From Irish Political Review: December 2006

IRAQ: Reduced To A State Of Nature In The Name Of Progress

The USA has finally admitted that there was no Iraqi nation waiting to be liberated from the tyranny of the Iraqi State, and ready to spring into democratic mode once the Baath regime was destroyed. It has therefore backed away from "democracy" and stated that its new priority is "stability". But stability is what existed in Iraq before it was invaded, and before half a million Iraqis were killed either by the invasion or as a direct consequence of it. And it was, moreover, stability within a secular political order formed on Western ideological lines.

Any stability that can now be retrieved out of the chaos brought about by the invasion will be Islamist in character. The possibility of liberal development has been destroyed by the invasion.

One of the great issues for European liberalism today is the growth within the Islamic diaspora of the wearing of the veil by women. France prohibits schoolgirls from wearing it at school. Holland, the vanguard of liberalism in the drug scene, intends to make it a crime to wear it in public. And the Leader of the British Commons says he doesn't want women wearing it to come to his constituency office. And, in Ireland, Dublin 4 is panicking at the thought that Ireland might become an Islamic state if current demographic trends continue.

All of this is new. It has come about since President Bush announced his Crusade five years ago—at a time when Iraq remained secular and liberal, despite ten years of "United Nations" (i.e., US/UK) sanctions, and when scarcely a veil was to be seen on anybody except a few grandmothers who wore it out of old habit.

The Taliban state in Afghanistan had little influence on the conduct of the Muslim Diaspora. The Taliban were putting Afghanistan together again after the years of Russian government and US subversion, but even those who understood that they were doing something necessary felt little inclination to emulate them.

It was the destruction of the Taliban Islamic State, followed by the destruction of the secular liberal Baath State, and the failure of the destroyers in both instances to establish something viable in place of what they had destroyed, that provoked the growth of a stubborn and purposeful Islamism in the Islamic Diaspora.

When the President was invading Iraq, and his Army began to meet with Islamist resistance, he said this was a good thing as it was concentrating the Islamic fundamentalist forces of resistance to democracy and progress in Iraq, where they would be crushed. It was better to have them gravitate towards the battlefield of Iraq rather then have them dispersed piecemeal around the world. In this conception of things, "fundamentalists", or "extremists" were a fixed quantity, and they came into being, somehow, apart from what is going on in the world, rather than being a response to it. They existed independently of Ameranglian action in the world, and were committed to doing what they do regardless of what US/UK did. They used Western actions as an "excuse" for doing what they did, but they would have done it anyhow.

Such was the view of the President and the Prime Minister. Both have had Marxists as advisers—Trotskyists for the President, Communist Party types for the Prime Minister. Before they entered the corridors of power these Marxists chattered interminably about the dialectical interconnection of all things, but in their exercise of power they have become what they used to describe as dogmatic and metaphysical.

The leading British Marxist is the Home Secretary. John Reid explained a few months ago that, as a senior Cabinet Minister, he is in the business of bending others to his will. Resistance to this is evil. And the chief force of evil in the world is Islamic extremism—a metaphysical entity produced by some special creation, having nothing whatever to do with British foreign policy other than attempting to thwart it in order to be free to do evil.

The Prime Minister is less pretentious intellectually than Dr. Reid. He sees visions and is all Heart and his heart is always on his sleeve. He saw a vision (on a mountain in Spain as we recall) which told him to invade Iraq. (It happened just about the time when the President decided to invade but Mr. Blair denied that it came into his head by way of projection from the White House.)

Why has the invasion inspired from on high worked out so badly? After two years of being in denial of obvious facts and of obvious causative connection, he recently conceded that facts are facts—a few days after the White House downscaled democracy and upsized security. And he spoke as follows: It was put to him, on Al Jazeera television, that the invasion of Iraq has "so far been pretty much a disaster". He replied:

"It has. You see, what I say to people is, 'Why is it difficult in Iraq?' It's not difficult because of some accident in planning. It's difficult because there is a deliberate strategy—al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other—to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for War" (17 Nov).

But the Shia are the majority people of Iraq and the Sunni are the second largest. And it is not the Kurds who are resisting the Occupation. And Al Qaeda only got into Iraq because Bush and Blair destroyed the state which kept them out. So one is left with a picture of Iraq in which the will for peace and the will for war are the same will—or the same wills.

