Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Remind Me Again Which Side We're On

I've never heard a good explanation as to why the United States is fighting for the Shiite majority against the Sunni insurgency in Iraq rather than the other way around. Would anyone really mind or even notice if tomorrow we just switched sides? I personally don't care whether Shiites or Sunnis rule Iraq. I can never even remember what the difference is between them, and I've taken a few world religion classes in my day. Which side claims to be the successors of Mohammed's brother-in-law again? I can't remember, but why should I care? Much less sacrifice the future of my country on behalf of this inane conflict? Just divide the bloody thing in half, declare victory, and come home, no? I have these thoughts every time I hear the politicians and analysts talking about how progress in Iraq is measured in terms of Iraqi security, i.e., our efforts to train and equip the Shiite majority to effectively fight the insurgency on its own. There is no good reason I can think of for us to want to do this. Getting involved in other countries' civil wars is never a good idea. What we should be doing is negotiating a cease fire and a peace agreement between the two sides. What we need to be is an honest broker in the region, a force for peace and justice rather than division and conflict. If we could actually settle the conflict between the Sunnis and the Shiites and bring peace to Iraq, that act alone would probably do more than anything towards repairing our damaged reputation and our long term goals vis a vis the Muslim world.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rewriting History -- the Devil's Game

One of the games the neo-conservatives like to play is to accuse their opponents of doing exactly what their opponents are trying to stop them (the neo-conservatives) from trying to do. For instance, if the White House urges Congress to pass an anti-regulation bill that would weaken environmental protection, and Democrats oppose that, then the White House will accuse Democrats of being anti-environmental. Note that they don't accuse Democrats of being unfairly biased against industry, or something logical like that - no, they make it out to look like they are the ones protecting the environment and the Democrats are against them. This strategy doesn't have to be 100% effective - it just has to fool a minority into believing that it's true and not offend the majority that knows it's not. If I recall correctly, in 2004 John Kerry barely won a majority of voters who said that the environment was their most important issue, which shows the effectiveness of the strategy. All this is to say that when Dick Cheney accuses Democrats of trying to rewrite the history of the Iraq war, he is really saying that its history has already been rewritten, that the war began as a rewriting of history, and that this history can't be unwritten. Cheney is playing the old sophist card of saying that a well-told lie is better than the truth, so much better that the truth can never dislodge it. He is trying to give his lies ontological permanence. The real history of the Iraq war, as Cheney knows, starts with his decision back in 2000 to select himself as Bush's running mate. The Iraq war is Cheney's personal legacy. It is his gift to us. So it makes sense that when the history of that war is criticized, Cheney takes it personally. It is this history, the truth about the war, which has yet to be fully written, and it is Cheney's task right now to ensure that it is never written. Cheney wants us to believe that it's too late to tell the truth now, that the fledgling lies he started telling back in 2000 have turned into such healthy, full-grown critters that we dare not oppose them now. But why should we believe him? That's the problem with the sophist's argument. It falters on the liar's paradox. Cheney is a proven liar, so I take his musings about the "truth beyond the truth" or however he thinks about it when he's falling asleep at night to be just that - more lies. A really skillful liar like Dick Cheney, someone who can lie openly to the entire world and remain almost entirely unnoticed, only comes along once in a generation. That's Dick Cheney's secret, that's the game he's playing with all of us. This whole time Cheney has been rewriting our history, rewriting us. His last trick before he disappears is to make sure we never rewrite him.