Oct 30, 2006

Juan Cole writes today about where we are in Iraq, where we have been, and why we should have never went in without SOME form of understanding about the task at hand. He also discusses those who have attacked him over the past 3 years as he attempted to make them realize the heart of the matter and the truth that was always hanging over Iraq. Those who wanted this war so badly were those who knew the least about Iraq. He discusses how two of his longtime detractors continued to attack him, regardless of any facts about Iraq:


Goldberg wrote as a way of bringing to a close our debate nearly two years ago:

' Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading.'

What was wrong with this is that you cannot, contrary to the cannons of American punditry, actually separate out "judgment" and "knowledge." Judgment comes out of knowledge and experience. Goldberg was sounding off on matters about which he just didn't have much of either. But note, too, that Goldberg has, since our debate, been hired by the Los Angeles Times to purvey his opinions regularly to the nation's second largest city, while veteran reporter and Iraq War critic Bob Scheer was fired and is no longer at the Times. It doesn't matter that Scheer was right and Goldberg was wrong. The important thing for the corporate media is that a pundit supports the status quo (whatever that is), not whether he or she makes epochal mistakes. The ability to produce and reproduce a narrow rhetoric in support of the projects of our plutocracy is what counts. No matter if those projects kill hundreds of thousands of people in the course of failing.

Not Bush, not Rumsfeld, not Wolfowitz, not Goldberg, not Jarvis, knew anything serious about Iraqi history, religion or society. But they were going to "democratize" it with a foreign military occupation. I'll wager none of them knew anything serious about French Algeria or British Egypt, the sort of experience Arabs had in the 20th century with the "liberty" of being occupied by Westerners.Neither Jarvis nor Goldberg has any wisdom for us now in how to get out of this quagmire without the world coming down around our ears. But it was never about Iraq. It was about the all-purpose punditocracy, the vicious jab, the smearing of those with whom one disagrees, in the service of the rich and powerful. It is about the cheapening of our democracy, the termite-like boring at the pillars of our republic.
I'll close with a fuller quotation of Alexander Pope's famous phrase than is usually given. I apologize for the difficulty of the language, but hope readers will try to work through it and grasp what he is driving at. Because he was not just talking about ignorant fools, but also about learned ones. And what he was saying is that civil society is best served not by polemic but by urbane understanding. It is something we can strive for over here, even if we don't have any good solutions for the Iraq catastrophe. And if we had more of what Pope recommends, maybe we wouldn't have so many quagmires.

'Nay, fly to Altars; there they'll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Distrustful Sense with modest Caution speaks;
It still looks home, and short Excursions makes;
But ratling Nonsense in full Vollies breaks;
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering Tyde!

But where's the Man, who Counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, and not proud to know?
Unbiass'd, or by Favour or by Spite;
Not dully prepossest, nor blindly right;
Tho' Learn'd well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and Humanly severe?
Who to a Friend his Faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the Merit of a Foe?
Blest with a Taste exact, yet unconfin'd;
A Knowledge both of Books and Humankind;
Gen'rous Converse; a Sound exempt from Pride;
And Love to Praise, with Reason on his Side? '


Anonymous said...

Wow, can anyone use more font types and sizes than you????

Anonymous said...

Juan Cole is one of the best.