging the education of generations of students and other readers. Even after overwhelming documentary evidence of the true state of affairs becomes available, these historians continue disseminating their old views, hence become historical revisionists.

For example, leftist historical revisionists still cannot come to grips with the evil of the Soviet communist state: They deny it, and falsify particular events to make the reality fit their view. Every observation they make of the Iraqi crisis is corrupted by this skewed vision; they simply cannot be trusted, and since their arguments are superficial, they have little (but not nothing) of value to offer the reader who seeks clarity. Gabriel Kolko, in The crisis in NATO: A geopolitical earthquake?, for decades a hero of Marxist falsification and apologies for Stalin’s gulags, is one such historian.

George Orwell wrote about this, too, in the early 1940s. The condition is still thriving in 2003. These are not just randomly repeated discoveries: Ideas have a life of their own. They get rediscovered and perpetuated from generation to generation. Although such a notion is generally considered alien in Australia, it is no less true because of it.

Are the protesters innocent? Or are they morally blameworthy? I believe the latter is certainly the case. How exactly have they caused the world to be torn asunder?

It must be emphasised that apart from the neo-nazis, none of the protesters would have wanted Saddam Hussein to win. They do, after all, have a feeling for peace that they were promoting, even if it was expressed as vilification of Bush. Moreover, consideration of the potential victims of the imminent war was certainly a part of their protest, even if their conception ignored the view of the Iraqi seeking liberation.

But it is easy to be appalled at violence, especially when it hasn’t happened yet and everybody fears the worst, and especially in Australia, where governments are increasingly promoting an image of being keepers of order, at a time when being seen to be tough on crime is a vote-winner. It is much harder for “the people” to come to terms with the dilemma faced by Iraqis who dream of freedom.

Furthermore, the protesters would have been appalled if it were explained to them that their action was subsequently used by the dictator and his henchmen to prop up the totalitarian regime oppressing the Iraqi people – by buying time and waiting for public support in the USA and Britain to collapse, a tactic Saddam announced in an Egyptian newspaper interview back in January. Saddam’s plan has been falling into place ever since.

Saddam’s tactic seems to be working, with extreme pressure recently having been placed by their electorates on the prime ministers of Britain and Spain, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar, following the French and German-led revival of the worldwide antiwar movement.

Nevertheless, protesters that wash their hands of responsibility for handing Saddam the initiative would be acting dishonestly. They would be denying their culpability (ie unintentional causation) in the same way that many Australians, having supported the unscrupulous opportunists on the Tampa and SIEV-X issues, deny responsibility for the self-mutilation of asylum seekers in Australian concentration camps. These denialists think every man is an island. We’re far away from Iraq, why should our actions have any influence there? (Similarly: we’re far from Iraq, why should it be Australia’s problem?) But the distance we imagine between us and Iraq is mirrored in the distance between fellow Australians.

Perhaps Australia’s landscape is a strong influence, embedding distance between human beings. Or perhaps it’s our relatively comfortable existence influences our worldview.

The protesters – or, at least, “the people”, because their view is what I have on paper before me – are without doubt morally blameworthy.

The reason lies not in the fact that Saddam Hussein was able to use their protest towards his own goals, but in their wilful promotion of – and wilful neglect in permitting – the long gradual process of forgetting – the “Chinese whispers process” – of the point of view of the Iraqi who thirsts for liberty. “The people” have driven this Iraqi from their mind, so their naive and dreadfully misconceived protest became thinkable. In the end, if Hans Blix does his job well, then it probably won’t matter to Saddam Hussein. But it will always matter to the Iraqis who watched the protesters and despaired – those who call Australia “home”, and now wonder what sort of society can so passionately ignore the victims of totalitarianism who long for freedom.

“The people” have rendered themselves incapable of acting (eg holding a demonstration) in full knowledge of that other human being’s viewpoint.

Worse, that human being’s viewpoint – who is supposed to be our kindred spirit, is he not? – is obliterated in the minds of “the people”; for example, by promoting myths such as he or she hates the Americans so much that he or she will fight for Saddam Hussein and not against him. “The people” naturally believe that Iraqis will willingly fight to save Saddam’s totalitarianism – if they had it in their mind that Iraqis want to fight with the Americans against Saddam, then they would be confronted with the unsavoury truth that their antiwar protest is denying individual liberty.

