I really didn't want to go here either for this way madness lies but several things conspired today to make it inevitable.
I spent the day at home working and popping in and out of Byker's place to join in the jolly-up in the comments section concerning the nature of politicians and the invasion of Iraq. I even received a sound (and well deserved, although a tad over the top) talking to from a Mr Bob Piper.
One of the arguments put forward (not by Bob, I hasten to add...in fact he was of the entirely opposite opinion) was that, as we are not as well informed as our politicians and, as we elected them to represent us, we should trust them to get on with running the country on our behalf. Oh, dearie, dearie me.
Well, given that all if not most of the information available to the government before it launched its little adventure has already found its way into the public domain and has proved to be at best, shoddy and, at worst, deceitful, one could easily make a case for that trust having been betrayed.
The argument continued along the lines that as everything is written from someone's own perspective, one can never ever arrive at an absolute, concrete, black and white truth.
Well, I can go along with that up to a point. But, if one takes as many sources and opinions as is feasible and reads them with a critical mind, one can arrive at a place that, although still being grey, will be, nevertheless, considerably more well lighted.
Another contributory factor was that I picked up a week's supply of the 'Independent' yesterday and had just got around to perusing last Monday's edition when I saw this.
Maaaaaaaaam! It's the bogeyman!
Well, the face alone was not enough to fire my ire, although if one were looking for a personification of 'Angry of Tunbridge Wells' one would need look no further, but what I found below certainly was.
"It may be, though this is still unproven, that some British soldiers have been guilty of excesses in Iraq. If so, these will have occurred in or around the urgency and chaos of the front line, where good order is hard to maintain. I do not believe that any British unit would be guilty of the systematic and prolonged abuse of captives. Under our system, that could not happen.
Under the American system, it did."
Quite takes the breath away, does it not? Excesses, he says. Makes it sound like an eleventeen pints, I could do with a curry, oops there goes me dinner Friday lads' night out.
"...these will have occurred...". My, such certainty. Such absolute conviction. Such blind faith obviously needs nothing in the form of corroborating evidence.
"...the front line...". And here was me thinking Bush had declared the hostilities over.
Anyway, what he really seems to be saying is that as long as it occurs within an arbitrary distance of an arbitrary front line, doesn't last longer than an arbitrary period of time and is not organised (arbitrarily or otherwise), then it's quite okay to humiliate, degrade and abuse...well, just about anybody not in uniform, really. Oh, and let's be quite clear about this, shall we? British abuse can in no way be compared with the much more horrific American variety.
What absolute tosh.
He goes on to say,
"The Americans are not in Iraq to maltreat prisoners and steal oil. They are trying to enable Iraqis to govern themselves, and to stick to a timetable to hand over power. In 10 years' time, if the US has its way, Iraqis will be freer and richer than ever before. A well run, prosperous Iraq could also be an example to the rest of the Arab world. That is why the Abu Ghraib jail is such a disaster. A prisoner is dragged on all fours, like a dog. In so doing, his captors appear to put America on all fours with Saddam Hussein. US soldiers went into battle to close down the torture chambers. Now, the unspeakable behaviour of a handful of Americans has enabled the West's enemies to claim that the US's regime in Iraq is no better than the one it replaced.
This is nonsense, and malicious nonsense at that. But it cannot be properly refuted as long as Donald Rumsfeld is in office."
Sounds like he's after Donald's job.
It's a clever piece of writing, really. It includes enough references to a happy ever after Iraq and huffs and puffs quite indignantly about the abuse enough to persuade the casual reader of his concern but it's the sub-text and off-hand references to opinion as fact which worry me.
The Americans are not in Iraq to steal oil. With this, he hopes to take oil right out of the equation altogether. So we can forget about ensuring America's oil supply for a few more years then, can we? As long as they pay for it, it's okay? We can forget about Bush's contacts with the oil industry and the awarding of contracts for the reconstruction and repair of Iraq's oil infrastructure. We shouldn't concern ourselves too much with the distribution of drilling concessions, then?
Govern themselves...hand over power? I rather doubt it. Were an election held tomorrow, America would be faced with the Government from hell. There is no way that a government elected at the present time would allow all the above, neither would it contemplate US military bases on its soil. In an attempt to distance itself from the awful Saudi regime, one of their first acts after the major fighting was over was to disband its bases there and move them into Iraq.
A well run Iraq. I wonder what that means. I have a suspicion that there is no way that a government freely elected by the Iraqi people would be at all sympathetic to US designs on the region and that any hand over of power will be extremely limited. The US will still wish to keep its hands on the reins.
Not in Iraq to maltreat prisoners...went into battle to close down the torture chambers. Piff, paff and ptui! Okay, let's disregard the fact that Bruce seems to think that soldiers have a choice about going into battle and do so for motives other than the fact that they were ordered to. I'm also prepared to disregard the fact that, if I were of a mind to motivate my troops, I would surely tell them about the enemy's torture of his own people...that'd really get them going.
No. All this happened as a direct result of the atrocity that was 9/11. The outcry was such that something had to be done and be seen to be done. To use it as a cover for US geo-political interests was a stroke of genius on the part of Rumsfeld et al. What better opportunity for rallying the country behind the President could there have been?
Despite the facts that all the terrorists of 9/11 were Saudis and that even Osama hated Saddam's guts, the US public were led/allowed to believe that Iraq was somehow involved in it all. The spectre of WMDs falling into the hands of terrorists was raised and the troops were mobilised.
Even now, I seem to recall reading somewhere (I apologise for the vagueness of my source) that more than 50% of the American public believe that Iraq was implicated in the terrible events of that day. Now, I'm sure the US military comprises a less than true cross section of US society but this would tend to support the belief that a far greater percentage of the poor bloody infantry actually believe this to be true than in the population at large. It is no great step from realising that to the realisation that the average infantryman did not go into battle with the light of altruism shining brightly in his eyes but rather with the desire for revenge.
Payback time...time to kick some ass. In an atmosphere like this, is it really any wonder that the enemy were perceived as 'having it coming'? War is not a civilised pursuit. It is brutal and inhuman and those that find themselves in one are going to be brutalised and to some extent de-humanised. You have to kill people as a soldier. It is your job, you are trained to do it. One way of justifying such an inhuman act is to view your enemies and those you must kill as less than human...from there it is but a small step to atrocity.
The West's enemies to claim that...so, every dissenting voice is an enemy of the West? That's your implication, Mr Anderson. (Oh, I so enjoyed saying that!)
As long as Donald Rumsfeld is in office. Perfect! Give the dissenting voices a scapegoat, a sacrifice and then we can get on with business as usual.
It certainly is nonsense, Bruce, although I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and not accuse you of being malicious.