Some weeks ago I wrote a “wormseye,”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/wormseyeview simultaneously flip and depressed, urging that GW Bush be re-elected this autumn since most Americans still can’t see what was wrong with electing him the first time. They need to learn, and nothing will teach them more surely than another four years with him in charge.
This morning I had a bunch of letters through from readers in the USA complaining in anguish, and they have a point. Reading reports abstracted from the WSJ about the 100 page memorandum commissioned by Rumsfeld from his lawyers when he needed to encourage institutionalised torture, I realised that I was utterly wrong. Apologies. The original piece, and the letters, are below the fold.
Here’s the text of the wormseye for Friday 14 May
bq..I went on two of the anti-war marches in London, including the very first, which almost no one attended and which the papers completely ignored because the Queen Mother died the same day. I felt more and more out of place on these, and skipped the last, partly because I couldn’t see the point of protesting against something that was clearly inevitable, and partly because I couldn’t get the placard made up which I could in good conscience march beneath. Mine would have said “Thoughtful imperialists against the war”.
There weren’t going to get many people joining me under that placard, but I think we might get a few hundred thousand of them today: everyone, in fact, who believes the rule of the law, human rights, and even — if you’re brave — democracy would be useful to everyone in the world, but who has realised that the Bush administration is completely incompetent to impose them on Iraq or anywhere else. This is a position that is rapidly becoming the conventional wisdom among the intellectuals who supported the war at the time. An optimist among the hawks is now someone who supposes that a change of régime will allow America to win the war.
So it is time for a new banner to march beneath, and this year mine will be something like “Anti-imperialists for Bush in 2004.” This will be a very small protest march, but let me try to recruit you for it anyway. The essential argument is very simple. It has to do with the intelligence of our opponents, the warmongering intellectuals. These people are not fools; in fact many of them are cleverer than I am. Some may even be cleverer, better-informed, and more practised at the exercise of power than the average Guardian reader. Yet it has taken this long for them to begin to admit that things are hopeless, and it will take another six months at least before the process is complete. It could take years.
Remember that the argument is no longer about the morality of the war, or its desirability. It is simply about whether defeat is inevitable; and it is hardly surprising that people who have invested so much prestige, and so many hopes, in the war, should resist the conclusion that it is already lost, and the only question is when we accept defeat. They’ll be especially reluctant because it will be a real defeat; at the end of it, Britain, America, and indeed the whole world will be less secure than we were before the war started. We won’t be any richer, either.
But we can see it’s coming. Even the Telegraph, running half a page of exhortation by Charles Moore, has next to it a column by Vicki Woods proclaiming the inevitability of defeat, and the nearest Moore can come to optimism is this: %(sane)“Anyway, we are where we are, and where we are, according to all my varied collection of experts, is far from hopeless. A tyrant who ruined his country and defied the free world is in prison. Iraq is becoming more prosperous and the infrastructure is recovering, though too slowly. From July 1, it will have the inklings of self-rule.”%
Now, Charles Moore has experts he can talk to. He probably knows exactly what the upper echelons of the British Army thinks. This is a huge advantage over the people who voted for the war, which in some sense the American people did, even if we didn’t. They are dependent on what the media tells them, which is to a large extent what they still want to hear.
Many of them still believe that they are fighting against the villains responsible for September 11th. Defeat is quite literally unthinkable to them at the moment. If America is forced out of Iraq in a state of bitter and angry denial, looking, like Germany after 1918, for someone to blame, it will be a very unpleasant and dangerous neighbour for the rest of us; already one hears on the Internet the argument that if only Fallujah were turned into a giant ash tray there would be no more trouble from the Iraqis. It’s quite possible that something like that will be tried, too, before defeat can be accepted.
The problem here is one of timing. Those at the front of events can clearly see nemesis ahead; but the mass of voters behind them is still filled with the original hubris of the enterprise. This will still be true in November, when America votes. It seems to me that if Senator Kerry is elected, he will either pull out at once, which will allow for the formation of a really dangerous myth that America has been defeated by its own liberals, or he will prolong the war. If he prolongs the war, he will bring to its command infinitely greater competence and courage than President Bush. That goes without saying. But is this really a good thing? If a salutary nemesis must overwhelm us, let it happen as soon as the hubristic can understand it, but no sooner.
So here I stand, with my lonely banner: “Vote Bush for a swifter, more certain nemesis”. Come back in two years and tell me I was wrong.
p. The letters I had will follow. It’s 9.30pm and I have a cold.