The Uncivil war: The Iraq war
by Hiren Surendra Shah
Saturday, May 31, 2003
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I have written a poem on the Iraq War drawing parallels from the Civil War while referring to President Lincoln.
The Iraq war was against all norms of International democracy and President Lincoln was considered to be one of the greatest champions of democracy.In my personal life, President Lincoln has been a profound influence as is bound to be on anyone who has faced successive career and health problems. Even otherwise, his life story can inspire anyone.
Kindly go through some important text to understand the context before proceeding to the poetry:-
President Lincon in response to “ All men are created equal except Negroes, foreigners and catholics.” Said, “When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some other country where they make pretence of loving liberty- to Russia for instance where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy”.
“How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people “ said President Lincoln.
It is by the way a relief to tell that there once was a noted wrestling match in which Lincoln was beaten: it is characteristic of the country that his friends were sure there was foul play, and characteristic of him that he indignantly denied it.
About Stephen Douglas, President Lincoln’s adversary . On any question between white man and Negros, he was on the side of the white men, and on any question between Negros and crocodiles, he would be on the side of Negros. Many men were more ready to think themselves the equals of Washington and Hamilton in the respects in which they were not so, than to think a Negro their own equal in the respect in which he was – general comment.
During the Iraq war, one came across so many articles which talked about hypocrisy of several nations and individuals. Not only America but the world at large should decide what path should follow (Lincoln/Douglas). A couple of months before the Iraq war started, I read a book on Management and the Indian ethos by G.D.Sharma where it is described how much an embodiment President Lincoln was of the Indian culture. The qualities mentioned there apart from the above are empathy, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, positive outlook and charity to all. To quote from the
book," Aggressiveness, Reasoning, Analytical Ability and Individualism which
are attributed to American culture are singularly absent in the profile of Abraham Lincoln which bestows on him a kind of saintly virtue. On Analysis, one realizes that Abraham Lincoln was very close to the Indian Culture in his personality traits and leadership style." If all this is true which I think it is, I doubt that somebody like him could have allowed what has happened in Iraq. How I dearly wish he was alive and President today.
One and a half weeks after writing this poem, I read an essay on “Elections and Democracy” in Hindi ( India’s national language) in which President Lincoln was hailed as the greatest champion of democracy and no Indian leader was mentioned in that essay but what happened in Iraq and in UN was to many a blot on International democracy.
There have been a lot of adverse reports in the Indian media about the Iraq war. Like most Indians, I like all things American except certain aspects of their foreign policy and in the Iraq situation, even if one were to agree to the desirability of regime change, the manner in which it was done left a lot to be desired..
I also happened to read a book on the American Civil War purely by chance. I can only put in poetic form what I have read. Ladies and Gentleman, a tribute to perhaps America’s greatest President :-
THE UNCIVIL WAR; THE IRAQ WAR
( A tribute to President Abraham Lincoln)
CW- THE CIVIL WAR. IT HAD BEEN FOUGHT BETWEEN THE NORTH( UNION) AND SOUTH( CONFEDERACY) TO PRESERVE AMERICAN UNION
IW – IRAQ WAR
PL PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN
If there is or has been any mistake on my part in drawing the civil war analogy.
I would in advance like to render an apology.
The Civil War had been fought primarily to preserve the union if not outright dominion.
Against the International union(UN), the IW smacks more of obstinate opinion.
In the CW, they were fighting for preserving national unity which they held dear
By its actions, the current government has thrown International unity(UN) out of gear.
For many, the Civil War also symbolized a campaign against slavery
Against unanimous world opinion, the Iraq war maybe indicative of knavery.
During that time, it was justified to look forward to the fall of Richmond.
The fall of Baghdad can hardly pass of as a daring liberation by James Bond.
( Richmond was the capital of the South represented by the Confederacy)
Even it were conceded for a moment that it was justified to strike at the Iraqi Crown,
The manner in which it was done was reminiscent of the hanging of John Brown.
( John Brown was wrongly punished with death by hanging for protesting against Slavery before the CW)
To preserve unity and uphold democracy, the union fought the Confederacy
Considering its opposition the world over ,the Iraq war indicated unparalleled obduracy.
