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From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials
Date: April, 2011
By: Editorial

A New World Order!

There is a new law for the governing of States. The United Nations Security Council has discovered that Governments should not resist rebellion by force. A Government which resists rebellion murders its own people and it might even be that it commits genocide.

This discovery was made by Britain and France with regard to the casual, spur-of-the-moment, part-time rebellion in Libya. They put it to the Security Council. The Security Council agreed, and it authorised them to make war on the Libyan Government’s resistance of the rebellion.

What a pity it is that Britain did not realise in 1916 that Governments should not resist rebellions, and that they commit murder if they do.

Under this new order of thought, democracy is established by rebellion.

Under the old political philosophy there was a strong presumption in favour of established States, whatever their political complexion, and the construction of democracy in conjunction with rebellions against established States was regarded as extremely problematical. But no longer. The rebellion is now the democracy. Anarchism rules—so to speak.

This is something new in the world. Eight years ago the émigré rebel groups that accompanied the invading armies of Britain and America into Iraq, wanted to conduct a rebellion as the weak Iraqi Army was subjected to shock and awe by the invaders. Washington would not allow it.

Washington invaded Iraq to establish Democracy in it—so it is said, and it had the power to compel most of the world to believe what it said. And it did not think that a democratic state would emerge if the returning rebels called for popular rebellions in the wake of the advancing armies. It lectured the returning rebels about Democracy. It explained that Democracy had preconditions, and these preconditions would not be likely to spring up spontaneously at the behest of various groups of rebels who were stirring up the populace to rebellion without having any levers of control.

The first precondition of democracy is a State. The invaders were destroying the State. It is not clear why they decided to do this. In 2003 it was a harmless State—much damaged by the dozen years of United Nations sanctions which followed the deliberate destruction of the urban infrastructure by the UN bombing of 1991, but still able to maintain basic amenities, such as a supply of water. For whatever reason, the invading armies were destroying the State, not merely as a political body, but as an apparatus for supplying water, electricity etc. And Washington decided that the best way to establish Democracy in those circumstances was not to have the rebels, who accompanied its Army, call for a popular rising.

The invasion became an Occupation. And the Occupation was to be the framework of the new State, which was in time to become a democratic State.

Hamil al-Bayati complains about this in his book, From Dictatorship To Democracy, published by Pennsylvania University this year. The various émigré rebel groups (Chalabi’s, Allawi’s, and the two Kurd groups: Talabani’s and Barzani’s) formed a united front:

“We together managed to convince Western officials that the Iraqi people were united in opposing Saddam’s regime; that… they were strong enough to remove Saddam if the international community helped by implementing the UN Security Council resolutions…” (p6).

“We requested the support of the international community to implement the Security Council resolutions passed after 1990 and tried to set up an international tribunal to indict Saddam and his top aides for war crimes” (p7).

Some of the groups encouraged invasion. Others were against invasion “because it would result in civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure, and occupation” (p8). But what was the effect of the Security Council Resolutions that were enforced for ten years, except to destroy the infrastructure and inflict massive civilian casualties, but to do so without occupation? And what would be the use of an International Tribunal to indict Saddam for war crimes, unless Saddam was caught? And how was he to be caught without an invasion?

Anyhow, they all returned to Iraq with the invasion force. But:

“We advised the U.S. planners against occupation and encouraged them to set up an Iraqi government immediately after Saddam’s fall. The grave mistake, I believe, was in not listening to the Iraqis, and thereby turning Iraq’s liberation into an occupation” (p8).

Al-Bayati does not explain how the ‘liberation’ (i.e. the invasion) might have been something other than an Occupation. Did he want the Americans to withdraw immediately after applying shock and awe, and arranging for Saddam’s statue to be pulled down by a crowd assembled for the television cameras? Or did he want the American Army handed over to the émigré groups, to build a new State according to their hearts’ desire? The latter, it seems:

“We had warned the Coalition about the possibility of chaos and theft in the event of Saddam’s downfall. It could have been averted by curfew, giving the Opposition security powers, and making use of Baath elements” (p189).

Making use of Baath elements assumed that the émigré groups had substantial connections with sections of the Baath regime. And there is no evidence of that.

