|Hate of an omen. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com
G’Day. My motto from now on in covering the war in Webdiary is inspired by Harry Heidelberg. He wrote in Protecting the joys of a free society:
“At either end of the spectrum, by definition, you have extremes. At one end you have the “this is liberation” camp, at the other end you have the “demon, imperial America” camp. The truth lies somewhere in between.”
What that truth is is yet to be revealed. And all the world’s peoples can help determine what it is.
To end another long week of war, pieces from readers responding to Bring home the troops and the resulting debate in Reaction to ‘Bring our troops home’ and ‘Protecting the joys of a free society’. Contributors areNed Roche, John Berg, Peter Air, Ernie Graham and Shawn Kopel – all on debut, Brian Bahnisch, David Makinson, Clem Colman, Peter Funnell, Luke Callaghan, Susan Metcalfe, John Wojdylo andJustin Bell.
In this week’s Time magazine essay, Joe Klein wrote: “War is a force of primal disorder; we are a society afflicted by the illusion of orderliness”. This war confronts all of us, and the contributors I’ve chosen are people I feel are genuinely engaging with the disorder. Thank you to all the readers who wrote privately to support my work in the wake of this week’s attacks, especially the bloke from Maryborough, my home town. Your kind words were much appreciated.
The volume of emails to Webdiary is now such that the current Webdiary format can’t cope, given that Webdiary is a one woman operation. We’re looking at ways to update the processing. In the meantime, my apologies to all those who haven’t got a run.
To begin, the ten most read Webdiaries in March:
1. A think tank war: Why old Europe says no, March 7
2. Australia: The war within, March 18
3. Do you believe John Howard? March 16
4. Russian war report, March 26
5. Howard: repeat the line, answer no questions, March 13
6. Frontline report: What’s gone wrong, and who’s to blame, March 31
7. Russia’s war state of play, March 25
8. In Howard we trust, but why? March 26
9. This war is illegal: Howard’s last top law man, March 21
10. Denial virus alert: It’s alarming, March 28
The top five referring websites, apart from news.google, were whatreallyhappened, rense, dailyrotten, buzzflash and timblairblogspot.
Han Yang in Turramurra, Sydney: I recommend Arundhati Roy’s piece Mesopotamia. Babylon. The Tigris and Euphrates, one of the best I’ve ever read.” Many other readers also recommend this piece.
For the strategy to take Baghdad, Scott Burchill recommends Baghdad: Surround and squeeze? on the BBC site.
John Bennett recommends Robert Fisk’s The monster of Baghdad is now the hero of Arabia.
Anuradha Moulee recommends The message coming from our families in Baghdad: You have failed to learn the lessons of your last occupation of Iraq by Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi-born novelist and painter who is a former political prisoner of the Ba’ath regime
Tim Gillin: Ronald Reagan’s former ambassador to Iraq calls the war a ‘terrible, bloody miscalculation’: orangecountyregister
Amiel Rosario: Here’s some elegant and superb writing on the war in Iraq by Anthony Shadid for The Washington Post: washingtonpost
David Makinson: I think this one, from Hong Kong’s Asia Times, deserves publication in Webdiary. I know you’re wanting to “reach out”, but really – read it and weep. Cluster bombs liberate Iraqi children in the Asia Times.
John de Lange recommends Coalition faked it, says UN, on the discredited US claims that Iraq had revived its nuclear program.
I have started reading your Webdiary over the last few days. I am not a Lefty or Right-winger. I completed a major in Politics at UNSW and qualified for Honours, but couldn’t bear the thought of another year at University. I am a 26 year old single gay male, I live in a small country town running a pub, and I realise that community is important.
The Bali bombing changed my life. Instead of just thinking about what had happened I called the Red Cross on the Monday morning and donated money, more than I would ever thought that I would donate to charity.
A lot of people are saying that they care about the people of Iraq. If you care about people, and watch the television, and realise how much the Iraqi people have suffered over a long time, then it’s not much of a leap to call the Red Cross, ask how you can donate money towards the aid effort for the Iraqi people and send a cheque.