( In the Civil War, the northern states or the Union fought the Southern states or the Confederacy)
A verdict on union/ Independence, the Civil war was a conflict between North and South
In protest against the Iraq war, North, South, East, West- all have opened their mouth.
Even if the IW also had exceptional generals like Grant, Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson
What is the point if the basic purpose of the war is beyond wide sanction.
( Grant, Lee and Jackson were competent generals in the CW)
The kind of edge in numbers that Sherman and Grant had over Johnston and Lee,
The opposition to the Iraq war was even greater that the powers that be refused to see.
( Sherman, Johnston were generals. Sherman and Grant’s armies outnumbered their opponents)
The IW war must be the most glaring example of any government’s indifference.
One would recall the way President Lincoln was treated at McClellan’s residence.
( General McCellan treated PL indifferently when he came visiting at his residence)
A war entailing continuous right/wrong debate and speculation on the real devil
Can be deemed far from civil.
Midway through the CW, the PL had issued the “Proclamation of Emancipation.”
Thwarting democracy, from the start, the IW stressed on forceful Occupation.
The only coercion which could be justified in the CW was Conscription.
“ In the name & interest of Iraqi people” what happened in Iraq defies description.
Victory in the IW would be pyrrhic; it will actually be a loss for what the US stands for.
It would be surprising if the US is ever genuinely respected in the world over as before.
US Product Process, People; Democracy, Communication tools, Intellectuals and Writers
Would it not have been better if it had used the above instead of sending its fighters. ?
PL ‘s stature & fatherly image bestows on him the status of emeritus world patriarch.
One really wonders he would have permitted something like Iraq.
It is not the accident of PL’s death but the purpose of his life for which he is remembered,
A genuine democrat, he would not have tolerated the UN virtually dismembered.
In his speech, behaviour, candour and disposition, he was so avuncular
Rather than Nuclear, he could have made the US & the world genuinely secular.
When young, he could lift well and apply great force with the mallet or an axe
His articulation on peace would have been equally effective with today’s email and fax.
It is also said that from a young age, he had a strong dislike of all killing
Going to war against world opinion, how could his nation be willing?
For one who used to see superficiality in excess money;
He would probably also have not liked any nation with unilateral hegemony.
Not confined to US alone, the world over, for PL, there is no dearth of reverence.
Considering what and how he achieved, he was the very embodiment of perseverance.
One has to decide that in following what he stood for, one wants to ensure his veneration.
Just admiring him will not suffice whether it is the previous, future or current generation.
Though not the “father or the nation”, if the US really regards him as its nation’s father.
In following what he stood for there can be no either/ or /rather.
PL“What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent”
If so, in the IW why didn’t the US acknowledge and bow to world wide dissent?
“Public sentiment is everything, with it nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed.”
With the world against it in the IW, why didn’t the US govt recede, why didn’t it accede?
“I would prefer migrating to a country without pretence of loving liberty i.e to Russia”
In the IW, how could Uncle Sam ignore protests from Europe, Australia, Africa & Asia.
For the nation that was created on the premise “ All men are equal”
The US’s “international cop” image was not created by an isolated incident; there have been many a sequel.
“Creator endowed unalienable rights were to be of liberty and pursuit of happiness”
Going against the UN and world opinion is in this context an example of sloppiness.
“Governments were supposed to derive their powers from the consent of the governed”
Commencing the Iraq war, that more than anything else Uncle Sam spurned.
PL “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Not only US , the world was evenly divided over Iraq; how could the US govt withstand?
PL “ As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master”
Considering what happened at the UN, the above philosophy has ended in disaster.
PL “ No bloodshed. Govt shall not use force unless force is used against it”
Nobody objected to Afghanistan; for Iraq, no one was willing to sanction a military hit.
PL “ You can have no conflict without being yourself the aggressors”
World wide protests reflect the current US dispensation equally as oppressors.
“Condemnation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wise.”
What is the use if in addition, the internet and TV channels could not make Uncle Sam realize
PL on slavery “If I ever get a chance to hit that thing; I shall hit it hard.”
The world is wary of international slavery of a different kind; after the IW, it is on its guard.
PL “The better part of one's life consists of his friendships.”
Antagonizing the whole world is only going to ensure hardships.
For a man who said that “if slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong”
Subordination of the UN and full fledged nations are issues with which he would never have got along.
PL “ Let us judge not, that we may not be judged”
Perhaps Uncle Sam took it too literally, with the world opinion against it, it could have budged.
PL” This government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free”
How could the IW start when more than half did not agree.
PL” As President elect, I cannot advice state legislature on their own business”
In contrast, the US interferes all over the world with deceptive easiness.
PL “ I do not think much of a man who isn’t wiser today than he was yesterday”
If true and followed, we would never have had the Iraqi D-day.
PL “Gradual and not sudden emancipation is better for all.
The current govt was also doing gradually at first;, the Iraq attack has tended to gall*
PL “ God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”
If that is so, why was the whole world against the Iraq move; why should I write so much and rhyme.
“When ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets.”
Currently, such lofty words sound more like hazy word Vignettes.
Jefferson Davis proclaimed ,”Confederacy would have independence or extermination”
The extermination of independence is taking Place by undermining the UN with determination .
( Jefferson Davis was the head of the confederacy just as PL was the head of the Union)
What has happened is contrary to what is reflected in all PL’s quotes.
On conducting an opinion poll, he would unequivocally get all the votes.
PL was fond of and known for his anecdotes and stories
The Iraq war too shall generate interesting war literature if not perpetual worries.
Who can forget the pardon of young William Scott ?
Many American and Iraqi lives could have been similarly saved on heeding the world boycott.
(William Scott was a soldier pardoned by PL for sleeping on duty )
PL ruled through a group of capable men whom no else could have induced to serve long in concord.
What has happened at the UN is a blot on such an impeccable record.
In the interest of the Union, PL deemed slavery the concerned state’s prerogative
Then how come towards the International union(UN), the attitude is grossly negative.
( Although a vehement opponent of slavery, PL had to be flexible with slavery laws)
After the commencement of war with Iraq, that country had to put up with many a raid.
Without UN’s nod , the IW reduced UN to just a distributor of aid.
Even unwillingly, PL had to grant the states the right to secession.
Currently with the world public opinion against it, how come Uncle Sam did not allow any concession .?
( Some states deemed the right to secede a special liberty)
PL was not going to take action on the alleged ground of military necessity till he was sure that the necessity existed.
If military action was justified in the Iraq war, the UN and rest of the world would not have resisted.
The constitution with its checks and balances rendered it difficult to bring anything to pass
How one wishes internationally too, power was something any single country could not amass
One cannot but help remember the famous Gettysburg speech
If only somebody could match PL’r oratory to oppose the Iraq war; despite unanimous opinion, they could not beseech.
Such an impact in the world’s history has been created by the Gettysburg address
The damage done to PL’s legacy by the Iraq war; who shall be able to redress
Not only in USA, the world over PL is regarded as a hero
Not following what he stood for, America’s image may have been reduced to zero.
Although a republican, the democrats described PL as Thomas Jefferson’s spiritual heir.
Will anybody ever be able to claim PL’s legacy after the Iraq affair.
While discussing Americanism vis-à-vis PL, Americans wonder about a nationality worth preserving.
The issue is beyond doubt considering PL’s place in history; he will never fall short in deserving
The people of the United states have to congregate and ponder
Whether inadvertently or advertently the legacy of a great man they may have tended to squander.
As on of his most ardent fans and admirers, his legacy is something I can only salute
Its his real heirs, the American people have to decide whether in following that , should they not be resolute?
Unlike Englishmen*, the Americans are apt to quote their elder statesmen and the bible.
To do so continuously, like PL, currently too there should be helmsmen devoid of foible.
( An Englishman is more apt to quote Bruke as he would quote Demosthenes or Plato)
Mr President, one day after retirement when you write your memoirs
You may wonder how you could ignore so many protests whether in prose, poetry or choirs.
If the politicians the world over decide to follow your example, Mr President.
For democracy & freedom of speech, it would be an unprecedented undesirable precedent.