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The Iraq War: Where is The True Danger

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The Iraq War: Where is The True Danger?
Slavoj Zizek. 03.13.2003.
We all remember the old joke about the borrowed kettle which Freud quotes in order to render the strange logic of dreams, namely the enumeration of mutually exclusive answers to a reproach (that I returned to a friend a broken kettle): (1) I never borrowed a kettle from you; (2) I returned it to you unbroken; (3) the kettle was already broken when I got it from you. For Freud, such an enumeration of inconsistent arguments of course confirms per negationem what it endeavors to deny — that I returned you a broken kettle… Do we not encounter the same inconsistency when high US officials try to justify the attack on Iraq? (1) There is a link between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda, so Saddam should be punished as part of the revenge for 9/11; (2) even if there was no link between Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, they are united in their hatred of the US — Saddam's regime is a really bad one, a threat not only to the US, but also to its neighbors, and we should liberate the Iraqi people; (3) the change of regime in Iraq will create the conditions for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The problem is that there are TOO MANY reasons for the attack… Furthermore, one is almost tempted to claim that, within the space of this reference to the Freudian logic of dreams, the Iraqi oil supplies function as the famous "umbilical cord" of the US justification(s) — almost tempted, since it would perhaps be more reasonable to claim that there are also three REAL reasons for the attack: (1) the control of the Iraqi oil reserves; (2) the urge to brutally assert and signal the unconditional US hegemony; (3) the "sincere" ideological belief that the US are bringing to other nations democracy and prosperity. And it seems as if these three "real" reasons are the "truth" of the three official reasons: (1) is the truth of the urge to liberate Iraqis; (2) is the truth of the claim the attack on Iraq will help to resolve the Middle East conflict; (3) is the truth of the claim that there is a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. — And, incidentally, opponents of the war seem to repeat the same inconsistent logic: (1) Saddam is really bad, we also want to see him toppled, but we should give inspectors more time, since inspectors are more efficient; (2) it is all really about the control of oil and American hegemony — the true rogue state which terrorizes others are the US themselves; (3) even if successful, the attack on Iraq will give a big boost to a new wave of the anti-American terrorism; (4) Saddam is a murderer and torturer, his regime a criminal catastrophe, but the attack on Iraq destined to overthrow Saddam will cost too much…
We do have here a kind of perverted Hegelian "negation of negation": in a first negation, the populist Right disturbs the aseptic liberal consensus by giving voice to passionate dissent, clearly arguing against the "foreign threat"; in a second negation, the "decent" democratic center, in the very gesture of pathetically rejecting this populist Right, integrates its message in a "civilized" way — in-between, the ENTIRE FIELD of background "unwritten rules" has already changed so much that no one even notices it and everyone is just relieved that the anti-democratic threat is over. And the true danger is that something similar will happen with the "war on terror": "extremists" like John Ashcroft will be discarded, but their legacy will remain, imperceptibly interwoven into the invisible ethical fabric of our societies. Their defeat will be their ultimate triumph: they will no longer be needed, since their message will be incorporated into the mainstream.
From: 03.13.2003.
* [[The Iraq War: Where is the True Danger?]]. ''''. March 13, 2003. <>. Also hosted by the ''European Graduate School''. <>
[[Category:Articles by Slavoj Žižek]][[Category:ZizekSlavoj Žižek]]

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