I have a view on the war, but that is far less important than realising that my brothers and sisters with whom I share the same human experience need my help, and it is as easy as donating money.
I hope that you believe that this is an important enough message to publish.
After ‘Bring the troops’ home, John Berg protested in an email I didn’t publish at the time. Here is his email, and our exchange. More hope for all of us!
John Berg in the USA
So – what would you call a terrorist? Someone who holds a gun to the back of a mother or child and forces them to act as a shield? Someone who shoots their own people in the back? Someone who voluntarily cuts off the water supply to an entire city? Someone who hangs or cuts the throats of anyone who voices dissent over their ruler?
Of course admitting to any of the above would seriously damage the logic of the rest of your argument – actually, it probably wouldn’t since there is so little logic. At least so little informed logic. Send back your degree, honey – it’s seriously failing you.
I’m finding the war almost impossible to process – the choices are so awful and the circumstances our troops are in so nightmarish. The Webdiary is a conversation really – it seeks to acknowledge that opinions aren’t final and immediate, and need to be teased out through debate.
I won’t say I enjoyed your email – I didn’t – but I did find it rigorous and very challenging. Hope you contribute again one day.
Thank you for taking the time to post my reply to you – and for your tempered response. My apologies for my personal comments to you in my previous e-mail. If I may – a quick reaction to your latest to me –
“I’m finding the war almost impossible to process – the choices are so awful and the circumstances our troops are in so nightmarish.”
I can understand your emotions and appreciate your expressing them. It seems that these are the times we are in – over that we have no choice. But what is in our control is what we do with these times. I can respect and understand (though not necessarily agree with) those who argued for a delay in this war, those who wanted to give the UN one more chance, those who felt that peaceful methods were worth one more try. But since the war was joined by the coalition, here’s what we have learned:
– Saddam ruled created a terrifying, devastating police state
– He ruled his people through fear
– He has proven willing to place innocent people in harm’s way, even use them as shields
– He has shown no compunction to starving, neglecting, punishing and killing his people and each day he continues his rule, more innocent people die
– He would use tactics such as holding families hostage in order to recruit men into his armies
– He has made a mockery of the Islam religion by using mosques as armed camps
– He was harbouring al Qaeda and other terrorists
– He was not willing under any circumstance to disarm, even when faced with his ultimate demise
While the USA has a great many problems which are open for excellent and engaged debate, this country does not come close to comparing to the atrocities committed by Saddam’s Iraq. And the ideals we fight for – freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness stand in contrast to what Saddam stands for.
The justifications for this war become stronger with each passing day and the differences become starker and starker. Perhaps this might help you process this nightmarish situation.
I hope you weathered the blasts that ‘Bring our troops home’ generated. I did not see any new arguments in any of the responses that you printed.
When we started this thing we believed that the Iraqi regime was repressive and hated by the majority of the Iraqi people. As such, we expected that the Iraqi’s would welcome the Coalition troops, and support coalition efforts to oust Saddam.
That has not happened. Maybe it is too soon to expect the Iraqi’s to have re-oriented their thinking, maybe the Ba’ath party is still sufficiently dominant to repress such reactions. But there is also a possibility that we were mistaken about the wishes of the Iraqi people. If so, then this is a strong point towards pulling out.
The major issue, though, is the potential outcome. I wish some omnipotence would provide us with a guarantee that it would work out one way or the other – then it would be easy to know what to do. If we “win” this war, only to find that we can hold the territory only through constant repression, then we erred in getting involved in the first place.
The reality is that the outcome will depend a great deal on how things are managed, both by field commanders and by the actual troops on the ground. We are close to creating an unending hatred for the West, in Iraq and related Arab and Islamic peoples.
Terrorism springs out of hatred, demoralisation and polarisation. And this is the key point that many of your respondents missed. If we can only prosecute the war in a manner which creates hatred and demoralization in the majority of the Iraqi (and Arab/Islamic) people, then we must stop, and stop right now. For that could create a much larger evil than Saddam ever was.
This does not mean that we support Saddam, or his regime. It should be possible to find another way to deal with him.
