Saturday, November 25, 2006

Irony of Iraq

By Uncle C

The fiasco in Iraq progresses from bad to worse. I just watched a terrifying film made by an Iraqi doctor about life in a Baghdad hospital. The physical conditions of the hospital were like a bad nightmare. Mutilated patients torn apart by bombs and gunfire screamed as the hard-pressed doctors struggled to cope.

It is a horrible irony that at a time when Iraq so desperately needs doctors, those same doctors are fleeing abroad; it is estimated that 80 percent of the nation’s doctors have gone overseas. The same goes for blood supplies, which are in unprecedented demand. Terrorists have been targeting blood donors, gunning them down as they leave the hospital. Even the hospital’s head of security was shot dead by insurgents.

No doubt you will recall the televised scenes of jubilation a few years ago as American tanks pulled statues of the dictator Saddam Hussein off their plinths. Huge crowds of Iraqis cheered in delight. They stamped on the statues and removed their shoes, using them to beat Saddam's face — the ultimate humiliation for an Iraqi. We even saw Iraqi men gleefully urinating on posters of Saddam.

Well, I have to tell you that in another irony of the war, those same Iraqis are now saying life was better under Saddam. I watched in disbelief as Iraqi after Iraqi shouted at the camera that they want Saddam back. ‘Let Saddam out of his prison! Put him back in charge! At least Iraq was peaceful under him. Life under Saddam was paradise compared to this mad house!’ So the complaints carried on.

I could not help sympathising with those distraught Iraqis. Saddam Hussein may have been a brutal dictator who thought nothing of murdering his enemies but at least Iraq was a peaceful functioning country. The electricity supply was reliable; today it works for about four hours a day. Under Saddam Iraq was a secular nation, Islam had no place in political life; today rival religious extremists are tearing the country apart. The hospitals had medicines and plenty of doctors, healthcare was among the best in the Middle East; today it is a shambles. Iraqi women used to be free to work and did not feel compelled to wear face veils; today women who do not veil themselves are liable to be murdered by extremists. The ironies of this war are as endless as they are pitiful.

Perhaps the most supreme irony of all was that the job of war President fell on the shoulders of a man so supremely unqualified — George Bush. Being a leader when calamity strikes requires very special and rare qualities. That 9/11 should have happened under President Bush, and so early in his presidency, was the saddest and ultimate irony for America, Iraq and the world.

In fact, my worry extends to the Bush family. Did you see the interview — I think on Larry King Live — with the present President Bush’s father, who when U.S. President had refused to continue the Gulf War to Bagdad. When asked what advice he had given his son about Iraq, the elder statesman and former President Bush replied ‘I did not give George any advice. Like any father I do not interfere. I let him get on with the job’. ‘But you are a former President. This is more than a father and son relationship,’ continued the interviewer. I was amazed that Bush senior apparently could not appreciate that as a former war President with direct knowledge of Iraq, he almost had a duty to give advice even to a President who is his son.

Perhaps there we have the biggest irony of all. Father and son, both Presidents of the world superpower, who do not communicate with each other about events that really matter. I fear that their wealth clouds their judgement.

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