Iraqi Puppet Show
by Joh Domingo
It is not often that one lives to behold a marvel, or at least to see it live on television, usually it is with hindsight that these marvels are recognized. At the time, the Mahatma’s Satyagraha revolution was deemed by many to be the source rather than the cure for the violence accompanying India’s independence, an opinion that saw him overlooked when nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948. It took many years of reconstructing the Mahatma’s image before it was considered incredible that he had been rejected a record five times. Nowadays, it seems almost automatic that if you have any kind of international profile, odds are that you would be nominated, chances are you would even win.
It seemed to take little effort at all; all one had to do was perform the work you are paid handsomely to do, and pretend to cure some intractable political situation you probably caused in the first place. Kissinger decided to stop interfering in Vietnam, pretend he was magnanimously offering an honorable peace, and presto, he was awarded a Peace Prize. It seems a prerequisite is that you wage war, then stop. No peacenik has a hope. With this logic, it increases the odds, if you wage continuous war, preferably against nobody in particular. That way, if you defeat nobody in particular, you can be said to bring
I cannot speak of the intentions of George Bush, but if it is a Nobel legacy he is pursuing, he is by far the frontrunner, oddswise. To date he has brought ‘peace’ to both Afghanistan and Iraq. We should also mention that he brought war to both countries, but you can’t have peace without first having a war. Naturally peace can have many forms, but nobody is given the Nobel Prize for maintaining the peace. So George Bush will probably (if my assumption about his intentions is correct) not be bothered about maintaining the peace. If he was, the occupation force would long ago have been re-badged as a ‘Peacekeeping’ Mission. Peacekeeping missions are for losers (of the Nobel Prize). Consider the number of Peacekeeping Missions Clinton was involved with, and the number of times he was nominated for the Prize, and
So clearly it is not the intention for the occupation forces to maintain the peace, what they are after is perpetual war, to increase the odds. In perpetual search for an event, preferably historic in character, which can be described as being an eradication of some or other significant evil. The existence of a theocracy, for instance, or an evil despot will do nicely. These kinds of events are rare. It is rare that a single image is found to symbolize a major ‘Peace’ event at the spur of the moment – more often they are staged. We could demolish the ‘Iron Curtain’ with a sledgehammer, as improbable as that sounds, but how does one find a symbol that represents the war against Iraq? The destruction of the Berlin wall was good for two Nobel Peace Prizes. What event in Iraq can match the symbolism it implied?
By now we have witnessed numerous attempts at symbolism, all of them lacking the lasting qualities such icons require. We were first subjected to a contrived toppling of a statue of Saddam, which even at its defining moment lacked real impact, since the great Dictator was nowhere to be found at the time. When he was, he spoiled the occasion by failing to dress up for it. He was presented to the world as a tramp, A nothing; was this what it was all about – Nothing? Long before, George Bush had already dressed up for a similarly contrived performance aboard a Navy warship, playing at being Commander in Chief. Perhaps if they had reversed roles it might have had some impact, at least Saddam had been Commander in Chief in a real war, while George is at heart a nothing.
Getting desperate, he began improvising, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a straight face, even on those rare occasions he faced softball questions from sympathetic interviewers. The natives were getting restless in Iraq, and wanted to know what he intended for them, now that he had brought them into play by invading their country, killing their women and children, and raping their men.
He decided to put on a puppet show, but he was not quite ready. He had not quite grasped the intricacies of manipulating puppets, often confused as to just who the puppets were, he was left wondering if they were not in fact pulling his strings. He decided to install a grand puppeteer in his stead. It is the hallmark of a great leader that he can delegate tasks. Unfortunately it is the hallmark of a twit, that he can delegate impossible tasks to incompetent pro-consuls. Paul Bremer managed to get his chain yanked from left field by an aging Scholar who had spent a few score years in serious study of the Koran, the cumulative wisdom of 14 centuries of Islamic jurisprudence, Aristotle, Socrates and Applied Physics.
Assuming, like most English speaking people, that the theocrat needed an interpreter to understand his own thoughts, Bremer attempted to dismiss him as irrelevant. But the cagey gentleman had studied the practice of Democracy in great detail, and knew that the true art of puppetry was making the audience forget that there were strings attached to the dancing dolls. He decided on a display of mass puppetry, and hundreds of thousands of puppets poured into the streets demanding fundamentalist democracy. One puppet one vote was here to stay, and no bumbling puppeteer, struggling with a mere dozen or so puppets, was going to steal the show.
Realizing that he was outclassed, Bush decided to yield to the master, and sought to manage his show. This certainly had the makings of a lasting symbolic event. Employing delaying tactics, he contrived to employ his puppets into their show, hoping against all odds that they would not notice that he still hoped to pull some strings. Realizing that Bush was after a short-term symbolic event, the grandmaster decided to allow his puppets a role in Act One.
Now that Bush has achieved his PR moment, he seems oblivious that the theatre has been taken over. He has been left holding the strings, but the puppets are gone. A great game has been played out, marked as a puppeteer, Bush stands alone as a target, as the knowledge that one does not kill a puppet show, by killing the puppets takes hold. In only a few days, we will again discover that Bush’s symbolic moment was contrived, but that the grand masters stratagem is very real. Act Two is in progress, and there is no role for foreign puppeteers.
For too long, we have been bombarded with the propaganda of sectarian divisions in Iraq. As much as I sympathize with Iraqi Sunnis, who have been waging unrelenting resistance to occupation, a mental strategy is best, and the best strategy is coming from their Shiite brothers, who without a doubt recognize the heroic sacrifice of Sunni partisans. Let this election be a watershed, but in a manner than Bush would not have imagined in his worst nightmares. Perhaps this time, he truly deserves a peace prize, but he won’t get it.