In his recent piece “Antiwar movement is illogical” (11/14), Xan White argues that liberals betray their principles in urging the United States to abandon its occupation of Iraq. He further attributes this betrayal to ignorance of “the plight of the Iraqi people” — how sweet! Although White commendably wants to make sense — and therefore to avoid the ultimate curse of appearing “illogical” — this only succeeds in promoting a worldview that continues to understand other peoples as childlike, retrograde and in need of American interference for their salvation.
Let us not forget that the Iraqi war was packaged as fulfilling two purposes. The first was the removal of weapons that everybody and their senile grandmother knew weren’t there, and the second was to help primitive brown people find the Gospel of Democracy (spelled with a capital D, crowned with a heavenly halo and announced with the fanfare of progress). Now that the pacification of the primitives has taken place, it is natural that the continued American presence in Iraq must be justified by means other than alleging that Iraq threatens American security.
The only paradigm that can justify the continued occupation is that Iraq must be protected from itself. The Bush administration has succeeded quite well in seeding the public with this particular view, as proven by good White, whose heart is clearly in the right place. But good intentions, and the desire to be “logical,” do not protect White from functioning with Bush’s assumptions in mind, and therefore reproducing the very ideology that was responsible for the illegitimate invasion of a sovereign nation. This is one small example of how so-called liberals continue to serve the interests of a profoundly deluded and ethnocentric right.
But while well-intentioned Yale students dream of spreading the salvation of Halliburton and McDonald’s — since what’s exported as democracy boils down to consumption and casting a ballot — suicide bombs splatter the streets of Baghdad with blood. Although we would like to believe that without the American military presence Iraq (and the world at large) would self-destruct, Iraq was not “lacking government and wracked by insurgency,” as White puts it, before the American invasion. Isn’t this funny: First we invade a country on manufactured cause and then seize on to its subsequent collapse as a justification for continued occupation. So when White asserts that “America has a responsibility to the Iraqi people,” we should take it with a grain of salt. For when was the last time these people were asked whether they wanted the United States to dearly honor its responsibilities of charity-coated exploitation?
Perhaps we should consider that much of the misery that plagued Iraq before the invasion was manufactured by us, through sanctions and so forth, and that now misery is again the result of our activity. Have we forgotten that Saddam himself was created by the United States? As was Bin Laden, we might add. The U.S. invasion itself has alienated and continues to cause many Iraqis to radicalize and seek out a distorted version of Islam as a way of both resistance and of finding meaning. Let us stop fooling ourselves — this invasion has delivered Iraq into the claws of al-Qaida and the philosophy of terrorism. All this for something that was supposed to make the world safer? These obscene abuses of power have only made it all the less stable, and the American state has coincidentally moved to claim a larger role in our lives, for our protection, of course. (Let us hope we aren’t sent to Guantanamo Bay in black hoods.)
The U.S. regime should leave Iraq at once, including and especially its corporations, which in this situation are only a modern-day version of the profit-crazed conquistadores that devastated the Americas. Leaving Iraq might very well topple the current regime, yet we must pose the following question: In what way is this regime democratic if the people in Iraq would not support it?
In the face of such death, suffering and instability, it becomes ridiculous to insist upon a form of government that is imagined to be a little piece of heaven on earth. To say that the Iraqi people were liberated and that therefore the war and the occupation are justified is itself an act of cruelty that overlooks how meaningless ballot-casting is when your loved ones are hungry or blown up, and when the vote will not change anything anyway. The invasion was horrible, yet to project American dogma onto radically different contexts is the cruelty that enables the suffering of so many. Being Yalies does not absolve us from moral responsibility. We should strive not to convert the infidel nations into the dogma of democracy, giving them death for the vote, but rather to seek the processes of democracy itself in enabling this transition. It is the ultimate paradox for wars to be fought in the name of peace.
As Gandhi said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Perhaps those who run this country should figure out the same applies for democracy — it is itself the way, and anything less is hypocrisy. Do we not find it the slightest bit ironic that the ways of terror are used in the name of democracy? Do we not find it the least bit chilling that this country has nothing but power and Bolton’s barking to brandish to the rest of the world? Where is the democracy in this relationship? The implications are dire.
Jordan Trevino is a junior in Trumbull College.