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[casi] David Hare piece in Guardian

Dear list,
 I forward the following comment piece sent to me from last weekend's
Guardian - a bit late, but it is a provocative and thoughtful analysis. I
think it has been scanned in from a printed copy, hence the typos.

Do't Look For a Reason by David Hare

 From the moment it was fÓrst mooted, this was, for me, the impenetrable
war, the war wrapped in mystery.  "Its about oil!" 'Its about imperialism!'
"It's about a son avenging the failures of his father." All the answers
that are supposed to tell you everything, that are always given to you in a
tone of utter contempt, as if you must be a fool not to understand, in fact
seem to tell you nothing.  The fake certainty, the anger, the exasperation,
and now the startling vindictiveness, the personal vitriol in the rhetoric
of the west - as if we hated each other far more than we hate Saddam -
betray our own bad faith, about a conflict whose meaning eludes us.

Why Iraq?  Why now?  "Its a response to September 11th." Oh yes?  And is
that why you staged your response in a country which had no connection to
September 11th?  "Its about nuclear weapons." Oh yes?  "Well, maybe not
actual nuclear weapons. Its about weapons of mass destruction." Oh
yes?  And how many weapons of mass destruction have you found?

What is this war then which politicians like, which politicians in so many
countries favour, and which only the poor bloody people in nearly every
country in the world dislike and distrust?  Who knows?  Who truly can
tell?  Somebody explain to me: not just the feebleness of the rationale,
the evident lies needed to be told by the Americans in order to try - and
fail - to persuade international opinion that they had a right to
invade.  But on the other side also explain to me: perhaps 2 million people
in Hyde Park, the march inspiring, the solidarity inspiring.  And the only
disappointment?  The speeches.  One speaker after another offering feeble
jokes about regime change in the White House and Downing Street.  Not one
single speaker with an analysis that struck to the heart, that made any sense.

And note - no leader. A popular movement of visceral dissent - and no
leader.  Usually great movements throw up great speakers, people like E P
Thompson or Emily Pankhurst whose identity crystallises the common
outrage.  This time - who?  Michael Moore, yes.  On the battleground,
Robert Fisk, yes.  In the columns, Paul Krugman and Julian Barnes,
yes.  But the great voice, the voice that will tell us "This is what is
happening.  And this is why." For the first time in my lifetime, a movement
with mass, but no tongue.  Jacques Chirac?  Please.

Those of us who, from the start, opposed this venture on the grounds that
it was unnecessary and illegal may now have to face the possibility that it
will improve the lives of large numbers of people in large parts of
Iraq.  We have to face the charge that we are spoilt, that we who already
have freedoms have no right to deny even a colonial freedom - if there can
be such a thing - to those who have known only brutality and suffering.  We
are, we are told, callous not to allow that it is a significant advance, at
least to those who have known no advance at all, to move a country from
dictatorship to anarchy and foreign occupation.  But we, in return, have to
insist that this release from pain has been bought in the wrong way and at
what is already, and at what will only become more clearly, too high a price.

In our hearts, we al! know - what's interesting, even supporters of the
.war know - there was no need for  this.  Nothing has been achieved which,
with common diplomacy and resolve, could not have been achieved with fewer
dead babies, less bereavement, less murder, less random slaughter.  Three
thousand killed in the Twin Towers.  Three thousand, at least, already dead
in Iraq.  Three thousand, a majority bystanders, dead in the reoccupation
of Palestine following the second intifada.  Is equivalence achieved?  Can
we stop here?

The answer, it seems, is no.  At the beginning of all this I argued for
George Bush to go into a wood outside Vienna or St Petersburg with Saddam
Hussein.  Pistols at dawn, Rumsfeld and Aziz as seconds on either side, a
few paces back.  Top hats.  Handkerchiefs.  Let the man who wants to fight
fight.  But instead the world has been sickened by a cowards'
engagement.  On one side, Saddam Hussein, instructing his head of protocol
to shoot him in the face of capture because lie knows he will not have the
stomach to do it himself. On the other, in eerie parallel, George Bush,
famous as frat-boy draft-dodger; John Ashcroft, draft-dodger; Richard
Perle, draft-dodger; Dick Cheney, draft-dodger, his words about Vietnam
already the epitaph of this administration: "I had other priorities at the
time." Men willing to send others to do what they would not do themselves.

