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Friday, August 01, 2003


Well, how goes our Bright and Shining Lie that is the Iraqi War? Turns out that Robert Fisk has something important to say. You might note that Bob visits these incredibly dangerous places as opposed to Instapundit or Pejman "Despite published reports to the contrary, I actually took that CIA job...can you tell?" Yousefzadeh. How about press freedoms Bob?

Hence Paul Wolfowitz, one of the prime instigators of this war - he was among the loudest to beat the drum over the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist - is now trying to deflect attention from his disastrous advice to the US Administration by attacking the media, in particular that pesky, uncontrollable channel, Al-Jazeera.

Its reports, he now meretriciously claims, amount to "incitement to violence" - knowing full well, of course, that Bremer has officially made "incitement to violence" an excuse to close down any newspaper or TV station he doesn't like.

Indeed, newspapers that have offended the Americans have been raided by US troops in the same way that the Americans have conducted raids on the offices of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose leader, Ayatollah Mohammed al-Hakim, is a member of the famous Interim Council - not exactly a bright way to keep a prominent Shia cleric on board."

Oh dear. That doesn't sound particularly encouraging. But how are the Iraqis enjoying their new freedoms of speech?

Of course, Iraqis protest at much of this. Much good does it do them.

When Iraqi ex-soldiers demonstrated outside Bremer's office at the former Presidential Palace, US troops shot two of them dead. When Falujah residents staged a protest as long ago as April, the American military shot 16 dead. Another 11 were later gunned down in Mosul.

During two demonstrations against the presence of US troops near the shrine of Imam Hussein at Karbala last weekend, US soldiers shot dead another three.

"What a wonderful thing it is to speak your own minds," Sanchez said of the demonstrations in Iraq last week.

Well, murdered Iraqis protesters are such a small part of the democratic process as our loyal readers will no doubt mention in the comments section. How about the future of Iraqi democracy Bob?(Quick version: Meet the new Saddam, same as the old Saddam...)

And so there has begun to grow the faint but sinister shadow of a different kind of "democracy" for Iraq, one in which a new ruler will have to use a paternalistic rule - moderation mixed with autocracy, a la Ataturk - to govern Iraq and allow the Americans to go home.

Inevitably, it has been one of the American commentators from the same failed lunatic right as Wolfowitz - Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum think tank, which promotes American interests in the region - to express this in its most chilling form.

He now argues that "democratic-minded autocrats can guide [Iraq] to full democracy better than snap elections". What Iraq needs, he says, is "a democratically minded [sic] strongman who has real authority", who would be "politically moderate" but "operationally tough" (sic again).

Of course, it's difficult to resist a cynical smile at such double standards, although their meaning is frightening enough. What does "operationally tough" mean, other than secret policemen, interrogation rooms and torturers to keep the people in order - which is exactly what Saddam set up when he took power, supported as he was at the time by the US and Britain?

What does "strongman" mean other than a total reversal of the promise of "democracy" which Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair made to the Iraqi people?

Democracies are not led by autocrats, and autocrats are not led by anyone but themselves.

But today Bremer is the strongman, and under his rule US troops are losing hearts and minds by the bucketful with each new, blundering and often useless raid against the civilians of Iraq

There's this chilling line in the film Charly that I think applies to Iraq: it will become what it used to be.

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