Sunday, May 25, 2003
“The bloody dog is dead!“ – That’s how simple and clear it used to be, my dear Abbas, back in the days of the unequivocally just war against the Germans. With the mission accomplished, the moustachioed dictator dead, and the allied troops in the capital, the war was over and peace and reconstruction could begin. The defeated Germans – who had been blasting away at their “Jewish-Bolshevist” enemies only minutes before – hung out their white flags, gave thanks for their liberation from fascism, and lined up to join courses in democratisation or socialism (depending on whose machine guns happened to be pointing at them). Yes - having killed 30 million and seen 7 million of our own killed in turn, we Germans proved how reasonable, how insightful we were. With admirable enthusiasm, we followed the instructions of out conquerors/liberators to the letter, tugged our forelocks, said “For this relief, much thanks”, “Cheers”, “Nastrovje”, and “If only we’d known what was really going on here…”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be like that everywhere, Mr. Bush? When a war ends, the dictators should be dead or captured; the population should realise they’re being liberated (not defeated); the people should nonetheless understand that the victors must govern them; and, last not least (goddammit), they should have the decency to be GRATEFUL for it all.
Well, just between the two of us, my dear Abbas: when one looks at the prisons, the mass graves and the other evidence of Saddam’s rule of terror, then one can, in fact, hardly fail to be thankful that the Americans have put an end to his regime. It no longer makes any sense to question the legitimacy or legality of this war; indeed, it would be ridiculous to do so, weeks after the fighting has ended. The question that remains is this: What should replace the fallen regime? An Islamic theocracy controlled by Shi’ite mullahs, perhaps? Out of Saddam’s frying pan, into the Islamist fire… now, that would really be a bitter conclusion to the war. But what’s the alternative? What were the Americans thinking about? Were they really so naïve as to suppose that the Iraqis were like the Germans in 1945 – ready to kiss their feet and eager to show what good democrats they could be? Or do they not in fact care what kind of regime finally assumes power in Iraq, as long as the US controls the oil and their companies are earning money from the reconstruction work? Do the Americans have an idealistic, utopian, democratic master plan for the entire region, logically entailing the removal of a few more autocratic regimes? Or are they as stupid, naïve and plainly imperialist as the European intelligentsia believes?
None of these questions can easily be made to produce exciting pictures, and that’s why they aren’t being asked on TV any more. Yes, Iraq is no longer front-page news; and, to be honest, we’re all a little sick of the subject. Now, in fact, we’d rather see and hear something new, something different: a little German domestic policy, perhaps, or a nice short article about the earthquakes in Algeria. But here’s one thing this war has taught us: It doesn’t matter in the slightest what we desire and hope for, what we see and what we don’t see: the United States of America will decide to do certain things or they will decide not to. The Iraqis and the other Arab peoples will be pleased or angry, and they will hate the USA a little more or a little less. And we here in Europe will be informed in good time – which means after the decisions have been made.
Translation from German: Patrick Lannagan