democracy, read fantasy. Iraq is getting so nasty
for our great leaders these days that anything
-- and anyone -- is going to be thrown to the
dogs to save them. The BBC, the CIA, British intelligence
-- any journalist that dares to point out the
lies that led us to war -- get pelted with more
lies. The moment we suggest that Iraq never was
fertile soil for Western democracy, we get accused
of being racists. Do we think the Arabs are incapable
of producing democracy, we are asked? Do we think
they are subhuman?
kind of tosh comes from the same family of abuse
as that which labels all and every criticism of
Israel anti-Semitic. If we even remind the world
that the cabal of neo-conservative, pro-Israeli
proselytisers -- Messers Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith,
Kristol, et al -- helped to propel President Bush
and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld into
this war with grotesquely inaccurate prophecies
of a new Middle East of democratic, pro-Israeli
Arab states, we are told that we are racist even
to mention their names. So let's just remember
what the neo-cons were advocating back in the
golden autumn of 2002 when Tony was squaring up
with George to destroy the Hitler of Baghdad.
were going to re-shape the map of the Middle East
and bring democracy to the region. The dictators
would fall or come onside -- thus the importance
of persuading the world now that the preposterous
Gaddafi is a "statesman" (thank you, Jack Straw)
for giving up his own infantile nuclear ambitions
-- and democracy would blossom from the Nile to
the Euphrates. The Arabs wanted democracy. They
would seize it. We would be loved, welcomed, praised,
embraced for bringing this much sought-after commodity
to the region. Of course, the neo-cons got it
latest contribution to the defence of these men
came from David Brooks in The New York Times.
"In truth," he writes, "the people labelled 'neo-cons'...
don't actually have much contact with one another...
There have been hundreds of references, for example,
to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration
policy, but I've been told by senior administration
officials that he has had no significant meetings
with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office...
All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions
good of the "senior" officials to let us know
this -- let alone the unconsciously hilarious
aside that Mr Bush reaches conclusions on his
own. Brooks even tries to erase the word "neo-conservative"
from the narrative of the Iraq war with the absurd
line that "con is short for 'conservative' and
neo is short for 'Jewish'". For now, the mere
use of the phrase "neo-conservative" can be anti-Semitic:
Brooks actually ends his article by announcing
that "anti-Semitism is resurgent".
that's the best critics can be threatened with,
then Messers Wolfowitz, Perle and the rest are
on the run. They didn't say democracy would work.
They didn't influence President Bush. They didn't
have the power. They hardly talked to him. Neo-conservatives?
Who? But it was the neo-cons who were -- along
with Israel itself -- among the most fervent advocates
of an Iraqi invasion.
had seized upon a devastating and all-too-true
fact of life in most of the Middle East: that
Arab states are largely squalid, corrupt, brutal
dictatorships. No surprise there. We created most
of these dictators. We kicked off with kings and
princes and -- if they didn't exercise sufficient
control over the masses -- then we supported a
wretched bunch of generals and colonels, most
of whom wore a variety of British military uniforms
with eagles instead of crowns on their hat badges.
King Farouk was supplanted, indirectly, by Colonel
Nasser (and by General Sadat and Air Force General
Mubarak), King Idris by Colonel Gaddafi -- the
Foreign Office loved the young Gaddafi -- and
King Faisal's post-First World War monarchy in
Iraq was replaced, eventually, by the Baath Party
and Saddam Hussein.
we never wanted the Arabs to have democracy. When
the Egyptians tried this in the 1930s and looked
like booting out Farouk, the British clapped the
opposition into prison. We Westerners drew the
borders of most of the Arab nations, created their
states and propped up their obedient leaders --
bombing them, of course, if they nationalised
the Suez Canal, helped the IRA or invaded Kuwait.
But the neo-cons and Mr Bush -- and then, inevitably,
Mr Blair -- wanted them to have democracy.
there are a lot of Arabs who would like a bit
of this precious substance called democracy. Indeed,
when they emigrate to the West and settle down
with US or British or French or any other Western
passport, they show the same aptitude as ourselves
for "democracy". The Iraqis of Dearborn, Michigan,
are like any other Americans, and they vote --
largely Democrat -- and play and work like any
other freedom-loving US citizens. So there's nothing
genetic about the Arab world's inability to seize
problem is not the people. The problem is the
environment, the make-up of the patriarchal society
and -- most important of all -- the artificial
states which we created for them. They do not
and cannot produce democracy. The dictators we
paid and armed and stroked ruled by torture and
by tribe. Faced with nations which they in many
cases did not believe in, the Arab peoples had
confidence only in their tribes. The kings were
tribal -- the Hashemites come from the north-east
of what we now call Saudi Arabia -- and the dictators
were tribal. Saddam, as all the world is told
repeatedly, was a Tikriti. And these ruthless
men held power through a network of tribal and
we bashed into their country, of course, we told
the Iraqis we were going to give them democracy.
They would have free elections. I remember the
first time I realised how dishonest this promise
was. It was when Paul Bremer, America's failed
proconsul in Iraq, stopped talking about democracy
and started referring to "representative government"
-- which is not the same thing at all. That was
when folk like Daniel Pipes, a right-wing cousin
of those neo-cons we can no longer mention, started
advocating not "democracy" for Iraq but a "democratically-minded
says there can be no elections before the June
"handover" of "sovereignty" -- in itself a lie
because the "handover" will give the mythical
"sovereignty" of Iraq to a group of Iraqis chosen
by the Americans and the British. They will --
prayers are now called for -- later hold the democratic
elections we falsely promised the Iraqi people
and which the Iraqi Shias are now vociferously
demanding. And even if these elections are ever
held, most Iraqis will vote according to tribe
and religion. That is how their political system
has worked for almost a hundred years and that
is how the American-selected "interim council"
so here we go again. No weapons of mass destruction.
No links between Saddam and 11 September. No democracy.
Blame the press. Blame the BBC. Blame the spooks.
But don't blame Messers Bush and Blair. And don't
blame the American neo-conservatives who helped
to push the US into this disaster. They don't
even exist. And if you say they did, you know
what you're going to be called.
2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
Posted: February 18, 2004