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  an open letter

  (to the Iraqi people)

I feel that I can speak for all...when I say that we are very sad about the bloody mess that your country has now become....

Apologies, however, are a much more divisive issue, as many (although not most) would still prefer to make excuses for the criminal way in which the “Coalition of the Willing” has brutally and ineptly mismanaged the post-invasion era in your nation.

As you will soon see, this letter is unafraid to severely criticize widely-held viewpoints on all sides, so I (sadly) doubt that any but myself would agree with all positions taken...yet, as all are clearly based upon facts too-little known, I think it important that the Iraqi people are informed as to what the past and future appear to hold in store for them.

Firstly, however, a personal apology. As someone who was profoundly convinced of the importance of ridding you of Sadaam Hussain, yet felt that the overt reasons given for the invasion were flimsy and unconvincing, I found myself almost entirely isolated in the leadup to the war...and deeply dismayed when most “opposition” subsequently spent its energies upon exposing the rationale, rather than on the (obviously criminal) mismangement of the “peace” which followed....

The horrific torture evidence has now partially reversed this trend, but I still feel that our  critiques have typically shown too little empathy - or understanding - of your suffering, and were often merely a reflexive left attempt to embarrass current holders of power.

We ought to have done much better than this and, if we had, the administration of the “peace” would - probably - have been somewhat better, to your benefit.

However, I personally should have understood that the Bush adminstration - to use an Australianism - couldn’t be trusted to run a public toilet, let alone a country whose culture they showed such marked contempt for...and, for arguing in favour of the invasion, I am profoundly sorry...

Now, as to the past.... The occupying forces appear to have no awareness that your ancestors seem to have invented, not only cities and writing, but also the original “open society” that academics currently spend so much time theorizing. Partly, of course, this stems from the fact that this occured in the transition to writing, so that the evidence is purely archaeological (and, therefore, somewhat open to other interpretations).

Still, that evidence is very strong:

From 3800-3000 BCE, the “Uruk” culture - centred upon the site currently known to you as Warka - was not only the first city in human history, as well as the first to mass-produce items (pottery) for use by all its inhabitants, it was also a peaceful and multi-ethnic society, in which evidence for strong social divisions by wealth are decidedly absent. The “temple” was also marked by its open design - rare in ancient architecture outside of the (much later) example of Greece - strongly suggesting (again) a lack of entrenched and secretive power-structures. One particularly interesting point is that it was continually pulled down and rebuilt - often in a very different (but still open) form.

Western secular intellectuals typically have a horror of so-called “theocracies”, yet this is good evidence that the first city-state, ruled (at least, in part) by priests, was clearly capable of reforming itself...repeatedly - probably to replace those corrupted by power - which also happens to be the best argument for so-called “representative” democracy yet mounted.

However we want to interpret the record, the overall pattern is very clear...this was an “open” society - deeply innovative (most of the ancient world’s key technology was pioneered in Uruk) - that lasted for approximately 800 years, until the combination of military threat (Uruk had no walls until 3000 BCE) and bureaucratic rigidity (writing fully emerged just before) finally transformed it into the Mesopotamia that is well-known in historical terms....

I can only hope that when current Western right-wing governments lose power, the new administrations chose to spend much of their Iraqi reconstruction budget upon renewing the excavations at Warka.

This would have multiple benefits. Such work demands very large teams of locals - and very few (if any) outside experts, none of whom would have any interest in exploiting your economy. This would thus provide employment for those otherwise at risk of swelling the ranks of the militias. In addition, if the work was well-publicized, it could help to remind all Iraqis of their marvellous heritage - and one that was egalitarian, multi-ethnic, peaceful, and both sociologically and technically innovative - in a manner that has never been surpassed by any other civilization in history, paricularly over such a long period.

We are all deeply indebted to Uruk - however much we’ve mostly failed to learn its deepest lessons - and it’s about time that Iraqis, and the rest of the world, started to celebrate that fact!

On to the present (and future). Commentary on the underlying reasons for the invasion have overly stressed the stupidities of the neo-conservative agenda...and too often failed to see that there is a (genuinely bipartisan) rationale behind it - which is probably why Kerry is so lukewarm about withdrawal.

China now holds over 40% of US foreign debt, and recent policy statements make it very clear that it is now in the process of shifting to a much more autarkic developmental model, or - as its leaders say - “placing more emphasis upon internal markets”. This will have drastic repercussions, given that much of the world’s industrial production is now located in that nation. However, its one weak spot is (surprise, surprise!) oil....

Moreover, the US economy is now, given its horribly indebted state, mainly propped-up by the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, which is currently under threat by OPEC proposals to switch its oil pricing into euros. This will undoubtedly happen, as the Euro is now a much better currency for same - it has only been delayed due to (well-justified) fears that it would trigger a global economic depression.

By invading Iraq (and simultaneously cementing strong ties with Central Asian dictatorships), realpolitic considerations would strongly suggest that the US could be attempting to manufacture an economic counter to China’s “weapon” against the US (which it could actually use, in a few years - unlike any other nation - as its internal market will be both sufficiently large and variegated), thus producing a standoff - a situation which US policymakers are both familiar and comfortable with...

Sadly, this suggests that, whatever happens in November, there’s no way that US policy is likely to change substantially to give you any real control over your export (oil) revenues. Given the EC’s interdependence with the US economy, furthermore, I don’t think there’ll be much real help from that particular direction, although debates will undoubtedly be heated.

What I would suggest, however, is that Iraqis concerned about the future have a real lever on world opinion - as well as a mechanism for substantially reducing militia recruitment. That is - do Warka yourselves, and promote it relentlessly!

You’ve already got the experts locally - and they know how to do it right. Get all the religious leaders onside - so as to declare Uruk culture sites demilitarized zones - and call for outside funding (you’ll get it, too - all real historians know that this era badly needs further research). The Uruk culture wasn’t just one city-state - it rapidly spread, creating dozens of cities, as well as outlying trade posts on the Levant as well...

So, with the aid of a quality TV documentary w/series to follow (maybe ask Michael Woods?), you could mobilize Western cash to support a massive archaeological programme that’d (eventually) employ much of the current “underclass” - as well as providing Iraq (and the West) with a badly-needed lesson in civic origins...and one that wasn’t secular, remember?

I may be exaggerating the positives here, but I seriously think that there’s a major possibility for development in this direction that no-one seems to have canvassed...and that’s the unique status of Iraq as the originator of the open society, as well as urbanism.... Given his (overwhelming) obsession with the (former) subject, I’d suggest George Soros as your first port of call as to funding....

Because, realpolitic isn’t going to change in a hurry.... In fact, I’d think that US policy is likely to harden on the oil matter, making any Iraqi government inherently weak, come what may. So, you’d better start looking for some civic solution that’ll counteract this, to help make Iraq a decent place to live.

The advantage of  this proposal is that it - genuinely - doesn’t have any drawbacks. Try as I may, I’ve yet to think of any reason why this development would have any negative repercussions. Even the antiquities market would be undercut, as the Uruk period is noted for “poor” pottery (probably due to its relatively egalitarian nature), and a marked absence of the type of “classy” material that so attracts collectors...and thieves.

We in the West owe your ancestors a massive well as a collective guilt over the way in which we’ve allowed the US to transform your nation into a near-ungovernable anarchy...not to mention more obvious crimes. Let us hope that, in discovering the roots of our civil culture, we can help to repair that...and start to acknowledge the debt.

yours faithfully

John Henry Calvinist