Iraqi Election Coverage by NPR: THESE are the Liberals?
The first thing that is conspicuous about the coverage all over the board, especially here, is that we hear mention of all the troops we have sacrificed to bring democracy to Iraq. Yet we hear nothing, zip, nada, about the Iraqis that were killed during the illegal colonial invasion. Even if one believes that the invasion was necessary and even just, might it not be worthwhile to shed a tear, maybe two, over the 15,654 civilians killed (in the minimum count by Iraq Body Count: http://www.iraqbodycount.net/) and the hundred thousand plus casualties? I can just imagine a conservative luminary saying that these are numbers from a liberal source. All right, reduce the figure by half, a quarter, or down to 10%. Maybe just 1565 civilians dead. That's more than the number of US soldiers killed, and unlike those US soldiers, they were non-combatants
Or maybe the deaths are excusable because the US took so many measures to reduce casualties? First of all, this argument is laughable on the empirical level. Having smart bombs is no excuse; if a smart bomb goes haywire, it goes radically haywire. By now, the doctrine popular in IR is that unintended civilian casualties are okay if the army in question took every possible measure, up to and including sacrificing their own men and materiel, to ensure lives were not saved. That hardly characterizes the brutal US invasion. Just look at the history of one armament that the US has used: Depleted Uranium rounds. These things are incredibly nasty, making a cloud of super-heated radiological material that leaks into flora and fauna and causes birth defects such as children being born with their internal organs on the outside. But let us assume the argument is factually correct. If your sister was accidentally struck dead by lightning, would you find it much less of a tragedy that she died because it was an accident and no one was to blame? Of course, this isn't a fair analogy, because it was actually a person who killed the Iraqis, even if that person took every precaution to avoid it.
By what moral standard is it acceptable to mourn those who chose to be in the invading military (the degree to which that choice was coerced or caused by unfair conditions is another discussion) but not those who are the victims of said military? By what standard is it "apolitical" to say that Jonny America is dead and this is sad but is not only political, but offensive and inappropriate to say that Jimmy Iraq is dead? There is only one standard I can think of: The standard of imperial hubris, the idea that other people's babies and mothers are somehow less important than your own. This is the guiding assumption of the liberals. The question then becomes, Well, could we have protected our interests better? Maybe we could have avoided those nasty and disgusting pictures? And why are our heroic troops torturing those innocent people?
In the near-fascist atmosphere since 9/11 that has been created by many well-meaning conservatives, questions like these are tantamount to treason. Well, if betraying my country means making sure it still has a conscience, then call me Benedict Arnold.
The racist contempt gets worse, too. We hear respectable and sober commentaries saying that the Arabs just don't think democracy is all that valuable, that "if this is the cost of democracy, then it may not be worth it." Bear in mind, this is the liberal voice that says that they have some legitimate concerns and that we should respect their culture; the conservative response is that these heathens must be shown the light of democracy. Of course, the fact that white conservatives voted on "moral issues" and not on anything substantial (and, in fact, many opposed Bush on substantive issues) does not say anything about the way white people think about democracy. The fact that Israelis, when polled about democratic values, show the least respect for democracy out of the countries commonly called democracies, does not show that Jews hate democracy. Tim Wise has pointed out repeatedly, and nowhere is it more obvious than here, that there are many costs to being a member of a racially despised group, one of which is the fact that you will always be characterized as a group. Arabs have an "Arab mentality"; the idea that there is a "white mentality" is taboo and encourages the white liberal to say "Look, I'm an individual with my own ideas". That very statement is an indication of our privilege: If a black or Arab or even European individual holds an opinion, it can't be an indication of their individuality but rather of their groupthink.
Rousseau once commented that he was amazed by the extent that non-European peoples would go to defend their freedom despite being threatened by European flame and death. Rousseau would be laughed out of FOX and CNN in today's world. Yet his comment remains absolutely true: Whatever you may think of Khomeini's movement, it was a popular resistance movement; the Middle East has had its share of democratic leaders; and, even in recent memory, a revolution against Saddam was crushed by the US in the 1990s. The idea that the US is somehow the beacon for democracy in the Middle East is not only historically blind, it's laughably the opposite of true, and the Middle East can see it.
Does this mean that there aren't anti-democratic tendencies in the Middle East? Of course not, just as there are here and in Israel and in Europe, and there always have been. But to say Arabs aren't "ready for democracy" is not only to confuse the attitude of the privileged elites with the ordinary Arabs, confuse moderates with extremists, and in general perform demographic blackwashing, it's also to utter racist pap.
I recommend that readers go to www.zmag.org and read the commentary on the elections. As one article I read pointed out, Iraqis are now voting under military occupation with important issues (such as whether or not to keep the US in and to keep military bases in) off the agenda, with candidates they don't know (some of whom are anonymous), with a major ethnic group and various other coalitions refusing to participate (and not just out of a climate of fear caused by the 'insurgents', as the racist and imperialist diatribe would have you believe), and with all sorts of arbitrary limits on their expression, yet they still came in droves to vote. And this is the proof that the "Arab mentality" is anti-democratic? An honest look says quite a bit.
I don't know how many empires have had the hubris to not only have the state apparatus, but the dissidents, almost universally call the people taking up arms against their occupiers "insurgents". To say the "insurgents" aren't saintly doesn't mean that they aren't a legitimate fighting force and national liberation movement, and the characterization of the "insurgents" is again racist pap. There are Ba'athists, religious fundamentalists, ordinary people, even democrats. I have watched and been inspired by the video message from the Iraqi resistance, which, if our major news was anything but corporate propaganda, would have been played on every channel and heartily debated and discussed; instead, it was relegated to nothingness. One can dismiss it as propaganda (much like the Anheuser-Busch commercial welcoming the troops home - something that should be viewed as insulting but isn't), one can say it's a lie, but nonetheless it is a statement from a group that is getting occasional media attention. Notice that "Iraqi resistance" is actually a neutral term; though its connotations are positive, it could be negative. But "insurgent" is by essence negative: it is in fact non-objective and collaborative with imperial ideology.
NPR has been discredited. The US has long ago been discredited. We owe it to the Iraqis to no longer interfere with their government as we have done for so long. We should offer support and money at cost to ourselves, and mostly to the elite classes who have strangled Iraq, and have nothing else to do with it.