Tuesday, May 3, 2005


The Nihilism of Europe

"On March 16th 1988 the city of Hallabja (the Iraqi part of 'Kurdistan') was showered with poison gas. The glorious leader Saddam Hussein gave the long awaited order: the systematic extermination of the Kurds. Thousands of unarmed Kurds perished.

The genocide in Hallabja -this night of death- is now, after sixteen years, remembered for the first time without the omnipresent watch of the murderer. In the mean time the culture of terror is keeping up with the times: New York, Kabul, Bali, Casablanca, Istanbul and now also Madrid.

The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca was a famous victim of such a culture of terror; he was executed in 1936 by Spanish fascists. The suspected reasons for this execution were the accusations that Lorca was a republican democrat, and also a homosexual with liberal tendencies. In Impressions of Spain Lorca describes what the night of death looks like and this passage brings us back to Hallabja and the recent bombings in Madrid: "All the blood had already crystallized when the lanterns started dimming. Never will there be another night like this one on the wall. A night full of windows and frozen hands. The breasts filled with useless milk. The mother's milk and the moon kept the battle against the triumphant blood going. But the blood had already conquered the marble and spread therein its maddened roots."

Now, after the arrest of Saddam, Iraq is definitively in a politically transitional period towards democracy. Various European countries have gone through a similar democratization process in the past few decades. They succeeded. Unfortunately, at this moment there are still large parts of this planet that are in pre-democratic and rather violent states. It is a question whether democratization would succeed in the Middle East. And a broader question is how this century will eventually be known. As the century of the great transition towards a culture of democracy and human rights? Or as the century of terror, anarchy, civil wars and crude large-scale human rights violations?

In both cases Europe will not be spared. To put it more clearly: Europe is an extremely vulnerable continent, because it's too decadent and nihilistic to believe in its own democratic ideals. Or at least, it's not willing to pay the price for these ideals. The average European would like to defend Europe's acquisitions, as long as the price is not too high. Europe is always edging towards capitulation. With that the Europeans hope, secretly of course, that others will undo this capitulation. If after the Second World War there had been no physical and ideological presence of the Americans, in all likelihood the west-Europeans would have surrendered a few European countries as a gift to the 'Empire of Evil'. Even then there were European intellectuals who were apologists for the cruelty of Soviet policy. Was that caused then by an unbridled self-hatred? And how does it compare to the self-hatred of the Europeans of today?

After reading the next quote you might feel that Al-Qaeda must be very cruel: Shooting a European means to kill two birds with one stone...one dead and one free man remain. But this quote does not originate from Bin Laden, but from a French philosopher: Jean Paul-Satre. It was referred to by Hannah Arendt and thoroughly criticized in her book On Violence and is to be interpreted as follows: the first and foremost enemy of Europe is her own decadent soul (the British form an exception to this).

The Islamic world with its own specifically nihilistic roots recognizes its European nihilistic brothers all too well. That's why Al-Qaeda reasoned that an attack in Europe would result in policy changes only driven by the opportunism of its politicians.

It looks more that Al Qaeda has indeed won. The Spanish and Dutch social democracy would prefer to hand over Iraq and the Iraqi people to Al-Qaeda, Shiite fundamentalists or Saddam's people. And Hallabja? Ah, that was just a long time ago and it's not in [Holland] anyway! But Madrid is in Europe!

The Iraqi transition to democracy has to be supported by the international community by all possible means. Why should Europe support this transition? This was, after all, the war of Bush and Blair and it's their problem to solve. This argument is mistaken, because the war is over. The concern now are security, democracy and human rights.

Why do the Netherlands and the other countries of the EU have an interest in a stable Iraq? There are three simple reasons: (1) If Iraq disintegrates into civil war, the consequences will be felt, through Turkey, in every capital of Europe. (2) The complete collapse of Iraq would spread to other, important oil producing countries and endanger the world economy. (3) The collapse of Iraq would be considered a victory for Islamists; they would become harsher and more pervasive in their battle against the West.

It is therefore in the national and the European interest to stay in Iraq. It will remain a dangerous place for the time being, but don't we have military forces to act in times of danger?

It is inevitable that any transition in Iraq that came with or without Anglo-American war, would have happened with chaos and violence. The Iraqi Kurds, the Left (the communist party), liberals and other democrats in the Governing Council were able to offer enough resistance against the immense pressure from Shiite fundamentalists. The Iraqi Women's Movement succeeded, under the leadership of Iman Abdel-Djebar, to undo the so-called Article 137 (a law on the validity of Sharia and tradition in family jurisdiction), which had passed in the Governing Council with a slim majority.

All of this is possible, because there are foreign troops present.. Still we hear, about our troops in Iraq, from Wouter Bos:[vi] it's been enough already with the Dutch presence in Iraq. Bos' declaration is a cruel slap in the face of the survivors of Hallabja and Saddam's other victims."


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