The plot of "La’iba al Waladaani," we are told, depicts the sexpot despot as a naïve young peasant thrown in jail and "initiated" by older convicts. According to our "researcher,"
"Saddam’s acting in the picture is actually quite good. One scene, in which he buries his face in a pillow and cries, is so touching you almost can forget you’re watching a low-budget sexploitation film."
What was done to Saddam in that naughty flick is happening, on a larger scale, to the entire Iraqi people. Except it isn’t all that low-budget, as Republican advocates of a tax cut are discovering to their sorrow. Iraq’s cities are devastated, its national treasures looted, and, in sections of the country, civil society is threatening to give way to civil war. Iraqis are biting their pillows as they are initiated into that great prison-house of peoples, the American Empire.
Speaking of cheap exploitation: Since 1991, the killer sanctions that have crippled the Iraqi economy and decimated an entire generation murdering hundreds of thousands have been in place, eagerly enforced by the U.S. and supported by the War Party’s minions here at home. Now, at long last, George W. Bush has called for abolishing the sanctions and the UN Security Council is balking!
It is a close contest as to whom is the biggest hypocrite in all this: the U.S. government, which is directly responsible for the the mass murder of Iraqis by sanctions-induced starvation and disease, or the Europeans, who also supported the sanctions regime but opposed the war and are now calling for the formal continuation of this merciless blockade!
And the winner is the Europeans! After all, they have been wailing and moaning correctly about the effect of this war on the Iraqis: the civilian casualties, the starvation, the decimation of a civilization far older than our own. So now they won’t lift the sanctions only "suspend" them until the holy United Nations sanctifies the country by pronouncing it weapons-free. Send in Hans Blix, they cry: then and only then can an Iraqi child not have its little brain shrunk and stunted by malnutrition.
There may be value to having Blix sent in there, on the grounds that, in his absence, the Americans will pull off what in the weapons inspection business is the equivalent of discovering Piltdown Man. But the blatant disregard for the health and well-being of the Iraqis, whose plight the Euro-critics of this war supposedly sympathized with, is staggering. As Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder nurture a mega-Euro-state into existence, the rise of what many have termed a "soul-less monster" is dramatized in this gesture of a singular arrogance.
In the struggle between the United Nations and the united neocons, principled opponents of the ongoing aggression take neither side. Neither the UN nor the U.S. has any right to rule Iraq: that is the exclusive prerogative of the Iraqi people. The U.S. invasion is a fact, although how tenuous is their control of the country may just be dawning on Pentagon planners. The harm has been done. The dead won’t rise. But that cannot be an obstacle to a free referendum on the future of Iraq and the immediate withdrawal of all American troops. I see by the news that the generals are planning to dig in for the long haul, but how long will the American people pay for the occupation of Iraq? And what, I wonder, will be the price, not only in treasure but in the blood of our best?
As I have written before, this war is, first of all, a boon to Iranian hardliners, who see the flames of Islamic revolution rekindled by the sight of Crusaders in Baghdad. As I predicted before the outbreak of hostilities, the U.S. fought two wars on a single battlefield. The Ba’athists are vanquished, but, as Iraqi phalanxes give way to waves of terrorists and suicide bombers, the battle against Islamist "volunteers" from throughout the Middle East is far from over.
Officers in the higher echelons of the U.S. military and diplomatic corps are perfectly well aware of the growing danger, and, as usual, the chickenhawk brigade is utterly oblivious. The latter believe that, having been once royally screwed, the Iraqis will be so "turned out," so to speak, that they’ll eventually come to like it.
I wouldn’t count on it, however. It will take more than the crude propaganda circulated by the Kuwait secret police hey, if we "liberated" them in 1991, what’s up with this "secret police" stuff? to dampen the fires of Iraqi nationalism. "Saddam is gay" just won’t cut it.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Best opening line of the month:
"As we sat in the Oxford-Cambridge dinner in Washington in the midst of the Vietnam War listening to Dean Rusk, Rhodes Scholar and Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of State, exhort us to be the inheritors of the British Empire, I became uneasy ."
Richard Cummings, "Taking Up the Burden," [review of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, by Niall Ferguson], in The American Conservative, April 21, 2003. Sorry, it’s not online. You’ll just have to subscribe .
Speaking of The American Conservative, I see Chilton Williamson has an essay reclaiming James Burnham from the neoconservatives. Relying heavily on citations from Congress and the American Tradition and Suicide of the West, one would never know from reading Williamson that Burnham’s claim to the mantle of "social philosopher" rests almost entirely on his authorship of The Managerial Revolution, a book that celebrates the triumph of bureaucratic collectivism as the reigning ideology of a post-socialist ruling class.
Williamson also ignores the important sense in which neoconservatism describes an intellectual trajectory as much as a fixed ideology. It isn’t just that he "knew Trotsky," as Williamson puts it: Burnham was one of Trotsky’s chief American disciples.
After waging a long faction fight with the exiled founder of the Red Army, Professor Burnham and his ally Max Shachtman went off to found their own Trotskyist party without Trotsky. A month later, Burnham dropped off his letter of resignation at the new "Workers Party" headquarters, wherein he explained that the whole thing had been a mistake, a huge misunderstanding, and he wasn’t a Marxist after all.
Only a few years passed before Burnham ascended to the senior editorship of National Review, in the pages of which he commented on the progress of "the third world war," as his column was called. His Machiavellian and utterly statist ideology was best summed up by Murray Rothbard, who once remarked:
"In a lifetime of political writing, James Burnham [showed] only one fleeting bit of positive interest in individual liberty; and that was a call in National Review for the legalization of firecrackers."