Firstly let me say as an Australian returned serviceman of 72 years of age I find your personal attitude to the invasion of Iraq both intelligent and truthful. Your Webdiary has relieved me from the frustration of blatant television deception and the worst kind of confusing propaganda.
The people who defend this war reply to you with bitter sarcasm and duplicity. Me thinks they protesteth too much. These are after all, the people who happily absorb the lies, damn lies and Howardisms, euphemistically calling the latter good politics. One could continue by referring to the multitude of childish mistakes these misled people argue but I shall leave that to the more articulate of the decent Australians who also support your Diary. Remain forthright and even-handed Margo in the sure knowledge that right is on your side.
I respect and salute those special few telling words of Robert Byrd, the wise man of the U.S. Senate about this war of choice (Today, I Weep for my Country…). Because Margo, I too weep for my country.
Regarding Harry Heidelberg’s piece, of course one is seduced by the Playstation 2 appeal of television coverage of the war, but that does not mean that all of one’s concerns are reduced to the impotence of voyeurism. It’s as simplistic to argue that the nett result of the activities of the anti-war groups amounted to a failure, as it is to allege that the American war is a success. Call me naive, but I’m confident that the public and demonstrable concerns of people like me, all over the world, have had an effect on not just the way the war is publicised, but also on the way that the war is prosecuted. Along the way, some lives have been saved, some morality has been applied, some suffering reduced, some of the reins of the politicians have been scrutinised and some motives have been questioned.
All that is very worthwhile.
What is disturbing, however, is the self doubt that contributors like Harry are expressing. The fact that one’s views do not prevail in preventing an outcome designed by mad politicians, does not mean that they are worthless, or of diminished value. Far from it. The efforts that result in suffering being avoided, or in a single life being saved, are of such magnitude that they are immeasurable. “He who saves a single life, saves the world.” Never forget that, Harry.
Brian Bahnisch in Brisbane
It is easy to feel humble when you have contributors who write with the facility of Harry Heidelberg (Protecting the Joys of a Free Society). Nevertheless one statement particularly troubled me: “I also add that I do not view every aspect of every problem through the Vietnam prism. The baby boomers always do this.”
The first sentence is fair enough. The second sentence is surely an outrageous generalisation. Are you really saying, Harry, that every single baby boomer, on every occasion on every aspect of every problem sees it through the Vietnam prism? I’m older than the baby boomers and I have never met or heard of one who saw things remotely like that, nor do I think I ever would.
I think you may be saying that if we have had a traumatic experience we tend to be residually obsessed with it and it colours our view of reality. Fair enough, but I know lots of baby boomers who weren’t traumatised to that extent by Vietnam, and in fact know none that were.
I hope you are not saying that previous generations are excessively obsessed with Vietnam and it is time to rule a line and move on. Now I am putting words into your mouth, which is presumptuous, but what did you mean?
I wouldn’t bother about this except that I believe a great wrong was perpetrated in Vietnam, as well as in Laos and Cambodia. I’m not comfortable with the notion that we can walk away from those events as part of the receding past. We should find out first what the countries concerned, and the rest of the colonised world think about it.
In 1999 Chomsky said: “We’re not talking about ancient history. The Lao government estimate about 20,000 casualties a year, of whom more than half die. Whether that number is right or wrong, nobody knows.”(Propaganda and the Public Mind, p63) That of course was from the saturation bombing of the Plain of Jars. I hope some-one has since shown some interest and has is doing something about it, but I would not bet on it.
There is no doubt in my mind that the events of Indo China all those decades ago still affect our moral authority to mount military expeditions whereever we think the world needs setting to rights.
Much as I understand and support nearly all of your motivations in ‘Bring our troops home’, I just don’t see how we could possibly bring the troops home at this point. We have been painted into an appalling corner, and now that we are in this thing, I think we are stuck in it for the duration. A withdrawal now would only bring even further damage to Australia. Having already made unnecessary enemies of the Muslim world, a withdrawal would probably destroy our alliance with the US, and the Iraqi regime would trumpet its triumph to the heavens.
