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31056food for thought about Iraq

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  • Tarjei Straume
    Apr 2, 2007
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      There's an awful lot of excellent stuff in The New Yorker -- http://www.newyorker.com/ I began subscribing to the online version because Seymour Hersh was writing in it. But my oh my, there are so many other excellent journalists there too, like George Packer.

      As some of you may know, George Packer has written an interesting book on the subject entitled "The Assassins' Gate -- America In Iraq." Check out the reviews at http://www.metacritic.com/books/authors/packergeorge/assassinsgate . He also wrote an astounding article in the April 2 issue of The New Yorker entitled “Betrayed - The Iraqis who trusted America the most” -- http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/26/070326fa_fact_packer . This prompted a lot of letters from the readers, and in the latest issue he answers some of these questions.

      What stuck me as fascinating, and also very, very worrying, is that George Packer sees much less similarity of the Iraq War to Vietnam or to World War Two, than to World War One. And this is worrying indeed. It should also be of special interest to Steiner students, because the Great War was the only war that the Doctor described and explained in such detail from an occult perspective, because it was happening as he spoke.

      All this second world war talk is something we're very familiar with. Even we ourselves have been talking about Bush being Hitler and his press people being Goebbles clones and so forth. And those on the other side have the same obsession with WWII, calling every political opponent, warlord, village villain and village idiot a Hitler or a Mussolini. About four months ago in California, Robert Fisk put it this way:


      ROBERT FISK: Over and over again, the Arabs are blamed now for the Holocaust. Do you remember Menachem Begin, when he was sending his troops towards Beirut in 1982, he wrote this rambling, crazed letter to Reagan saying he felt he was the Red Army advancing on Berlin where Hitler was -- Hitler being the poor old Yasser Arafat, who was claiming at the time, by the way, that he was defending Beirut like Stalingrad.

      Everyone is obsessed with the Second World War. Everyone. Bush, even our own dear Mr. Blair, think they’re Winston Churchill. And all our enemies, every one of them, believe me, is a Hitler of the Tigris. Antony Eden actually referred to Nasser as the Mussolini of the Nile. We’re all putting on our World War II cloaks, it’s incredible. And if anyone, anyone, suggests the war is wrong, then we are Neville Chamberlain, we’re in the house of appeasement, and look what happened in 1939.

      And journalists go along with this. Pollack, one of these people, went along with that line. We’re contently trying to repeat the bits of history that we remember inaccurately and wrongly. And we do not remember the British invasion of Iraq in 1917, when the British commander issued a document on the walls of Baghdad, saying, "We come here” -- to the people of the Mohafazat, the governorate of Baghdad -- “We come here, not as conquerors, but as liberators to free you from generations of tyranny." And in 1920, when the insurgency, the Iraqi insurgency against British rule in Iraq, began, we shelled Fallujah, and we shelled Najaf. The British army, in 1920. I’ve seen the telegram written by British intelligence in Baghdad to the War Department in London saying that terrorists were crossing the border, from…?


      ROBERT FISK: Yes, quite. You read that telegram. You knew about that telegram. And then Lloyd George, the British prime minister, stood up in the House of Commons and said, “If British troops leave Iraq now, there will be…”?

      AUDIENCE MEMBER: Civil war.

      ROBERT FISK: Spot on. You read the Times parliamentary report in 1920, didn’t you? We don’t read history. Our journalists don't read history. My goodness, me, nor do our leaders.


      Now, what about the Irak War and Vietnam? Of course there are similarities what the soldiers' sufferings are concerned, the war crimes, the snipers, and the entire hell and mess. And it's time for all old hippies and war resisters and anti-war vets to take a trip down Memory Lane:


      Whatever you do, don't miss the 12 minute movie trailer:


      Just dig it, man. Dig it.

      And now back to George Packer at The New Yorker. There were two questions and answers that really hit home with me (the first and the last):

      I very much enjoyed this piece, because it seems to fit with the thoughts you expressed in your book “The Assassins’ Gate,” which I read with great interest. One lingering quibble is that your sense of liberal righteousness strikes me as the “milk-and-water” variety that Theodore Roosevelt warned against. Is it tough enough to withstand this ordeal in Mesopotamia?
      Brian Stewart
      Bloomington, Ind.

      You are referring to Roosevelt’s jab at Woodrow Wilson in the years before America entered the First World War: “A milk-and-water righteousness unbacked by force to the full is as wicked as and even more mischievous than force divorced from righteousness.” No one wants to come out in support of either righteousness or watery milk (I know I don’t), but, unfortunately, Roosevelt’s cult of force doesn’t answer the hardest questions of foreign policy, either. When Wilson added some steel to his idealism and, as Roosevelt had been urging, brought America into the Great War, his decision ended in a bitter peace in Europe, a period of reaction in America, Wilson’s political and personal self-destruction, and the groundwork for the next world war. For several years, I have thought that the Iraq War, in its moral atmosphere, more closely resembles the First World War than it does either the Second World War or Vietnam. And its legacy might be similar. Neither idealism nor toughness has withstood the ordeal in Mesopotamia. The lesson is not to embrace one or the other; it’s to combine them with wisdom.

      As I read your article, I got a sickening feeling that we have been here before. Do you know if many Vietnamese felt the same way as these Iraqi translators and others whom we employed and then abandoned?
      Thomas B. Jones
      Rochester, N.Y

      I’ve read and heard that many Vietnamese felt abandoned at the end of the Vietnam War­I highly recommend Frank Snepp’s book “Decent Interval,” about the last days of the Americans in Saigon. But, in comparison with Iraq, America acquitted itself with a measure of honor by evacuating and resettling its Vietnamese friends in the United States­a hundred and forty thousand of them by the end of 1975. Compare that to the several hundred Iraqis­almost all of them refugees from the Saddam era­who have been allowed to immigrate to the United States over the past few years. The difference is that Gerald Ford, knowing that Vietnam was lost, was politically able to bring refugees here in large numbers and felt morally compelled to do so. George W. Bush has not said anything about Iraqi refugees, probably because they represent a political embarrassment, and the rest of the government has been extremely sluggish in addressing what is now a crisis.


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