What if Iraq were America?

I’ve been wanting to post this for a long time, but Juan Cole has beaten me to the punch and says it better than I ever could. It’s so important that we see what is occurring through the eyes of the Iraqis, and that we be honest with ourselves — would we really tolerate such a thing?

President Bush said Tuesday that the Iraqis are refuting the pessimists and implied that things are improving in that country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq’s current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?


What if all the cities in the US were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target “safe houses” of “criminal gangs”, but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?….

What if the leader of the European Union maintained that the citizens of the United States are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?

And we wonder, even for an instant, why they want us to go?

The Discussion: 7 Comments

Of course, in this “what if” you have to add all the other situations like “what if America had been a brutal police state for decades immediately prior to this” etc. What if, despite the bombings etc., when US citizens were surveyed, the majority repeatedly said that they felt that the situation now was better than it was under the old regime? What if a majority also consistently said that they felt that things would get better in the future? But of course we can’t include that element in the comparison, because then the war wouldn’t look so bad and wrong, and of course, everyone knows the war was bad and wrong, and so anything that appears to say the war wasn’t bad and wrong must be, well, wrong. That appears to be the logic of the anti-war camp.

I was struck by a documentary on TV last night. It featured an Iraqi exile who had fled his country to escape that brutal police state and gone to Australia. In Australia he had become an engineer with the water authority, and had married and raised a healthy and happy family. After the liberation he volunteered to return to Iraq to help with the reconstruction, and spent a year there, recently returning to Australia, but vowing to go back again soon. During his time in Iraq he also brought his family out to see all his long-lost relatives … in a village not far from Faluja. The documentary was subtle, because the voice-over kept going on about how terrible and unstable Iraq is, and how USA was doing such a bad job etc. and featuring heavily the parts where the Iraqi said he was sometimes afraid for his life … and you’d almost miss the fact that he himself was also saying “yes, there’s so much to do, but things are really getting better, and they are infinately better now than they were under the old regime.” When he said “I am convinced Iraq will become a stable democracy” the voice-over said something along the lines of how he is filled with blind optimism and refuses to see the reality. And of course an Australian journo knows the sitation better than him, because everyone knows the situation in Iraq is terrible, so if an Iraqi is filled with optimism, he must be wrong.

It was ironic that this documentary was on immediately after a documentary about the movie “Out Foxed” … I’ve never seen Fox News, so I had to take a lot of what it said on faith, but it certainly does look like Fox News is slanted in a pro-war right wing direction. Yet the self-same people who get so morally outraged by that channel, would listen to the above documtary (or something else from anti-war left wing media) and self-righteously nod their heads and say “yes yes, that stupid Iraqi is deluded about his own land, and he doesn’t really know anything. Of course the anti-war journo is speaking objectively and accurately” and fail to see that tv coverage of this kind is just as crap as anything that comes out of Fox News.

(For the record, before anyone jumps down my throat, I just said that media slanted in EITHER direction is crap. I do think the war was a good idea, but that doesn’t mean that I have to admire media that will distort the situation in favour of my point of view. Let’s see some people from the anti-war camp take a similar approach to media that happens to support their point of view.)

Hehe … have to say I am expecting a deluge of outraged responses to this posting. Let me however request that before anyone does get stuck into me, they make sure they get stuck into me for what I actually said, and not something else entirely that they have chosen to imply that I “must have” meant.

September 22, 2004 @ 9:40 pm | Comment

I am anti-war but that doesn’t mean that it is an emotional, partisan stance. I came to the conclusion from logical thought processes that were my own and that had nothing ot do with what anyone else told me. Regardless, all l that I want right now is news that something good is happening in Iraq. However, the more I read, the more I think that , based on the factual evidence, it was a bad idea. This has nothing to do with believing what I want to believe, because there’s nothing more imortant to me right now than success in Iraq. This has to do with the fact that the situation right now sucks, and it’s the current administration’s fault that 1) it has happened in the first place and 2) that it has reached such horribly succky levels of suckiness.

However, I agree with you that partisanship on both sides is lame and that it has, overall, a negative effect. Partisans are just the loudest, so we hear more of them than the 60-70% of the US that is right down the middle on most issues.

Anyway, please excuse me for any incoherence, as I was drunk at the time of writing this.

September 22, 2004 @ 10:34 pm | Comment

Well, you number-name guys aren’t doing too badly today.

Iraq is a mess, no doubt about it. It’s also been said that “War is a series of disasters that ends in victory”. Fact is, it’s still possible that Iraq could end up with a representative, consensual government, but it won’t be easy. And it certainly won’t be helped along by schoolyard taunts and silly partisan sound-bytes.

September 22, 2004 @ 11:30 pm | Comment

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September 23, 2004 @ 9:17 am | Comment

FSN, I’m sure there are parts of Iraq where things are getting better. But there’s no way around the fact that large swathes of the country are now in the hands of the insurgents, and that even bush’s own confidential report expresses considerable gloom about hopes for the future. Ann Coulter tells us it’s going “magnificently,” Richard Fisk tells us we’re on the verge of total defeat. I try to listen to as many sources as I can and then strike my own balance. I was very optimistic 18 months ago. I am now totally pessimistic, and I cringe when InstaPuppy and Roger Simon hold up an example of an optimistic Iraqi as some sort of proof that we’re winning. Three senior Republican senators last week said we were in a dangerous crisis in Iraq and that bush is denying it. They’re right.

September 23, 2004 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

Things wouldn’t be so bad in Iraq if the US hadn’t wipped out every government institition except the ones dealing with oil.

At least the British conceded that they had to let some bath party officials stay to maintain order but the US wiped out pretty much any semblance of government and tried to start again.

This is why the water and sanitation systems are still a mess and why electricity keeps going out. It is also why there is utter lawlessnes. The US wacked the police force because some members were part of the regime.

September 23, 2004 @ 7:50 pm | Comment

To the “what if” commenter, after the Cole article:

“WHAT IF” the good old USA had NEVER brought Hussein along, supported his depredations, supplied him with armaments and chemicals, and played at being his “best friend”, until he was no longer convenient (read got in the way of the USA interests trying to take over Iraqi oil supplies). WHAT IF we had let the Iraqis determine their own path, rather than putting Hussein in there in the first place???

September 24, 2004 @ 6:41 am | Comment

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