Tragically, the troops have to stay, and the coalition has to win. We have got to the point where the alternatives are even more tragic. In any event, John Howard abrogated any choice in this matter long ago. The only way we we can withdraw is if the US withdraws. I can’t envisage that this would ever happen. (But wouldn’t it be good to see the last crumbs of John Howard’s credibility shot to even smaller pieces? The awful and simple truth that we are in or out if the US is in or out – and for no other reason – would come into stark relief. All the lying “justifications” would just fall apart!)
What we must do for our troops is keep protesting. Any way we can. That way we’ll maybe get them home sooner, and hopefully avoid them being sent off on Washington’s next act of piracy. We also need to maintain the detailed scrutiny and public assessment of the political and military actions of the coalition of the k/willing. This won’t stop the war, but it will help to save innocent lives. Were it not for the fact that they know we are watching, God alone knows what the Bush-Rumsfeld Gang would have sanctioned by now.
Because of this, I believe you are doing fantastic and important work with Webdiary, and you are entitled to ignore the jibes of those who seized so gleefully on what was very obviously a simple mistake of expression. These people are clearly desperate. Lacking a real argument, they invent red herrings. Too many of these people still seem to think this whole sorry mess is an excuse to score cheap debating points.
Have they seen the pictures of the boy with the shredded head? Let them debate that.
It seems many people had a “spit” over your article. Frankly, I think when an issue runs this high on people’s emotions everyone gets the right to have a spit every now and then.
The issue of the use of nukes in Vietnam (which the US didn’t), or whether Agent Orange is a WMD aside, there is still some important points that you made (more important than either of these) and most people missed them.
Many of us who disagree with this war don’t disagree because we are worried about the difficulty of the task (militarily), or even the potential civilian casualties in Iraq (as tragic as they are). We even hope that a free Iraq may one day grow back into the modern first world nation it was before 1991, with hope for secular benevolent government and moderate Islam.
We disagree with the war because of the precedent it sets. We worry because we think this “conflict” may be the tip of the iceberg. Already the US has begun the rhetoric against Iran and Syria. We worry because we wonder how the grizzly pictures of civilian deaths on al Jazeera are going to draw out moderate Islam and marginalise Fundamentalism. We worry because we think it will actually have the opposite affect.
We worry because after our victory we (the Coalition) will need to occupy a nation that will not be grateful for their “liberation”. We worry that our force of occupation, although always more humane, will probably come to be regarded as badly as Saddam by the people of Iraq. We worry because this will lead to terrorism against our troops, and us in our home countries.
We worry because we have been lead to war by a group of men who are responsible for the strategy that Ariel Sharon is currently using to affect “peace” in the occupied territories. It can scarcely be said that that peace plan is working out well.
We worry that 20 years of painstaking engagement with our asian neighbours, which whilst often robust and difficult, was normally progressive and resulted in genuine goodwill, was undone in an instant as our PM jumped up and said ‘me too’ to the doctrine of preemptive attacks.
We wonder what this war in Iraq has to do with the Bali bombings when the Indonesian authorities hold those responsible in jail. When the next Terrorist attack strikes us from Indonesia we worry that the Indonesian Police will not be so fussed about tracking down the offenders.
We know it wouldn’t be easy to bring the troops home at this stage. As much as it is now irrelevant, we still wonder what the hell they are doing there in the first place.
We worry that those advocating this peace through superior force have drastically overestimated its effectiveness (as evidenced in Iraq where the intelligence failure has been spectacular) and also drastically underestimated the resentment that the use of such force builds in those we use it on (also evidenced in Iraq).
But mostly, we worry that we are putting our trust in a group of frightened control freaks who actually believe that they can control everything and that this will somehow keep us safe as well as advancing their other interests (whatever they may be). We worry about that one a lot.
Peter Funnell in Farrer, ACT
I read ‘Bring our troops home’ and I’m damned if I can see what the fuss is about. I didn’t think you meant the US used nuclear weapons in Vietnam, but they did use chemical (agent orange and napalm). Just a little imprecise by your standards. I just thought you were pretty distressed by what was happening. I happened to agree. Stop flailing yourself over this one, there are more important things to be saying in Webdiary and about this war.
