Thursday, April 08, 2004

On Iraq

I have not written much about the war and occupation of Iraq, and I'm not going to begin now, but I'd like to explain (if only to myself) why it's a topic I don't address very much.

The main reason for my silence is that there's very little that's funny about wars, and I want to write about funny things. Only twisted and sick humor thrives in the conditions of war, and I find that I can't laught while reading about dead people, people who are now legless and armless, people who are now homeless. War is about death, death of people and animals, of ideas and of places.

Sometimes there's no alternative for wars, or the alternatives are worse than the wars. But I never believed this to be the case in Iraq, and I found the U.S. administration unable to make a good case for this particular war at this particular time. This war was perhaps planned for a long time by the people now ruling the U.S., but if so, the planning appears to have been extremely poor. Iraq is not being 'pacified' or 'made safe for democracy'. It is a chaotic place where the most violent and desperate will win unless the U.S. troop strength is considerably increased, and even then any solution we impose is just that, an imposed solution which will not live once left to its own resources. Maybe the U.S. intentions were not all about oil or world dominance. I don't know. But democracy can't be imposed from above, and trying to do so while killing lots of people isn't exactly endearing the locals to Western ideals.

My second reason for relative silence is in the extreme sadness I feel whenever I try to think about the future for Iraq. The only realistic scenarios I can imagine are Iraq as an American colony and Iraq as a radical fundamentalist country. Neither scenario is one that I'd like to live under, and I doubt that the colony model would win out in the long run. Thus, by intervening in Iraq we have pretty much guaranteed another place like Afghanistan under Taliban, some time in the future, and I don't like such a society at all; if for no other reason than that I believe men and women are of equal worth and should have the same rights. I can't envisage a secular democracy in a country as religious as Iraq, especially given the number of people who are armed and the total historic lack of any real practise in democracy. Even countries with much less challenging problems than the ones Iraqis face have great difficulty with democracy. Just think of Russia. Or even the U.S...

Finally, my fear is that the net effect of the war and occupation in Iraq is to increase the forces of international terrorists, not to somehow make the world safer. Maybe the terrorists are right now concentrating on Iraq, but new ones are being created by the news from there, and the terror will inevitably spread out over time.

There you have it: my excuses for not commenting much on these historic events. I sincerely and desperately wish that my predictions and views are all wrong. I'd like nothing better than to be proved completely mistaken here, and to find, soon, a democratic and peaceful Iraq, with thriving institutions and civil society. But then I'd like the tooth-fairy to exist, too.