Empathy for the enemy - Iraqis follow American example


Recent history tells us that most Western governments are tenacious where their strategic interests are concerned and some are prepared to use massive disproportional force to achieve their objectives.

In the film 'The Fog of War', ex- US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara suggests that one way a President can avoid ecscalating the body count is to "empathise with the enemy". This empathy, he argues, enabled Kennedy to see that he needed to help his enemies to save face at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

Diplomacy allowed for a win win result and averted a nuclear holocaust.

At the same time McNamara is oddly amazed at how tenacious a threatened nation can be in defending its own independence. He seems shocked that Castro had been prepared to sacrifice Cuba and all its inhabitants in defence of Cuba's independence (Castro had, it turns out, requested that the Soviet Union strike first if Cuba was invaded by the US - a sure route to nuclear annihilation).
Likewise, McNamara appears amazed that, according to an ex- Vietnamese foreign minister, the Vietnam war for the Vietnamese wasn't about communism, but about the perceived US threat to Vietnam's independence. In both cases the US leadership's failure to grasp the enemy's central motivations had very serious consequences.

Looking to Iraq, with over a decade of punitive sanctions, a repressive ruler, a history of British interference and the suppression of the majority Shia population, is it not likely that independence will also be high on every Iraqi's wish list? That said, is it not also clear that many of the coalition's decrees since their arrival (the decree, for example, that everything may henceforth be sold to foreign investors), are, in fact, designed to achieve the opposite - to increase Iraq's dependence?

Surely, one of the most depressing aspects of what now looks like 21st century colonisation in the Middle East, is the apparent general acceptance that the Iraqis themselves should pay with oil, sweat, blood and taxes for the deliberate destruction of their country. Iraqi oil looks to have been already mortgaged to pay for US contractors to undo the damage done by bombs and sanctions. Meanwhile, the refusal of the coalition to withdraw its troops and wide use of private security firms smacks of a mafia protection racket which busts up the joint then brings in protection "in case they come back".

Most ironic of all, in these times of empty rhetoric and broken promises, is that Iraq's growing burden from the occupation finds a parallel in the USA's own historic quest for independence. The British Government heavily taxed
American colonists to pay for the British army occupying North America in the 1760s. The American forefathers didn't like being occupied, didn't like paying for the British occupation and didn't like the British monopoly of trade to and from their territory facilitated by the occupation. Their resentment boiled over into armed resistance. Though lightly armed, they resorted to guerilla tactics to expel the occupying force. They wanted genuine, full and lasting independence.

The American militias spent seven years persuading the British army to leave. Let's hope sincerely that the Iraqi militia are not required to exercise equal persistence to achieve achieve the same result.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Glass, Elsworth, Cambridge.