I'm irritated, and I don't think anyone really understands why. It's this war, and the attitudes that go with it, that are getting to me.
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I find myself staggered - on a daily basis - by so many different things about the situation that I have simply stopped counting them.
Today was a fine example. Today, I was greeted by the headline "Pentagon will not clean up depleted uranium from Iraq". I simply can't believe what I'm seeing.
The article went on to explain that the US government had done a study which proved that DU was not a long-term health hazard. I know many would beg to differ. But frankly, the reasoning is flawed. It doesn't matter whether it's a health hazard or not: the point is not how or whether it affects people, but how it can be perceived.
America's stated aim with the war against Iraq is to reduce terrorism, but consider this:
One of the must feared potential terrorist attacks at the moment is a dirty bomb: This involves an explosive device packed with radioactive material being detonated in a major city, with the aim of spreading radioactive dust into the environment (and many people are in enough terror of this, without it even having happened yet, that they have bought themselves environmental suits). Compare this with depleted uranium weapons: They are explosive, and they are packed with radioactive material which spreads as a fine dust when it explodes. Many DU weapons have been fired into the center of Iraqi cities. Does this sound familiar?
I don't know the physics of either a dirty bomb or a depleted uranium shell (and frankly I don't want to), but neither do the people who are likely to use a dirty bomb against us. The terrorists are not motivated by physics or rational logic; they are motivated by what they are told by their fundamentalist leaders, and these leaders are not averse to making obvious connections like this.
Already we can see pictures of the killed and wounded Iraqi civilians being posted on fundamentalist web sites, being used to promote the logic that "if America can do this to us, we should do it to them". Do not underestimate the power of fundamentalist thinking: they are capable of twisting logic and rationality to the point of brainwashing, and every single thing we do - or don't do - can and will be used against us.
This is why I was so disturbed when I read that headline. Who cares whether DU is actually dangerous? The terrorists certainly won't care when the produce their propoganda.
It is also why I was (and still am) opposed to the war in the first place. From the moment our soldiers crossed the border, civilian casualties became inevitable. Every ruined house and every mangled body gives the fundamentalists another recruiting weapon.
The other thing which worried me from the start was the ever-shifting rationalisation for the war. It started out with President Bush accusing Iraq of supporting Al Qaida. This would have been a good justification for a war, but there was a problem with it: it wasn't true. Al Qaida hates Saddam's Baath party almost as much as it hates America; Saddam is (or rather was) a secularist dictator, with a suprisingly liberal view on religion. Al Qaida would never have worked with him. Oh sure, there may have been Al Qaida operatives in Baghdad, but there are also cells in London, Berlin, and almost every other country you could mention, and no-one has accused them of supporting terrorists.
The link with terrorists could not be proved, so it was quietly swept under the carpet as the next excuse for war was paraded before the media: Weapons of Mass Destruction. It's an evocative phrase, and Saddam is known to have used them before, so surely this would be a spark for war? Well, no, it wasn't. We never found any. Iraq denied it, of course, but their denials were treated in much the same way as people treat a CIA denial - they denied it, so it must be true.
Inspectors were sent in, and found nothing. France wanted them to stay for longer to prove the point, but Bush was in a hurry, so he switched tack. This time he went for the jugular - "we're going to liberate the people of Iraq from the dictator Saddam". Fair enough: everyone knows the Saddam was a dictator, and that Iraqis wanted to be rid of him.
But at this point, Bush crossed the line. By claiming it is a war of liberation, he is no longer acting in America's interest: it now becomes a war purely in the interest of the Iraqi people, which means that we have absolutely no claim of jurisdiction - America has overturned a legitimate government without provocation or due cause. By this definition, the war is illegal.
Now I completely accept that the Iraqi people deserve a better government, and that Saddam Hussein deserves to be punished for his actions, but the same applies to many other nations around the world. If we apply the same logic to every nation in the world, we would need to invade almost every nation in Africa, the Middle-East, and a few other regions, along with the obvious candidates like China, Cuba, North Korea, and so on.
So what was it that made us invade Iraq? Many wild theories have been put forward, and most are easily debunked. Some people believe that America is simply after Iraqi oil (this is also a claim that is pushed heavily by the fundamentalists), but this is unlikely: Iraq does have a lot of oil, but America has plenty of it's own, and does not import much; certainly not from as far away as the Middle-East. How about American jobs? Well, yes. There will be jobs for Americans involved in the rebuild, but I don't see this as a major influence.
My personal feeling is that the war went ahead because the Bush government simply couldn't admit that it was wrong. They really did believe that the terrorists were in Iraq, and when that was shown to be wrong, they convinced themselves that Iraq really was spilling over with mad scientists making chemical weapons. And by the time the United Nations started having trouble proving that as well, Bush and his advisors had already sent a massive force to the Gulf. They had to invade, because after sending the troops they would have lost face, and lost votes, if they had backed out, so they picked an reason that could not be contradicted, and having made that decision, they started the war as quickly as they could.
So putting all these arguments together leads to a disturbing conclusion: Bush is claiming that the war will fight terrorism, but it was actually only done to save himself from an embarrasing U-turn, and in fact it might even increase terrorism.
And even though he's made the world a more dangerous place, Bush's popularity has sky-rocketed, now that the war has been won so easily.
Politics is all about perceptions. All the points I've made are about percetions; how things are seen by different people, and at the end of the day it's our perception of the world that shapes our actions. From the policical standpoint, perception is king: it matters less what you do than what you are seen to do; you don't have to be right, you just have to convince people that you are. Politicians have always played these sorts of games with the public in order to maintain popularity.
The trouble is that terrorism is also about perceptions. We are attacked because we are seen to be doing wrong. It doesn't actually matter whether we are right or wrong: the terrorists' perception is that we are wrong, and that is what motivates them; facts don't come into it.
Our politicians are fighting fire with fire, and they are in serious danger of making things much worse rather than helping the situation. They're playing a very dangerous game, and they're using us - the public that elected them - as the pawns.
Does anyone see why I'm irritated now?