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TITOLO: Iraq one year after: so what are we going to think now?

WRITTEN BY: Lorenzo Matteoli

DATE: April 4th, 2004

 


Iraq one year after
So what are we going to think now?


Lorenzo Matteoli
March 22nd, 2004

All the values we have been brought up with seem to be useless in assessing what is now happening in the World: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Gaza, in central America, the massacres and the wars in Africa, in Chechnya, Kashmir and Nepal … who is right, who is wrong? Is there any right or any wrong anyway? Can a war ever be the right choice? What other action can be taken instead of waging war?
What kind of ethics can we rely on in this kind of situation? Where are the gurus? Are there any ethics available in times of terror and of ethnical cleansing? Is the “lesser evil” an acceptable ethical paradigm?
It is easy to say war is not an option, it never has been an option: most of the time the option of not waging war is not even available. Those for whom war is not an option are usually the ones swept away by wars that somebody else has started.
Robert Fisk asks the question: “Did it really begin on September 11 2001?” and answers, “No, it began long before.” (The Independent March 15th)
The fact is that there is not even the memory of the beginning: it has always been there, which deals also with the other question:
“Who started it?”
Your Honour, I do not remember.
We are in it here and now, and we have to make a decision on where we stand. Many questions come up seeking an answer:
Is there such a function and figure as that of a World Policeman? Can we rely on the UN and its present rules of engagement? A foreign army can remove a bloodthirsty corrupt dictator who keeps himself in power by torture and mass killings? To remove him do you necessarily have to take out all the bloodthirsty dictators in the world? Have you any right to choose priorities? (like Saddam first, Mugabe follows, Milosevich done…who’s next?) If by removing him and thus vindicating the population the foreign army gets to control the most important oil hub in the world, does that change the moral status of the operation? (i.e. the dictator has an unchallengeable right to stay in power because there are specific vested interests in removing him). If the war was actually an “oil war”, can the insurgency be an “oil insurgency” fed by various and questionable foreign interests? If it was an “oil war” can we say that the nations who opposed it had different “oil interests” in the region? (i.e. they opposed an oil-war for oil-reasons) Does the fact that they had different oil interests in any way diminish the value of their moral stance against the war? Were the inter-ethnic feuds in Iraq unleashed by the fall of the dictator caused only by such fall, or were they a problem that had to be faced anyway, sooner or later? Or were these feuds a current practice silenced by the dictator? Were the means (torture and mass killings) by which the dictator quenched the ethnical feuds acceptable and did they morally justify his power? The huge “collateral damage” in terms of destruction and loss of life should be a valid motivation not to wage war to free a slave population? How much is freedom worth? Are the Iraqi insurgents the remnants of the previous “police state” or are they sincere Iraqi nationals fighting to free their country from an unwanted invading army? Does the arrogance, incompetence and ignorance of the US president and his generals obliterate any moral value of the regime change operation? Is the present loss of life of Iraqi people and US GIs too high a price to pay for the regime change?
Are there any answers without “ifs” and “buts” to these questions? Have there ever been any such answers to any such questions?
Where is the dividing line between good and evil? Whom should we fear? Whom should we stand for? Where should we run?
All questions remain unanswered if we are not ready to dismiss the hypocritical moralistic armour that protects us and that keeps us from tabling the real problem.
In order to issue any kind of assessment we have to clear two points:
A. What is going on is a planetary war for survival. The “South” of the World against the “North”. The rich and safe against the starving and doomed.
B. There could be resources, energy and food available to all the inhabitants of the Planet for a worthwhile future and specifically for long enough to organise a bloodless transition to a “steady state”; provided the right strategies are understood, promoted and implemented, But there is no political will to go that way.
Freedom is not an issue: none of the involved parties is credible as a supplier of “freedom”, and who said freedom is a priority in a world doomed to die of starvation? Free to do what?
Nobody seems to be interested in a B type of scenario, they are all thinking to fight for survival and to kill for survival: strategic control of oil is vital for the US economy. Who would ever invest in that economy without at least a twenty years perspective?
The conditions for the B profile would be a radical shift of strategy and a radical change of lifestyle for the North so that the South may have some hope of a better future, or a future at all.
Is it believable? Where are the visionaries capable of promoting this shift or even its conceptual assumption? Where are the political leaders with the power to lead the shift? Where is the “culture” capable of electing such leaders?
There are none at hand, none that I can see on the horizon. The false economic paradigm is the leading light: not much to hope from that.
So the B profile is a utopian idealistic scenario, unbelievable and not feasible in the present or medium term future.
What, in fact, we have to deal with is an “A” type of situation: the whole system of wars and confrontations at present on the planetary stage is a desperate fight for survival: real or thought of as such by the confronting parties, none of whom are available for any trade-off. In that perspective anything goes: WMD, napalm, agent orange, assassinations, ethnical cleansing, terrorism, bombs on commuter trains and planes slamming into skyscrapers.


