Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Can I have my daily dose of Iraq, thanks? 

No, I'm not obsessed by Iraq. Honestly, I'm not. Why do you keep looking at me funny? Anyway, here are today's Iraq-related stories that caught my attention.

VH1 is screening "VH1 News Presents: Soundtrack To War", a documentary about the
music of the Iraq war. The soundtrack to World War Two - not that many of us can remember it - was part-sentimental crooning, part-big band swing sound. The soundtrack to Vietnam was rock'n'roll, probably of the harder variety for those on the ground than the soft and sentimental late '60s musical journey you can find today on the soundtracks to "Forrest Gump" or "China Beach" (any readers who served can correct me - more Hendrix than the Mamas and the Papas?). Other wars of the last sixty years have been rather deficient in soundtracks, mostly because they haven't lasted long enough to generate them (thank God). In Iraq, according to the VH1 documentary, it's heavy metal and rap. No surprises there; I can't imagine any two musical genres better suited to combat. Any reader suggestions for the Songs of War?

While I - and the media - are obsessed with Iraqi war, and the chances are that you who are reading my blog are also somewhat interested in the issue, it seems that
the good people of Great Britain aren't at all: "With a general election expected in just nine months, the war came last in a list of 12 key issues put to people... Just one in 10 people, 12%, said the conflict was among the most important to them, The Guardian survey showed. The state of the NHS [British public health system] was named by an overwhelming 59% while 42% said education. The findings explain why backing for the Government has remained relatively strong despite continuing controversy over Iraq." So much for the backlash.

Still, the possibility that Iraqi interim prime minister
Iyad Allawi will be invited to Labour Party's National Conference has split the Labour ranks with the left of the party throwing a tantrum. The treasurer of an intra-party group Labour Against the War, Jeremy Corbyn MP, wrote to Blair to tell him that inviting Allawi will be "seen as an insult to many around the country." Particularly to those who would not have minded if Saddam was still in power.

Speaking of those sorts of people, the ex-Labour MP and a rabid anti-war activist
George Galloway entertained a crowd at a recent book festival saying that "in a perverse way" he was hoping that the US and British forces would stay in Iraq so they could get a "bloody good hiding" from the Iraqi resistance. The British soldiers might or might not actually want to be in Iraq, not having have had much personal input into their deployment, but I'm sure that they will warmly approve of Galloway's idea that as many of them as possible should be killed to teach Tony Blair a lesson.

Australia, meanwhile, "74 per cent of people surveyed believed [the Prime Minister] Mr Howard misled them about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, up six percentage points since last September. But 47 per cent of respondents said Mr Howard was misled on the issue by others, and did not intentionally mislead them.... 27 per cent said Mr Howard deliberately misled the public on the issue." That 27 per cent of the population tends to believe that John Howard eats babies at the best of times, so the overall result is quite positive. Still, I would have thought that the better opener would be "74 per cent of people surveyed believe that Saddam Hussein misled them about the reasons for going to war in Iraq." Canada's Centre for Public Opinion and Democracy helpfully comments that "Iraq War affects voters in Ukraine and Australia. The conflict is becoming an issue in the two nations. The outcome of their respective elections could further deplete the U.S.-led coalition." I don't know about Ukraine, but unfortunately the only polling cited in the article indicates that 58% of Australian voters agree with the Prime Minister that our troops should stay in Iraq, while only 38% want to bring them home by Christmas. So if the war is affecting Australian voters enough to potentially cause the depletion of the Coalition of the Willing, perhaps the voters should start showing it a bit more.

And in the US some real polarisation of the electorate emerges out of the
latest poll, which by the way shows that the majority now think Iraq was a mistake. The breakdown between various political affiliations is quite interesting: in December 2003, 91% of Republicans supported the war, while in August 2004 this figure is down to 86%. For Democrats, the figures are 39% and 19% respectively. What's more concerning is that the support among the independents has fallen from 56% to 29%. Iraq is no longer a war that enjoyed a broad mainstream support; it's a Republican war with a Democrat opposition. God knows why Kerry still tries to appear serious on defence issues, now that his base no longer is.


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