Blogs > Liberty and Power > Friday the 13th

Feb 14, 2004 9:36 am

Friday the 13th

I've already written about Communist parasites, in an effort to draw attention to the mass internal chaos that was the Soviet Union. There is probably no greater misnomer than the word"totalitarianism," because no matter how much a coercive statist apparatus tries to control the totality of a society, such control will elude its grasp. That's because planners of all kinds—whether they be Soviet commissars or Wilsonian nation-builders—simply don't know enough to forestall the unintended consequences of their plans, which are a perennial aspect of human sociality.

Well, the knowledge problem, a problem manifested in the fragmentation of knowledge, power, and function, seems to have been felt big time in Iraq.

William Safire thinks he's uncovered yet another"smoking gun" in Iraq, which proves a" clear link" between Hussein and Al Qaeda. (There might be clearer links between Al Qaeda and Brooklyn or between Al Qaeda and flight schools in Florida, but nobody has suggested—yet—that we invade Brooklyn or Boca Raton.)

What this"smoking gun" proves, however, is that Iraq was, and continues to be, a smoldering kettle of conflicting interests, whereby different elements engage in power-plays against one another. The only difference, in this regard, between the Hussein regime and post-Hussein Iraq is that the"balkanization" process has intensified, as noted by David below, because there is no central apparatus attempting to keep it at bay. (The same balkanization has taken place in post-Communist Russia.)

Even within Hussein's Iraq, fragmentation of power and function was more the rule than the exception: the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. As this story in The New York Times suggests, the regime itself was ill-prepared for the US invasion partially because Hussein himself was busy deploying"Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion..." A recently uncovered" classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers" provides us with"a scathing history of a Stalinist, paranoid leadership circle in Baghdad that guaranteed its own destruction." Hussein's government was"disconnected from reality in peace and in war." Even"members of Mr. Hussein's inner circle routinely lied to him and each other about Iraqi military capacities." (On the organic connection between war and deceit, see Arthur Silber's superb post They Are The Damned.)

Lies, deception, exaggeration,"mistakes"... inside and outside of Iraq. Even gung-ho conservative Bill O'Reilly is now apologizing for accepting the WMD claims of the Bush administration. The cloud of disinformation is almost as poisonous as the mushroom clouds we all fear.

It is ironic too that, as Maureen Dowd states, the President is busy warning us that"the greatest threat before humanity" is"the possibility of a sudden W.M.D. attack. Not wanting nuclear technology to go to North Korea, Iran or Libya, the White House demanded tighter controls on black-market sales of W.M.D., even while praising its good buddy Pakistan, whose scientists were running a black market like a Sam's Club for nukes, peddling to North Korea, Iran and Libya."

Isn't it amazing that the biggest threats in the region, Pakistan—for its export of toxic nuclear technology and Saudi Arabia—for its export of toxic Wahhabi ideology, remain among the closest of US allies?

Whereas Friday the 13th gives way to Valentine's Day, this Middle East horror story is starting to feel more and more like the movie Groundhog Day: it's just an endless replay of the same themes over and over and over again. Kinda like that broken record that President Bush talked about.

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Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 2/14/2004

And let me return the compliment, Charles: excellent point. It is amazing, isn't it, that the most lethal regimes have had a history of involvement with the U.S.: from the Shah of Iran to Iraq's Hussein to the Pakistanis and mujahedeen in Afghanistan (who eventually became Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors), to the House of Sa'ud. And then we are told by our pro-war pals that the history of US foreign policy has nothing to do with our current Middle East situation.

It is one of the most disconnected, fragmented, fractured approaches to history and policy that I've ever witnessed.

Charles Johnson - 2/13/2004

Excellent post, Chris. One quick note: "Isn't it amazing that the biggest threats in the region, Pakistan—for its export of toxic nuclear technology and Saudi Arabia—for its export of toxic Wahhabi ideology, remain among the closest of US allies?"

Saudi Arabia hardly holds a monopoly on the export of toxic Islamist ideologies; it was, indeed, Pakistan, and especially Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency which during the 1980s and 1990s took a lead role in exporting -- with heavy no-strings-attached financial support from the United States -- the most vicious sorts of terrorist Islamism to Afghanistan, in the form of their sponsorship of several key mujahedeen and, through the distinctively Pakistani madrassas, eventually fostered and supported the Taliban reign of terror...