Iraq, if nothing else a misjudged war of choice in terms of its failure to democratically execute a post-war settlement, has left behind it fatalities galore. There are the bloodied ones of course: Wikipedia gives us a list of many estimations here. But there are other ones too.
I tweeted the following just now:
Current paucity of political leadership in our body politic is, in part, ‘cos Iraq wiped out the moral weight of too many clever people.
It bears further exploration and explanation. So many politicians, both of Labour and of other parties, have been morally tainted by the decisions then taken. A whole body politic, the United Kingdom body politic, putting its collective name to such decisions as it manifestly did, has had the meadow of its moral high ground scythed by the following years.
The figurative heads of brilliant brainy political wonks have been violently lopped off, as all kinds of moral gymnastics have taken to their declamatory stages.
I’m thinking in particular of people like David Miliband, a bright button of eloquent communication if there ever was one. But there are, of course, many others.
What this has led to as a result is something quite tragic: the progressive side of this body being in power at the time, Labour’s ability – years later – to fight a rearguard action against Coalition evils has been mortally wounded by what it – in power and government at the time of Iraq – had unavoidably to take ownership for.
Yes. It’s true that many notable Conservatives supported these decisions so many years ago now. But they didn’t take the final decisions – they haven’t been wounded in quite the same way. It’s almost as if we feel Labour should have known better. Wars of choice fit badly with socialist principles, after all. We don’t have quite the same perception for those who occupy Tory-land.
So why is this generation of politicos so rubbish? Partly because the Labour ones cannot full-throatedly act in a principled way. (Or at least in a way so many of its natural voters would judge to be principled.) Yes. They took ownership for their deeds, but continue – in the main – to fight a quite different rearguard action: that of justifying their positions when the history of implementation has clearly shown them to be wanting.
But this is not the only consequence of a conflict like Iraq destroying the ability of a generation of bright sparks to continue sparking as brightly as we need them to. Assuming that pyramidal politics – that politics which insists on situating CEO-types fragilely atop heavy hierarchies – is the only politics we can expect, it’s clear that apart from the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, Iraq has also taken its toll – a decade later – on the people and politics of the United Kingdom.
What has the Coalition government learnt from Labour’s experience? That in times of awful misjudgement – in this case, the econopocalypse of austerity-driven policy-making (a kind of Iraq-like impulse, if there ever was one, to redefine and redraw the landscape of a society from scratch) – what you must never ever do is take ownership.
So we have a government like Cameron’s which blames everyone and their bedroom-taxed abodes for the miseries that result from one-percent economics. Stiglitz is right: the one percent are playing everyone else off everyone else. And our current crop of politicians, now stuck in the mire of historical moral inefficiency, does exactly the same thing.
This generation of politicos is so rubbish not because it needed to be so. Rather, because Labour on the one hand, hobbled by its lack of a historical high ground, and the Tories on the other, now having learned the lesson and importance of cowardice in political discourse, have lost their societal compass: they see the voters, you and me, as the corporate CEOs see their customers. People unworthy of straight-talking; unworthy of sincerity; unworthy of open and honest communication. To be messaged, massaged, nudged and finally cheated.
Meanwhile, we have the Lib Dems. Supposedly dedicated to a better and freer way of doing things. Vigorous defenders of our liberties as the Snoopers’ Charter was kept at bay.
And all the time both GCHQ and the NSA were spending the decade taping our every electronic emission.
Under what would appear to be deliberately engineered loopholes.
Sink holes more like.
Black holes even better.
No wonder this generation of politicos is so rubbish. They’ve been trawling, living in, inhabiting the London backstreets of an elitist perception of the masses.
It’s the first time that’s tricky. The first time you savagely misjudge something – criminally, one might even say. But after that, it’s easy sailing.
Our society doesn’t believe in the redeeming qualities of real redemption, either.
If you do something bad, you are to be classed as forever bad.
So it is that this generation of politicos is so rubbish because they are weak – and have chosen to be so. But they are also so very rubbish because we are lazy – and prefer to define them in terms of a damning black and white.
We’re not all to blame exactly.
But neither are we free of culpability.
We don’t have the politicians we deserve. We do have the politicians we have made. Rubbish in, rubbish out – RIRO, if you prefer – is a law of the universe we seem to be subscribing too.
Not sure why. Not sure it’s a free choice. (Not sure if we even knew we were making it when we made it.)
Anyhow. RIP, the UK body politic. And maybe, shortly, invisibly so, rather a large number of its subjects too.