One thing I must say is this – this war is generally going to plan and at great speed. If you leave every other human consideration aside, this is a remarkably successful military campaign. The US is getting better at this business.
But our country (and the US and UK) have no appetite for pain and sacrifice – for any kind of cause. For those we now wage war against, it is part of everyday life. We are weak and self obsessed. They are scornful of our selfishness, self indulgence and lack of human understanding.
Our expectations of how long a war should last are more akin to the number of episodes in a television drama. It’s as though we are in some crazy, technology-inspired time warp when we speak of this war. War and soldiering is basic, earthy, unattractive, costly (in every sense of the word) and totally unpredictable. That it generates acts of great personal courage and self sacrifice is one of the great mysteries of life to me. It also brings out the absolute worst in everything. It is so vulnerable to itself, as the protagonists abandon every vestige of civility and concern for other human beings, particularly the enemy, and often their own citizens.
The net has bridged the cultural divides and short circuited the media and spin. It is a hot medium and everyone has a voice. I have never met you, nor you me and we have no other knowledge of each other to cloud our judgement or prejudice of feelings. When we speak on the www, we are removed from observation and peer pressure or social restrictions. Everyone has a view and they don’t hold back. That’s my experience. Like any medium it can be exploited, but it can’t be censored or stopped – well, not yet.
The real “war” is about what will follow the current conventional campaign. There is no “plan” for that mate, and it’s looking more dangerous by the day. But there is greed and opportunity.
This war will certainly polarise the Christian and Muslim peoples everywhere. You could see the frustration on the faces and in the behaviour of the young men and women on the Sydney march that got a bit nasty. It must be awful for them. I have spoken to six Australian Muslim citizens in the last few weeks and listened as they vented their disbelief and frustration over our participation in the Iraqi war. They see no reason to be there and believe it to be aimed at Muslims as much as Saddam.
None defended Saddam. Their sense for where this could end up (in Australia and internationally) is very acute. I found it very distressing to listen to and could offer little except to agree. You could feel the gap opening between us, Noone wanting it to be so, but the hint that sides would be chosen, lines drawn in society. Just awful.
Banning the protests by Carr was insane. We will come unstuck if that continues, because then we will get our own home grown bombers. No doubt about it!
The lid is completely off the pot over Iraq and the Iraqi government’s strategy has been quite obvious and predictable in their pleas to all Muslims. It is a call that resonates through history to this day. Some corner of each of us responds to it. We don’t all accept it is pre-ordained, which is easier to do when you are not being bombed, starved or suffering interminable indignities at the hands of nations such as our own. We are beyond “forgiveness” – the very core common element of Islam and Christian beliefs.
To call the Iraqis who turned themselves into human bombs terrorists is obscene, and a gross misrepresentation. They are another part of an enemy’s arsenal, nothing more. Who are we to say that our way of killing is right and theirs is wrong. To coin a phrase from Apocalypse Now – “.. it’s like giving out speeding tickets at the Indy 500”.
You are right to be fearful of the future. We all should be. The US is not able to control anything beyond the immediate battlefield in Iraq, because that responds directly and decisively to raw, brutal and deadly power.
In my view the current battle will be won. After that is darkness and dishonour.
What we have done is awful and depresses me. I’m buggered if I will give up on it though. Keep going forward. Faith – you can’t do much with it, but you can do nothing without it.
From “Why We Didn’t Remove Saddam” by George Bush [Sr.] and Brent Scowcroft, Time (2 March 1998):
While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in “mission creep,” and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately.
We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish.
Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different – and perhaps barren – outcome.
Susan Metcalfe in Ocean Shores, NSW
I don’t know if this is coherent or makes sense or is of any value. I’ve found it so difficult to know what to write lately, or if silence is perhaps a better option. This morning I just sat down and wrote what came out and this is it.
