historical ironies

At breakfast this morning I was looking through an old Doonesbury book while waiting for the papers to arrive. The year was 1979: the Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan, and Phred, the Vietnamese delegate to the UN, was talking to his Russian counterpart. Viktor, who says:

“Phred, you’ve already met Dr Tarzi, haven’t you?
“No, I don’t believe I have”
“Dr Tarzi is the newly appointed representative of the PPGA.”
“The what?”
“The People’s Puppet Government of Afghanistan”
“Of course! Nice to meet you sir. How’s everything in Moscow?”
“Oh, you’ve already made the big move?”

Susbtitute “Don” for “Viktor” and “Chalabi” for “Tarzi” and it’s a lot funnier than anything Doonesbury has done about the current war.

In the next strip, the ironies get riper. Phred asks what’s really going on:

“You know, Viktor, there’s been a lot of speculation about why the Soviets made their big land grab.”
“Indeed there has, my friend.”
“Level with me, Viktor. What is it you people really want?”
“Off the record? Will you keep it to yourself?”
“You have my word.”
“We want to rule the world.”
“You mean it’s true?”

Yet I still can’t laugh whole-heartedly. I love Doonesbury, but Trudeau’s simple belief that imperialism is something that happens to other people isn’t really adequate to what’s going on in the world at the moment. The present strips all suggest that the problems will be solved if only America pulls out of Iraq. It’s hard to believe that’s true, any more than Afghanistan’s problems were solved when the Russians pulled out.

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