Paul Bremer, head of the Occupation, which the UN recognised as legitimate although it had refused to authorise the invasion, took no heed of émigré advice to let an election be held which would be an act of sovereignty. He appointed a kind of Iraqi Government that was altogether subordinate to the Coalition Provisional Authority, chose Allawi to head it, and handed over Iraqi ‘sovereignty’ to it in June 2004.

What is the meaning of sovereignty like that? Sovereignty deprived of the power of decision.

Britain in the late 19th century decided not to make Egypt a colony within the Empire. Egypt was to be an independent State—though notional sovereignty over it continued to lie with Turkey. For the next sixty years or so Egypt was an independent state governed by Britain. All important decisions were made by the British Ambassador. Britain, which twice made war on Germany on behalf of the Egyptian people. If the Egyptian Government showed signs of rebellion he had the means of bringing it to order.

It seems that Washington had the idea of running Iraq that way—with a sovereign Iraqi Government that would in fact be an instrument of the American Embassy. And Al-Bayati agreed to serve in that Government, becoming Deputy Foreign Minister in it.

The American plans did not work out smoothly. The strength of Baathist resistance did not tally with the propaganda construct of an Iraqi people yearning to be free of Baathist tyranny.

The Coalition incited Shia against Sunni as a means of consolidating the Occupation, but the Sunni hit back, against both the Occupation and the Shia who responded to its call; and the Shia did not prove to be as malleable as they should have been in gratitude for being liberated from Sunni oppression.

Al-Bayati glosses over most of this. He says in his Conclusion:

“From 1968 until 2003, Iraq was under the one-party rule of the Baath party, and everything was under the control of the government: the judicial system, the media, the NGOs, and so forth. Since 2003, we have more than one hundred political parties, the judicial system and the media have become independent, and there are many active NGOs…

“The security situation has improved dramatically since 2006, when Al Quaeda tried to instigate a sectarian war between the Shiites and Sunnis…

“The new Iraqi government needs to focus on providing services… such as clean water, sewage facilities, electricity, schools, hospitals, roads, and housing to the Iraqi people who were deprived of those by the policies of Saddam’s regime. They will not be achieved without reviving the free market economy, supporting the private sector, and attracting foreign investment in the country… Openness between the Iraqi government and the regional and international powers is also important for gaining political, economic, and other kinds of support for the projects in Iraq” (p313-3).

This means that, in the matter of ordinary conditions of life, Iraq is slowly getting back to where it was in 2003, when the Tyranny was broken up. But the conditions of life as they were in 1990, before the massive United Nations bombing, and the twelve years of stringent UN sanctions, take on a Utopian character. The Tyranny had maintained better public utilities through a dozen years of UN bombing and sanctions than the Occupation plus sovereign Government can show eight years after the Invasion that overthrew the Tyranny.

And “the security situation has improved dramatically”—since 2006!

The base from which improvement is measured is not the condition of Iraq as the Tyranny left it, but the condition to which it was reduced by three years of Occupation and two years of sovereign Government. The country was made a shambles in 2003 – 2006. Things have improved somewhat since 2006.

Before 2003 the country was governed by one party. Since 2003 there have been a hundred political parties in it, and that’s not counting the scores of parties that were not allowed to contest elections.

A country with a hundred permitted parties and about fifty banned ones is either incredibly democratic or not democratic at all. It approaches the condition of a direct democracy of the people—and direct democracy as an actual mode of government became obsolete with the ancient Greek City-States.

Modern democracy is a form of representative government by parties. Rousseau denied that representative government could be democratic at all, but it is what we have agreed to call democracy when accompanied by a general adult franchise. It operates by bunching the populace together in a small number of parties and letting the electorate choose between them. The US has arranged for a tight two-party system to be maintained. Britain had a two-party system before the democratisation of the electoral franchise. Since 1918—when the franchise was democratised, and the Liberal Party split, and the Labour Party became the main alternative to the Tory Party—Britain has had a kind of two-and-half party system.

The French Republic, which proclaimed democracy to be the only legitimate form of state, never quite got the hang of operating it as a restrictive party system of representative government, and its excessive democracy had to be relieved by Napoleonic interludes, the last of which was De Gaulle’s coup.

The only modern state in which there is a substantial stratum of literal democracy is Switzerland because the State is a federal structure erected on a base of very small sovereign units, fragments of Cantons.