I just read Paul McGeough’s report today (In the ruins, all that’s left is death and fear) and words just seem inadequate, emotions seem inadequate. Chaos is being created, lives are being destroyed forever and it’s all happening in my name and your name – this is all for our future safety, and I know I didn’t ask for it, I actively opposed it. But I still have to take responsibility for it because I am an Australian and I’m not sure yet what that means, for now, for the future, or how I am to process that in the context of my own life. I guess in part it’s a waiting game.
It’s all going extremely well, they keep telling us – what does that mean? Going well for who? For Basan Hoiq, in Paul’s report?
In the next bed was Basan Hoiq, 38, who was one of 34 passengers on a bus bound for Najaf – his left arm, gone from above his elbow, is bandaged, but gaping wounds on his legs are in need of urgent treatment.
He had fled his home in strife-torn Najaf, but decided to return after being away for only a day. He said: “I could see the American flag on the tank 500 metres down the road from us. There was no warning. There was a noise and a lot of shouting on the bus – then people’s heads seemed to snap away from their bodies and many of them were dead.”
His wife, Samia, sat blank-faced at the end of his bed, clutching a two-month-old baby to her chest. His brother-in-law, Hiderj Abid Hamza, said that Basan Hoiq’s mother, Najia Hussain, was among the 18 civilians who died.
Back here safe at home I was at first confounded by the lack of war talk in shops and on the streets and from the people who live in my neighbourhood. Then I got angry that people were simply turning away, I got angry because when the going gets tough (unless it is something that they are directly effected by) people often refuse to engage. The great Australian apathy overcomes us and we go about our lives because there is nothing we can do, or so we think. We protect our children and ourselves from the traumatic images and people complain to the Herald about its front page photo. But if the Iraqi people have to go through this in our name surely we should have to bear to watch.
But I know people’s lives already overwhelm them and to risk the surfacing of their own unresolved traumas triggered by watching other people’s, is not, I understand, in anyone’s best interests. So now I just feel numb and talk to the people who can bear to stay with it for as long as it takes.
But then what is there to say about it now anyway? I can’t turn away but I’m not sure where to look or how to process the massive amounts of information being produced on the subject. What do we really need to know? What is just superfluous add-in designed to keep the massive media machine going? Much of the coverage is concerned with military analysis trying to predict the war strategies and their outcomes. Is Saddam dead or alive? It’s like a macabre form of the game ‘Where’s Wally’ designed for war enthusiasts.
The effect of this is mind and emotion numbing – it all becomes so inhuman and removed from the realities of people’s lives. But in truth what is happening is so painfully human, in the worst possible way, and personally I usually find facing pain to be a healthier option than numbness.
But we are presented with very few options for experiencing this conflict. We are effectively wedged from the realities of war, in anything other than a fragmented and disconnected context, by the fog of analysis, the manipulation of the media, and by the commentary and rhetoric of denial from our politicians. Perhaps they themselves are in denial – how hard would it be for Howard to ever face himself if he had to face the horrific consequences of his actions.
As a nation of sports lovers Howard plays us well. He knows we will fall in line behind the home side, he knows this as he spends his time effectively hiding behind his players, consoling their wives and families. It would take real courage for him to also visit the Iraqi families who sit and suffer while their homeland is reduced to rubble and they worry night and day about their relatives and friends back home. To see him sit down and explain the facts of life, as he sees them, to these people, to face them and us with something other than rhetoric would at least give us something to engage with.
But Howard will only do what plays well for him, he will do what wedges us from our own feelings and offer us a paternalism that has worked so well for him in the past. Somehow he taps into that part of us which wants to be led, the part that denies we know how to act for ourselves or make our own decisions. Our decisions are again made for us by a parental figure and we are again powerless. He does it well. Most of us fall into line without too much fuss, and who’s got time to fight all the hard battles anyway?
And for all those who think they know how this will all turn out or what is right or wrong, and I can be guilty of that as well, I would say that none of us have any idea of what lies ahead. We can know that Iraq will, most probably, fairly soon be run by the US, but other than that it’s all a guessing game with very few reliable facts to work with, particularly at the moment, positioned as we are in the cross fire of an enormous war of propaganda from every possible side. It will be some time before we get a look at some real stories and are able to separate them from all the rubbish we are now being fed.
