Monday, December 22, 2008

Still lying about Iraq

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who kindly gives my book a mention, points out that the spinners of the Iraq war are still hard at work. Obviously, one expects no different from Bush or Brown. But one might have hoped that those whose jobs don't depend on backing a sinking ship would have been thoroughly re-educated by reality. And, in fairness, many commentators did come to their senses, recovering their critical faculties not only with respect to Iraq but also US foreign policy in general. Nevertheless, for an example of deranged obstinacy, look no further than Michael Gove: "The liberation of Iraq has been that rarest of things – a proper British foreign policy success". As British troops prepare to be withdrawn from a war they lost, the British newspapers are repeating much the same mantra. "Job well done", declares The Sun, assuring its readers that those who died did so "liberating Iraq".

Most commentators lack the chutzpah to keep that foolishness up, and many are reduced to mourning what might have been had Iraqis not been so ungrateful and so unready for self-government. But it is worth noting that the language of 'liberation' is not merely an accidental echo of WWII. It was consciously settled on as one of the propaganda planks in the run up to invasion. When the White House decided to convoke the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq under the direction of former Lockheed Martin boss Bruce Jackson in 2002, it had not even decided what its rationale for war would be - but policymakers knew that the language of 'liberation' would be central to it. This is why it doesn't necessarily work when people say that 'liberation' was invented as an excuse for war after the fact, when the promised WMD mysteriously failed to materialise. Clearly, the promise that American troops would become a rescue squad for oppressed peoples was secondary to the fear factor. But, just as clearly, the moralistic language of the neoconservatives and liberal hawks was crucial to galvanising one potential layer of supporters. Those who can no longer contend, poker-faced, that the last five years have been in any sense a 'liberating' experience, will at least have new wars to look forward to. Articulate progressives in the US media show little sign of resisting Obama's escalation in Afghanistan, or his disgraceful position on Israel-Palestine. They will even be positively gushing with enthusiasm for the bloody 'liberation' of Darfur from the clutches of Ay-rabs. However, it seems that a rear-guard of hardcore defenders of the Iraq war will continue to operate in the meantime, robotically defending the indefensible until the ideological climate improves for them, and people of their faith.