Johan Galtung, Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, is author of “Peace Economics: from a Killing to a Living Economy”  (

Nobody celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq on March 19-20. Stephen Zunes summarize the losses in one of his excellent articles in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

“The death of up to half a million Iraqis, the vast majority of whom are civilians, leaving over 600,000 orphans. More than 1.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced and nearly twice that many have fled into exile. Almost 4,500 Americans were killed and thousands more have received serious physical and emotional injuries that will plague them the rest of their lives. The war has cost U.S. taxpayers close to $1.3 trillion”.

This is on top of killing 1.3 million in the UN-imposed sanctions.

To use expressions like “humanitarian intervention” or “human security” given such predictable insults to basic human needs and rights beats Orwell’s 1984 Newspeak. With nothing to justify this, the coalition should bow in confession, contrition and compensation. 

Iraq did not become a democracy as a result, despite some constitution and multiparty elections. An artificial country put together by the U.K. out of the beaten Ottoman Empire, multi-national with Shia Arabs in the south, Sunni Arabs in the middle and Sunni Kurds, cannot be treated as a unitary state. Democracy inside each nation makes good sense, and the Kurds are benefiting from that, having been set apart. (Con)federation first, then democracy.

The Iraqi majority is Shia, meaning that the one person-one vote formula favors the Shia for the whole country, thereby also favoring Iran and other Shia parts of the Middle East.

But they got rid of Saddam Hussein? Yes, in a caricature of the rule of law, killing him before he could tell his side of the complex story. He is already becoming a myth, close to a martyr.

In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda (1867-1956) published a book that soon became very famous: La Trahison des Clercs. The English title was doubly unfortunate: The Betrayal of the Intellectuals.

For one, “by” would have been better than “of.” Second, an intellectual is a person always questioning his own assumptions, and that is the key issue here. A better term would have been “intelligentsia”, maybe trained as intellectuals but not to question anything, only to give answers, and more particularly answers in line with authority inclinations. Another word would have been “experts”; still another, more like Benda’s clercs: “bureaucrats”. They have all traded in their autonomy for money, status, power; and may also be available for short time hire on a per-diem basis.

Benda takes to task French and German intelligentsia of the 19th century for their extreme nationalism, racism and belligerence, leading to the wars of 1870-71 and 1914-18, and to the first and second Versailles treaties.

Benda had two alternatives to nationalism backed by state power. One was the classical culture of the Antiquity — border-transcending and unifying. The other was the Christianity of the Middle Ages — similarly border-transcending.

The security and regional experts providing premisses for state violence, hide behind presidents and prime ministers. Bush-Blair depended on support from their advisors but what they got was not intelligent, but stupid.

To assume that one can invade a country without encountering hard resistance is stupid. Even if polls showed more Iraqis favoring the USA than Saddam it is unforgivable to forget the third category: those who favored neither.

To refer to resistance as “insurgency” assumes that the invader has some kind of legitimacy, making any resistance illegitimate. But the second UN resolution glared by its absence.

To assume that a dictator can be deposed and democracy introduced is equally stupid. The dictator is there for some reason: the country is ungovernable. Being forged together by a colonial power–Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria — the faultlines survived decolonization. The colonial power ruled with a hard hand, and their thinking survived in the intelligentsia delivering the premises for war. One person-one vote democracy works in homogenous countries, like the Nordic ones, or in countries with so many faultlines that they somehow cancel each other out (United States, Tanzania).

To assume only one scenario, namely war — maybe after sanctions — reveals intellectual poverty. Iraq had problems but not the casualties, exile and displacements of the 10-year-old war, which may last for another 10, having upset so many unstable equilibria.

Nonviolence works against dictators. There are conflict resolution, trauma reconciliation. And yet, they cater to U.S.-U.K. war addictions, sending others to hell.

Such people should be known for their tested inability to analyze and forecast and remedy. Academia should be for
intellectuals, not for clercs, intelligentsia. And states should update their advisors.

Tagged with: