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Pretending, ethno/worldcentric and Iraq

A somewhat reactive and onesided rant :)

(good to get it out and see it.)


Pretending something to be true


We all pretend that something is true, whether consciously or not.

We pretend to believe in thoughts, including the core one of "I" and then all the other ones as well that create a sense of a particular identity. And by interpreting and filtering the world through this belief, and by acting as if it was true, we make it look true for ourselves.

We believe in something because we want it to be true, even if it creates stress for us.

Pretending something to be true about what Kerry said

Bush is a good mirror for me here, since pretending something to be true is one of his main strategies for him to get his way, just like a little child. It seems unbelievable to outsiders, especially to Europeans. It seems amazingly silly, stupid and childish. Yet enough people in the US are willing to play the game and also pretend it to be true. (Which seems even more unbelievable and bizarre to many outsiders.)

Bush of course did it to get maximum mileage out of 911, and he did it again when he wanted to invade Iraq. Now, he is doing it with this innocent remark by Kerry:

You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't you get stuck in Iraq.

So it seems clear that he is saying that if you don't do your homework, you'll get into situations like Iraq, just as Bush did.

Yet, Bush and company take this and pretend that he is talking about the troops in Iraq...! It is clearly an absurd distortion as Kerry is a war veteran himself, and is smart enough to not disparage the troops. And again, some people pretend the same as Bush, and portions of the US media - in their typical fashion, take the distortion and present it as fact. The real story here is the distortion.

Ethnocentric and worldcentric

One very general way of looking at the differences between the US and Europe is through the ethnocentric and worldcentric lens.

Bush is coming from a more ethnocentric view of the world, as is many of his followers, while a majority in Western Europe are at various levels of worldcentric views.

Bush's version of ethnocentric includes absolutism and black-and-white views (you are with us or against us, we are right you are wrong, we are doing it our way not yours.) Strong we-other boundaries, including in the moral/ethical area (human rights for us - not for them, protection for us - not for them, safety for us - not for them.) Strong right-wrong boundaries (something is absolutely right or absolutely wrong, there is little or no room for nuances.) Reactiveness (we act on emotions, less on reason.) Use of fear to motivate oneself and others. A more narrow horizon in general, including short-term and local perspectives (not looking at history, culture, long-term consequences.) Simplistic views (if we kill the terrorists, they will be gone (!))

At worldcentric, we find an ability to hold more and more diverse views and types of information, and arrive at more nuanced views and strategies. Instead of us and them, our circle of awareness and concern widens and include "all of us". Nothing is inherently right or wrong, it depends on the context, and there is a grain of truth in any perspective. Acting more from reason than blind emotions. Fear is recognized as not a good place to make decisions from. A wider and more inclusive horizon, embracing history, culture, longer-term and international perspectives. More complex views, including an understanding that if we act with brutality and without regard for the lives and rights of innocent people, it will come back to haunt us. Disregarding human rights and international agreements, acting unilaterally, killing off large number of civilians, and so on, only fuels resentment against us and is the most effective recruiting tool for terrorists.

With Iraq, it seems that a majority of those supporting a war - including Bush, came from a more ethnocentric view - both cognitively and morally. And especially in today's world, it is not a good idea to make international (or national) policy decisions from ethnocentric views. It comes back to haunt us.

Those opposing the war typically came from a more worldcentric view, and an ability to look at the larger picture and make decisions form a more reasoned place.

Iraq

One of the things that astonished me in the leadup to the Iraq war was the blatant lies from the Bush administration (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell), and how the US media supported it with little or no questions asked.

The contrast between the US and the international media was dramatic.

Much of the international media emphasized the following:

The situation was stable and well contained by the UN. There was no indications of any links with terrorism, and Hussein did not want anything to do with religious fanatics. Given the history of Iraq, it is impossible to imagine that the Iraqi population would welcome a British/US led invasion and occupation. Given the history and ethnic composition of Iraq, civil war was a very likely outcome of an invasion and occupation. And it would likely be a long lasting and very expensive operation.

All of this was repeated over and over in the international media before the invasion.

Yet Bush insisted on pretending something else was true, and - amazingly - the US media tended to support him, and many in the US (ill informed as they often are) believed him.

(Of course, we see a similar pattern with climate change and other serious issues.)

Here is a blog entry from March 20, 2003, the first day of the Iraqi war.

...............................................

