An antidote to the lies about Iraq
If you want the truth about the ‘Iraq War’, two books by Patrick Cockburn are a good place to start, says Charles Glass
The people who write history text books for Western children must one day contrive an acceptable version of the American-British invasion of Iraq. They will call it the Iraq War, just as those who wrote American high school texts on Indochina referred to the Vietnam War rather than the American invasion of Vietnam.
The orthodox narrative on Vietnam, as taught in American schools, recounts a noble cause in which American presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon tried more and varied means to bring freedom to Southeast Asia. (For no apparent reason, the Vietnamese resisted.) An ingredient of this fantasy is that the press turned against the war and took the public with it. This is, as anyone who lived in the United States or Vietnam at the time knows, a lie. There is every reason to suppose the lies about Iraq will prevail as well.
The media, as in Vietnam, will give itself a good press: it will tell of upright journalists digging deep to expose the lies that killed about a million Iraqis, drove more than two million into exile and left more than another million homeless within Iraq. But it won't write about how most of the press backed the war - and how a great part of it still does.
I propose an antidote to the cant schoolchildren will be fed. Two books, both by Patrick Cockburn, tell the tale truthfully. The first is last year's The Occupation: War and Resistance and, just published, Moqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq.
Cockburn, an Irish-born correspondent for The Independent, knows Iraq and ignores the party line. One example, Iraqisation of the war: "President Bush and Tony Blair repeatedly stated that American and British troops would leave when Iraqis were ready to take over. They never seemed to understand that the problem was not training or equipment but legitimacy and loyalty."
Moqtada al-Sadr is the first biography of the leading Shiite opponent of American occupation. In it, Cockburn explains why Sunni and Shia Muslims split over armed resistance to the Americans: "Moqtada had repeatedly demanded that Sunni political and religious leaders unequivocally condemn the horrific attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq on Shia civilians if he was to cooperate with them against the occupation. That they did not do so was a short-sighted failure on their part..."
It meant a Shia-Sunni divide from which Iraq will not recover, even when the last helicopter has left the American embassy roof and the textbooks are set in type with lies for the next generation. To understand this - and to understand why the Shia parties are fighting one another - don't read the papers or wait for the textbooks. Read Cockburn. ·
Comments are now closed on this article