Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pace, pace

The war in Iraq passed away quietly last week, after a long wasting illness, surrounded by friends and family and fortified with the comforts of religion...

Actually it only ever had one friend worth having, and one relative. The friend was the great journalist Christopher Hitchens, who took to it early for reasons nobody could ever quite understand--a mocking whim or a genuine perverse passion--and remained loyal to it until the end, which came by some uncanny coincidence at the same time as his own (and no comforts of religion for him, but it seems worth saying RIP all the same); the relative was an older sister, a war in Afghanistan, more decorous and discreet--more legal, to put it bluntly--and more than a little resentful, it was said, at the younger one's careless, flashy, attention-grabbing ways.

Peace, peace, my God... suffering... a fatal crime... the curse! the curse!

As for religion, it was no doubt represented by one of those newfangled Air Force chaplains who seem to be half authoritarian Catholic (Pius IX) and half pietist Protestant (Tim Tebow), and who somewhere along the line got Muslims mixed up with C.S. Lewis's fictional Calormenes and their four-armed, vulture-headed idol god Tash. (What I can't get over about Hitchens is the thought of his associating with such ignorant, smarmy people, representatives of everything he despised, not to mention his diametric opposite as an Englishman, that slimy, grinning, arriviste Tartuffe Tony Blair.)

If victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is always an orphan, then the Iraq war was the bastard of some tawdry orgy of people too creepy to bear having the lights on--the only aspect of its parentage you could be sure of was that whatever they said it was was a lie. However it was certainly violent--far more than even its most implacable opponents imagined. I know I didn't: I didn't expect it to do anything but harm, but I thought it would be limited--wreck the place, install whichever new dictator (the Pentagon guy or the CIA guy?), sign the new oil contracts, and get out. Instead it's been more than 4000 US dead, somewhere between a hundred thousand and a million Iraqi dead, and you really can't tell any closer than that, which tells you how much chaos there is, similarly uncountable displaced refugees, around $1.9 trillion in US taxpayer dollars, including the $12 billion in hundred-dollar bills that just vanished after it was flown in in 2004, and who knows what destruction of our own civil rights and government institutions?

A couple of years ago its health began to decline; it was suffering from a shortage of money and attention, and finally took to its room, from which it seldom emerged until its last illness, when doctors could not agree on what heroic measures to apply to keep it alive. Perhaps they realized that even heroic measures could not really be heroic in this context. Memorial services are scheduled for--well, so far nobody feels sorry.

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