The Holocaustification of Iraq
Let’s assume a few things for a moment. There’s a war. We win quickly. With the exception of a few Tikriti thugs and diehards, the Iraqis take to the streets in jubilation. In the following months the full extent of Saddam’s regime is revealed. Victims of torture and rape and murder appear nightly to give testimony on American TV. Videotapes of the mass slaughter of Kurds and Shiites are unearthed. Everything Saddam’s detractors and demonizers said about the guy are proved true.
Now if all of that happens, my guess is that history will very quickly re-write the war on Iraq as a humanitarian effort. In much the same way that World War Two has been — wrongly — boiled down into a war to the end the Holocaust and the Civil War has been neatly summarized as purely a war to free the slaves, the liberation of Iraq will be seen in hindsight as a profoundly moral act. I think this scares quite a few opponents of the war for good and bad reasons. Surely, Germany will look like it never learned the lessons of its own history. The Germans sat idly by through the genocides of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The evidence of Saddam’s slaughters will seem just as obvious in hindsight and those who did nothing will look shameful for it. I also think some domestic opponents of war understand this implicitly and are desperate for that morality tale not to be told. Isolationists of the far right and far left have do not like American morality informing foreign policy. The Lefties don’t like it because they don’t think America is moral. The ones on the far right think America is so moral it shouldn’t poisoned by outside influences, entangling alliances etc. Either way, a successful war which goes down in the history books as a moral triumph will be very difficult for them to counter. I’m not asserting that all opponents of the war suffer from bad faith, I’m sure most of them legitimately believe toppling Saddam is a bad idea. I think they’re very wrong. But, I can’t shake the feeling that, say, Edward Said or Bob Novak might feel more than a tinge of disappointment if the airwaves were filled with jubilation over the alleviation of mass suffering in Iraq, the elevation of Bush to the role of Liberator and a general consensus that the US did the only moral thing. I could be wrong.