April 14, 2004

Devastating intellect from Paul Foot

The beam in Bremer's eye

"Mote and beam, Sir" was a cheeky riposte in a winning sketch in the 1960s satire show Beyond the Fringe. It was a reference to a biblical warning to pompous critics of their fellows. Such critics should, the Bible warns, consider first the beam (great big splinter) in their own eyes before criticising the mote (tiny speck) in other peoples' eyes.
The mote and beam comparison keeps making imbeciles of the dwindling band of ministers and functionaries who seek to defend the military invasion and grisly occupation of Iraq. Paul Bremer is the blinkered reactionary in charge of the administration of that country. Bremer was described in a special Financial Times profile last week as "an imposing figure with a devastating intellect".

Last week, in the middle of the growing chaos in Iraqi cities, Bremer savagely denounced groups "who think power in Iraq should come out of the barrel of a gun". He was not apparently referring to the US and British armed forces who seized power in Iraq (and put him into his powerful post) entirely and exclusively by sustained use of the barrels of thousands of guns, not to mention helicopter gunships, guided missiles, cluster bombs and weapons of people destruction of every conceivable kind. Bremer, in short, is an "imposing figure" in Iraq only because he was able to rely on the greatest firepower on earth.

Again last week, during the uprising in Falluja, Bremer became very annoyed with the insurgents, led, he alleged, by Sheikh Moqtada al-Sadr. On Tuesday last week I turned on the television to see Bremer angrily protesting that Sadr "basically tried to take control of the country". In an attempt to apply Bremer's "devastating intellect" to that sentence, I would define "the country" as Iraq, Sadr as a man who lives in that country, and Bremer, a career diplomat who lives in the US, as a man who not only tried but succeeded in taking over Iraq by force of arms without recourse to the people there (or even the United Nations).

What advice can we offer Bremer and his fellow imperialists, who keep denouncing Iraqi resistance to the invasion and occupation of their country for the violence and duplicity that they themselves regularly deploy? The mote and beam story appears twice in the New Testament, and each time the advice is spot on: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote in thy brother's eye."

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