Monday, March 19, 2007

Everybody loses

After I wrote the following, I noticed that tomorrow the US-led war in Iraq enters its fifth year. I didn't intend the timing; I think these thoughts frequently, and was spurred to write them now only because I read the sobering BBC article excerpted below.

What does it say about the US, the supposed superpower, that it has lost two wars to third world countries in 30 years (Vietnam, Iraq). What even makes it the "richest country in the world" when
** its own people cannot afford basic health services,
** its most revered citizens -- war heroes -- fend off cockroaches in a premier army hospital,
** it has reversed its fortunes from surplus to massive deficit in six years,
** its troops go into war with inadequate armor,
** its old people have no choice but to drive cars daily although they risk their own lives and those of others?

What qualifies it to spread democracy when
** its own election process is abused and the vast majority of its own citizens don't understand how their democracy works,
** the president who most closely embodies the American Dream is impeached, but an obviously dishonest president remains in power,
** its Christians spread hate and ignorance and endorse violence,
** its leaders reek of scandal and corruption, and yet brazenly refuse to resign?

How right Césaire and Fanon were when they said colonization dehumanizes both colonizer and colonized! Just look at America today: religious fanaticism and ignorance daily trump common sense and learning, although that country has more than three thousand universities and attracts the best brains from around the world.

The only way in which the US can be described as winning the war is that Iraq (which is not really the enemy) has lost a lot more. Some excerpts from an article by John Simpson, BBC's World Affairs editor:

In Baghdad, the most common sound you hear in the streets today is the insistent racket of small private generators. The most common sight, apart from police and army roadblocks, are the black banners on walls and fences announcing people's deaths. And the most common feeling you come across is a kind of slow-burning, gloomy anger. These things represent a major failure of the hopes and expectations which many Iraqis entertained four years ago.

It is easy to forget how high the expectations once were. "I don't like the feeling that my country has been invaded," a shopkeeper in Haifa Street told me, a day or so after the fall of Baghdad. "But thanks to God that it is the Americans who have done this. They are the richest country on earth. They will help us."

But they did not... We filmed as people shouted "Do something!" at an American soldier, while thieves were running out with valuable medical equipment from the hospital behind us. He just shrugged his shoulders and turned away.

...A couple of days ago I went back to Haifa Street..... It is difficult for an unarmed Westerner to go there now, and I had to travel in an unmarked van with dark curtains at the windows and two British security men to protect me. The shopkeeper I had met four years before had long gone. There was no-one to ask: all the other shops in the row had closed down as well.

Early next day, I went to film at a big city hospital. During the hour I was there, six bodies, found in the streets that morning, were brought in. All had obviously been tortured, and one had had his feet sawn off. It was just a normal morning.

After Baghdad fell, I would satellite reports back to London about attacks in which one or two people were killed. It was big news in those days. Last Thursday, a bomb exploded near the end of the street in central Baghdad where the BBC has its office. Eight people were killed and 25 injured, and we had rather good pictures of it. But I did not ring London to offer a report about it. To get on the news, or the front page of the newspapers nowadays, a lot of people have to die. I would say the current figure is 60 or 70; and it certainly wouldn't be the lead.

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