Monday, November 20, 2006

Masters of 'doublethink'

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, about a thought-controlling totalitarian state, is built around a never-ending war involving the book's three superstates, with two allied powers fighting against the third. The allied states occasionally split with each other and new alliances are formed. Each time this happens, history is rewritten to convince the people that the new alliances were always there, using the principles of "doublethink". According to the novel, doublethink is: "The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."

This description sounds remarkably like the leaders of the unfree world talking about their "war on terror" which, naturally, means precisely the opposite. That is not a problem for Bush or Blair because for them, just as Orwell wrote, the "lie is always one leap ahead of the truth". So, for example, in Afghanistan, where 20,000 NATO troops are destroying villages and mosques, as well as hearts and minds, in their fruitless war with the Taliban, Blair can claim: "Here in this extraordinary piece of desert is where the future of world security in the early 21st Century is going to be played out." Perhaps Bush and Blair are trying to outdo the 100 years war fought between France and England from 1337 until 1453. As things stand, their war of terror is certain to last at least 30 years, according to a security think tank. The Oxford Research Group report published today says recent political changes in the US would make "very little difference" to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan because both major parties were locked into the current strategy. Written by Professor Paul Rogers, ORG's global security consultant and professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, the report analyses the past year of events in Iraq and the Middle East, looking at how, in a classic example of doublethink, the "war on terror" had transformed into what has been called the "Long War" by the Bush administration. ORG’s Executive Director, Dr. John Sloboda, added: "There is a growing consensus among those who have actually seen service in Iraq that the coalition presence is inflaming the problem, rather than being part of the solution. The carnage of the last six months has eroded any lingering doubt that the coalition must leave, and leave soon." Cue more doublethink, this time from priceless brain of George W. Bush. About Iraq, which has all but disintegrated in the wake of the US-led invasion of 2003, Bush said at the weekend: ''We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile. We'll succeed unless we quit.'' A new film for The Guardian/BBC by war photographer Sean Smith shows how hollow this claim is. Bush was, by the way, speaking in Vietnam, where the United States suffered its greatest-ever military defeat. The obvious comparison with Iraq escaped him precisely because it is nearer the truth than his doublethink.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Minor Ripper said...

Read about how W spent his time while visiting Vietnam...