Walking A Mile
"Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being. By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes is his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion."
- Lord Acton
Lord Acton was a wise man when it comes to the human foibles and the quest for power. These thoughts could be applied to today's situation in Iraq.
For many reasons, the US seeks to impose a government in Iraq friendly to Western influence. The strategy, if not the tactics, are understandable, and possibly could be construed by some as serving a greater good, although we at The Left Coaster aren't prepared to accept the idea that keeping the fuel costs of SUVs down to manageable levels qualifies.
Such an opinion would emanate from an inflated sense of self-interest, a desire to keep unpleasantness from one's own life. But this thought is unacceptibly arrogant in that others are expected to bear the unpleasant burden instead. Just as it is understandable that some would believe that a certain action serves a greater good, it is equally understandable that others would believe that opposing such an sufferable selfishness serves an even greater good.
In Iraq, the announcement of the formation of an interim central government is an important step in healing the country from the decades of damage done to it by Saddam Hussein and the Western oil junkies. But important to whom?
The Western oil junkies. Us. America. The United States of. You and me.
No one with any power or influence in this situation is showing any care or concern over what the people of Iraq might feel. When polled for their opinions, these people freely share what they think, and the polling services publish their thoughts, clearly open in their desire to establish their government as they see fit. All of this is ignored, for that Greater SUV Good must be served.
"All forms of tampering with human beings, getting at them, shaping them against their will to your own pattern, all thought control and conditioning is, therefore, a denial of that in men which makes them men and their values ultimate. - Isaiah Berlin
'Dissing' in the gansta world can result in the 'disser' being teminated by the 'dissee'. Respect is an important thing in that world just as it is in every world that makes up life on this planet. It is no different on a national level, and that is what makes the situation in Iraq so understandable. The reaction against the response of the Iraqi people to the imposition of a government clearly intended to serve foreign masters is what puzzles me so much.
One thing I keep trying to do (with little success) is to try to get people to compare the situation in Iraq to one which they are supposed to know - our own Revolution. Knowledge is the key to understanding, which is the first step necessary for problem solving.
The roots of our Revolution go back 21 years prior to the action of the embattled farmers at the Concord Bridge. In 1754, the Kingdom of France was vying with the Kingdom of Great Britain over control of the North American continent. Great natural wealth was the object of this competition, and the stakes were high. But the main focus of the contest was still in Europe, and that's where the majority of the armed forces of both countries remained, each defending its homeland against aggression by the other. Thus, the North American locals on both sides were expected to bear the brunt of the fighting.
The French imposed upon their native allies to act in large part as their attack force, while the British Crown expected their own colonists to accentuate the otherwise meager British Army. There were calls for 'Join or Die' issued to the British colonists through the press, and tales of great horror attributed to the actions of the barbarian enemy were widely distributed as an incentive to participate.
To make a long story short, the British Crown prevailed, ousting the French from North America for all intents and purposes. It took a great deal of expense to the Crown to accomplish this, for the colonists still required the assistance of a real army and navy to defeat the French, and this military force had to be raised by the Crown - and paid.
Just as in America today, the Crown government believed that it was necessary to run up a huge debt in order to accomplish the immediate goal of securing the source of the natural wealth against the predations of their enemy. Once this was accomplished, the Crown thus needed to settle these debts, and sources of revenue were sought to provide the necessary funds. It was felt in England that as the colonists were 'directly benefitted' by the Crown's victory, the colonists should be the ones to pay for it, and as early as 1764 the first revenue acts were passed, proceeds of which were to be applied to the Crown war debt.
Let's pause here to note the direct comparison to today's Iraq. While life under Saddam was no picnic by any means, it was possible for Iraqis who stayed out of politics to have a pretty good life by the standards of the Midle East. What rebellions against Saddam and the Ba'athists did occur were mostly ethnic in nature, and rivalries between these ethnic groups prevented a coalition against Saddam from forming, something Saddam himself took advantage of as a defensive measure. The Iraqis thus had no real viable opposition to Saddam, and most found some way to accommodate his rule in the name of self-interest.
