[Marxism] FW: Feeling icky about Iggy (Globe & Mail)

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Fri Aug 10 06:25:00 MDT 2007

Feeling icky about Iggy

August 10, 2007

For a moment last Sunday, as I opened Michael Ignatieff's alleged mea culpa
- Getting Iraq Wrong - in The New York Times Magazine (heralded in advance
by The Globe and Mail and lauded by the Times's resident war critic, Frank
Rich), I thought he might have learned something. Then I read his piece.

"One thing is clear: The costs of staying will be borne by Americans, while
the cost of leaving will be mostly borne by Iraqis." How obscene. It is Iraq
that was shattered. There are two million internal and two million external
refugees. Everyone has weapons. No one has dependable power and thus clean
water except the occupiers in the increasingly targeted Green Zone. The
people of Iraq bore the cost of the U.S. going in and staying, and they will
bear the cost when and if it leaves. All U.S. losses are collateral damage.

Or this: The war's opponents "opposed the invasion because they believed ...
America is always and in every situation wrong." Exactly who said that,
Michael? Could we have a name? It's a cheap straw man, that's all, to go
along with platitudes such as, "Not all good things, after all, can be had
together, whether in life or in politics."

What was the error of the war's backers? That they took "wishes for reality"
and supposed, "as President Bush did, that because they believed in the
integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in
it, too." What motives? To build "a free state" in Iraq, defend "human
rights and freedom," etc. In other words, he accepts at face value all the
rhetoric and propaganda used to justify the invasion. In other other words,
there were no lies told. That's the stunning moment in his article. We are
to believe that governments do not routinely lie about their motives, yet he
himself writes in this very piece: "In public life, language is a weapon of
war ... All that matters is what you said, not what you meant." So we're
supposed to believe George Bush did say what he meant? Let me catch my

 (There.) I admit I feel a bit icky attacking someone while he's trying to
apologize, but I'm forcing myself because I think there's a larger issue
here. I consider this article part of an effort to salvage a carefully
constructed policy of Western interventionism in much of the world that has
recently been sullied by the Iraq fiasco.

The policy itself remains. Tony Blair retires as British PM and morphs into
a Mideast peace envoy, as if what that wretched region needs is yet more
Western meddling. Gordon Brown takes over from him and prepares to depart
Iraq but move even more heavily into Afghanistan, which gets typed as the
good war, as opposed to the bad one in Iraq. The U.S. Democratic
presidential candidates are all interventionists on this model. Yves Engler
has presciently noted Canada's modest role in the pattern by policing Haiti,
a tragic land that has suffered two centuries of near constant intervention.

The arguments for this course of action were built up by, among others,
Michael Ignatieff, during the 1990s, when anti-communism was no longer
available to justify Western foreign policy. The new rationales were human
rights, failed states, right to protect, etc. The showcases were Bosnia and
Kosovo (though ethnic cleansing in Kosovo occurred after, and due to, the
NATO bombing there), which led to Iraq and Afghanistan. It amounts to the
same old world order of power politics, in a new dress. The only nations
that claim the right to protect are those with the might to protect. The
issue not addressed is whether foreign interventionism itself is a problem,
complicit in many problems that "we" must then intervene in order to

These policies have helped bring us to a point where almost everyone in the
world is irate, terrified or both. It's time for a big rethink. That
involves more than saying Oops about the isolated case of Iraq.

More information about the Marxism mailing list