It is a hardy soul who has witnessed without flinching Americans raining
down terror from the sky, shooting up Iraqi civilians, British soldiers,
children, women - hell, fellowAmericans, why not?  Inflicting almost as
many casualties on their own allies as the ostensible enemy has done.  It
has been impossible for anyone not to contemplate the disparity between
American fÓrepower, the bulk weight of US technology, and the pathetic,
disorganised inadequacy of Iraqi resistance and not feel sickened by the
unevenness of the fÓght.  And more, beyond that shame at an inequality of
means which you cannot even dignify with the name of war, to ask "And to
what end?  And to what point?"

I understand no more than anyone, no more than this: at some level I
believe this administration does not even know why it chose Iraq. I believe
it cannot even remember the reasons.  The reasons have changed so many
times - at least in public - and make so little palpable sense that it is
of course, tempting to believe, as conspiracy theorists will always
believe, that there is some hidden reason which is being kept from us.  But
to me, the more frightening possibility is this: what if no such reason
exists?  If there is indeed, no casus belli?

If that were the case, then there would be, at least, an explanation for
our own inarticulacy, for the failure of our speechmaking.  It appears that
something so profound is happening in the world that none of us is yet able
to grasp it.  How can we consider and speak to the possibility that America
is deliberately declaring that the only criterion of power shall now be
power itself?  The introduction of the doctrine of the right to the
pre-emptive strike is an event in international history, of infinitely more
consequence and importance than anything that happened on September 11th.
Even the transgression of a territorial border and the murder of innocent
citizens cannot compare to what is being claimed here: the right to go in
and destroy a regime, at whatever cost and without any clear plan for its
future, not because of what anyone has done, but because of what you cannot
prove they might do.

George Bush is a born-again Christian and a recovering alcoholic.  I see in
him the uncontrollable anger of the alcoholic once directed at himself,
sluiced away every night into his bloodstream and out into the gutter, now,
tragically, directed, via his amazingly aggressive, amazingly triumphant
body language, on to whatever poor soul comes into his sights.

The intention to destroy the credibility of the United Nations, and its
right to help try and defuse situations of danger to life, is not a
byproduct of recent American policy.  It is its very purpose.  Bush chose
Iraq not because it would make sense, but because it wouldn't., He did it,
in short, because he could.  No better reason than that.  "Because I can, I
will." The thinness of the justification for this war is, in fact, its very
point. As is the arbitrariness of the target.  The proliferation of other
named targets - Syria, North Korea, maybe Burma, why not China? - adds, in
Bush's eyes, only to the deliciousness of the game.

Caught, significantly, chuckling and laughing before a supposedly serious
press conference about enemy losses and American advances, Bush comes to
represent the man flexing private muscles for no other reason than the
feral pleasure of the flex.  What is being asserted today is the right to
assert, to go in with absolutely no game plan for how you will get
out.  Did the Bush administration deliberately omit to put any aid to
Afghanistan in its current budget plans?  Or, worse, did it simply forget?

Tonight in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane, under-cover of war,
while the world is not looking, Jewish fundamentalists are moving into an
armed apartment block on land which belongs to the Palestinians; in the
White House, Christian fundamentalists dream of moving on to murder and
mayhem in countries beyond count; and on the stony s hillsides of Pakistan
and Afghanistan, Muslim fundamentalists dream of moving on to murder and
mayhem in countries beyond count.  The trade union of international
politicians exercises an ever more Stalinist grip, moving countries and
armies to wars they do not want.  Only the people say no.

David Hare is a playwright,uk

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