Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Idiotarian

Novelist John LeCarre should stick to churning out potboilers, as his latest piece in the Times is a virtual cavalcade of idiocy and fallacious conclusions.

In the spirit of the blogosphere, let’s intellectual tear him a new one:

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

Sure… there’s no debate in America over Iraq. (Except in the pages of Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, US News and World Report, The Washington Post, and every television network in the country.) Or perhaps it’s that LeCarre thinks that the debate should solely consist of Americans excoriating themselves for all their foreign policy sins and coddling terrorists like our European "allies." Furthermore, despite largely misguided efforts like the PATRIOT Act, Americans are still far more free in economic and political terms than their European contemporaries, and it shows in the callous way the EU treats European citizens and the stifling bureaucracies they face. Not to mention the way in which France treats its Muslim immigrants, which makes our anti-terrorist efforts seem tame in comparison. Then again, the simple worldview of the left is always America Bad, Europe Good.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

Mr. LeCarre now proceeds to show that his partisanship overwhelms his ability to make an argument. Sorry, but Bush won the election, and he garnered nearly half of the votes in the election besides. Calling his presidency a "junta" isn’t just hyperbole – it’s idiocy. Furthermore, each of his arguments are simply an attempt to shotgun the Bush presidency with accusations in the hopes that one of them might stick. I won’t answer each charge for considerations of space, but his worldview lacks any depth of argument.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

I’m not sure where LeCarre comes up with the 88% figure they may have been true for Afghanistan but the numbers for Iraq hover around 50-60%. As for America’s military budget, perhaps Mr. LeCarre would consider that America is often called to shoulder the military burden for UN and NATO operations as well as our own defense. Considering the nature of the threat we now clearly face, such expansions of national defense spending are not only prudent, but necessary.

As for LeCarre’s questions about war, none of those figures can be known until all is well and done. However, what can be clear is that the cost of another September 11 or an Iraqi invasion of the Saudi oil fields would be far greater in terms of lives and dollars lost.

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

In other words, because the American people support war in Iraq, they’re obviously being browbeaten by the administration. (Despite the large amount of media skepticism towards such a war.) Perhaps Mr. LeCarre’s arrogance clouds his judgement but perhaps he might have the intellectual honesty to admit that many support action in Iraq because they realize the consequences of not acting far outweigh the risks of action? Then again, based on the shoddiness of this article I’m not holding my breath either.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

Yes, that’s why we’ve put Maureen Dowd in Gitmo for treason…

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

Or e) an ideologically-driven blowhard with very little understanding of the situation and an axe to grind. My money’s on that option in this case.

God also has pretty scary connections. In America, where all men are equal in His sight, if not in one another’s, the Bush family numbers one President, one ex-President, one ex-head of the CIA, the Governor of Florida and the ex-Governor of Texas.

Care for a few pointers? George W. Bush, 1978-84: senior executive, Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company; 1986-90: senior executive of the Harken oil company. Dick Cheney, 1995-2000: chief executive of the Halliburton oil company. Condoleezza Rice, 1991-2000: senior executive with the Chevron oil company, which named an oil tanker after her. And so on. But none of these trifling associations affects the integrity of God’s work.

So? Does having oil connections make one somehow unable to make reasonable foreign policy judgements? Does being in the oil business suddenly render all who enter into it slaves to the will of the Great Viscous Black Overlord? Or is it that in absence of any real arguments it’s easier to level accusations of some unsubstantiated conspiracy with Big Oil?

In 1993, while ex-President George Bush was visiting the ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait to receive thanks for liberating them, somebody tried to kill him. The CIA believes that “somebody” was Saddam. Hence Bush Jr’s cry: “That man tried to kill my Daddy.” But it’s still not personal, this war. It’s still necessary. It’s still God’s work. It’s still about bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed Iraqi people.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. (And horrendous grammar as well!) Saddam’s misfortune is to be a megalomaniac who poses a clear threat to the region, is building weapons of mass destruction, and systematically oppresses his people. If Saddam had no oil of his own but could suddenly take over a significant fraction of the world’s supply, it would still be wise to remove him from power. As for those other nations, if LeCarre wants us to be utterly consistent in our foreign policy, let’s start changing regimes in all of them simultaneously then. Or let’s be reasonable and deal with the most dangerous of those regimes first so that we can make a real attempt at change in the others.

It appears that LeCarre suffers from the most common pathology of the Left – the belief that oil is the modus operandi for everything. Yes, oil plays a part in this, but that is only one of the many compelling justifications for the removal of the Hussein regime. Then again LeCarre seems to be disinterested in anything than a justification of his particular worldview at the expense of any real analysis.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad

Again, pure and unadulterated bullshit. All it takes is the invasion of Saudi Arabia under the shadow of nuclear weapons and Saddam Hussein suddenly has the US and the rest of the world by the short hairs. At that point, would Mr. LeCarre like to be the one to unleash nuclear weapons on Iraq. Of course, no one would desire such an outcome. However, if Saddam Hussein were to do so, and there’s every reason to believe he would, that’s exactly what would happen. It would be like North Korea, only worse. Nor would it be Washington or New York as targets, but just as easily London or Paris. The potential for Iraqi blackmail does not just exist against the United States, but everyone. It’s simply unfortunate that so many European states are choosing to ignore the risks in the hopes that appeasement will not fail as it has countless other times.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. Blair’s best chance of personal survival must be that, at the eleventh hour, world protest and an improbably emboldened UN will force Bush to put his gun back in his holster unfired. But what happens when the world’s greatest cowboy rides back into town without a tyrant’s head to wave at the boys?

