This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 09, 2003.
I want to remind you all that there is a message board and forum on the Dark Endeavors site where you can anonymously vent about the war or anything of your choosing. Keep it civil and you’ll never have to register. I’m calling it Hyde Park, in honor of the London Sunday afternoon rant sessions.
Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, was once known as the Fertile Crescent and produced the oldest generally accepted civilizations in the world, although eastern Asia may now have usurped that honor and American contenders have arisen. But it was here that Ur, Sumeria, the Hittites, Babylonia, and Chaldea all emerged and most are listed there in the Bible.
I want to call attention to, and deliver a brief discourse about, Babylon, home to its lovely whore in all her various forms. For after Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans fell, Babylon was sorta the kicking boy of the world for centuries with untold numbers of conquerors, among whom are the Persians, the Parthians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, British, Germans, and people long forgotten. And ‘Babylonian’, as an adjective, became less impressive and developed into a synonym for obsequiousness. The Babylonians, with expressions of long suffering, became so good at sucking up to their conquerors and more or less corrupting them so that Babylon’s own ancient religious rites survived - and its local aristocracy survived - that calling someone ‘Babylonian’ in the world of Rome was like calling them a corrupt, morally lax, effeminate brown nose. It was a highly accurate canard.
So it is with jaundiced – nay, cancerous – eye that I view a modest crowd of several hundred in central Baghdad today jumping up and down on the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein and looking directly at the cameras distant across the square. And it bothers me that the always gullible, always historically ignorant media buys it up and talks about the waves of support for America and President Bush this somehow suggests. Maybe. Doubtful. Baghdad is not far from the ruins of Babylon.
Yesterday, in Basra, a credulous British reporter was taken through the local Baath party headquarters which was also a torture chamber and prison. He was with a bunch of young men who, despite looking remarkably soft and well fed, re-enacted the events that took place there, having told the reporter they survived the ordeal. My immediate take was that these were the people that served in uniforms and applied the pain, not received it. Basra is supposedly in the final days of a food and water shortage, but you wouldn’t know it looking at these guys. Further, I cannot believe that someone who went through what they said they had would go back to re-enact their hell for cameras or under any circumstances. And I don’t believe it.
Iraq is one of the great Arab powers with the largest army. It has been militarily conquered in traditional fashion: being drop kicked around their own desert in three weeks with insignificant casualties to the victors but large numbers of Iraqi dead. I suspect that the pain is no more, and possibly less, than would have occurred if Saddam had stayed in power, but we won’t know for years.
And it bothers me that entire divisions of the Iraqi forces either never existed or just disappeared without engaging us. In conjunction with the extensive underground city of Baghdad, I have bad dreams of our complacent military wiped out by Republican Guards emerging from sewers one night. Especially since we haven’t found the Baath leaders yet. Fully in keeping with the region’s history.
How will the United States handle this portion of the play? How long will we stay in Iraq? If we pull out too soon, all will have been for naught. To turn it over to war lords and clan leaders, to leave Iraq weak and the Kurds strong, to allow Shi’a revenge against the Sunnis who probably deserve it, would be a horror for which history would and should never forgive us. I cannot see us being there for less than five years in some form more impressive than just an embassy.
Whatever one thinks of the French, Russians, Bush, and the UN, the relationships of the world have changed. The UN has looked stupid and powerless – its own fault – and France sounds as clueless and silly as the Iraqi information minister. Syria is anxious, and with reason. So is Saudi Arabia, with more reason. Even Kuwait. Good.
What happens if, within two years, Iraq has relatively free elections, a functioning legislature, and the booming economy the holder of all that oil should? What will be the response of the peace community that opposed the war? Will it admit, or even deal, with the possibility that war and violence sometimes do achieve things and, contrary to the hallowed but obviously silly maxim, always settles something, if not everything?
But the far bigger worry will be the hubris of the United States and its victorious, xenophobic administration. It will be a Pyrrhic victory indeed if, after those five years are up, Iraq has more freedom and safety than we do. It’s a real possibility.