Friday, March 24, 2006

The Empire of Croesus

Commentary by Martin Kelly
January 10, 2005

Herodotus, the first historian, recorded that an oracle told Croesus, King of Lydia, that he would destroy an empire.

By the time he received the prophecy, Croesus was the greatest emperor in the world. He had conquered all in his path, and his name is still a byword for unimaginable wealth.

He was overjoyed at the news.

Croesus has many descendants.

Like Croesus, the neoconservatives are aggressive and militaristic. They revel in the suffering of those they deem their enemies, such as the Iraqi civilians abused and degraded by the sadists of Abu Ghraib. It will be hard to see how any WHAM team will assuage the injuries suffered by those men, or of the residents of Fallujah who now suffer the indignity of fingerprinting and retinal scanning in order to enjoy the privilege of living in what remains of their own homes.

What the neos did in Fallujah is not just a scandal, it’s a sin. In order to find an enemy to fight, almost all the people of Fallujah suffered because of the desire of some Clean Break Gang policy wonk like Douglas Feith to make a show of strength that was bound to fail, given their opponents’ apparent sophistication. You mean, dude, like, the jihadists actually read books and study history?

Like Croesus, they are addicted to wealth. Many of them use fine slogans like ‘loss of blood and treasure’ to justify the damage they do, when their hearts are full of lies and dreams of plunder. There is no moral, practical or economic difference between single-bid reconstruction contracts awarded by Washington to be paid by the Iraqis and demands for tribute made by conquerors upon the conquered. Like the ghouls they are, the neos have stolen the heart of American conservatism and distorted what the noble word ‘conservative’ means. This ranks among their worst acts – those of us who live in countries without conservative movements look on in horror at what they are doing to one of man’s greatest projects of the last 60 years.

No true conservative forces aggressive war on another nation. The principal aim of Ronald Reagan, the greatest conservative, was the maintenance and spread of peace, even if the only way of securing peace was through deterrence. The bellicosity of the neos gives the lie to all their boasts about being the heirs of Ronald Reagan.

But soon the Iraqis will be rejoicing – their neoconservative masters will permit them the luxury of a vote. It will not, of course, be a universal vote, but at best a 78% vote, which will in all likelihood lead to the establishment of an Islamic theocracy and the ultimate break-up of that state. A country that was previously quite happy to be one and whole will be torn asunder and friends will turn on each other for no reason other than a person thousands of miles away has willed that it shall be so.

Many rightly baulk at the idea of ‘American Empire’. However, there can be no escape from the conclusion that what has been forced on the Iraqis for two years is most certainly a neoconservative empire, which like all empires is doomed to fall.

The words of the oracle gave Croesus hope. He marched off to war against the Persians, and his armies were annihilated.

The empire that the oracle told Croesus he would destroy would be his own.