They would be confronted with the logical consequence of their negative choice: they are the ones responsible for keeping Saddam in power, for the murder of countless Iraqis by his henchmen in the years until the fall of his regime. Whether you agree with the war or not, this is the consequence of the success of the protests’ aims. From being obliterated in the minds of “the people”, the viewpoint of the Iraqi desiring liberty is obliterated in reality.

The anti-American Iraqi myth is useful because it allows protesters to feel comfortable in stopping the march to war. They don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions.

I emphasise that although “the people” support Saddam implicitly, this is not why they are morally blameworthy. On this count, they are culpable, but not blameworthy.

The morally blameworthy act occurs when “the people” project their own anti-American obsession (in which Saddam Hussein barely exists) onto their image of Iraqis and thereby obliterate the point of view of the Iraqi who seeks liberty. In effect, they have murdered him in their minds.

They lose touch with his or her reality – but that reality is what we ought to be considering seriously, regardless of whether we’re marching in an antiwar protest or chanting “Death to Saddam”. “The people” create a myth that helps them accept the consequences of their worldview painlessly. Where is the pain that goes with peace? Don’t worry, the Iraqi is already suffering it.

This twisted Australian vision is held despite the received notion that Australia is supposed to be a nation that upholds liberty. The Iraqis do not exist anymore as people who long for the things we take for granted. “The people” have repeated the morally blameworthy act perpetrated by those who used Tampa and the SIEV-X catastrophe for their own ends.

To sum up, then, these last two years have been an extraordinarily difficult time to be an Australian. Twice already, the 21st century has exposed deep flaws in the Australian character. Of course, Australia is not uniquely afflicted with these problems; but historical, geographical, demographic and other factors conspire to make them particularly pronounced here.

In this period, two devastating bushfires have swept across the Australian societal landscape, each in turn reinforcing the great Australian inability to imagine in any depth the lot of a stranger, each dividing the world into us and outsiders, whereby what in each case is accepted as “us and ours” is elevated to a special status through heightened familiarity, to the exclusion of the other.

The outsiders are thought of in myth-like ways, images of them are somewhat unreal, because the image of “the other” is a projection of what is necessary for “us” to uphold “our” image of “ourselves”: It has no basis in reality, and its effect is ultimately to falsify and oppress human beings.

The first Australian catastrophe was the assertion of State power – feeding and fed by nationalist paranoia – over human decency; the second, as we have now seen, is the assertion of a pose of international solidarity, in a movement of vilification of a figurehead – feeding and fed by self-seeking neurosis ostensibly in the name of justice.

Both are ultimately inward-looking. Both, as George Orwell wrote, are forms of nationalist isolationism, despite the latter’s internationalist pose.

Like Ghandi, their proponents in each case excuse empire-building – and empire builders and dictators are their kindred spirits. Chirac is now celebrated as a hero, even though it is because of him that Radovan Karadzic – who ordered the first concentration camps to be built in Europe since the Nazis built theirs – is still free in the Respublika Srpska; and even though Chirac, “Africa’s godfather”, is engaging in imperialism of his own in Africa and the Arab countries, at the expense of NATO and the European Union. That’s an enormous price to pay for megalomania.

At least one other person saw what I saw, knows what I know, thought some of my thoughts that weekend. He is “Adnan Hassan” (pseudonym), an Iraqi refugee living in Australia:

On Sunday I watched the peace activists rallying for peace without mentioning my butcher, Hussein.

They marched alongside Hussein’s activists, I saw them very clearly. I watched the Greens seeking votes. I watched Labor seeking leadership. I watched the Democrats trying to save their sinking party. I did not see John Howard marching, but he too is serving his own interests.

I don’t care if this war is for oil or not. I didn’t get any advantage from oil under Hussein and if it goes to the US, who cares?

My only wish is for the sinking ship of Iraq to be saved. We tried very hard to save ourselves but we couldn’t. All the nation rebelled in 1991, but was put down brutally, right before America’s eyes. Hussein has survived more than 20 assassination attempts.

“I looked to the Iraqi opposition groups to unite so they could form a government after an invasion. There is not much hope of that either.