Without going into the specifics of the situation in great detail, the US topples Saddam - something Iraqis themselves were powerless to accomplish - intending to to repay the costs of that action from the revenues generated through the sale of Iraqi natural resources - oil. Thus, 'King' George XLIII had similar motivations and reasoning as King George III (who was left with a war in progress when his father died in 1760) - make those who 'benefitted' pay for the 'benefit', even if no one had asked for it.
The British Crown created a court and custom system to enforce the provisions of the Sugar and Currency Acts, both designed to protect the Crown's economic interests toward war debt retirement at the expense of the colonists. All operation of governmental agencies passed from local control to that of Crown agents, and the self-coined currency - essentially promissory notes or IOUs which were accepted as the local medium of exchange - was abolished in favor of hard coinage, something that was hard to accumulate outside of Great Britain. But more importantly, this act abolished the legality of actions by the local governing bodies in issuing any further debt instruments, thus strangling the local economy and causing hardship.
While not an exact copy of the incidents of 1764, the imposition of the IGC by the United States upon the people of Iraq isn't that much different than the actions of the Britich Crown in establishing its court and customs systems, both without much local input. Both were intended to protect the economic interests of a military victor in exacting repayment of war expenditures from those 'liberated from an oppressor'. While not exact duplicates of the Sugar and Currency Acts of 1764, the operation of the Iraqi petroleum industry by US corporate interests and the replacement of the Iraqi currency at least symbolically parallel them. Both seek to limit and control commerce so that the economic benefits can be applied to the costs of the 'protection' without outside influence or interference.
Colonial opposition to these acts caused the Crown agents to become fearful, and the Crown felt it necessary to send troops to enfore the King's will. As I stated previously, supporting troops in the field is a large expense (as the American people should be noting today!), and the Crown was not about to spend money to make money with a net result of only breaking even! Thus, to pay for these troops sent to enforce the King's will, the Stamp Act of 1765 was passed, assessing all Colonial economic activity with the costs of the enforcement of the King's suzerainty.
The parallel from today's Iraq is in the many statements that US forces will remain in Iraq after the 'return' of sovereignty to Iraqi control. US troops will play the role of the King's Men, as the United States will continue to seek economic redress in the form of petroleum supplied at favorable prices - even though the accrual will go to benefit corporate bottom lines and not the reduction of the Federal debt. Almost all Iraqi economic activity is in foreign (mostly American) hands, and thus can be seen for comparison purposes as the equivalent of the heavy taxation of the British Crown through the various revenue acts.
Colonists resented the amount of time and money it took to pay off the Crown before anything was left to live on, and opposition to the Crown caused groups from different colonial regions, nominally economic and political rivals in normal times, to begin to communicate in an effort to oppose these current Crown obligations and the imposition of new ones.
Disparate Muslim groups across Iraq are banding together in opposition to the Us rule of their land. Recently, Shi'a and Sunnis joined together to support each other against the United States assault on Fallujah. As one Iraqi Muslim put it, "People were moved by the news and pictures from Fallujah. We saw what was happening and we didn't think of the Shia-Sunni split," said Ali Saadoun, 54, a cosmetics store owner who helped coordinate the mosque's relief drive. "We saw that people in Fallujah were suffering, and we wanted to help."
Northern merchants and Southern farmers, whose grandsons would slaughter each other over the very issues that once divided their grandfathers, set aside these differences in a similar manner to the modern Iraqi Muslim sects, desiring to form a body of opposition to the Crown large enough so that their voices would have to be heard. Colonial governing bodies, such as the Virginia House of Burgesses, demanded that the Crown surrender governing rights usurped from the colonists and claimed that the Crown had no right to tax colonists directly.
The Crown replied with threats, demanding that colonial governing bodies enforce the Quartering Act, a law passed by Parliament requiring colonists to feed and house the troops sent to enforce the Crown laws against them.
Modern Iraq doesn't have anything closely resembling the colonial governing bodies, but if one were to allow that the councils of mullahs in the various Iraqi towns tend to function in a similar manner on civil matters, then that is close enough for the purposes of my illustration.
The establishment by the United States of fourteen permanent bases in Iraq would count, although the Administration now claims that they aren't sure they will stay in Iraq and that these bases 'are for Iraqi forces'.
Time will tell. But even if these statements by the US government (and their kiss-ass toadies like Thomas Friedman) can be accepted at face value, the imprint of the US upon these Iraqi forces will still mean the US will wield great influence over these forces - in effect causing them to BE US forces. I call this a direct parallel to King George's (the British one, mind!) Quartering Act.
