Nepali Times
Here And There
The mad dynamic of war


A shambling, inarticulate and ultimately dangerous man has just stood before television cameras on and told the world that he intends to allow many more people to die in Iraq. This wasn't one of the motley militias fighting the occupying coalition. Nor was it a crazed cleric, a mad mullah.

This was President George W Bush. "I don't want the men and women who've died in Iraq already to have died in vain," he told journalists and viewers, "so if we end the war, that will be the case." More deaths to justify earlier deaths, the mad dynamic of war writ large in the 21st century, unchanged over 50,000 years of human existence.

Great swathes of Iraq are awash with violence at the moment.

The majority Shia community is finding common cause with the minority Sunni. Once bitter enemies are united in their opposition, not necessarily to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but to the lingering presence of American, British and other troops. And the inability of the conquerors to show that occupation means anything more than foreigners on patrol in your streets.

For the Shia, it's particularly galling at the moment. They hated Saddam Hussein. He viciously suppressed them. He killed large numbers of them during his reign of terror. America assumed, not unreasonably, that the Shia would support them against a horrible dictator. And they did, up to a point. But after Saddam fled, even after his capture last December, nothing seemed to improve for the Shia majority of Iraq. Car bombs, set by Sunni radicals probably, claimed hundreds of lives in their holy places. The Americans couldn't protect the community from crime, rape, murder, terrorism.

The last straw came a week ago when an American military spokesman, who like his commander-in-chief, had seen far too many cowboy and cop movies, announced that US forces intended to track down and arrest a prominent Shia cleric. The community rose up against the audacity of the American forces. Never mind that they were only trying to enforce a warrant issued by an Iraqi judge last year. For Iraqis, as any proud people anywhere including Nepalis, foreigners calling the shots in such details is quite simply unacceptable.

At the same time, Sunni Muslim militants were fighting the Americans in Fallujah and other places in the so-called Sunni Triangle.

Hundreds of US troops were killed or wounded in just over a week of fighting, countless thousands of Iraqis lost lives, family members, livelihoods. We'll never know the real toll of Iraqi victims of George Bush's war.

At his tongue tied news conference in Washington on Tuesday, the president was asked if he had any regrets, if he'd made any mistakes in his time so far as leader of the world's most powerful country. He stumbled and he stuttered, and his words meandered well off topic, covering Osama Bin Laden, ordinary Americans fear of terror and death in Iraq. None of that was presented as a mistake, but by way of illustrating, however convolutedly, that this was a man who thought he'd made no mistakes. None whatsoever.

Now that is something truly frightening.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)