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PC Thinking = Disaster, This Time In Iraq
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has just been sentenced to death—by a remarkable coincidence, just a couple of days before the U.S. mid-term elections.
The reason: It's obvious to everyone that things are not going well in Iraq.
There weren't any AK-47's in the Prophet's time either, but consistency is not the gunmen's strong suit.
These guys are like the Amish from Hell.
And if they really don't like you, they drill a hole in your head.
One unmistakable sign that the war is lost: its architects are now turning on each other. The people who got America into this mess are sticking their (metaphorical) knives into each other's backs.
Ahmad Chalabi is blaming it all on Paul Wolfowitz. American neoconservative advocates for the war such as Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Kenneth Adelman, and Michael Rubin are denouncing the President and other officials as incompetents who botched their beautiful plan.
Why are we in Iraq? There are many reasons, almost all of them bad.
But the one that deserves recounting is this: supporters of the war successfully bullied many skeptics into silence by declaring that anyone who doubted that Iraqis were ready for democracy was a racist.
Thus in a February 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, George W. Bush said:
"There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. [Applause] … It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world—or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim—is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life."
Similarly, in August 2003, the Daily Telegraph summarized a speech by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to the National Association of Black Journalists: "Critics of US policy are racist, says Rice" [By David Rennie]. An extract:
"Black Americans should stand by others seeking freedom today, she went on, and shun the 'condescending' argument that some races or nations were not interested in or ready for Western freedoms. 'We've heard that argument before. And we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it,' she said. 'That view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East.'"
So supporters of the invasion intimidated onlookers by insinuating that unbelievers in the bright promise of Arab democracy were despicable bigots. Then they went on to spout even more bizarre nonsense about how Iraqis, a population notorious even among Arabs for their self-destructive homicidal lunacy, were practically New Hampshireites in their readiness for self-rule.
For example, Mr. Bush told the AEI:
Are Iraqis "skilled and educated?" The literacy rate in Iraq is 40.4%, according to Mr. Bush's own CIA.
In April 2002, popular columnist Mark Steyn had asserted:
"The Iraqi people are secular, tolerant, literate, the antithesis of those wacky fundamentalists in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. ... Once you've got rid of the ruling gang, it's the West's best shot at incubating a reasonably non-insane polity." [ Say Goodbye, Yasser Arafat, Spectator, April 6, 2002]
Likewise, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board called that month for conquering Iraq on the grounds that
"This is why we believe the best chance for peace in Palestine, and for stability throughout the entire Middle East, goes through Baghdad. Iraq is a serious country with a proud history …"[Arabs and Democracy| Forget peace for now. Liberate Iraq and all else will follow, April 3, 2002]
To anyone who knew anything about Iraq, a ludicrous country with a shameful history, this was obvious tripe.
As I responded in April 2002:
"Iraq? A proud history? … Iraq has a proud history of backstabbing and cowardice… This delusion could have disastrous consequences after an American invasion. … We could easily shatter Iraq into three or more pieces, but if we invade with the notion of making Iraq into a model nation-state, we're going need more than all the king's horses and all the king's men to put Humpty-Dumpty together again."
Yet political correctness is so pervasive in this country that offering an uncharitable evaluation of a people is normally just not done—even when it could help save America from starting a disastrous war.
Let me qualify that observation. You aren't supposed to speak seriously about any group's unfortunate tendencies. But if you are a professional comedian, it is perfectly okay to joke about them all you want, even if you are just making up slanders out of whole cloth, as Sacha Baron Cohen does about the unfortunate Kazakhstanis in his new hit movie Borat.
In fact, it was always plain that Iraq would be a problem. Arabs tell this joke about Iraqis:
A scorpion asks a frog to let him ride on his back across the Euphrates. The frog says, Are you mad? A scorpion's sting can kill me. But the scorpion answers, I can't sting you though, don't you see? Because then I'd drown. So the frog takes the scorpion on his back and frog-swims out into the Euphrates, but halfway across the scorpion's habits get the better of him and he stings the frog anyway. As the frog dies from the scorpion's poison he turns around and asks him, Why? Oh, why? And as the scorpion goes down drowning, he answers, Because it's Iraq!
That's from The Marrakesh One-Two, a wonderful 1983 novel by the late Richard Grenier, the distinguished film critic for Commentary (and the inspiration for my own fact-based style of movie reviewing). It is a picaresque tale about a Hollywood movie crew trying to shoot a film similar to 1976's Muhammad, Messenger of God, which was made by horror movie producer Moustapha Akkad…who was blown up by terrorists while attending a wedding at a Jordanian hotel in 2005.
Grenier's Hollywood filmmakers stagger from one terrible Middle Eastern country to another looking for oil money to fund their biopic film in which Muhammad is never seen on camera due to the Islamic ban on idolatry. Always looming over their wanderings is the fear that they'll eventually have to go to that ultimate awful place, Iraq.
After Qaddafi's Libya turns out to be a medieval-radical hellhole, the producer, Omar, asks his screenwriter, "What's so bad about Iraq?"
"I reminded Omar of the Kassem coup, and how after machine-gunning the royal family, the Iraqis had hitched Regent Abd al-Ilah to the back of a truck and dragged him through the streets of Baghdad, with people in the crowd screaming in delight and dashing up and cutting off pieces of Abd al-Ilah for souvenirs, first his sexual organs, then both his arms and legs ... The coup leaders laid the corpses out in the center of the city and everybody joyously stamped on them and ran automobiles back and forth over them for hours. Then Abd al-Ilah's body without the arms and legs was hung from a balcony and the crowd went wild and stabbed it with pointed sticks, and people climbed up and whittled off slivers to celebrate.
"'Maybe he wasn't popular,' said Omar."
I don't know why Iraqis are so peculiarly bloody awful to each other. But there were formidable reasons why they were always unlikely to form a responsible government.
For instance, as I pointed out in January 2003 (in an article selected by Harvard's Steven Pinker for his anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004) that about half of all Iraqi marriages are between first or second cousins. While inbreeding causes genetic problems, its worst consequence is socio-political: it makes nepotism into a moral duty. The more ways you are related to your relatives, the more that loyalty to your extended family overshadows loyalty to your state.
Imagine how hard it would be, if you were a government official, to resist giving a sinecure to your nephew if he were also your son-in-law.
The bottom line: in the words of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick:
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
By implying that doubters were racists, war supporters bludgeoned skeptics and avoided explaining to the public the reality of Iraq.
Not for the first time, our public class's refusal to think rationally about race and ethnic differences had resulted in bad—in this case, catastrophic—public policy.