The colonists sent a delegation, including Benjamin Franklin, to England to 'lobby' for the repeal of the Stamp Act, threatening that revolution would break out should this not happen. The Crown allowed the Stamp Act to be repealed, but passed the Declaratory Act in its stead, claming for the Crown the exclusive right of total amd sole authority to pass legislation, effectively abolishing the colonial governing bodies.
It's a bit of a stretch, admittedly, but attempts by the IGC, and its successor the ICG [Meet the New Boss - Same as the Old Boss], to limit any influence by the councils of mullahs is the closest modern Iraqi example available, especially as it's evident from numerous sources that the US will hold veto power over all the actions of the ICG.
"Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."" - Lord Acton
While these discussions were going on in England, groups of 'insurgents' calling themselves 'The Sons of Liberty' began terrorizing Crown officials in the colonies, hoping to destroy Crown control by driving these agents out of the colonies. The Crown would then have no ability to rule, thus forcing control back to the colonies by default.
US government claims against their opposition in Iraq are based on similar motivations attributed to the opposition. Historical acts committed by Americans in our quest for freedom from foreign control are not viewed by Americans with the same acceptance and understanding when similar actions are aimed at us.
Over the ensuing years, the Crown attempts to tighten its control over the colonies, which refuse to submit. Protests against Crown control often result in violence (the most familiar of these incidents to Americans being the Boston Massacre). Each rejection of Crown control by the colonies causes the Crown to add to the military presence in the colonies to enforce its power, and each time the cost is levied upon the colonists in additional taxes, which in turn causes the colonists to increase their opposition.
More and more, the colonies band together, with formal declarations of mutual support being issued from the colonial governing bodies (illegal under the laws passed earlier by Parliament) and sponsoring official committees of correspondence to coordinate efforts between the colonies, which manage to become effective despite Crown efforts to squelch such rebellion.
It's difficult to say officially if this is going on in Iraq, but events do indicate some kind of coordination. I thus propose that it's a reasonable assumption to believe that something resembling our committees of correspondence exist in the Iraqi opposition.
Each act by one side is met with opposition from the other. Tensions grow without cease, until open hostilities break out during an attempt by the Crown government to seize the means ot 'rebellion', during which 'the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard 'round the world.'
Thus, we Americans should understand why the Iraqis oppose us more and more each day. We aren't acting like we say we are - promoting freedom and liberty. All we are doing is promoting oppression and exploitation. Our current actions in Iraq closely parallel the actions of the British Monarchy of the mid 18th Century, which caused our forefathers to rise in opposition. We are the only ones who can't see this.
"Under every government, the [last] resort of the people is an appeal to the sword, whether to defend themselves against the open attacks of a foreign enemy or to check the insidious encroachments of domestic foes. Whenever a people ... entrust the defence of their country to a regular, standing army, composed of mercenaries, the power of that country will remain under the direction of the most wealthy citizens." - 'A Framer', Independent Gazetteer, January 29, 1791
The British in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, just like the current administration of Iraq after the Oil War, were only looking out for a narrowly-defined self-interest, ignoring that in doing so there was greater harm being inflicted upon the greater numbers. The Crown, just like the 'coalition' today, was attempting to force absolute compliance instead of working with the governed populations toward a mutually-beneficial compromise which would have preserved royal authority and improved relations between the ruler and the governed. There would never have been a Revolution, and the history of the world would thus have been very different.
As Lord Acton is most often quoted, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." King George the Third was not about to surrender any control whatsoever. But as that great philosopher Douglas Adams states in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe:
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
Thus, just as King George the Third made the mistake of thinking he was entitled to more power and control than he truly was, so does 'King" George the Forty-third.
Prove me wrong. Do something to show the world that we haven't forgotten our own history. Oust the 'royalists' from PNAC and restore America to its rightful heritage of "The Land of the Free." We can once again lead by example and earn the admiration of the world we've callously discarded.
"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have... a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers. The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain." - John Adams
Expose these fascists and renounce their plans for world domination. Relight Emma Lazarus' Lamp of Liberty for the Iraqis and illuminate the way to their own Golden Door.