Nepali Times
Here And There
We never learn


TORONTO - I write this from a country that's not at war with Iraq. Canada has decided that it will not support America's efforts to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Baghdad. Mind you, Canadian warships are patrolling the Persian Gulf and Canada isn't exactly paying close attention to its exports to the United States to make sure that none are used to kill Iraqis. Our cabinet ministers constantly contradict themselves about whether we want Saddam out of power or not, whether America is right in its war making or not. But we're not bombing the people of Baghdad. I'm pleased about that.

That's about all that pleases me about this ludicrous conflict. We were told it would be high-tech, precise and quick. Instead, it is infantry-led like all wars since cavemen first raided other tribes' hunting grounds. Civilians are dying from smart bombs guided by dumb people, and it could drag on for months. Officials in Washington and London try to say that the media raised all of these expectations. The media fires back with smart weapons of their own-the words of Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowicz, and Dick Cheney, all promising a quick denouement, minimal casualties and so on. They mostly said such things on television so it's easy enough to play back the tapes. I believe this is called "undeniability" or perhaps they, like Saddam, had body doubles.

Vice President Dick Cheney even spoke on the TV program Meet the Press during the 2000 election campaign, promising a humble less-interventionist foreign policy for America should he and his cohort George W make it to the White House. They did, and there's no sign of humility anywhere. Too much dust and smoke from bombs and cruise missiles, I guess. Admittedly, Cheney was speaking before 11 September 2001 but a trawl through other statements made by his partners in crime, especially Wolfowicz, show that a significant body of opinion in official America has been longing for this war for years now. President Clinton was presented with the total war option in 1998 when Saddam threw out UN weapons inspectors. But he was a detail man, he knew where the devil lay. And he said "no", and sent in the bombers for just a few days. His successor who goes on gut feelings and conviction, we're told, likes to delegate, and has faith in his instincts. The world is lead by President Bush's intuitiveness. Personally, I prefer Clinton's brain to Bush's gut.

Another thing, let's stop calling the Americans and British a "coalition". The dozens of countries who banded together in 1990 to eject Saddam's forces from Kuwait, backed by a UN Security Council resolution, were a "coalition". Frenchmen fought alongside the Dutch and Poles. Americans, Brits, a few hundred Aussie special forces and yes, the Poles again, do not a coalition make. It's a silly media shorthand that borders on propaganda. And America's claim to have the backing of more than 35 countries is stretching things somewhat. Yes, Holland, Spain and Italy-eyes firmly on postwar reconstruction money perhaps-have all said a reluctant "yes" to George Bush. So have Tonga, Lithuania and Micronesia, the latter an American colony, by the way. But France, Russia, Germany and even Canada all say "no". And aside from America, so do the ordinary people of the non-coalition countries. Slovenia has publicly protested to the State Department that it should not be counted as a supporter of the war. The Slovene government did back America a few months ago, but sensing that public opinion was against an invasion of Iraq, Slovenia's prime minister changed his mind. That's not inconsistency, it is democracy in action.

As Nepal embarks upon its peace process, the world lurches further forward into primitivism and madness. One group of cavemen brandish their clubs at another. Women and children die in clashes and from deprivation caused by war. Will we ever learn? Not if history is a guide.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)