Blair sent his army into Iraq to Do Good. Doing good consisted in the first instance of destroying the state apparatus of tyranny. But there were evil forces in Iraq which did not want to be good and they went into insurrection against peace. And where did those evil forces come from? It turned out that they were for the most part the forces that had been held in check by the regime of the overthrown tyrant.

Three and a half years ago we reported a very important Statement by the British commander at the time of the invasion, Air Marshal Burradge. On 25th March 2003 he said that the invasion had the object of "pricking the bubble of unreality so that we can rebuild the attitude of the people".

The "bubble of unreality" was the reality of life as actually lived in the Iraqi state. Pricking it in order to re-make the sense of reality of the people of Iraq is not meaningfully described as liberation. Something that exists, but is held in restraint, can be liberated from the restraining force. But destroying the state by conquest in order to reconstruct the people in the image of the conquering states is something very different. (Or partly in the image—sufficiently so to serve the ulterior purposes of the conquerors.)

Blair, in his immediate response to the chaos that followed the invasion, made reference to "the strong membrane of the state", whose removal precipitated chaos. But that ephemeral acknowledgement of reality gave way immediately to years of denial.

We commented at the time (April 2003).

"The bubble of unreality is what Blair in his moment of awful realisation described as the strong membrane of the state. The Burradge project involves the remaking of Iraqis after the conquest into a people which will welcome the conquest retrospectively. The whole thing reminds one more and more of the invasion of Hungary in 1956".

Three and a half years later one must say that the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 might be reasonably described as liberation by comparison with the 'liberation' of Iraq. The Soviets very quickly established a viable regime of state which lasted for a third of a century, which was a very long time by contemporary standards.

There are two basic English political philosophies—that of Thomas Hobbes, conceived during the chaos of what is called the English Revolution (1640s), and that of John Locke, which played a part in the coup d'etat of 1688.

Hobbes's view was that any state is better than none. He had experienced life without a functional state, and said that life in a state of nature was nasty, mean, brutish, and short. He supported Charles I in 1640. Then he supported Cromwell. And finally he supported Charles II. It did not matter to him what the form of government was, so long as it was strong.

But for Locke, writing a generation later within the security of the restored monarchy, government had to be just so in order to be tolerable. Government by James II was intolerable to progressive English Protestants because it repealed the Penal Laws against Catholics, who needed to be suppressed because their outlook was mediaeval. When the people found the Government irksome, they were entitled to throw it off, revert to a state of nature, and consider their options.

Both of these incompatible philosophies of state are well-developed, and both are available to the governors of the English state to draw upon as expediency indicates. In the case of Iraq it has gone from Locke back to Hobbes.

Locke's philosophy of politics is finicky by comparison with Hobbes;s. It was developed in a situation of security, in which the gentry were confident that they could control the populace while inciting it against the King. In Hobbes's state of nature the people were in turmoil and it was a case of each against all. In Locke's state of nature the gentry, having assumed effective command of the people, throw off the curbs of the monarchical state and establish themselves in freedom. (Between the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789 there was little in the way of an internal State in England to which the people could appeal against the gentry. The country was governed by arrangements made between the gentry, each gentleman being the state in his own region.)

At the start of 2003 the finicky philosophy prevailed in the House of Commons. The functional Iraqi State just wasn't good enough for the Iraqi people. So Tony Blair comes along, like William of Orange in 1688, and knocks it down so that the Iraqi people can make a nicer state for themselves.

But there was no 'Iraqi people'. And there was no elite stratum underneath the 'tyranny' that could act in place of the people. And the effect of destroying the 'tyranny' was to bring about the state of nature as envisaged by Hobbes.

We said in September 2003:

"…Four months after the destruction of the state, the condition of Iraq is one of social chaos. This was the entirely predictable outcome of the destruction of the state—the 'regime'—in a country where national life and social cohesion were functions of the existence of the state.

"In the propaganda which prepared the way for war—the “diplomacy”, as it is now called—the American and British Governments counterposed “the Iraq regime” and 'the Iraqi people'. And the Irish Government… helped to peddle that nonsense.

