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Monday, September 27, 2004

Dulce et Decorum Est 

His latest column in the Independent is scathing stuff even for Robert Fisk:
We are now in the greatest crisis since the last greatest crisis. That's how we run the Iraq war - or the Second Iraq War as Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara would now have us believe. Hostages are paraded in orange tracksuits to remind us of Guantanamo Bay. Kidnappers demand the release of women held prisoner by the Americans. Abu Ghraib is what they are talking about. Abu Ghraib? Anyone remember Abu Ghraib? Remember those dirty little snapshots? But don't worry. This wasn't the America George Bush recognised, and besides we're punishing the bad apples, aren't we? Women? Why, there are only a couple of dames left - and they are "Dr Germ" and "Dr Anthrax" . . . .

So as we continue to stagger down the crumbling stairway of our own ghastly making, we must listen to bigger and bigger whoppers. Iyad Allawi, the puppet prime minister - still deferentially called "interim prime minister" by many of my reporter chums - insists that elections will be held in January even though he has less control of the Iraqi capital (let alone the rest of the country) than the mayor of Baghdad. The ex-CIA agent, who obediently refused to free the two women prisoners the moment Washington gave him instructions not to do so, dutifully trots over to London and on to Washington to shore up more of the Blair-Bush lies . . . .

But just listen to what else Lord Blair of Kut informed us about the war. "It will define relations between the Muslim world and the West. It will influence profoundly the development of Arab states and the Middle East. It will have far-reaching implications for the future of American and Western diplomacy."

And he can say that again, can't he? For it is difficult to think of anything more profoundly dangerous for us, for the West, for the Middle East, for Christians and Muslims since the Second World War - the real second war, that is - than Blair's war in Iraq. And Iraq, remember, was going to be the model for the whole Middle East. Every Arab state would want to be like Iraq. Iraq would be the catalyst - perhaps even the "crucible" - of the new Middle East. Spare me the hollow laughter.

I have been struck these past few weeks how very many of the letters I've received from readers come from men and women who fought in the Second World War, who argue ferociously that Blair and Bush should never be allowed to compare this quagmire with the real struggle against evil which they waged more than half a century ago.

"I, now 90, remember the men maimed in body and mind who haunted the lanes in rural Wales where I grew up in the years after 1918," Robert Parry wrote to me. "For this reason, Owen's 'Dulce et decorum est' remains for me the ultimate expression of the reality of death in war, made now more horrific by American 'targeted' bombing and the suicide bombers. We need a new Wilfred Owen to open our eyes and consciences, but until one appears this great poem must be given space to speak again." It would be difficult to find a more eloquent rejoinder to the infantile nonsense now being peddled by our Prime Minister.
If you don't know the Owen poem, it ends like this:
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:
Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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