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Radical Relativism and the War in Iraq

Elizabeth Nickson

National Post


'Join the other superpower," said the bumper sticker on the back of the clapped out Chevy van on the ferry, "world opinion."

How I wish I could. Just walk right into that ocean of warmly felt righteousness until the waves were over my head, then breathe. But that would mean I had an IQ of twelve. That would mean I conflated Bush and Saddam. That I was somehow convinced that Saddam, causing the death of an estimated 300,000 children, not to mention the brutal torture or murder of unnumbered Iraqi adults over the past 10 years, is somehow equal to this transparent, painstaking invasion that counts and publishes every wound and loss on both sides. And that the hatred and ill will towards the West in the Middle East propagated by their intelligentsia, religious figures, media and leadership is less depraved than, say, the corporate malfeasance that has been so thoroughly investigated, criticized and punished for the past 10 months in the West. That this viciously expensive war has been undertaken by the Americans and British so that Dick Cheney and Haliburton can rebuild the Iraqi oil fields and profit. And that a Jewish cabal in New York is pulling Bush's strings.

We are finally reaping the rewards of postmodernism. Thirty years of radical relativism propagated by my addled and destructive generation in the universities, seemingly unchallenged by parents or university regents adds up to this: People believe that there is no objective truth. Truth has become something to be invented, rather than pursued. Reasoned argument is a tool of white males so has no value. If you feel it, only then can it be true. War feels bad, therefore in every case is bad, and any argument against it will do. Make it up. Exaggerate. Blow conspiracy theories hard. It doesn't matter. People unashamedly complain in the same breath about the Americans not invading Iraq in 1991 to rescue the Kurds, and invading Iraq today. They complain about the Americans not insisting that Kuwaiti women receive the vote after the first Gulf War and that Americans are now planning to seed the principles of democracy in Iraq. If one points out that since 1979, Iraqi median annual income has dropped from a respectable $12,000 a year to less than $3,000, that when Saddam took Iraq in 1979, it had a surplus of $50-billion, and now has a debt of $100-billion solely based on his arms build-up, they waffle and fade, still convinced they are right. This tyrant is on the side of right, the Bush team always wrong. Why? Don't know. Just feel it.

We are living within Vaclav Havel's lie. All the things that we think are true, say the people we pay to teach our treasured youth, are merely the constructs of dominant groups, the creations of the powerful. Last weekend, at an anti-war teach-in, Columbia anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova told 3,000 students and faculty, "Peace is subversive, because peace anticipates a very different world than the one in which we live -- a world where the U.S. would have no place." De Genova continued: "the only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S.military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus. If we really [believe] that this war is criminal ... then we have to believe in the victory of the Iraqi people and the defeat of the U.S. war machine." Was De Genova reprimanded? Guess. What would have happened to him had he said the same thing that same weekend in Baghdad? He would have been skinned, dropped in boiling oil, fed through a meat grinder, then plopped down on his family's front lawn with a bill for the grinding attached to the twist tie on the garbage bag.

So what is the difference between Nicholas De Genova, or say, Michael Moore or Martin Sheen's hate-filled, militant, purpose-filled, bourgeois-baiting language and that of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein? It's merely a matter of degree, since its purpose is fundamentally undemocratic.

Martin Sheen has been arrested 70 times for protesting various things. One might well ask about his associations. Until now, the largest organization behind the "peace" movement has been International ANSWER, which has been revealed as front for a Marxist-Leninist party with ties to the Communist regime in North Korea. According to a comprehensive, sympathetic report in The New York Times, factions on the left became disturbed that the overtly radical slogans of the International ANSWER protests were "counter-productive." Last fall, they met in the offices of People For The American Way to create a new umbrella organization called United for Peace and Justice that would present a more palatable face to the American public. The associated Not in Our Name campaign onto which actors and writers piled in huge numbers last month, pays for, almost exclusively the appeals of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, and is organized by a member of the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party. This outfit is closely associated with another which supports the brutal confiscatory dictatorship that is Fidel Castro's.

I followed that Chevy van onto the Vancouver ferry to listen to Mike Harris articulate a new common-sense foreign policy for Canada. It was like having oil poured on an over-heated forehead. Harris described a simple, clear, humane, based-in-history set of ideas that would point us towards a better, saner world. Don't get too excited. Adopting it would mean we still knew how to think.


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