Dead Men Left

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Troops out of Iraq

The question of the elections in Iraq is a question of immediate tactics, as al-Sistani, amongst others, has well appreciated; it is a question of how best to apply pressure to a hated occupation, not an embrace for the occupiers. Yet rarely do we in the West hear this simple fact put. As Sami Ramadani says,

With the past few days' avalanche of spin, you could be forgiven for thinking that on January 30 2005 the US-led occupation of Iraq ended and the people won their freedom and democratic rights. This has been a multi-layered campaign, reminiscent of the pre-war WMD frenzy and fantasies about the flowers Iraqis were collecting to throw at the invasion forces. How you could square the words democracy, free and fair with the brutal reality of occupation, martial law, a US-appointed election commission and secret candidates has rarely been allowed to get in the way of the hype.

It's a recurring pattern in the exciting post-9/11 world: either you're with us, or against us; the artificial creation of polarised choices, and the demand to settle on one side or another. Excluded are all possible outside options; or, worse yet, the real choices facing the world are obscured.

Aaronovitch is a past master of this exercise:

That, now, is all that matters. Not whether you were for or against the war, for or against Blair, for or against Bush. Are you for or against democracy in Iraq? The rest is air.

How can the continued presence of more than 140,000 detested foreign troops in a country be dismissed as "air"? Until the question of the occupation is settled, there will be no functioning democracy in Iraq. None whatsoever. Or turn the problem round the other way: why, if there is now democracy in Iraq, are the troops still necessary? I have no doubt that, as Ramadani concludes, the Iraqis will provide their own answers to both these questions. When they do, it will be with scant regard to puffed-up Orientalists, whether in The Guardian, or in Number 10.