Orwell qui tournoie
Returning to Iraq, the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, notes that the United States has been the biggest foreign player in the Middle East for 50 years, but that Bush has created "a much more intimate connection by going to war and occupying Iraq". (Bowen, 'Middle East on the road to change', January 2, 2006)
"Intimate" is an interesting adjective to describe the relationship between an imperial superpower and its victims. Bowen writes blandly that the US administration justifies the enormous human and financial cost of the war "by saying that it is spreading democracy to people who deserve it yet have been denied it" .
This sounds like objective, balanced reporting - Bowen is merely reporting the US government view, after all. But the meaning is changed by subsequent comments. Bowen observes that "Voting in itself is not a magic formula to make people's lives better... Under American protection, Iraq's newly elected politicians now have to show they can build a democracy."
"Under American protection"? This is certainly one version of events, but not the neutral, balanced version promised by the BBC. Orwell is already turning in his grave. But there is more:
"Critics - enemies - of Washington are still very easy to find in the Middle East. But the irony is that the US intervention in the region, and the way that it is pushing its democracy agenda, has created a political space that dissenters can occupy."
Bowen lists alleged examples of democratisation in the region, before concluding:
"All this does not mean that the dreams that the Bush administration has for the region are coming true."
This is the key propaganda sentence: the United States and Britain are driven by fundamentally benign motives in the Middle East - by "dreams" of democracy, no less. Our governments invade countries illegally, wage vast propaganda campaigns to deceive their own populations, and kill and injure countless thousands of innocent civilians. But somehow, at heart, they are striving to spread liberty, democracy and the rights of man.
[...] democracy is fine if the results come out the right way; otherwise, to the flames. That is “the quintessential faith.” The evidence is so overwhelming it is pointless even to review it – at least, for those who care about such matters as historical fact, or even what is conceded publicly.
To take just one crucial current example of the same doctrines, a year ago, after other pretexts for invading Iraq had collapsed, Bush’s speech writers had to come up with something to replace them. They settled on what the liberal press calls “the president’s messianic vision to bring democracy” to Iraq, the Middle East, the whole world. The reactions were intriguing. They ranged from rapturous acclaim for the vision, which proved that this was the most noble war in history (Ignatius), to critics, who agreed that the vision was noble and inspiring, but might be beyond our reach: Iraqi culture is just not ready for such progress towards our civilized values. We have to temper the messianic idealism of Bush and Blair with some sober realism, the London Financial Times advised.
The interesting fact is that it was presupposed uncritically across the spectrum that the messianic vision must be the goal of the invasion, not this silly business about WMD and al-Qaeda, no longer credible to elite opinion. What is the evidence that the US and Britain are guided by the messianic vision? There is indeed evidence, a single piece of evidence: our Leaders proclaimed it. What more could be needed?