I haven’t really posited anything here about the current situation in the Middle East. This is because, in part, I felt that most of what I could have said has been written elsewhere, but also because I still don’t know the whole story, and as every day passes I learn a little more. Not that I haven’t wanted to spout off on these pages before, of course, but any opinions I have or have had have really only developed in response to the questions or rhetoric of others. While one cannot hope to escape from the turmoil we currently find ourselves in, that doesn’t mean I want to turn this into a war blog.
(So where do I stand, you might ask? If I must be more blatant, I will give you the digest version of my position: I am opposed to the war. I am opposed to Hussein. I am opposed to terrorism. I am opposed to political and religious oppression of all kinds. I am opposed to the religious or moral justification of violence, particularly against innocents. That’s just the short of it; like the truth, my opinions are much more complicated.)
However, out of the mess of political rhetoric, regurgitated nonsense, crossed wires and misunderstood opinion comes, every now and again, something that makes me sit up and listen closely. Yesterday saw one of those moments, a wonderful speech by the British Labour MP Robin Cook, as he resigned from his post as Leader of the House of Commons in protest over the imminent rush to war with Iraq. I caught most of the speech after the fact on one of many TV news replays; while guilty of the odd rhetorical flourish (a vice of even the best orators), I was nevertheless captivated by his eloquence and directness–a quality all too absent in modern politics–and an impressively strong delivery that reflected his absolute conviction. It is certainly worth reading or hearing the whole thing (there’s a RealAudio recording and a full transcript available courtesy of the BBC, c/o plasticbag.org) but I would still like to quote one of the statements that struck me the most, something that almost encapsulates the confusion surrounding this conflict, something I’m surprised I didn’t see for myself:
We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.
It seems futile to sit here in my comfortable room, typing on my state-of-the-art computer, about things that won’t directly affect me but _will_ affect thousands of innocent people–men, women and children–trapped in a country with a leader who cares very little for them, if at all, and whose supposed liberators have decided to rain bombs down upon them, in the name of ‘freedom’. I couldn’t even begin to understand what they’re going through, the anxiety and fear they’re experiencing, and I would never pretend to. You think it’s bad that American or European kids are upset at the prospect of a war? What about the Iraqi children who can’t escape seeing and hearing the bombs dropping on their cities, children who shouldn’t have to experience such horror?
I could go on until I’m blue in the face, but what would that achieve? The cold hard fact of the matter is simply that _I’m not there_, and the least I can do is appreciate the good things I have. If more people in the Western world appreciated their personal freedom as a privelege, not a right, maybe then they’d begin to look beyond themselves, to understand.
I think I’ve said all I needed to say.