Tuesday, October 09, 2007

If this is progress...

Yesterday the British parliament began sitting again after the long summer recess. Melancholicus is quietly pleased, since this means he can now fall asleep at night listening to the delightfully soporific Today in Parliament programme on BBC Radio 4, rather than some third-rate ‘comedy’ filler instead. BBC Radio 4 has run downhill considerably in the last few years, but that is a story for another day.

On Monday Prime Minister Brown faced a great deal of hostile questioning over his decision not to call an autumn election, as well as criticism of his announcement that British forces serving in Iraq would be scaled down from next spring. Some MPs were roundly critical of the government’s decision to go to war in the first place, and rightly so — Sir Menzies Campbell described Britain’s involvement in the Iraqi debacle as a ‘catastrophe’, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind went even further, describing the mess as ‘the greatest error in British foreign policy in recent times’. All sentiments with which Melancholicus is in complete agreement.

Nobody, however, asked the salient question: why did Britain feel it necessary to hitch herself to George Bush’s bellicose bandwagon in the first place? Is Britannia not ashamed that she has reduced herself to the level of a lap-dog, trotting along obediently at the heels of its master?

The Prime Minister responded to his critics with this red herring: “Let us not forget the evil that Saddam Hussein did,” he said; “let us not forget also that we’re building a democracy in Iraq.”

There we have it. Because ‘democracy’ has been brought to Iraq, it has all been worth it. All the risk-taking, all the lies about weapons of mass destruction, all the abject humiliation of playing second fiddle to the Bush administration, all the terrible destruction, with loss of life and devastation of towns and cities, all the ceaseless sectarian violence, the infiltration of Iraq by agents of Iran and agents of Al-Qaeda, all the British soldiers killed and maimed in this senseless enterprise — it has all been worthwhile in the end, because Iraq is now a ‘democratic’ society. By which the Prime Minister and his supporters mean that Iraq is now clay to be moulded in the image of a western state. Prime Minister Brown forgets that such concepts, however familiar they may be to us in Europe, are alien to Mohammedan political culture. Can the Prime Minister clearly point to any true democracy in any Muslim state in order to show us a model of what might be achieved in Iraq?

The late Saddam Hussein has been typecast as the bloodstained villain whose removal from office was demanded by justice, thus providing a pretext for the invasion of a sovereign state which — before 2003 — was not involved in international terrorism of the kind decried by Messrs. Bush and Blair. Now Melancholicus has no intention of making an apologetic for Saddam, who was a murderer and a tyrant; but Mr. Brown’s specious bleatings about ‘evil’ and ‘democracy’ ring more than a little hollow to these ears. Is daily life not more evil now for the majority of Iraqi citizens than at any time under the Ba’athist regime? Hardly a day goes by without the commission of some atrocity which takes the lives of scores of ordinary Iraqis. Over a hundred thousand Iraqis have lost their lives in the violence that has followed on the collapse of Saddam’s government, and two million more have fled their homeland. Are these not expected to be grateful for the privilege of being blown up while going about their daily business, now that the dictator has been toppled from power? Is not Iraq a better, happier, more peaceful society now that ‘democracy’ has been introduced?

It seems that for those who worship the idol of the ballot box, the imposition of democracy itself — as though this were a perfect form of government — outweighs any other consideration. Yes, Iraq now has a parliamentary government. Messrs. Bush and Blair have done their work well. They can congratulate themselves on a job well done — or “mission accomplished”, as Mr. Bush put it four years ago — and now the Iraqi people must pay for this great gift they have received from such kindly, well-meaning, but thoughtless benefactors. And if the same benefactors are worried about a resurgent Iran, they have only themselves to blame; they have themselves created the conditions in the Persian gulf which permit an increasingly belligerent Iran to flex its muscles.

What gets Melancholicus really steamed is the hypocrisy of this repeated propaganda about the righteous, moral west removing an evil dictator. Saddam Hussein was removed because of a personal grudge by the Bush family, and a greedy eye by the Washington administration on Iraq’s oil reserves. Morality and justice have nothing to do with it. How many of the west’s allies in the Muslim world are themselves dictators? How about Mubarak in Egypt, and Musharraf in Pakistan, for instance? Shall we name more? Why not invade these countries also, since they are led by undemocratic regimes? To ask this question is to answer it. But our leaders will not tell us the truth, because they really do consider us as stupid and naïve as we have allowed them to believe.

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