Saturday, March 22, 2008

Short-Term Memory

This documentary, by British journalist John Pilger, is NOT an indictment of either Bush administration.

It is, in fact, an indictment of the Clinton administration.

It is chic these days to engage in criticism of "neocons," George W. Bush, Republicans, and other usual suspects. I myself indulge in it. Too often, however, the scathing indictments are no more than crocodile tears, shed by people who either can't or won't remember that there is just as much blood on Bill Clinton's hands as there is on Bush's. Republicans made war on Iraq, but Democrats brought the other 4 Horsemen upon that unfortunate state without a thought of mercy or hesitation.

My blood boils when I hear Madelaine Albright hawking her new book on US and Canadian talk shows, too often fawned over by the new "corporate liberals" that have managed to capitalize on the niche market of commercialized dissent (I'm looking at you, Stewart and Colbert). The title of Pilger's film, "Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq" comes from an exchange with Albright in which the erstwhile Secretary of State was asked what she thought of a UNICEF report that said that the crippling post-war blockade of Iraq had resulted in the deaths of 500,000 young Iraqis, including infants who had been unable to receive medical care. Her response was that in exchange for "containing" the laughable Iraqi army, she thought the price was worth it.

Unlike in 1991, the "Coalition" is fighting a generation of Iraqis who grew up in a country that didn't have the highest literacy rate in the Arab world, and which lacked a 1st-world health care system. This might be the fault of the US Defense and State deparments, but the current administration is not the sole author of all this murder and misery.

This isn't the 5th Anniversary of the 2nd Gulf Persian War. Based upon the number of US and UK combat sorties over Iraq from 1991 to 2000, this is the 18th Anniversary of the 2nd Persian Gulf War (we also have a habit of forgetting the first).

We seem able to remember individual episodes with the remarkable clarity of our electronic world, but unable to even question ourselves as to what set the stage. How many times have you heard that in the summer of 2006, Hezbollah attacked Israel? We remember it as the "2nd Lebanon War" (our ability to count is also debatable), forgetting that the entire thing began in Gaza, with an operation which - depending on how you like it - was either a) staged by a terrorist group to kidnap a helpless bespectacled Israeli boy, or b) carried out by a resistance group to capture an IDF soldier who was manning a tank as part of an occupying army. Israel bombed the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and Hezbollah threw itself into the fray, opening up a second front.

But that is a complicated story.

"Democrats Good. Republicans Bad." Now that's a story with legs.

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