Many of the antiwar brigade, too — we who from the start have railed against the occupation of Iraq — have in our secret hearts suppressed a twinge of disappointment that the surge of US troop reinforcements in Baghdad has been accompanied by a reduction in civil atrocities. We kind of thought — did we? — that the whole place was going to go up in one enormous explosion, leaving almost everybody dead, and settling the argument finally in our favour?
Perhaps Parris isn't being serious. … He's well placed, naturally, to speak for himself… But it's better for him if he's being facetious. For, though most of us are subject to the temptation of wanting to be right, there are fewer who want this want to be satisfied where the cost of its being satisfied is death and destruction to others.
I doubt that Parris really wants ever-increasing carnage just so that he can feel right; but I fully believe that he does feel this “secret… twinge of disappointment”. Poor kitten.
I’m strongly reminded of the media sniping a while ago that followed Martin Amis’s ill-judged musing that he’d felt “a definite urge - don't you have it? - to say, 'The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.'” His protests that “I was not 'advocating' anything. I was conversationally describing an urge - an urge that soon wore off” cut little ice.
Parris’s remarks are pretty much equivalent, I’d say.
Here’s the odd thing, though. You’d think, as Norm does, that Parris is well placed to speak for himself. Not so. In February 2003, as the Iraq war loomed, Parris wrote an apparently thoughtful piece on his opposition to it:
Would [the candid peacenik] be ready to admit that he had been wrong to oppose the war if an attack proved quick, straightforward and relatively unbloody?
Because I happen to think it might.
And after that? What if, once Saddam and his regime have been routed, the… predictions of mayhem prove wrong? When doves insist that even if the war succeeds the peace will fail, how firmly do we attach ourselves to that argument? Would we still oppose war, even if we could be persuaded that it would bring a better Iraq?
Because I happen to think it might.
I do not think that the war, if there is a war, will fail. …
I am afraid that it will succeed.
I am afraid that it will prove to be the first in an indefinite series of American interventions. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a new empire: an empire that I am afraid Britain may have little choice but to join.
(I think that his ultimate reason for opposing the war was less than impressive, and note that it has the virtue for the pundit – over the other, consequentialist reasons for anti-war positions – of not requiring any predictive abilities or factual knowledge.)
My point is, though: he didn’t think, as he now professes to have thought, “that the whole place was going to go up in one enormous explosion”. Furthermore, he was not, as he now claims, one of “we who from the start have railed against the occupation of Iraq”.
In July 2003, as the problems with the postwar reconstruction were becoming more apparent, he wrote:
Whatever the past, whatever mistakes may have been made, regime change must now be accepted as an honourable endeavour in whose success the whole world has a stake.
… What is to be gained by moaning? The unwilling should now join the willing in trying to make the occupation — and ultimately the handover — work.
There is no point in crowing or carping, for the alternative to a successful transition is grisly.
Grisly. Quite. If he does feel even an idle and occasional yearning for slaughter that would allow him to say ‘I told you so’, he could at least check first that he really had told us so.