lördag, oktober 02, 2004

War & Blogging

When I first heard of the plans for war on Iraq, sometime during the summer of 2002, my first thought was "Iraq will be invaded next spring". You don't threaten war if you don't mean it, and it was hard to imagine Saddam backing down. Spring is the natural season for campaigning, and the timeframe was just right for the inevitable pre-war diplomatic activity. And coincidentally, just right with the election calendar too: what better than the winds of war blowing the ballots your way in the mid-terms, and then having achieved victory in good time for the presidentials? It seemed that O. Bin Laden had slipped away, and counter-terrorism doesn't yield the same spectacular results than a good short ol'fashioned war, with the boys home by Thanksgivin an all.

During the autumn, I began to dimly realise that there was something more sinister at work than mere electioneering. At the time, I viewed the Bush administration as "same as daddy's, with Junior a figurehead". I hadn't been interested in politics for several years, and wasn't until this spring. Unlike Senior's, this administration was totally uninterested in upholding good relations with the USA's allies, and nobody could seriously believe Saddam's embryonic WMD program was an imminent threat. All the brouhaha with the inspections was just for show, and they would go to war come hell or high water.

There was also a marked difference in the public debate compared with Afghanistan: after 9/11, the same opinion that has routinely opposed any international intervention as "imperialism" said the same about Afghanistan, while traditional pro-europeans (Swedish eurosceptisim is largely left-wing) and pro-americans were in favour of the war. For me personally, it was a very simple choice (why, myself I had been in favour of invading the Talibans ever since they blew up those Buddha statues).

It was a whole different story as the Iraq War loomed. Massive anti-war demonstrations with people from the whole political spectrum, while most non-opponents were either silent or wrangling arguments over whether war or Saddam was the lesser evil, and only a few isolated voices mouthpiecing the NRO and Weekly Standard talking points.
I myself was sitting on the fence, thinking that war shouldn't be waged without a broad consensus in the international community, the WMD threat grossly exaggerated propaganda (exaggerated beyond my most cynical expectations as it would turn out), that it was rash to start a new war before Afghanistan was stabilized and Al-Qaeda crushed, but that the UN sanctions had led nowhere and were just hurting the Iraqi people, the removal of Saddam an inarguably good thing, and the prospect of a democratic iraq, while a highly uncertain proposition, might still make the whole thing worthwhile.

Still, I wasn't really interested, and if I talked about the war, it was mainly about whether Saddam could put up any kind of serious defense. The only way seemed large-scale house-to-house urban combat, and hope that the outcry from the international community would force the US to a settlement. With a couple of friends I thought about making a 'Battle of Baghdad' boardgame, loosely based on Turningpoint: Stalingrad, with media warfare special rules.

It turned out Saddam didn't demand such a stalinesque sacrifice of his people, so the invasion looked even more like dangerous live-fire manoeuvres for the US Army than the Kuwait War.

Any hope i had for this thing turning out for the best started crumbling with the reports of the museum lootings. How can you establish democracy if you can't maintain order? But then again, I was going on a trip to South-East Asia that summer, so yet again I didn't follow what was happening.

The next time I started to care was this spring. I was to visit a friend in San Francisco, and I wondered how the mood was in an "America at war". When I came back, I started to learn about the neo-cons and their monumental incompetence. The belief in "cheering-crowds-and-rose-petals", the consequent insufficient number of occupation troops to maintain security, how the staffing of the Coalition Provisional Authority had nothing to do with competence and everything with party loyalty, the dismal mismanagement of the reconstruction, the cluelessness to the political reality of Iraq, the jackbooted behaviour of the GI's towards the civilian population... and then, Abu Ghraib made to all the miserable failure plain to see*. All this I discovered by drifting around in the blogosphere.

So, this a kind of introduction to my blog. I'll write about the Iraq War, since it may be the most important thing that has happened since WWII. At the same time, I feel I want to write about a lot of other stuff, and that it diverts focus from that. We'll see if I can find some kind of right balance.

*Warning. Graphic pictures.