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Enemies of decency

In these times of helplessness, there are only so many words one can say about the wretched war being fought in the desert of Iraq and there only so many slogans that can be chanted in opposition to it.

But so horrendous is the catastrophe unfolding before us that we are all compelled to continue to utter our howls of outrage and persist with our loud condemnation, the only weapons the rest of us can use against the power of the so-called Allied forces.

It took less than a week of the war to vindicate the stance of those opposed to the violent path adopted by Washington.

The vindication was there for us to see as television networks beamed the blood and grit into our living rooms.

We saw the pictures of dead Iraqi civilians sprawled in the Baghdad market square: victims of President George W Bush’s own weapons of indiscriminate destruction.

We saw the dying and the disfigured lying on hospital beds, their limbs blown away by the glorious armies who have supposedly come to free them from their despotic leader.

And we saw billions of dollars worth of buildings and infrastructure being reduced to dust by the shock and awe of General Tommy Franks’s men.

Still standing defiantly and unscathed by the onslaught is Saddam Hussein and his coterie of loyalists, who daily emerge from their bunkers to hurl insults at the Bush administration. In weeks to come they will definitely be out of the way, but the human misery that their violent removal will have caused will dwarf the suffering that they visited on the Iraqi people over the past two decades.

The events of the past week may have turned millions around the world into voyeuristic couch potatoes, but it has also forced on them a realisation that war is none of the sentimental stuff that politicians mouth when they rouse patriotic fervour.

On other pages of this newspaper are tales of the misery that is unfolding in Iraq and reports about the casualties that will not be tabulated when the war is finally over: the truth, media ethics, international law and the national pride of many ordinary Americans who want nothing to do with the war but are now seen by the rest of the world as enemies of peace and decency.

There are tales of how the United States government, with the help of nauseatingly pliant media, has tried to sanitise its excesses by using techniques designed to give the whole expedition a Hollywood feel.

But war is war and no amount of perfumery will remove its stink. This war, in particular, has a particularly pungent stench about it.

Whereas the Pentagon strategists had hoped to use the immediacy of live television to score psychological victories it has, instead, increased the anger of all decent human beings.

This war has made us sick.

That is why the opponents of the war should not now be throwing their hands in the air in proclamation of defeat.

The overwhelming disgust registered by millions around the world and the defiant stance taken by certain members of the G8 should present a ray of opportunity for progressive-minded people. They should continue to agitate against the war, but the debate about the post-war world order should start now.

When Bush and the hard men of the Pentagon proclaim victory over Saddam, they must know it is a hollow victory because they will have made enemies of all the world’s decent people.

They could have danced all night

South Africans have for the past few days been entertained by the fine performance of square-dancing put up by the honourable members of our national and provincial legislatures.

In this particular performance, the partners’ appearance has not served as a deterrent to the general enthusiasm and abandon with which the members have pursued the dance for positions ahead of the general elections next year.

The African National Congress’s slow trot as a result of its ambiguous stance on HIV/Aids and Zimbabwe has therefore not dissuaded others from clambering into its fold. Heck, it is the only winning show in town, so why not swing along with it!

The Democratic Alliance, with smart, short, rightward steps, continues to draw reactionary elements from the New National Party, the only organisation whose members seem to have lost track of the tune. It is only a matter of time before the NNP turns into the pimply teenager, left standing in the corner without a partner.

Perhaps the only worthy dancers are the likes of Patricia de Lille and Teresa Millin who left their respective organisations not for handsomer partners, but to put on solo acts there was no room for in the Pan Africanist Congress or the Inkatha Freedom Party. But time will tell if they will still be dancing after the elections next year. In the meantime the ball continues for another week, before reality hits the Cinderellas.

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