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There is only one moral Iraq policy

As the President prances experts in and out of the Oval Office in a puppet show of “listening” to advice, bodies, both American and Iraqi, pile up on the streets of Baghdad. And because conquest only incites the conquered to mistrust and fear and hatred, those bodies will continue to pile so long as the United States attempts to dominate that nation and that region. There is no way to win the war. Therefore, it is time to withdraw all American troops from Iraq and Kuwait, to pull all aircraft carriers and destroyers out of the Persian gulf, to take back all spoils doled out to Kellogg, Brown, and Root and Halliburton and Bechtel and every other nonlocal contractor and give them to local businesses, to admit failure, seek forgiveness, and begin treating the peoples of the Middle East as the rational, pragmatic, moral nations they are. I do not presume to guess either the short- or long-term effects of immediate pullout of Iraq by US troops, although I suspect in the short term they will be awful, though not necessarily more awful than the effects of leaving them there; I do presume, however, that honest realism, moral seriousness, and extraordinary courage is the only way something good might grow from this conflagration.



It’s nice to be able to have a clear, definite position on this, finally, isn’t it?

I’m hoping now that some political heavyweights will take up this cause and come out swinging unapologetically. Obama, please?

I regret that I’ve hesitated to say it, in fact. I mean, I knew a long time ago that imperial actions are despicable and that conquest makes a mockery of causality—by which I mean that everything a conqueror says will happen is more likely not to happen and even to go exceedingly badly. But I guess even too late it’s still good to say, for reasons of assertion and of action.

Unfortunately, this whole Iraq Study Group farce has so far been an excuse for everyone to pretend there’s still a chance for the US to “win,” meanwhile passing all the blame (of which much is deserved) to GWB and their “incompetence” (of which there is much to go around). I don’t think Obama will be so courageous as to say it’s all a farce. I don’t hope much that anyone save Murtha will.

I’m glad to see that at least someone else is thinking this.

It took me some time to come to this point because for a time I thought that since we were in the wrong for going into Iraq in the first place, we should at least try to leave it as well as we found it. But, I have come to the conclusion that you can’t fix some mistakes. You can only admit them and ask forgiveness, accepting the consequences as you do so. Not that I expect such moral self-awareness from this administration.

What really enrages me is how Bush and the reporters who question him keep even bringing up the idea of “winning the war.” If there is a war in Iraq, it is a purely civil war in which we have no (official) stake. We are not fighting a war; we are merely occupying territory exerting our military and political influence over a people.

But alas, I’m just an elitist liberal academic who has spent too much of the last two years reading postcolonial theory. Clearly I have been brainwashed by the “ideology of hate” — whatever the hell that is.

Word, Shaun.

It was after reading Half of a Yellow Sun two months ago that I recognized in the story what will become of Iraq. When it becomes even moderately peaceful five, ten, twenty years from now, and its writers have time to reflect, the brutality of Saddam Hussein will be remembered, but so will the injustice of America, and America will be righteously damned for its cynicism and its own form of brutality. There’s a character in that novel, Richard, a British man who falls in love with a Nigerian woman. Sexually impotent from the start, he’s a failed writer too, who loves Biafra nevertheless, and though he tries and tries to be good, he cannot be. Eventually he gives it up, and he gives the title of his book away to someone who deserves it more. His story is one of entitlement that is in the beginning and the end not his own, because he (he in many ways is a symbol for the British empire) meddled in others’ stories and others’ lives. It’s a sad, damning portrait—not the least so because he’s really a likeable character. As I read, I kept thinking, “this is how Iraqis will see us—if we’re lucky.”

Meanwhile, the American casualty count is nearing 25,000.

I saw Half of a Yellow Sun on your blog and noticed it at the bookstore while I was buying some xmas presents. I will definitely be putting it on my need to read list (as if that wasn’t long enough already). It sounds almost, though maybe not quite, like a differently inflected Quiet American.

It’s excellent—and I know K agrees. I’ve intended to write a review—although at first I wasn’t sure if I’d write it for HR—but haven’t got to it yet.

Adichie’s quite a brilliant writer, in fact. She knows the effect of a well-placed metaphor. I want now to read her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, though I’ve got quite a list myself—not only Everyman, which my boss recommended me, but also I’m planning to read a lot of James, now that I’m a chapter from finishing POAL.

I can’t wait to take a look at her work. The blurbs that she’s been getting are truly impressive.

Can’t say that I’ll be picking up any James soon though. I never have been able to develop a taste for it even though I know that marks me as some kind of bumpkin in the world of English. I’m busy trying to broaden the scope of my dissertation beyond the conservative/sexist triumverate of Conrad/Naipaul/Rushdie. Don’t know if Adichie fits the bill, but still sounds like a good read.

You might pick up some other ideas from this interview by Robert Birnbaum—it’s been a while since I read it, but either here or in the novel’s afterword she surveys other Nigerian writers. What are you looking for beyond the 3?

Anyway, don’t apologize for not liking James. Sometimes you like somebody—sometimes you don’t. His kind of social fiction is not for everyone.

For the sake of recognizing real anti-war stances, just today Zack Pelta-Heller at TAP points out John Edwards, who has been admitting his culpability since 2005:

Edwards’ plan calls for the removal of 40,000 troops immediately, followed by gradual and complete troop withdrawal combined with international diplomacy and more effective training for Iraqi forces.

HG, I’m not looking for anything to add to the dissertation itself (I don’t want to extend my time working on it any more than I have to), but one of my readers is riding me pretty hard about my unfortunate male bias. So, as I think about how to go from diss. to book I’m looking for a woman writing in English after 1950 with an extended novel writing career that has autobiographical elements (if not explicitly autobiographical) and who is less identified with the metropolitan center than the three men that I have now. Someone like Bessie Head or Arundhati Roy may be a good fit, but I’m not sure yet. I have so many qualifiers, I may have eliminated most of my possibilities.

I’m liking John Edwards more all the time BTW.

Joan Didion is too New York, I suppose?

Unfortunately, Didion is a tad too New York. I suppose I should have mentioned that my general topic is postcolonial exile which narrows down my search even further. I’ve thought about Doris Lessing a bit, but I’m just casting about right now.

Sounds interesting. I wish I had suggestions, but my post-1950 list of in-English writers is embarrassingly small. But I suspect anyone I would mention, such as Nadine Gordimer, you’ve thought of already anyway.