Where do I stand?
I am with the losing utopians.
Even if this scenario is totally out of reach it is better to fight for it than to join the hordes of the do-gooders/killers. I would not like to live in the World of the victorious North nor in the World of the victorious South.
But, at the very end, when the decisive battle is fought, if I have to choose I know I will stay with the North, trying to change them, trying to make them see, trying whatever. There I would be, possibly because that is where my ideological DNA comes from…. An almost credible dream of freedom, democracy, no fanaticism, no ayatollahs or religious dictatorship.
The images of the islamic rage, the sight of a people that uses the first minutes of freedom after decades of slavery to engage in interethnic massacres eager to be subject again to a fanatic religious regime, suggest that democracy is a privilege denied to that culture.
I feel sorry for the GIs and the Iraqis being blown to pieces in Iraq, as I feel sorry for the hordes of starving “southerners”. It is hard to understand that both parties are honestly convinced of what they do. Whichever party wins, the result will be a nightmare because of the ignorance and blindness of the leaders: but, after all, it is the people who elected them, or allowed them into power.

Any hope?
The eleven million Spaniards in the streets of Madrid and of the other Spanish cities after the March 11 massacre and the political change induced in Spain by that massacre may induce some re-assessment of “Northern” strategies: a success of terrorism? It was a heart-breaking scene, but yes, it was an undeniable success of the bombers, officially foreseen by al’Qaeda.
To think that "good old Europe" with leftist governments could handle the problem in a different way is naive: there is no trade off when one fights for survival. The left in good old Europe is fighting for privileges that can only be guaranteed by starvation in the third world and by slave labour in Asia. When the chips are down the left in Europe will choose "oil".

The World has been shaped and changed by violence and by philosophy since time immemorial. That was a victory of violence. So were the French Revolution, the US War of Independence, and the Russian Revolution. The philosophers never won, their violent followers did. Will philosophy ever lead?
Who is morally more responsible for the present dire situation? To me it is the rich and squandering “North” who is definitely the party which bears most responsibility, and which has departed most from its own principles.
Can one actually blame anybody who thinks he is fighting and killing for his survival? The answer is obvious, but can we accept it?
What we have to do now is to find a way to stop any further massacre, and that must be done as soon as possible.
It is important that we do not mix up ethics and ideological issues: Bush is not a right wing arrogant warmonger, he is not the last bastion of freedom and democracy, the values now controlling the US are not the values of democracy and freedom, terrorists are not “freedom fighters”, Islam is not “left”, terror is not Islam, democracy is not “the West”, Europe is not the “good old Europe”, democracy is not the “left”.
The whole issue is about who will survive the planetary crunch (yes) and is the elimination of half the Planet’s population an ineludible condition to survival? (No). Is that elimination best achieved in three generations of demographic control (yes) or in twenty years of nuclear wars (no)?
Let us also get over the fallacy of the “war against terror”: this and the next two hundred wars will be the wars for survival on the limited available resources of the Planet. All the rest is moralistic b.s. And we are tired of it. It is good stuff for radical articles and for monumental protests of do-gooders around the world, but has nothing to do with the real problem.
We also must get rid of the "political correctness" trap: a fascist thug that bashes people for ethically acceptable reasons remains a fascist thug. As an aggressor that wages war for ethically acceptable reasons is still an aggressor... and so on. The meaning of motivations does not make anybody less accountable for the crimes committed.
However who said that the species of the Cro Magnon must survive on the planet for millions of years? Nobody.


A short term recipe?
Plan A:
The US and the ghost “coalition of the not so gullible/not so cheated willing” should pull out of Iraq as Australia should pull out of East Timor, as anybody should pull out of militarily occupied territories.
Saddam is finished, WMD not there, if oil is not a problem, Iraq is UN matter. Or not so?
Europe should strongly support this option.
The US lack the cultural vision to achieve a military victory in Iraq.
The UN should take over with a tough mandate for an undefined number of years. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will be in charge of their countries when capable of running them without slaughtering one another. The US should pay the costs of reconstruction and the UN should be in charge of the contracting. Tough anticorruption rules should be issued and implemented to run the contracting process.
The UN, to the sole advantage of the Iraqi people, should manage the Iraqi oil resources.
A new basic principle for the “UN rules of engagement” should be agreed upon: the UN takes over any country where the ruling political class is unable to guarantee a healthy democratic rule of law. No “ifs”, no “buts”.
A plan for the balanced use of energy resources should be the first priority of the UN in order to prevent the Mother of all Wars, which is about to start, if it has not already. The US will have to understand that the appropriation of all the resources will not save them from doom anyway.
If the so called free World is not capable of setting up and running such a plan the Plan B option will have to be implemented.
Plan B:
Plan B is simple. Bear the consequences. Let the terrorist terrorize, let the anti-terrorist anti-terrorize, let the rich get richer and the poor get poorer until the successful extinction of half the population of the Planet. Eventually and hopefully “their half” not “our half”.
Then, please, quit the moralistic hypocritical whingeing and the eulogies for non existent heroes.
Those who do not believe in the feasibility of Plan A, who do not even want to try, can start laughing right now. If they find it funny.
Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
„First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

Lorenzo Matteoli