In Ireland, following Britain, there is no real local government. Local bodies have authority conceded to them by the central State. It works the other way around in Switzerland. But the Swiss system was no more constructed according to a principle than the English system. Each was an accidental historical development that made a principle of itself once it came about. The Swiss system was formed in valleys made defensible by mountains. The English system was a product of the theological English Civil War—the one that sent Cromwell to Ireland. It was assumed for a couple of generations after the 1688 coup d’etat that political parties were blots on the political landscape, which derived from the Civil War, and which survived afterwards because the Monarchy manipulated them in a “divide and rule” tactic. They were not accepted as legitimate and necessary elements of representative government until the 1770s.

The American two-party system also derives from Lincoln’s Civil War. The Irish party system too derives from a kind of civil war, but it has not been as functional as the others because the Irish Civil War was not an authentic civil war. (The two sides to it wanted the same thing, but were manipulated by British power into fighting each other over whether to submit to a British threat of total war and accept something less for the time being.)

The most difficult thing in constructing a democracy of the British or American kinds is to devise the party system to operate it. There is no formula for doing this. Britain and America got their party systems through historical developments which had civil wars as their centrepieces. They were not in the position of new States of the present, which have irresistible Super-powers supervising them, interfering with them, and frequently cutting their historical development short by abortion—as was done in Afghanistan ten years ago, in Iraq eight years ago, and is being done in Libya now.

The term “the Iraqi people” is a conventional ideological construct of United Nations rhetoric. There was no reality on the round corresponding to it.

Twenty years ago there was a functional Iraqi State which organised the peoples of Iraq along the lines of a West European social development. Eight years ago there was still a functional Iraqi State, despite all the wrecking the United Nations had inflicted on it. That State was not organised politically in the way that we call democratic, therefore we made war on it. (Ireland sent no invasion Army, but it played a political part in justifying the invasion, and it facilitated the US invasion army by refuelling the warplanes at Shannon.)

The war was justified on the grounds that the Iraqi people must be victims of oppression at the hands of the Iraqi State because that State was not democratic. The Iraqi State was destroyed, and it was revealed that there was no Iraqi people. There were many peoples in the region that Britain made into a subordinate national state for its own purposes in 1919, following its destruction of the Ottoman Empire. There was no sense of national cohesion amongst those people. The Ottoman State had not strapped them into national straitjackets. For centuries the many peoples of Mesopotamia had lived alongside each other, being under no compulsion to do each other down.

Britain thought it expedient to declare the region a ‘nation state’, rather than treat it as an extension of its Indian Empire. It imposed a King from Saudi Arabia on it in a rigged election, and set about running it as a subordinate state. Resistance against this treatment was put down with a heavy hand.

In 1939 a presumptuous Iraqi Government declared neutrality in the World War launched by Britain. Britain could not slap it down immediately, but it did so two years later. Churchill decided to invade Iran to gain control of its oil. He passed the invading army through Iraq. He was entitled to do so under the unequal treaty Britain had imposed on Iraq. The Iraqi Government did not try to stop the passage of the British Army through its territory, but asserted a right to observe it. Churchill overthrew it and installed a puppet government.

Fifteen years after that the British/Israeli attack on Egypt (which had become independent of the British Ambassador) threw the Middle East into turmoil. The functional Baath State in Iraq emerged from that turmoil. It was a liberal secular state in the social development it encouraged, but not what we call democratic. Elements from all the major segments of the population were drawn into the functioning of the State. The liberal secular line of development naturally provoked religious resistance, but elements from all religions played a part in the State.

The destruction of the liberal secular State in Iraq, and the call on the social forces that were repressed by it to assert themselves, resulted naturally in a surge of religious ‘fundamentalism’, and in anarchic conflict between forces that had found a more or less orderly place for themselves in the Baath State. The only force capable of containing the anarchy was the Occupation Force that had caused it. Eight years later that Occupation Force is still trying to establish civilised order on the chaos that it brought about—and, of course, to do so in a way that is advantageous to itself.

All States involve the repression of something. And the destruction of any State by the absolutely overwhelming power of another State, combined with an exhortation to the repressed elements to assert themselves, would be likely to bring about the same kind of situation as was brought about in Iraq in 2003.

