A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 :::
The Looting: Was It Really So Random?

The Prophet Mohammed, if memory serves, conducted an important military campaign during Rammadan, which this year began four days ago, and it is really not too much to expect that those who think they are the true heirs to the Prophet might do the same--whether or not they in fact are the true heirs of the Prophet.

Yesterday brings a sobering report from a reporter living in Iraq that Iraqis are developing their own reasons to hate the United States--reasons that include, by the way, liberating Iraq from a montrous creep they all uniformly hate. Yes, it is possible for human beings to devise a version of reality in their heads that encompasses hating both the oppressor and the liberator. History is full of such examples; one need merely say the word "France" to understand it. But it is disturbing nonetheless.

Among the articles in the "confession of faith" of those Iraqis who hate us is that we encouraged the looting. You read correctly: we are the ones who urged the crowds to rob Iraq of whatever goods it had left after 3 decades of rule by the Ba'ath party, and 2 decades of rule by its Favorite Son, Saddam Hussein. This is not a new line. In the days following the fall of Baghdad, accusations arose from Shi'a clerics that our boys had opened the doors of a famous library and started fires that burned centuries old books and documents.

That would be the Shi'ites, the ones, you know, who have been historically apolitical and unconcerned with who rules Iraq, as along as they are allowed to follow their version of Islam.

The ones who suffered under 3 decades of brutal rule from Sunni ideologues and never--according to this understanding--ever looked next door to Iran, a Shi'a nation free from interference from what they consider Sunni infidels.

This conservative says, "fat chance"--fat chance that perfectly normal human beings, robbed of their dignity, would not look elsewhere for a dreamworld where they, and not their oppressors, called the shots.

And "shots" is the operative word, whoever is doing the shooting. Just ask the family of the peace-minded Deputy Mayor of Iraq who returned from a very successful "donor conference" in Madrid, only to get shot point-blank in the head hours after he returned home.

Which brings us to a vexing question: did Saddam outsmart us during the initial battles of the war, the battles for Baghdad and Basra? Our President, unfortunately, treated those battles as the "major hostilities," and greeted their end with the famous speech aboard an aircraft carrier. The last four days of murder should have convinced one and all that the war is not yet "over" in any meaningful sense.

So the question remains: did Saddam cede the initial battles in the calm assurance that we would fold after 12 months of mayhem?

It is a sign of the poverty of our imagination that we are all tempted to refer to Saddam as stupid and insane, and to dismiss the notion that he could have planned such of thing out of hand.

Against stupid, one need merely point the way that he has stayed in power, despite years of economic failure, and the way he has convinced France, Germany, Russia, and China to invest and reinvest in his future. Stupidity is not one of his failings.

Against mad, one must point out that nearly everything he, or Stalin, or Hitler, or Mao, ever did was perfectly rational if you accept, at base, the need to complete remake society along egalitarian, socialist lines. Frederick Hayek convincingly argued nearly seventy years ago, in an important chapter of The Road to Serfdom, that radical socialists necessarily employ those with no moral sensibility, as they need people who are wiling to do anything in pursuit of their goals.

Saddam's goals have hardly been hidden. Those who saw it said that his personal office was a shrine to Joseph Stalin.

And what is available in the arsenal of those who follow Stalin is--a obsessive thrill at organizing terror.

Stalinist, and indeed Leninist and Maoist ideology, is full of very practical praxis, very clear headed ideas about how to manipulate individual humans, or large crowds of individual humans, in favor of an idealized, remade humanity. And that praxis is hardly pretty.

Among the weirder features of this mentality is another obsession, with records. Consider the Nazi German railroads, which kept exact records of every Jew transported to the camps. Or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who kept records of everyone brought into their "prisons" for certain death. So, too, with Idi Amin in Uganda.

As, also, in that warehouse in Eastern Iraq full of Iranian corpses, each with a dossier and front and side pictures of their heads after they were shot point blank, like that pro-reconstruction Deputy Mayor last Sunday.

So Saddam was perfectly smart enough, and perfectly ideological enough, to be obsessed with records.

He is alive, and those obsessively kept records are what have been destroyed systematically, both in those first days of looting and in the months that have followed.

But let us return to Frederick Hayek, who maintained that one of the fundamental errors of intellectuals lies in not understanding that a system can be evolved with no conscious plan, that individuals, whether fish or human, can individually act in their own best interests and yet somehow end up creating an order that supports their activitiies.

So let us look again at the end result of all the violence in Iraq: records from 30 years of systematic terror have been eliminated, and in the process, the US has faced serious obstacles in pursuit of the goal of a free, tolerant Iraq that serves as a peaceful anchor in a turbulent South Asia.

"Cui bono?" asked the Romans. "Whose is the good" is the literal translation, but the traditional translation is "who beneifts?"

Let us suppose that the impending success of American troops finally left Saddam completely unhinged. The Saddam in the six months prior to the war, as portrayed by Iraqi bioterror scientists in the Kay report, and as visible in the video of Saddam's last free walk in Baghdad during the initial battles, was indeed a man who was obsessed by his impending doom.

Was everybody in his gruesome team also desperate, or where they looking for their chance to take power from a man they despised? Was Saddam the only Communist in Baghdad famliar with the Leninist theory of mass action, the inheritance of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and, yes, Saddam?

And consider the Shi'a clerics who manufactured the story about the American GIs who opened up that library and set a fire. One doubts they would burn their own library, but were they the only ones who would benefit from eliminating Saddam and discrediting the troops who liberated Iraq?

The idea that the looting was co-ordinated, or at least targeted, is not new. It was openly suggested by a woman on a blue ribbon panel from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that surveryed Iraq in June. Then there are the grim accounts from the Kay report of very systematic pillaging of WMD sites. It was suggested even earlier by stunned reporters following the fall of Baghdad, who commented on how precise the mobs were. They felt that it showed the hatred Iraqis felt toward the Baathists, which they undoubtedly felt.

But hatred can be directed. It takes precious little to turn a mob seething with relief, hatred, and desperation against a specific target. And it seems unlikely that the destruction would have been so targeted were it not for some group, or several groups, or even a whole raft of very clever individuals seizing the moment.

The Wall Street Journal, some weeks ago, published the interim report by the officer investigating the ransacking of the Iraqi National Museum. Only it was not ransacked. He found evidence of three separate thefts, and thefts is what they were. Two were clearly planned by people who new the museum. By the staff in other words.

Who benefits from the myth that they US opened the doors? Those staff members, to start with, and the Ba'athists. And Shi'a's who want us to leave. And the common criminals Saddam released shortly before the war commenced as an act of clemency.

Who benefits from the general loointg? Who benefits from the myth that we started it? Saddam, Ba'athists, Shi'as who want us to leave, common criminals.

Who benefits? Many who would rule the Iraqi people, but very few of the Iraqi people themselves.

Who benefits? Most certainly, we don't.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 12:36 PM



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