"Situations exist in which a meaningful and practical distinction can be made between the state and the people, so that it would be reasonable to expect the destruction of the state to leave the people more or less in being…

"But there is no Iraqi people. There are of course people in Iraq, but those people had no sense of themselves as a distinct and united people before Imperial Britain found it convenient to throw together certain territories to form a 'national state' under British hegemony and call it 'Iraq'…"

We gave an account of the intervening period, then said that, 80 years later—

"…Iraqi national feeling still did not exist in free form. It only existed in conjunction with the regime. The assault on the regime was therefore an assault on the very 'Iraqi people' that the invaders appealed to.

"And the invaders knew it—or had reason to know it…

"The 'Iraqi people' is an ideological construct—a rhetorical turn of phrase…"

Four years ago the revisionist regime in Ireland was at the height of its influence. A central doctrine of that revisionism is that nationalism is bad and is entirely unnecessary to the conduct of public affairs. One of the most thorough revisionists, Professor Girvin, described his position as liberal universalism (or words to that effect). Nationality was divisive, retrogressive, and unnecessary. On that view it would appear to be a thing of no account that there was no sense of Iraqi nationality dispersed amongst the peoples of Iraq. But we thought it was a thing of great consequence.

Arthur Griffith's insight, expressed over a century ago, that nationality was a necessary intermediary between the individual and humanity at large, is not yet obsolete. It is not yet the case that the human race has been entirely standardised into individualist ciphers which can be thrown together any old how as states with a reasonable expectation of functioning. Irish revisionism in that respect, if not essentially false, is at least premature by some centuries. But the most eminent 'opinion makers' were in the grip of that doctrine four years ago, and were made very stupid by it.

Kevin Myers (Irish Times then, Irish Independent now) has apparently made a good confession of his errors, or at least an expedient one. But Myers was small fry—a mere cheerleader on the sidelines. Eoghan Harris was a player in the invasion—an adviser to Ahmed Chalabi:

"Why The Arabs And Iraq Need Chalabi: The Iraqi National Congress leader believes the nobility of creating democracy outweighs the risks, writes Eoghan Harris" (Sunday Independent 4 April 2003).

The article is accompanied by a picture of Harris advising Chalabi, who "has spent most of his life in savage struggle with Saddam Hussein". And it includes some spurious autobiography:

"In RTE canteen culture [after the Harris regime was broken, presumably], the State Department is Good because it wants to hand Iraq over to the United Nations. The problem is that the Pentagon hawks (who, of course, are Bad) want to hand Iraq over to the Iraqis…

"Faced with that fact, a really inquisitive RTE would take another look at the label pinned on the Pentagon. That's what I did when I met Ahmed Chalabi in Washington in March 2001, and he told me that he preferred the Pentagon hawks to the State Department doves. At first I was a bit taken aback. After all, I had been brought up on the Animal Farm of leftist Ireland to chant Pentagon Bad, State Department Good. But it is my invariable instinct, in the face of facts which contradict my conditioning, to think the thing through to the (usually) bitter end. That habit had helped me to say good bye to socialism [after the fall of Sir Nicolae Ceaucescu, who was beloved of the Stickies, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, as we recall!]. So I listened carefully while Chalabi forced me to confront my prejudices about the Pentagon.

"Chalabi believed that the State Department, like the CIA and the British Foreign Office, fundamentally followed a Lawrence of Arabia policy of cynical realpolitik, doubting Arab ability to handle democracy, and doing deals with despots, dictators and kings.

"By contrast, Chalabi had found that the Pentagon hawks, people like Dick Cheyney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, had moral clarity, liked Arabs and actually believed that the Gulf would be safer for America, Israel and the Arabs if democracy could be installed in brutal states.

"Most Irish people fear the Pentagon hawks' brand of moral clarity. They prefer the messy bluster of a Bill Clinton, who does a bit of bombing and then backs off. Personally I prefer a Rumsfeld who finishes what he starts. But I am not blind to the dangers…

"Chalabi believes the nobility outweighs the risks. The last time I saw him, …when I was teaching him communication techniques for television, he believed Bush had made up his mind to topple Saddam and that there was a risky but a reasonable chance of deposing an evil regime and setting up a federal state in Iraq…"

Chalabi returned to Iraq in the baggage train of the invasion force and went to live in the family mansion in Baghdad. Within a short time he was discarded by the Americans who found that he had been feeding them false information to encourage the invasion. He had attached himself to the White House in the early 1990s when, having baulked at invasion in 1991, it allocated millions to groups which claimed to have support within Iraq, for the purpose of enacting a coup d'etat. This was all deception. Chalabi was a confidence trickster. Insofar as he had allegiance, it seems to have been as a Shia to Iran.

