My apologies to everyone who reads these pages, for my long absence. I just moved to a new place (albeit temporary housing for now) and started a new job at a university. The whole start has been so harrowing and busy that I had no time for even my own thoughts, let alone writing here in the blog. I would probably have ended up writing about all my complaints about the absolutely antediluvian (and feudal) Japanese university system. Since I want to keep this blog as sane and contemplative as possible from now on, I decided to wait until my heart had settled down into the new lifestyle before I wrote about what’s happening. I want to start a new section called “Compass Walks”, in which I start out in a new landscape and try to learn about its natural personality, but since I haven’t had a moment to myself yet and haven’t even taken one walk yet beyond an evening run one time, I still don’t feel I can write an honest assessment of the new place I have arrived in since I haven’t had a chance to really concentrate on using my senses there yet. So allow me, for now, this bit of a commentary below, however distasteful it might be to some.
Today, after a more-or-less media-slanted series of so-called “fair trials”, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. I am no fan of the death penalty, believing it to be little more than an emotional reaction of revenge that has no place in a justice system, in which people’s personal feelings toward an accused person should have no bearing on the outcome of a verdict, and so personally the verdict seems meaningless, in that nothing was learned, nothing bettered, nothing gained for society, Iraqi or the world. I have no affection for Hussein either, however, and so feel ambiguous about the retribution that Iraqis rightfully claim for his punishment. He has done some awful things to which he should be held accountable. His passing will leave no hole in the landscape of human morality.
But from what dubious beginnings Hussein’s downfall precipitated. Like Robert Fisk I feel that all the justifications that the United States and Britain used to attack Iraq neither make right having attacked a sovereign, non-threatening country in the first place nor excuse the disgraceful way in which Hussein was dragged through media and used as Bush’s scapegoat. By America’s own too-oft-touted standard of “innocent before proven guilty”, Hussein should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt in his own trial and, considering that he was supposedly tried for crimes against his own people and not against a single American citizen and therefore only the Iraqi judicial system should have been involved, the American government should have had absolutely no say in what went on in the trial. That so often during the trial the Americans were consulted and their ultimatums heeded made the entire affair a grand farce, a public hanging in the town square of American media discrimination.
If the standards used for condemning Hussein are to be considered just and inevitable, then America and Britain and any other country which falsely accused and then went ahead and attacked Iraq against the wishes of the majority of nations in the world, then it stands to reason that Bush and Blair and all other ministers involved should also be standing trial for “crimes against humanity”. Nearly every accusation used against Hussein to bring him to trial apply directly to Bush and Blair, most especially Bush with his Hitler-like railing against the United Nations during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Not to mention the scale at which Bush committed his crimes.
And yet, Bush is getting off scott free, no one able to lay a finger on him, the American media protecting his image as if it were above reproach. The Iraq War is now openly and almost universally recognized as having been wrong, hundreds of thousands of people have “needlessly” died, and now the Americans are talking about pulling out, leaving Iraq in a truly dismal state, much worse than anything under Hussein. Why is it that there are no universal calls for Bush’s answering to his crimes against humanity? Why is it that my writing something like this conjures up fear as I write it, echoing the same repression that Hussein used against any of his detractors? Can anyone explain to me exactly how Bush is any different from Hussein? Or how Blair is any different from Wormtongue?
These last few years have turned me into a reluctant cynic. I trust very few people now, even some people whom I formerly called friends. The tragedy of New York, but much more so the crimes of the Afghan and Iraq Wars have given me glimpses into the human heart that I never really believed before. In some of the ensuing arguments about going to war, arguments with people, every one of them American, whom I would before have counted to always be there no matter what, people with whom I made precious memories during my years in the States, suddenly the divisions in belief left rents that, even after three years have never healed. I saw the ugliness in people, of what war claims of people’s hearts and minds, of the aftermath of rhetoric and media propaganda, how people can become so committed to their idea of the truth that they become blinded to the bonds of friendship and love that once had crossed borders unheeded (and I’m including myself here). I am bitter with having lost friends, people who had meant more to me than the justifications for war would ever match. The lies and deception that brought on the shaky world view we live with now, though they seem distant and unrelated to our personal lives, have in fact affected each of us very deeply, in ways from which we may never be able to extricate ourselves within our lifetimes.
If for nothing else, I condemn Bush for having taken from me the trust and loyalty of friends, for having sown the seeds of doubt and fear. I condemn him for having brought to the world a sense that there is more evil in the human heart than goodness and beauty, for having made the word “terrorist” a part of our daily vocabulary. I condemn him for having forced so many of my very close Arab and Moslem friends to live by looking over their shoulders. And for, though all my life before I have never carried any kind of hate within me, towards anyone, for the blinding, wordless fury that erupts through me every time Bush’s face appears on the television or in a magazine, a face now so repugnant and so associated with war, hypocrisy, intolerance, irresponsibility, and destruction that I have to turn off the TV the moment the visage appears before I lose my cool.
Hussein has been condemned to death, but nothing at all has changed, except a greater sense of world weariness and sadness.