Iraq and a hard place

Dick Cheney is a card. He kills me (figuratively, obviously—I have never been hunting with him). Last week he suggested that the increase in intensity of the fighting in Iraq was due to insurgents trying to “break the will of the American people,” as American mid-term elections approach. This is frankly hilarious. To badly paraphrase Jon Stewart’s Daily Show (essential commentary on current events in my opinion), I do find it a little hard to believe that Al Quaeda and Iraqi insurgents prefer one bunch of rich white guys who see them as the enemy over another. The assumption Mr Cheney makes of course is that a Democrat win is somehow a victory for terrorism as well. Which, if I were a Democrat, I would take exception to. It is silly logic, not just because of the monstrous claim underlying it (the Opposition are traitors) but because Democrats, while scoring political points off their Republican President with the war, were for the most part quite happy to support him when the invasion was first mooted. Of course the big news from the States from last week was not this sleight but John Kerry’ s unbelievably inept “joke” that students who did not get good grades could end up in Iraq. President Bush took offence on behalf of the military, which, incidentally, is recalling or legally summoning thousands of ‘inactive servicemen’ to serve in Iraq as you read this. Military recruiters also seem to be intensifying their activities, according to reports, often resorting to cold-calling high-school students (whose names have to be supplied by law), recruiting at unemployment centres and falsifying medical tests in order to meet growing targets. While Kerry, Bush and Cheney bickered in the States, over here Tories and strange bedfellows, the Welsh and Scots, were sniping at poor Tony last week too, demanding an inquiry into reasons for going to war. Many Christians who opposed going to war in the first place and who long for an end to the slaughter of young people on both the occupying and indigenous sides might greet this news with acclamation. But we must be careful. The call for an inquiry and British military calls for a withdrawal warrant not only practical but moral consideration. Time does not change moral imperatives but it does change situations. I do not believe that it was right to invade Iraq, but neither do I believe we can act like yobs at a house-party who trash the furniture, break all the windows and then say “this place is a mess, let’s leave,” or even worse: “we’re not wanted”. We have a duty to repair some of the damage our war has done if any of the platitudes about concern for the Iraqi people we have used as justifications are to sound even vaguely credible and we need to make sure we do not leave merely because it is getting too expensive. Expense was also in the papers last week concerning a Birmingham council worker who The Mirror deemed to be overpaid (he got £90,000 a year). I too think this is a bit steep for changing lightbulbs, but I think the outrage comes less from the fact the worker was off sick and more from the fact we don’t believe blue-collar work is worth as much as the efforts of office workers or lawyers. This is classist, prejudiced and wrong. It seems more sensible to pay people like bin men more than the likes of me, since I get to sit in a heated office all day and would hate to do their job. But c’est la vie. At least they are not in Iraq.






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