The most dangerous man in the world

Day One of the new Iraq war. More than 80% of the people of the world oppose the war against Iraq, including a majority of the nations on the UN security council. This again shows how the US verbally promote democracy within nations (although even that is questionable) while acting in a blatantly un-democratic way on an international level. Some thoughts:

  • Threat
    Iraq posed no immediate threat towards the US or any other nation, according to their neighboring countries, the UN weapons inspectors and the CIA. There was no reason to not allow the UN weapons inspectors to continue their inspections for a few more months, as they asked for. With more than 200 weapons inspectors in Iraq, and a close scrutiny by the world community, the situation was well contained.

  • Misinformation
    The US government has systematically misled the public and lied about the Iraq situation. They have insinuated that there is a link between the Iraqi government and past, current or future terrorism, and there is none (again according to CIA and other intelligence sources). There is also no indication that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, according to among others the UN weapons inspectors. Hans Blix has expressed it clearly, and the Norwegian weapons inspector Jørn Siljeholm, said that the US systematically lied on this topic. ("Asked if the Americans lied, Siljeholm said: "Lie is a strong word - but yes, the information Powell presented about Iraq's nuclear program was simply incorrect," Siljeholm said.")

  • International Law
    There are strong indications that the war against Iraq is violating international law [2]. Blair, Aznar, and other leaders actively supporting the war may well be tried before the International Criminal Court. The US opposed the creation of this court, saying that it could be used against them for political reasons. The reality may be that it could be used against them for systematically violating international law.

  • Cost
    The war on Iraq, and subsequent "nation building", is estimated to cost each US citizen $1700 ($500 billion divided on 290 million citizens - source). It will also cost lives and suffering on a massive scale.

  • Terrorism
    War and violence can never quell terrorism. War has a specific geographical focus, while terrorism thrive in loosely organized international networks. War, invasion, and occupation can only fuel resentment, anger and despair leading to further terrorism. It is profoundly irrational to assume that war will prevent terrorism. The situation in the Middle East is especially volatile, and further violence may lead it to spiral out of control.

  • Invasion
    It is likely that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will run into a number of problems. The main one may be a persistent guerrilla warfare. The history of the Iraqi people gives them strong reasons for resenting and opposing an invasion and occupation by the US and the UK. Some examples: (a) Great Britain invaded Iraq during WW1 and occupied the country for several years. (b) The US supported and created Saddam Hussein and supported and encouraged the Iraq-Iran war where large numbers of Iraqis were killed. (c) The US was responsible for a large number of civilian causalities during the first Gulf War. (d) During the first Gulf War, they destroyed the infrastructure (including water treatment plants) which led to massive suffering among the civilian population. (e) George Bush the First encouraging a failed upraising against Saddam Hussein, which led to thousands of Iraqis killed by Saddam Hussein's government. The US did nothing to help them. (f) The sanctions has lead to massive suffering among the Iraqi population, while Saddam Hussein and his government have not been harmed. (g) The current invasion and war is again bringing massive suffering to the civilian population. (h) They plan to dictate and control the creation of the new Iraqi government. To believe that the Iraqi population will welcome them with open arms is remarkably naive, and publicly expressing that assumption must be a willful deception or coming from a surprising lack of insight in human nature in general and the Iraqi history in particular. The Iraqis, no matter their view of Saddam Hussein, will most likely defend their country with any means available against what they see as an illegitimate invasion and occupation.

  • Occupation and new government
    Any attempt to install a US controlled government in Iraq is likely to run into massive problems, for some of the same reasons as mentioned above. The invasion, occupation and "nation building" process is likely to be long, tortuous, and expensive (in terms of dollars, lives, suffering, and loss of goodwill).

  • Democracy in the Middle East
    It is ironic that the US (a) wants to control the Middle East, and (b) express a desire to see democratic governments in the Middle East. They must realize that truly democratic governments, responsive to the views of their citizens, would strongly oppose US interference.
I watched Good Evening, Mr Wallenberg last night, and was struck by some of the parallels with our current situation. During WW2, the Nazis saw Jews (and others) as not quite human, and disposable for the purpose of reaching a higher goal. Today, the US government is saying that a certain number of Iraqi civilian causalities is acceptable for the purpose of reaching a higher goal. ("An estimated 3,500 civilians were killed during the 1991 Gulf War. Crowder said the U.S. military weighs what level of civilian casualties would be "acceptable" depending upon the importance of a given target." source)


...............................................

I see that most of what I wrote then, unfortunately, turned out to be quite accurate. I knew of course that Bush and Blair would most likely never be made accountable for their crimes, so that was mostly wishful thinking on my part. I also see that the predictions of the monetary cost of the war was clearly a little low. Today, the estimate is closer to one trillion (!), and may well exceed that number as well.

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