The intellectuals who supported the invasion, and the project of quickly establishing a State that was democratic as well as liberal and secular, in place of the liberal, secular Baath State, by proceeding through a phase of destructive anarchy, deluded themselves by taking the situation in Germany in 1945 as a precedent. They imagined that the rapid emergence of a democratic State in Germany following the utter destruction of Nazism, was the work of the Western Occupation Forces, who brought some marvellous democratic formula to bear on the situation. It would be more in accordance with historical fact to say that German democracy re-emerged so quickly because of the substantial continuity between it and the Nazi state, which in turn had maintained structures from the earlier era of the Kaiser’s State.

The fate of a thorough de-Nazification, which Britain and the US had intended to apply to the Germans, had to be set aside because of the rapid emergence of the Cold War.

We read in a new book on the subject (Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation And Denazification Of Germany, by Frederick Taylor) that:

“The seventeen million Germans unfortunate enough to find themselves in the Soviet Zone after twelve years of Nazi dictatorship, were then seamlessly subjected to more than forty years of a competing brand of totalitarianism, marginally less brutal” (pxxxiii).

Those 17 million Germans had the misfortune to be subjected to the State that defeated the Nazi State. Without the Soviet success, it is hard to see how the Nazi regime would have been defeated. France had made a settlement and Britain had been dithering for a year after disengaging in France, when Hitler attacked Russia and was defeated by it. But the unfortunate Germans were those who were saved from Nazism by the force that defeated Nazism. And the Germans of the Western Occupation Zones were saved from de-Nazification by the need of the Western Powers to get them onside against the Eastern Power that had done most of the work of defeating Nazism.

If West Germany had not been saved from de-Nazification by the need to enlist its support against the State that liberated Germany from Nazism, it is unlikely that it would have emerged as a stable and successful democracy in a couple of years.

Taylor recycles the standard version of the rise of Nazism. It happened because the Versailles Powers in 1919, while abolishing the authoritarian monarchy and supervising the introduction of a democratic Constitution, did not break up the old social order of Germany:

“The Reich’s government and constitution became democratic but the official and military classes remained both influential and fervently nationalist, eager to evade the conditions of the harsh Versailles Treaty and secretly longing to avenge what they saw as an unjust defeat… The pre-war authoritarian core regained more and more control as the Depression took hold in the 1920s and the democracy set up in 1918 lost support of both extreme left and extreme right” etc.

The “authoritarianism” of the Kaiser’s Germany was an ideological construct of the British war propaganda. The German State was not less a democracy than the British, but it had a slightly different relationship between Executive and Legislature. The British war propaganda therefore declared the German State to be an “autocracy”, without bothering to explain why. The “autocracy” was abolished when Germany was defeated. The German State lost the weight of conservative ballast that every State needs. Its resulting disorientation made it incapable of challenging and resisting the Versailles Powers. And the form of its democracy, shaped in accordance with an ideological ideal rather than with an eye on how actual States function, made it incapable of effective action in a crisis.

Nazism, like Fascism before it, was not a reactionary re-establishment of something old. It was a new kind of movement designed to make a functional combination of social elements that had been driven apart by the outcome of the Great War, and make it effective in a viable State, and to do so in a way that was compatible with capitalist economy and culture. Winston Churchill hailed Mussolini as the saviour of Western capitalist civilisation from Communism, and did the same with Hitler some years later.

The blundering foreign policy of the British Empire helped Nazi Germany build itself up from 1933 to 1938 before suddenly deciding to make war on it in 1939. When it decided to make war on it, it suppressed the reasons why it had been supporting it for five years, and indulged in the extravagant demonisation which it has found necessary when making war in recent times. And then in 1941 it found itself in a dependent alliance with the Communist Power which a few years earlier it had supported Fascism as a barrier against. And the . . . etc.

But Germany, in its domestic existence, remained in 1939-45 what it had been in 1933-38, and when defeat in the War was not followed up with the threatened root-and-branch remaking of German society, it clicked into place easily as part of the Western capitalist system.

The collapse of Soviet Russia in 1990 deprived the West of the Great Power enemy, the fear of which caused it to act rationally in its own interest in Germany after 1945. Left to its own devices it has been acting catastrophically in the world since 1990, driven by its own megalomaniac ideological delusions.