Saturday, May 31, 2008

Abiding Arrogance

Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark (Onion), complained bitterly this week about Juan Cole, a Michigan Professor who authors "Informed Comment" at Cole had the audacity to point out that the Shiites of Al Sadr, as well as most poor Shiites in general, have no interest in a permanent US military presence in Iraq.

The central objections of the Iraqi ethnic majority are that any permanent presence should be negotiated with the next administration, that they simply oppose any occupation, that immunity for contractors or US soldiers is obscene, and that the role US troops can play - without Iraqi approval - must be limited or halted altogether.

When Cole has had the gaul to point this sort of thing out, Berg's reply is that he was "An anti-semite who's writing (Berg) wouldn't wipe his (rear) with."

Now, Cole certainly pays a great deal of attention to the Arab world, as opposed to Isreal, but I've never seen even the faintest hint of any anti-Jewish comment from him. Berg, and others like him, claim that reporting on only one side of an issue doesn't represent bigotry or bias, but claim that Cole doing the exact same thing IS in fact, bigotry. What's worse, Berg, became incenced when someone (guess who) suggested he just might have a little bit of bigotry too - the commenter said we all do - and demanded an apology - which the commenter (ok - me) provided.

One wonders when Berg will apologize to Cole? (well, not really, double-standards are Berg's calling card, his 'raison d' etre' as they might say in France, or Senegal)

In more evidence of his cultural depth , the self-proclaimed paragon of of multi-culturalism, who denounced being linked to racially insensitive terms for arabs by pointing out his knowledge of Mali and Senegal - neither of which of course are countries populated by arabs. (though, to be fair, both are muslim). Berg was responding to claims of anti-muslim bais - however, it was he who brought in the term 'Ay Rab' into the discussion - so it seems he just confused two non-Arab nations as defense - perhaps because he can't name an Arab nation he admires, or perhaps because he just didn't have an adequate defense, or perhaps because he just forgot Qutar. I suppose only he knows.

But that's not all of course, Berg then went on to claim (as he has done so often) that he can't vote for a pro-Iraqi withdrawal candidate. This is the ultimate point - Berg, a supposed defender of muslim moderacy, and self-proclaimed champion of the Al Maliki government, does not even consider that the question of our withdrawal from Iraq is only partly our decision. In his typical neo-con arrogance, HE has decided (along with the rest of the neo-cons) that our continued presence is really and fundamentally on our plate to decide. I think he probably understands that the Iraqis have a say, but he has made the assumption that we can convince them our troops are both necessary AND right to be there.

The reality is that people like Cole have it right - the Shiites absolutely oppose a permanent US presence. Al Maliki's government is weak, and probably cannot garner support for a permanent presence resolution prior to Bush's departure from office. Even should McCain win, the prospects for a US presence are slim at best AND must come with things Bush refused to consider for years - specifically, legal culpability and Iraqi soveriegnty (what a concept!!).

Berg, and his peers, don't even consider such complexities because they abhore nuance - like the President said, neo-cons "Don't do nuance." They fail to recognize that our conduct and presence has been bitterly opposed by the dominant ethnic majority for five years, and since our presence in part prevents their ascendency, it will almost certainly ALWAYS be opposed, unless we become tools of a repressive government in exchange for oil and strategic access (and we know THAT's never happened -cough Saudi Arabia - cough). The truth is Berg, and others like him, have bitterly opposed holding US citiziens soldiers OR contractors culpable - in fact never once has Berg made even the slightest reference to the obscenity that is the total immunity granted US contractors. He's repeatedly opposed holding US troops accountable in world courts, and would presumably oppose holding them accountable in Iraqi courts, and of course - "we can't have foriegners telling our troops what (not) to do" now can we? I don't think it's at all a stretch to say that the Scaifenet crew, of which Berg is 4th mate, adamantly opposed and would oppose those terms, and therefore opposes giving the Iraqis both soveriegnty, i.e. their rightful say in the conduct of foriengners within their borders, and more importantly do not support a permanent presence in Iraq under those conditions. Which means that Berg believes we should both stay in knowing objection to the majority and will of the Iraqis, and have the right and ARE right to do so. Paternalism, thy name is Berg.

Even if he would agree (which is extroardinarily dubious) - if the Iraqis demand we leave, based on our past conduct, what exactly would Berg say.. "Ok, let's go?" Almost certainly not. But fundamentally, the point still is that he is deciding this question essentially solely from the lens of the decision of the US President's authority. He has never even hinted at the point that the Iraqis hold the majority of votes on this point, that our presence is at the will and whim of the Iraqi government, and the decision of our continuing to stay is theirs.

Clearly, if the next Presidet says 'we're leaving', then what the Iraqi government decides will be moot - but no one, not Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, has said we'd refuse to keep any troops there if asked. Obama has said he opposes a permanent military presence - but he's also been pretty clear he's open to discussion - unlike McCain - on a host of subjects. Obama's point about not having a military presence there is a reference to denying the right-wing of our own government a 'big stick' with which to intimidate the Middle East, and about denying them the opportunity to threaten the Iraqi government with our own military should that government ever threaten our access to Iraq's vast oil supplies. McCain (and Berg) would make that discussion about our presence moot, they will cajole the Iraqis into accepting our presence if they can, no matter what the Iraqis may ultimately want. Probably the most telling question you could ask a neo-con (or McCain) is this "What happens if or when the Iraqis say 'you have to leave now'" as is pretty likely to happen?

So the arrogance of the right, that we can just dictate terms, is easily the most paternalistic and condescending message out there. It implies a group out of touch with the political realities on the ground - but then again, given McClellan's reinforcement of what we've already heard about how 'rose colored' all of the pre-war estimates and planning were - is it really surprising that they continue to be deluded by their own vision that they can 'shape reality'?

This invasion was about three things, first, Bush saw getting rid of Hussien as a vehicle to accomplishing two things his Dad didn't, getting rid of Hussien, and a second term. Second, to securing basing rights on the ground outside of Saudi Arabia - with sufficient and more access than Kuwait - thereby relieving political pressure on the Saud family, and last, but most important projecting power in the Middle East to intimidate recalcitrant governments. It has never been about a 'Wilsonian' view - except in the wistful 'hope fors' of Bush's mind - they would have LIKED it if it could have happened, but it was always secondary. Their (lack of) respect for the will of the people has never been more starkly on display than in this key question for the future of Iraq. What the Iraqis want really isn't a question they've considered, and one they sure as hell don't intend to ask or care about the answer, unless forced to.

Talk about cultural arrogance, Mr. Berg - you are the epitome' of it this week. Perhaps neo-cons need to take a moment to read more than just Rush Limbaugh's talking points - Limbaugh, who is the king of condescension, ugliness and smear. Oh, and Mitch, Islamo-Facism is as culturally insensitive and bigotted a term as I've seen in twenty plus years - it lumps ALL Muslims of all types into one pot, and implies all acts of any type are part of a pan-national groundswell with one single aim, conveniently defining any resistance as terrorism, and any and all movements, as linked. Wahabism is certanily pan-national, Iran has no part in it - yet you casually lump them all together. If you aren't looking to look like a bigot, perhaps you shouldn't use the phrasing of bigots, like Limbaugh.

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