Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Danger: cornered fantasists at work

The crisis facing Britain and the US over Iraq is not just about how to withdraw troops without admitting defeat and losing face. It is also about a collapse in political credibility at home. Most Americans now believe that the Iraq occupation is going badly wrong, while a clear majority in Britain – including the generals – want troops removed. Bush’s Republican Party is facing defeat in next month’s mid-term elections, while Blair’s New Labour is, according to a new poll, back to 1987 levels in support, 10% behind the Tories.

The invasion of Iraq was, in part, the acting out of a fantasy scenario drawn up by the neo-cons in Washington and endorsed by New Labour in London. They seriously believed that a new, democratic state would emerge from nowhere in Iraq. So they destroyed the existing state institutions, demobilised the Iraqi army and police and took direct control themselves. You didn’t have to be a genius to see the flaws behind this. Today there is no functioning state in Iraq, just religious-based militias fighting for control of their territory. The Iraqi government’s writ doesn’t extend beyond the fortified Green Zone. In three years, the occupation of Iraq has produced virtual civil war, ethnic cleansing, corruption on a mass scale, the collapse of health and education, mass deprivation among the Iraqi people and the growth of Islamic-inspired terrorism where none existed in the country before. Some achievements for Bush and Blair to mull over as the disarray in Washington and London over the Iraq adventure grows by the hour.

Cornered fantasists can do desperate things to hang on to power. So we should be on the look-out for state-inspired provocations and campaigns that divide people against each other and provide pretexts for a clampdown. The hue and cry about Muslim women wearing the veil is one such event. Whipping up a storm about North Korea’s nuclear test is another. Leaked briefings about the supposed strength of Al Qaeda in Britain is another sign of a government looking for a diversion. Both in the United States and Britain, the slide to a police state has resulted in a framework of dictatorial legislation. Ostensibly aimed at terror groups, the new laws are in fact targeted at everyone. Bush and Blair will not simply fade from history. In any case, the parliamentary alternatives in the shape of the Democrats and the Tories do not exactly represent beacons of hope. The turmoil in government, the divisions between generals and politicians, are clear signs that the state is in a spin. The need to advance democratic alternatives was never more urgent.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Al Franken's book about Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, he says there were many plans drawn up for the aftermath of the war but Bush & Rumsfeld ignored them all, showing how little they care for people. New Orleans & Katrina backs this up too.