Bits and Pieces

Friday, March 19, 2004

One Year On

Tonight marks the first anniversary of our entrance into Iraq. I also realised that I've missed my own first anniversary. I started blogging a little more than a year ago, but I'm not sure of the exact date.

A year on and my feelings are mixed. Our position today is better than I predicted on this day last year. I sat in this chair (actually, it was a different chair, but it was in front of this computer all the same) around the time that late at night segues into early morning, and watched on Sky News as the first bombs dropped.

At the time I predicted a disastrous campaign. With public opinion dead against the war in an astounding majority of nations, the unilateral approach undermining the UN, and my general mistrust of Bush, I expected - and in a morbid way, hoped - for a messy PR disaster that would end Bush's political career.

As it turns out, the actual campaign went off without a hitch (or as little a hitch as is possible under the circumstances). Baghdad fell without much resistance and the reporters got their pictures.

However, since Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' we've found ourselves in a bit of a situation. Apart from the fact that we never did find those durned WMDs, we're still losing people over there. Just in the last week or so we've seen Bob Zangas and Scott Elliot's parents die. That's 3, count 'em, 3 civilian deaths in the blogosphere alone. In the past year we have lost 574 American and 100 coalition troops, along with over 6,000 Iraqi soldiers.

Financially it has been a disaster. The war and its aftermath have cost the administration billions - and will continue to cost - at a time when the US economy is not exactly robust. Not only has the war been expensive, but the pre-war prediction of $1.7 billion for the recnstruction of the country has proved to be not just inaccurate but insanely, unbelievably, astoundingly wrong. The current estimate places the cost at a slightly higher $75 billion - and that's just this year.

However, on the whole I'm not too disappointed. We do seem to have acheived at least some of our objectives, and we seem to be making some progress on the democracy issue.

The problem is that Iraq was just the beginning - the yellow fingernails we complain about while the tumour grows in our lung. Today George Bush gave a speech at the White House that spells out his opinion on the matter:-

The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies -- they are offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless demands.

It always annoys me when people make wild claims about the motivation of terrorists, as if they and they alone have special knowledge of what makes them tick. Terrorists are motivated by many things - some justified, some the result of a diseased, evil mind. to claim that the terrorists 'are offended by our existence as free nations' is to make two mostakes. The first is the vague usage of the word 'terrorist', seemingly implicating anyone who bears the slightest grudge against us; the second is to imply that they hate the fact that we are free - a defence used in many an idiot's argument.

Of course they don't hate the fact that we're free - they hate the fact that we drink Coke and eat McDonalds, and the fact that if we were to give any financial aid to their impoverished countries it would come with the condition that, hey, we'd really like you to try a Coke now and then. And while you're at it, why don't you just abandon your cultural heritage and way of life and adopt ours. We'll just leave this flag here and take that oil.

And then another bunch of them hate us because we're predominantly not Islamic, and we allow our women to wear skirts and go to work.

Another bunch of them hate us for our policy of supporting Israel.

Another bunch hate us because we colonised their country years ago, enslaved the population and stripped them of anything of value.

The rest are just weird and like to play with guns. You'd go a little strange too if all your food was covered in sand and everyone you knew, male and female, had a huge moustache.

The bottom line is that we can't just declare that they hate us because we're free. There are any number of reasons why terrorists do what they do; some that we are aware of, and probably some that would never occur to us in a million years. At the end of the day, how can we hope to prevail if our leaders don't even make the most basic effort to know our enemy?
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