18.10.2007Iraq in Fragments
Everyone needs to see this movie: Iraq in Fragments by James Longley.
We caught this movie on the weekend at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) annual doc film fest, Stranger Than Fiction.
The occupation of Iraq has been a disastrous failure and the country has descended into bloody civil war fueled by ancient and irreconcilable sectarian and ethnic tensions....or at least that's what I'm reading in the The Irish Times these days. Why does the Western media repeat this mantra with such dedication? Iraq in Fragments addresses the issue of ethnic divisions in Iraq. This movie is "an opus in three parts," in which Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds tell the story of life in their area. Under American occupation ethnic tensions in Iraq have been carefully nurtured, the result of "divide and conquer" policies enacted by Viceroy L. Paul Bremer III and the now defunct American Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). This movie is a powerful documentation of the hopes and frustrations of an occupied nation, and their struggle for freedom.
The corporate press have been very consistent in their message. "We are losing the war; the war is bad." That I can read everyday for the price of a newspaper. The implicit message is that if we were winning the war, the war would be good. This was essentially the message in 2003 and that message continued, even throughout the period when American justifications for aggression where exposed as "a pack of vicious lies" (George Galloway). "We are winning the war; the war is good." That story did not last long. It became overwhelmingly obvious, not long after John Kerry lost the 2004 election by refusing to speak against the occupation, that opposition to the war in the United States was in danger of getting out of hand. People were starting to get really pissed off and some of them might even come to the wrong conclusions. That is when American planners changed strategies. The corporate media was not far behind. It was clear to everyone that the occupation had not brought Freedom & Democracy to Iraq. Worst of all, it had not brought prosperity to the United States, which had always been the most crucial justification. If the occupation had not brought democracy to Iraq, then we must be losing the war! There is no other conceivable explanation. "We are losing the war; the war is bad." There is no concept of war being bad on its own terms. There is no space for public discourse that opposes American imperialism, regardless of whether it is winning or losing. This is the logic of a rigid and strictly controlled ideological system. By definition, America always seeks democracy; its enemies always seek to destroy it. When Saddam Hussein was an official ally, his regime was by definition democratic. When the evil bastard turned against us, he became undemocratic. When he used the weapons we gave him to kill Kurdish people he was democratic. But later, when he became undemocratic, his previous actions became war crimes, the very thing American foreign policy had been seeking to abolish all along. The new puppet regime we have installed post-Saddam is of course democratic. The real goals of American aggression remain hidden in the fog of war.
In the world of public relations, we are losing the war, not because of our own actions, but because of our inability to unite the country under one central government and one national Iraqi constitution (written by us, enshrining American corporate access to vital resources). This is our cross to bear. This is our burden. If only they would listen to reason, but instead, the Shiites and Sunni are too busy going to mosque and counting bullets. This is our failure, despite our best intentions. The risk of civil war in Iraq has been exaggerated to justify the continuing military occupation, thereby giving our messianic leaders time to draw up some sort of coherent plan, an "exit strategy" if you will, that can ensure American interests in the long run, thereby "stabilizing" the region. We have dug a large hole and we are losing the war. The only logical thing to do is keep digging. In the lexicon of the US State Department a country is only "stable" if it is under direct American control. Therefore the Bolivarian Revolucion in Venezuela, which has increased standards of living drastically by strategic nationalization, has "destabilized" the region by diminishing American control over the domestic economy. Destabilization is of course a very bad thing. President Bush has bravely warned undemocratic forces in South America that further "destabilization of the region" will not be tolerated.
The corporate media quickly turned on the war. Certain American planners turned on their own war in order to control criticism of it. This is in essence the role of the Democratic Party. But the media in general were quick to turn on a war that they felt they could no longer justify to the public, at least not as belligerently as before. The Democratic Party controls dissent in the United States by creating the illusion of opposition. The corporate media control dissent by framing the scope of criticism, to ensure that anti-war sentiment stays within acceptable frameworks. Larger conclusions about the nature of war and capitalism and colonialism are never drawn. The war is bad because we are losing it; our altruistic goals have been thwarted by al-Qaeda and France. The war is bad, we agree, not because 650,000 Iraqis are dead, not because over 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, not because the occupation violates international law, not because the neoliberal policies we imposed have devastated their economy, not because we have destroyed a nation, and certainly not because we are unwelcome. The war is bad because of our inability to convince the locals to embrace the democracy we have granted them. The Pax Americana, conceptualized by Dick Cheney and The Project for a New American Century, will "Americanize" the Middle East and grant the troubled Arabs peace & stability.
The truth is that sectarian sentiment in Iraq is easily eclipsed by near-universal opposition to the American occupation of their homeland. This is the unacceptable truth Iraq in Fragments crystallizes in every frame, making it overwhelmingly unpopular at Young Republican meetings across the country. Despite the disparity of the stories, the film flows with a wholeness that is both grand and intimate in scale. "What this movie shows, you will never see on the evening news" (Michael Moore).
Globally, the term democracy is vaguely understood to mean some kind of self-determination. The American occupation of Iraq may be many things, but it is almost certainly not self-determination. The global population, especially the "global south," tend to define democracy as freedom from corporate globalization. This translates very clearly to freedom from American hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine more specifically. In the early 1960s a great wave of global altruism swept across the United States and so we occupied Vietnam as the shining example of our dedication to global peace & justice. When the Vietnamese resisted the occupation of their homeland, they were resisting democracy. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese chose to organize themselves into armed militias. They fought day and night, from village to village, with very few weapons, against the very people who had only come to give them democracy. To protect them from communism. To protect them from themselves. We bombed them to protect them. It was for their own good. The ungrateful South Vietnamese. The Viet Cong. The people we were there to protect. The people that we fought against. The people that with few resources defeated the most powerful military machine in human history...they overwhelmingly supported American involvement in South East Asia, according to all creditable American news agencies at the time.
Unfortunately some violent and cynical malcontents in Iraq have chosen to take up arms against our selfless occupation of their homeland. If only their ancient and petty sectarianism would end so that they could stop and enjoy the Mesopotamian paradise we have created for them! It is sad that they fight each other, but what more can we do? We have already rebuilt their country from top to bottom. In city after city across the nation. We have given them state of the art architecture and technology. Hospitals and schools and apartment buildings. We paved every road. We fed every child. We have eliminated all forms of poverty and hopelessness with dynamic and expansive social programs, investing heavily in local community projects, rejuvenating public space and municipal democracy. We promoted a pluralistic and cosmopolitan society by retaining and enhancing a vast civil service. The Iraqi people did not go a day without a single utility. Every man, woman and strong lad are employed by the strong and dynamic economy we nurtured in every sector, diversified with sustainable development. We have restored their infrastructure and their sense of self worth. We have given them democracy, we have safe guarded their national treasures and we have respected their history and culture.
But sadly they still fight among each other like savage children, despite the best efforts of their American benefactors. "We are losing the war; the war is bad," but what more could we have done?
By: Max Pollack
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