Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Does The Left Want To Lose in Iraq?

Christopher Hitchens wonders whether the left is more interested in political aims than in the ideals that they profess:
Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration? The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of "missing" Iraqis, to support Iraqi women's battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?

The New York Times ran a fascinating report (subscription only), under the byline of James Glanz, on July 8. It was a profile of Dr. Alaa Tamimi, the mayor of Baghdad, whose position it would be a gross understatement to describe as "embattled." Dr. Tamimi is a civil engineer and convinced secularist who gave up a prosperous exile in Canada to come home and help rebuild his country. He is one among millions who could emerge if it were not for the endless, pitiless torture to which the city is subjected by violent religious fascists. He is quoted as being full of ideas, of a somewhat Giuliani-like character, about zoning enforcement, garbage recycling, and zero tolerance for broken windows. If this doesn't seem quixotic enough in today's gruesome circumstances, he also has to confront religious parties on the city council and an inept central government that won't give him a serious budget.

Question: Why have several large American cities not already announced that they are going to become sister cities with Baghdad and help raise money and awareness to aid Dr. Tamimi? When I put this question to a number of serious anti-war friends, their answer was to the effect that it's the job of the administration to allocate the money, so that there's little room or need for civic action. I find this difficult to credit: For day after day last month I could not escape the news of the gigantic "Live 8" enterprise, which urged governments to do more along existing lines by way of debt relief and aid for Africa. Isn't there a single drop of solidarity and compassion left over for the people of Iraq, after three decades of tyranny, war, and sanctions and now an assault from the vilest movement on the face of the planet? Unless someone gives me a persuasive reason to think otherwise, my provisional conclusion is that the human rights and charitable "communities" have taken a pass on Iraq for political reasons that are not very creditable. And so we watch with detached curiosity, from dry land, to see whether the Iraqis will sink or swim. For shame.