There is no knowing whether he had any realistic ideas of what it might be possible to do in Iraq when the state was defeated and destroyed. Confidence tricksters tend to live in their story of the moment, and not disable themselves by looking beyond it. But there was one very substantial political intellectual in the emigre opposition to the Baath, Samir al Khalil, and it seems that he attached himself to Chalabi, returned to Iraq with him, and was given some institute to occupy himself. [The Iraq Memory Foundation; he is also said to be currently a Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis University near Boston—ed.)

Al-Khalil (pseudonym of Kanan Makiya) was an architect who had worked as part of the Baath system for a number of years before defecting, and who described its working in a book published in 1990, a couple of months before the American Ambassador gave Saddam the green light for direct action against Kuwait, which was stealing Iraqi oil.

The book is called Republic Of Fear. But the title is utterly misleading. The writer had come to hate the regime and asserts that fear is the medium in which it functions. But fear is more or less a medium of existence in all states, except a few ultra-civilised petty states like Luxemburg and Liechtenstein, which are more communities than states.

But what Samir al Khalil described is not a population cowering in fear of the terror of the state, but a population being drawn into active participation by the modernising dynamism of the state, and drawn from all quarters, Shia as well as Sunni. The state, in the process of its construction, is breaking up the preceding centres of loyalty, and people of all backgrounds are becoming citizens (or subjects—participants, at any rate) in the state. The family is being destroyed—a sure sign of progress. And 'fundamentalist' religion has ceased to be a social entity and separate from the state, becoming a mere private retreat for individual from the hectic pace of development.

That was the situation when Britain invaded Iraq for the umpteenth time and helped the US to blow it apart.

The chaos brought about by the Ameranglian invasion and occupation is being described as "civil war" by some, while others (the White House and Downing St.) deny that it is civil war. The ground of this difference of opinion is unclear. It seems to relate to the policy of the invaders, rather than being descriptive. Characterising the situation as one of civil war is felt to be in conflict with carrying through the purpose of the invasion. But the invaders have been flirting with the idea of civil war for a very long time. The media, inspired by the two Governments, began talking about it within weeks of the invasion.

(Forty years ago American opponents of US activity in Vietnam characterised the Vietnamese conflict as a civil war, with the implication that the US therefore had no legitimate part in it.)

But, leaving the imperialist semantics of the matter aside, it is hard to see how the conflicts between the inhabitants of Iraq, consequent on the destruction of the state by the invaders, can be described realistically as a civil war. A war for control of the state between parties with radically different purposes about its conduct is a civil war. But there is no longer an Iraqi state. It was systematically destroyed by the invaders.

The various social entities in the region which lived together harmoniously within the Ottoman Empire, and which were held together less harmoniously by the monarchy imposed by Britain after its first conquest, and by the Baath state which was established by the Iraqis themselves, are now in conflict with each other because the state has been destroyed—not out of rivalry to control the state.

The British media have recently been inspired to wonder if a strong man is not what is needed. A discarded 'Prime Minister' of the invasion regime, Allawi, was asked about this in a long television interview in mid-November. But "strong men" of the required kind—Napoleons—are not to be had for the asking. And Allawi was too diplomatic to point out the obvious—that a strong man had built a functional Iraqi state in which the populace participated, that the invaders destroyed that state, and that the strong man had been sentenced to death after a show trial and was waiting to be hanged. Hardly a precedent to encourage another.

I Remember The Quiet Day We Lost The War In Iraq

Boris Johnson recalls a visit to Iraq, just 10 days after its 'liberation'. Wandering around the Iraqi Foreign Ministry building, he found it deserted. Suddenly a grizzled American turned up, escorted by soldiers, a spook working for the US Government, turned up. Questioned by Johnson, he said, "I was just wondering if anyone was going to show up for work". Johnson comments, "We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq". Sunday Telegraph, 26.11.06

Saddam condemnation a guilty verdict on America as well
by Robert Fisk.

Independent (UK), 6.11.06

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