"We go to war to teach Americans geography."
-- paraphrased from someone or other --
I grew up during the last dregs of the Cold War. Unlike most of my classmates, I watched the news (cos news time is sacrosanct to my Dad) and read the newspaper (I ran out of fun things to read), so I had an idea on how the West and Eastern bloc have a hard-on for each other. Hollywood's depiction of bumbling Communist spies also fed this idea. It was only while I was watching a Bruce Willis movie featuring the cold-eyed Eastern European baddie that it made me wonder: how do the filmmakers in the Communist Bloc feature Western spies?
I was 12 when the Berlin Wall came down. It was a severe buzzkill when you go to school telling people about this awesome event and most of them don't even know what is the Communist Bloc.
For a while the world was giddy with the thought of real world peace. It shouldn't be an impossibility, right? Now that everyone are friends and democratic-like. But we forget greed and human ambition has a way of changing the best laid plans. Yugoslavia imploded thanks to historical resentments and ethnic disputes. The states in the former Soviet Union began demanding autonomy and re-drawing of the borders; now we hear of exotic locales like Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan and the knowledge that there is another Georgia outside of the US of A. Warring factions in Africa never really stopped killing one another and the unfortunate civilians who occupy their disputed lands. The Dark Continent feeds our need for the minerals that adorn ourselves and run our electronics; turmoil ensures that the supply flow never ceased at a price that we can('t) afford.
In other words, business as usual.
September 11, 2001 changed the game plan yet again. The West have a new boogeyman and it is the Muslims who are out to destroy them cos the Muslims "hate their freedom" (paraphrasing George W here). Which ever theory subscribe, even those who say that the attack was a conspiracy by the Americans themselves to expand their strategic influence, there is no denying that the world is no longer the same as when the WTC was upright in Manhattan.
Iraq and Afghanistan was invaded in the name of rooting out the nasty Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations that are out to get the West. Hundreds and thousands of civilians are dead, maimed and displaced in the name of American freedom. As bad as things were under Saddam Hussein's regime, I wonder if the Iraqis would trade him for life under the Americans. It is nice that the American troops are withdrawing, but after near everything that made life bearable (like water treatment system, sewage management and electric plants) was reduced to a rubble by uranium-depleted shells, with nothing but a shaky government that has yet to show real ability to unite the people and move the country towards positive development and progress, I wonder if it is any different than the US abandonment of South Vietnam.
And now there is all this talk about attacking Iran because the nasty Mullahs are building nuclear weapons and not just developing alternative energy sources. First, the sanctions and trade embargo by the US and some of the other Western countries. In retaliation, Iran is refusing to supply oil to British and French firms. Reports are coming in about how dangerous it is to be an Iranian nuclear scientists. Apparently, if the car bombs don't get you, dudes with guns/killer cars will.
I was privileged to have had an opportunity to visit Iran back in the 90's. My impression was of a country frozen in the 70's, manic drivers, and air perfumed with thousands of years of history. It was there that I see what military presence in the capital looks like (men with AK-47s at street corners and in front of strategic buildings). These were left over from the war with Iraq. Nearly every Persian men have gone through national service and know how to bear arms. The Persians are almost one and all friendly and proud of their historical and cultural heritage. They can tell you which king was ruling Persia in 789 AD. They are not Arabs and do not speak Arabic. They have excellent desserts. Pistachio is cheap there.
The government is repressive, women can't wear bright colours and the people worry about who is eavesdropping on them. But they don't hate the West, or the Sunnis (unlike Sunnis who think that Shiites are no better than heathens) nor do they want world domination. The Iranians want to join the rest of the world and be able to progress just like everyone else. They won't abandon religion altogether in the pursuit of moderation and liberation.
I think that an attack on Iran would be a terrible mistake. It would definitely be a costly and protracted one, and the only winner will be those with oil and gas interest who will take this opportunity to rape the country.
This song encapsulates the feeling of the ordinary citizens at the height of the Cold War. I think the sentiments are still the same right now for all of us the world over. Let us hope that the rattling of the sabres remain just that and that no weapons get unsheathed (except for your friendly neighbourhood flashers).
Freddie, I am sure this song brings memories of your youth, no?