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Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland Satisfying Times for Defenders of Freedom
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The corpse of Colonel Moammar Qaddafi, beaten up, shot at and looking much the worse for wear, is now splayed out on the floor of a refrigerated meat locker, an object of scorn and ridicule by the very people he claimed loved him, ...

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Published on October 22, 2011 13:19 • 184 views
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message 1: by Karl (new)

Karl Naylor Michnik writes 'Qaddafi appeared indestructible. He blackmailed and humiliated the entire world. He terrorized Libyans with the heavy hand of a despot, while reaching an understanding -after years of conflict - with the world of Western democracy. There were even times he managed to have European governments come to him on bended knee'

The reason for that, especially with Tony Blair's attempt to bring Gaddafo back into the international fold, was the need for oil.The varying degrees of co-operation with Gaddafi depended on his willingness to open up his oilfields to Western oil interests.

This was omething omitted entirely by Michnik when he produced a lamentably banal logic chopping apologetic puff piece for Der Spiegel entitled "We the Traitors" defending his decision to support the Iraq War in 2003.

In fact, before the unexpected Arab Spring rolled across North Africa, it was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that brought Gaddafi onside with Blair, the British PM who sided with George Bush II in a catastrophic war that has most likely killed up to 600,000 Iraqis.

Again in supporting the "humanitarian intervention" of Britain and France in siding with the rebels In Libya once Gaddafi became de facto no longer the force to be bargained with, Michnik ignores the cynical realpolitik behind these wars and the chaos they have left in their wake.

In fact as late as 2009, he was still in the WSJ, defending a catastrophic foreign policy decision as if it was still some "moral choice" as opposed to a botched attempt to instigate "regime change" across the Middle East through some presumed "domino effect", not to mention an attempt as seizing Iraqi oil.

The WSJ reported Michnik opining "I don't regret it," he says, though he criticizes the execution of the war. "When there is a conflict between the United States and a wicked, barbaric, murderous totalitarian, then my duty as someone who has always called on the U.S. to act in defense of human rights is to side with the U.S."

Well, from the comfort of Poland "he" might not regret the decision to invade. Yet he might want to enquire into what the average Iraqi thinks of the US occupation and invasion he so fervently supported.If he really is interested in what those liberated actually think.

The irony is that Michnik seems to have exhibited the similar unconditional loyalty to one superpower that many Communist functionaries once demonstrated towards Moscow. (This from someone who is supposed to be a literary critic and understood the moral message of Czeslaw Milosz's The Captive Mind )

The difference under communism is that many did so not simply through blind ideological faith ( though that was clear back then )but through a mixture of fear and careerism in a totalitarian context.

Now Michnik in 2003, in supporting the George Bush's invasion in 2003, did so through a same blind faith in the USA , this time wiUtopian faith in another Superpower that could redeem the world.

Yet he did so in a free and democratic Poland where scrutiny of the aims of the US administration and truth of the various claims made by Bush about Weapons of Mass Destruction could have easily been conducted more thoroughly.

Moreover, shrill moralism is no substitute for the kind of critical enquiry such an intellectual as Michnik should have demonstrated as regards Iraq.

For what else is meant by "speaking truth to power" ? Believing in the ultimate victory of the big battalions of History over Evil existential enemies, Michnik seems not to have himself overcome the ideas bred by messianic Cold War mentalities.

Evidently, Saddam was evil but the idea that the chaos was caused only due to the manner in which the war was conducted is irresponsible.It's the same excuse made by Revolutionary Communists when radical changes through force begot violence.

When the museums were looted in Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld glibly commented "stuff happens". Again, this is not about the "execution" of the war, it was about there being no other plan but to secure the oil wells and let the rest of Iraq fall to chaos.

When advocating such a war as Iraq, even if it's dubious legality in international law at that time is overLooked as it was by Michnik, the burden of proof is on the advocate to prove beyond doubt what those war aims are. Not make banal observations about evil dictators as if those against the Iraq War were unaware of his crimes ( many of which were aided and abetteD by the USA in the 1980s )

The conduct of the Iraq war was not a "mistake". It was part of an neoconservative ideology that intentionally aimed at ridding Iraq of a tyrant. Then merely hoping with fervent Utopian expectations that the nation would heal itself via getting the oil pumping again and installing an pro-US government that would carve up the oil fields for the benefit of the USA and willing coalition partners. Something rationalised as "enlightened self interest".

If Michnik had a "duty" it was to reflect on the causes and consequences of that war, the use of CIA interrogation camps ( the black sites ) that have been proved to exist in Poland. There has been silence from Michnik on the use of torture by the CIA, nothing on atrocities in Iraq such as the napalm bombing of Fallujah.

The use of totalitarian style Orwellian language such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" has not featured in anything Michnik has written on Iraq.

Curiously, Michnik opines elsewhere "Nationalism is always—always—a danger to democracy" , That does not seem to apply to the sort of unilateralist American nationalism pushed by the Bush administration.Clearly, it's an exceptional power. Just as Soviet power once was.

The strange thing about Michnik is that he himself grasps the fact of Poland's uncritical subservience to US foreign policy is just some sort of "cultural" fact But is it ? .Numerous opinion polls of ordinary Polish people have shown opposition to Polish troops being in Afghanistan or Iraq put there by politicians hallucinating about being part of being on the side of the global hyperpower which will deliver the world from Evil.

'In my country we had an unhealthy attitude toward cooperation with the United States. Polish people are probably the most pro-American in all of Europe. We have a myth of America, that America loves Poland and will do everything on Poland's behalf. We believe that we can be equal partner to America on the same level to Israel is the Middle East. Of course it's nonsense. Because of this we have enormous stress. We are everywhere where the American army fights -- Afghanistan, Iraq -- and thankful America doesn't even remove the visas for Polish people to come to America!''

This unreflective and blithe use of the second person plural "we" is instructive Who is "we" ? Michnik ought to be trying to grasp the underlying rationale behind those foreign policy misadventures as Iraq an Afghanistan. Nothing about resource struggles. Just waffle about backing the USA to ease visa requirements.

As for the comment about the 'unhealthy attitude of co-operation towards America', it seems about time in foreign policy he ought to heed his own advice. Then again he seems to think the Drone Bombing Commander in Chief who is President Obama is some sort of refreshing liberal change from Bush. In foreign policy, the continuities are actually quire apparent.

Michnik has nothing much of value to say on world affairs these days and should stick to writing about what he knows best as regards Central European politics. as soon as he goes beyond commentary on that he is slightly out of his depth.

Yet the failure to condemn US practices of torture are a betrayal of the ideals he once purportedly stood for.


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