Tuesday 21 September 2004

Hare-raising argument

The absurdity of it. The absurdity and the irrelevance. The idea of discussing even...a historical event, an invasion already more than a year old. A country groaning under a dictator, its people oppressed, liberated at last from a twenty-five year tyranny - and freed. Free on the streets, and free one day to vote.

How obscene it is, how decadent, to give your attention not to the now, not to the liberation, not to the people freed, but to the relentless archaic discussion of the manner of the liberation. Was it lawful? Was it not? How was it done? What were the details of its doing? Whose views were overridden? Whose views condoned?

Do I like the people who did it? Are they my kind of people? Hey - are they stupider than me?

How spoiled, how indulged we are to discuss the manner - oh yes, we discuss the manner, late into the night, candles guttering, our faces sweating, reddening with wine and hatred - but the act itself - the thing done - the splendid thing done - freedom given to people who were not free - this thing is ignored, preferring as we do to fight among ourselves - our own disputes, our own resentment of each other elevated way above the needs of the victims. "I trust Blair/I don't." "I like Bush/I don't." "Bush is stupid/Bush is clever." This obsession with ourselves! How Western we are. From what height of luxury and excess we look down to condemn the exact style in which even a little was given to those who had nothing.

Saddam Hussein attacked every one of his neighbours except Jordan. Imagine, if you will, if you are able, a dictator in Europe, murdering his own people, attacking his neighbours, killing half a million people for no other offence but proximity. Do you really then imagine, hand on heart, that the finer feelings of the international community, the exact procedures of the United Nations would need to be tested, would the finer points of sovereignty detain us, before we rose, as a single force, to overthrow the offender? Would we ask, faced with the bodies, faced with the gas, faced with the ditches and the murders, would we really stop to say, "Can we do this?" What is the world, then, for those of us in the West who apply one standard to ourselves, and another to others? What is the word for those who claim to love democracy and yet who will not fight to extend democracy to the Arabs as well?

A people hitherto suffering now suffer less. This is the story. No other story obtains.

(From David Hare's Stuff Happens, currently playing at the National Theatre, London.)

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