baghdad year zero

I haven’t written about the war in Iraq, or the radical conservative politics and coming elections either in America or Australia, because firstly other people can devote much more time and considered opinion to it, like Peking Duck, and secondly while I am without a doubt an intellectual who is profoundly disturbed by the current state of the world and the nations who have brought us to this point, I am also an artist, and that is where my attention generally falls when it comes to writing here.

Which doesn’t mean I pretend everything is fine, or avoid trying to stay current with the whole mess. Today however, I read this piece by Naomi Klein, first printed in Harpers Magazine this month, which unlike every other opinion or commentary on Iraq, Bush and big business to me manages to string it all together, in a violently dark tale full of the kind of fanatic political zealots straight out of James Ellroy’s The Cold 6000 or other psychotic stories of rotten American democracy. It’s a long article, and for me answers the stupid, inane question uttered by lazy fools intent on dissembling: why do they hate us?

The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible. Bremer’s reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded. These dangers are so great that in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now. For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.

Iraq was to the neocons what Afghanistan was to the Taliban: the one place on Earth where they could force everyone to live by the most literal, unyielding interpretation of their sacred texts. One would think that the bloody results of this experiment would inspire a crisis of faith: in the country where they had absolute free reign, where there was no local government to blame, where economic reforms were introduced at their most shocking and most perfect, they created, instead of a model free market, a failed state no right-thinking investor would touch. And yet the Green Zone neocons and their masters in Washington are no more likely to reexamine their core beliefs than the Taliban mullahs were inclined to search their souls when their Islamic state slid into a debauched Hades of opium and sex slavery. When facts threaten true believers, they simply close their eyes and pray harder.