Or could it be that Blair is the smart one – the European leader who most clearly understands the threat and the absolute necessity of action to prevent a devastating outcome. The likely scenario is quite the opposite: the governments of Europe will do an abrupt about-face when they find Saddam gone and the US presiding over a demilitarized Iraq – they’ll try to show how much support they gave in order to get their own piece of the action.

Blair’s worst chance is that, with or without the UN, he will drag us into a war that, if the will to negotiate energetically had ever been there, could have been avoided; a war that has been no more democratically debated in Britain than it has in America or at the UN. By doing so, Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and the Middle East for decades to come. He will have helped to provoke unforeseeable retaliation, great domestic unrest, and regional chaos in the Middle East. Welcome to the party of the ethical foreign policy.

If diplomacy could have solved this, it would already. There have been ten years for such a solution, and all to no avail. Saddam Hussein does not want to negotiate, and there is no amount of persuasion that will change that fact. It’s clear that by "diplomacy" LeCarre means "appeasement" – letting Hussein have his way. Considering that Hussein wants to keep his WMD program running, the only possible diplomatic solutions would lead to a nuclear-armed Iraq. As we’ve seen all too clearly with North Korea, that’s not an acceptable outcome.

There is a middle way, but it’s a tough one: Bush dives in without UN approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the special relationship.

Thank heaven Prime Minister Blair is smart and loyal enough not to do such a thing.

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

Actually, he has numerous times, and had LeCarre actually read the reports Her Majesty’s Government has released he’d see the nature and scope of the threat we face.

"But will we win, Daddy?"

"Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed."


"Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him."

"But will people be killed, Daddy?"

"Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people."

"Can I watch it on television?"

"Only if Mr Bush says you can."

"And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?"

"Hush child, and go to sleep."

"Daddy, why does Mommy cry when she has to buy food?"

"Because a bad man controls most of the world’s oil, so people can’t bring food to our town without paying him a lot of money."

"Why didn’t somebody stop that bad man from taking all the oil."

"Because we didn’t have the spine to stand up to him when they could have. Because they thought that if they just let him have what he wanted he would just go away. Because some of them didn’t think he was a threat."

"Is the smallpox going to come here?"

"I don’t know… I don’t know…"

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: "Peace is also Patriotic". It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.

One can always hope that he realized that the peace he thinks is so patriotic would be purchased at the price of our freedoms and quite possibly our lives.

7 thoughts on “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Idiotarian

  1. So when are you enlisting Jay? Assuming we’ll be droping the hammer around March and also assuming a lengthy air campaign first you might want to get to your local recruitment office ASAP if you want to be involved in Iraq. I would suggest you hurry. And if you’re anything like I remember you’ll need start on a Weight Gain 4,000 like plan if you even want to possibly get close to making thier fitness requirements…

  2. So much emotionalism. What LeCarre says isn’t controversial or new. Why not share the real reasons you’re upset?

    Hey, how’s that dictatorship in Qatar going?

  3. Realrightwinger,
    You’re right! What LeCarre isn’t conroversial or new, however unoriginaliy of his article shouldn’t discount the utter idiocy of his statements. Actually, I take it back- his statistics are VERY original, because I havent seen the numbers he sites anywhere: 88% are for war? and “some” of the are decent and humane”? whats the rest?
    C’mon, if this crap gets its way into a mainstream media, why shouln’t it be ripped apart? Why shouldnt anyone comment, even if you know its nothing new or original?

  4. Jay, you keep forgetting one huge, glaring problem with going to war with Iraq:

    We’d be breaking the highest law of the land (go read the constitution again if you don’t believe me): The UN Charter.

    Unless there is:

    A. An attack on us.

    B. An attack on one of our allies.
    C. An immanent threat of attack against us or one of our allies.

    WE CAN’T GO TO WAR, Period.

  5. :We’d be breaking the highest law of the land (go read the constitution again if you don’t believe me): The UN Charter.

    Unless there is:

    A. An attack on us.

    B. An attack on one of our allies.
    C. An immanent threat of attack against us or one of our allies.

    WE CAN’T GO TO WAR, Period.:

    I don’t agree with you in your view that the UN Charter is the highest law in the land, but based on that assumption:


    “Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein”

    A ceasefire only if Iraq abides by the provisions, including the obligations. Repeatedly, Iraq has violated them. Therefore, the ceasefire provisions fail. So, yes, we can go to war. They’ve had 12 years to fulfil their obligations, they have not.


  6. It’s not my view that the UN Charter is the highest law of the land, it’s the truth- Article Six of the Constitution states:

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    The UN Charter is a treaty.

    And please site instances of cease-fire violation (aside from attacks on our planes in the no-fly zone). I’m waiting.

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