Monday, August 30, 2010

The Economist on Iraq

The Economist is always an interesting newspaper to read. For myself I am especially fascinated with the uniquely Western perspective that it portrays as neutral and balanced. In their recent issue they ponder over Iraq's uncertain future and in one part of the article they say:

For their part, the people of Iraq never learned to trust, let alone like, the Americans. Yet public opinion has shifted remarkably in recent weeks. After countless American warnings of their imminent departure, all met with stubborn Iraqi insistence that the "occupiers" would never leave, the penny has suddenly dropped. [Emphasis added]

This is a nice paragraph: in one fell swoop it addresses that Arab mind and its love of conspiracies; it affirms the importance of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq; and it continues the enduring myth that the natives cannot go it alone without Western arms and brains.

But what does The Economist mean when it says "the penny has suddenly dropped"? Well, the answer is simple. It means that these pesky natives were always suspicious of the well-meaning White Man's intentions. It also means that these suspicions were fuelling insecurity but now the clever American has called this bluff and really done it - so the newspaper is effectively saying "let us see these children sort themselves out now" because the Arab will never be able to do anything on their own. It's the Arab mind you see...

Also interesting to note is that the public opinion which has "shifted remarkably" for The Economist is expressed in the piece by a single person, 'Wesam' who, it is claimed, is a junior army officer. While it is true that the fledgling Iraqi 'army' that the Americans have created will fear the loss of American troops, where is the public opinion? Does this one phrase mean that the entire Iraqi people now believe they were mistaken in opposing America's invasion and occupation of their country? Apparently that's what The Economist thinks. Fair enough; but wait, the "positive side" to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, an occupation which the Economist always seems to put in quotation marks, is that the "tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein" was ended. Yes, he was a thug, but for some reason it seems that the public opinion that shifted remarkably to remembering his rule with fondness compared with the effects of the American occupation is not something The Economist is interested in. No, it is far more important to read the musings of a single junior officer in an Iraqi "Vichy" army as the public opinion of the whole of Iraq.

Far more serious than the above is what The Economist views as progress in the country. Today, only the "tyrannical" Saddam's deputy, Izzat al Douri, has eluded capture. So that's a good thing apparently, le ancien regime is extinct. Also, American soldiers were "flexible enough to change tactics", by this The Economist means it "recruited local allies"; the Sahwa groups. The Sahwa groups were paid money to fight for the Americans and in fact some of their fighters used to be with al-Qaeda in Iraq. If somebody paid these men more then they would go fight for the otherside -therefore these are not allies but mercenaries, paid for by the Americans to do the dirty work. Apparently this is a good alternative to the "unadulterated fire power" that the American troops favoured at first which I suppose must be a good thing considering the effects we still see today in Falluja. The rest of the article just bashes the new Iraqi "straw-man" for being incompetent and not sorting out his security and politics fast enough for America's liking.

Things get more interesting in the newspaper's list of positives that the American "occupation" has brought out. Firstly Iraq is a "more open society" - wonderful news! Also, Iraqis are "no longer afraid to say what they think", and a "cacophony of shouted curses now assaults political leaders" with a press that is "nominally free". All this makes us think that Iraq is now with the same plucky English tradition of political liberalism as Britannia herself, complete with its own "Speaker's Corner". Far more importantly for a Western newspaper reporting on a Muslim country is with regards to alcohol; "Alcohol cannot be sold at certain times, in deference to Islamic hardliners, but is available nevertheless". This always strikes me as curious as it seems very important for the West that alcohol be freely available in Muslim countries, and that women and gay people in those countries be just like women and gay people in the West. I don't know why but that seems to be the case in most articles I read about the region.

So the question is, is this it? Does Iraq really look so rosy today and are these things really worth celebrating as triumphs? A country like Iraq had the GDP of Portugal, albeit under a dictator, and with the highest living standards, in terms of health, education and quality of life, in the region, yet within twenty years it has been bombed back to the Stone-Age by the most advanced army in history; but that is OK, according to The Economist, because these people now have alcohol, the internet, mobile phones and gay pride. Absolutely remarkable.

1 comment:

Lirun said...

define region when you say highest in the region..