So Margo, I think your original advice to stay calm is right on the mark. But that doesn’t mean we have to be paralysed – to pressure our government on humanitarian issues and self determination in Iraq has never been more important.
The people were already struggling before we created this chaos and now their situation is desperate. They are truly stuck between their old life and a very uncertain future, and at the moment they need us to fight for them and their rights more than ever. We have to take responsibility for our actions.
Here’s a press release from Human Rights Watch that explains the point about why Iraqis who blow themselves up etc. while posing as civilians are committing war crimes and are rightfully called terrorists. It’s to do with the consequences of the climate they sow on civilians. They drag civilians into the conflict. It’s at hrw
Iraq: Feigning Civilian Status Violates the Laws of War
As I have noted in previous submissions, I am an Australian graduate student who left Sydney in June 2002 to come to Seattle. Prior to the advent of Webdiary, I thought you were decidedly left leaning in your perspective. However, I glean from your usually considered commentary on the war and the balance of views reflected in Webdiary that you have made a deliberate effort to consider the war from all perspectives. It is my first choice for a quick review of thoughtful opinions about the war and you usually pick up the best in American writing.
I thought you sacrificed some of that considered perspective for an emotional response in ‘Bring our troops home’, but I understood why you did that. My emotional response to some of the footage of war has been similar, and as an Australian my first, emotional response to George W. and the Neo-cons is :”What the …!”.
After reviewing the treatises of the “brains trust” of Rummy, Wolfey & co, my considered response is to take up religion (I’ll wait and see which one).
The Bush administration’s response to 9/11 has lacked coherence, been immature and short-sighted in its reliance upon unilateral force and bluster. However we could hardly expect a magnanimous internationalist approach from a President and administration that prided itself on withdrawing the US from oversight or restriction by global authorities – and managed to get elected by a “red” states constituency that similarly couldn’t give a rat’s about life outside the US of A.
However, nothing in the lead up to this war shook me from the view that American political culture has much more in common with Australia than the anti-war Aussie majority might care to admit. Australia’s political culture also cleaves along city/rural/regional lines, and as others have noted on Web diary, there is a consistent isolationist theme that accounts for the seeming disconnect between the popularity of a hardline approach to refugees and the unpopularity of a war that might confront the root cause of many refugees.
If Australia had the first past the post voting system of the US, and non-compulsory voting, I reckon we would have had a Prime Minister Bjelke-Petersen or Hanson by now.
My reading of Seattleites is that they are more reflexively against Bush, and by extension against the war, than even Australians. I ask Australians to be more aware of the common city/regional divide we share with the US and to consider the relative popularity of parochial and insular politics in our own backyard before tarring all Americans with the egregious error of the Bush administration. This is a war precipitated by American parochialism, for parochial ends. Parochialism is a disease from which Australians are not immune.
Since the war started, however, two events have occurred to make me think that the US may have more latent parochialism entrenched in its institutions and societal framework than does Australia. The first was the footage of the US admiral raising his hands to rock music, then making the adolescent pronouncement of the onset of war, death and destruction with the words “When the President says go, it’s hammer time”. I could not imagine an Australian military leader being so unaware or inconsiderate of the awful burden of exercising military power.
The second was the sacking of Peter Arnett and the near unanimous commentary, even on PBS, purportedly concurring in the sacking because he made his comments to Iraqi TV. I say purportedly because I do not understand the relevance of this Iraqi TV objection. It seems to me that the real objection was to the commentator and the comments themselves, not to the venue. Arnett did not say anything that different to a myriad of opinions expressed elsewhere, that were also capable of being presented on Iraqi TV for propaganda purposes. It was not until the conservative media in the US started the leftist propaganda flagellation tornado machine and aimed it at its old favourite target of Arnett that NBC, under ratings pressure from Fox, caved to what NBC management perceived as the parochial public sentiment that would favour its rival. It seems that everyone else in the mainstream American media has fallen into line.