Iraq: Another Meme Beats the Dust
Mark Steyn tells us of “The ‘civil war’ that wasn’t” in his latest column:
AND so the “looming Iraqi election fiasco” joins “the brutal Afghan winter” and “the brutal Iraqi summer” and “the seething Arab street” and all the other junk in the overflowing trash can of post-9/11 Western media fictions. The sight of millions of brave voters emerging from polling stations holding high their purple dye-stained fingers was so inspiring that, from America’s Democratic Party to European protest rallies, opponents of the war waited, oh, all of three minutes before flipping the Iraqis their own fingers, undyed.
“No one in the United States should try to over-hype this election,” warned John Kerry yesterday before embarking on the world champion limbo dance of Iraqi election under-hyping. He has a point. One vote does not a functioning democracy make. To be a truly advanced, sophisticated democracy you need an opposition party that knows how to react to good news by sounding whiny and grudging and moving the goalposts. “The real test is not the election,” he declared, airily swatting aside 8 million voters. “The real test is…”
I dozed off at that point, so I’m unable to tell you what moved goalposts the senator inserted. But no doubt they involved, as they always do, the Bush administration needing to “reach out” more effectively to involve the “international community”. “International community”, by the way, doesn’t mean Tony Blair, John Howard, the Poles, Japan, India, Fiji, et al but Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan, a pantomime horse in which both men are playing the rear end. But, in an advanced, sophisticated democracy, that’s how we define the “international community”: no matter how many foreigners are in your coalition, it’s unilateral unless Jacques is on board.
How lame do you have to be to be the last guy on the planet to do the old “Iraq on the brink of civil war” routine? Just as “the brutal Afghan winter” that was supposed to mire shivering US forces in the graveyard of empire is now one-third of a decade behind schedule, so Iraq has now been “teetering on the brink of civil war” for coming up for two years. Brink-wise, that’s quite a leisurely teeter. There’s no danger of a “long-running civil war in Iraq”. Instead, we’ve had a long-running hysteria about impending civil war in Iraq.
To hold a civil war you need two sides. Iraq fails to meet that minimum requirement. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — not an Iraqi, incidentally — has a few foreign jihadi, some enthusiastic head-hackers and a dwindling supply of suicide bombers, a job in which by definition it’s hard to get people with experience. On election day, his guys bullied a kid with Down syndrome into taking the gig. You can’t have a Sunni-Shia war because Zarqawi doesn’t represent the Sunni.
Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens has an essay entitled “Beating a Dead Parrot,” which explains, yet again, “Why Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common.”
Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been, Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp. He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan. Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis, and who opposed elections on principle. If today’s Iraqi “insurgents” have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.
Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait. Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction. Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented “Anfal” campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.
In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)
There’s more, of course, but that about sums it up. Lest we forget, Hitchens’ support of the Iraq War is from the Left, not the Right:
I suppose it’s obvious that I was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. Indeed, the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That’s why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism. But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It’s no good. It’s a stiff. It’s passed on. It has ceased to be. It’s joined the choir invisible. It’s turned up its toes. It’s gone. It’s an ex-analogy.
Sadly, it’s merely resting.