“I don’t care who rules my country after an invasion as long as there are less jails, less killing. (Feb 20, theaustralian)

The committed leftist and the committed pacifist reel away from the human desires expressed here, because here is an implicit blessing for war. But this is what the Iraqi thirsting for liberty wants – because he knows that alone, the opposition groups are no match for the totalitarian regime.

The antiwar movement sees itself criticized here for its selfishness, and tries desperately to subvert the point of view of liberation: The article is a “fake”, or the author was “paid” to write it by a Murdoch newspaper, or the author is simply “misguided”, or “this refugee is only one voice, the Iraqis don’t want to be liberated”. Accordingly, a more realistic road to liberation exists, guided by the phantasms of those who have never had to fight for it. In their hearts, antiwar protesters deny the freedom people like Adnan desire.

The antiwar protesters – ten million around the world – ought to have apologized to Iraqis and offered their condolences that this time they cannot support liberty in Iraq; that they have chosen to block action that would free Iraqis.

Then they should have been ashamed of themselves.

Adnan Hassan has a personal stake, he faces a moral dilemma of a kind that no Australian has ever had to:

Hussein is like a cancer eating away at me every moment of the day. If I say no to war, Hussein will stay and his cancer will kill me. If I say yes, my relatives and friends may be among the civilian casualties. I have no choice. That is why I feel the most unfortunate person on the face of the earth. That is why I wept.

“The people” have not come to terms with the fact that Iraqis can desire liberation; that Iraqis face this horrific dilemma; and that Iraqis can choose war, on the side of the Americans, in full knowledge of the consequences.

I repeat an essential point of my argument: I have been focussing on the quality of “the people’s” moral choice, not on the rights and wrongs of a war.

Like Tampa and SIEV-X, the antiwar marches expose gaps in Australians’ ability to function as moral people, which means as people who can imagine the lot of another and do the right thing of their own free will. There’s room for improvement. Australia’s only hope for the future is if enough people find the will to improve. Otherwise Tampas and concentration camps for asylum seekers will keep recurring.

Australians have no personal experience of evil. A few experienced Bali, but that was over very quickly. We may experience bad things, but these can always be relied upon to transmute into something good, or at least tolerable. Tolerable means something that can be shunted off away from sight, dealt with “on the fly” as we focus on more urgent private concerns. Evil has always been merely an irritation that we could push out of our minds at will, allowing us to concentrate on our business – ourselves, our family, our city, our state, our country – in peace. This is our privilege in our free country.

Peace. Peace of mind.

We have never had to live under a totalitarian regime whose ruler has a will to win at any cost, a will to create theatre of any intricacy. Our naivety makes us credulous of Saddam’s theatre – as if naturalism must contain truth – and incredulous of Bush’s theatre – as if surrealism cannot contain truth.

We have never been put in a moral dilemma where we must choose between the lives of loved ones and freedom – where we must win our freedom at the expense of our innocence.

The antiwar protesters are in fact protesting for their own innocence – the cause is self-interest.

The moral dilemma faced by people like Adnan is not our dilemma. Coming to the aid of a liberation movement cannot be the moral justification for this imminent war. Our dilemma is something else.

A valid justification for war must focus on neutralising the threat of Saddam Hussein, this latest appearance of fascism, which can make strange bedfellows at any time – like the Nazis and the Japanese, and the Nazis and some Arabs, both in World War II and now. If the war is just, then it ought to be triggered after the “Rais” (the “Fuehrer”, as Saddam Hussein is called in Iraq) refuses to prove his good intentions to the international community. But the justification for the imminent war requires a completely different argument than the one I have given in this essay, and has nothing to do with it.

Nevertheless, I’ll note that even if “the people” ceased vilifying the enemy of the dictator, and used documented facts to understand the existence of Saddam, they cannot go so far as that sequence of thoughts that would categorically imply only one course of action: the course of action that says we must stop him by force.

For the people’s instinct – probably even will – is to avoid this path at all costs, avoid categorical conclusions, find ways to convince themselves that this conclusion which merely seems categorical can be safely subverted.

Because maiming or killing at their hands is impossible to contemplate. Because they have never come to terms with the risks and sacrifices necessary for freedom – which here means that the Iraqi’s dream of liberation cannot be central in their considerations. The world must therefore be torn asunder, into two camps: “us” and “the stranger”.

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