George Orwell wrote a brilliant work of political satire entitled 1984. In the past few years the realities suggested possible for 1984 by Orwell have come to fruition. People are “disappeared.” Kangaroo courts are being established – all in the name of security, of course. The Eastasia-Eurasia dilemma of 1984 – where Oceania went from being allies of Eastasia and fighting Eurasia to reversing this position and declaring the previous enemy, Eurasia, a close friend in the fight against Eastasia – is alive and well.
Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were both allies in the real 1980s and we armed them both, providing them with funding and infrastructure, and now they are both evildoers out to harm us. The reason for the shift against bin Laden is rationally explicable – he attacked us. He used terrorism, something we encouraged against the Soviets in Afghanistan, against the United States. Naturally, under these circumstances, we must fight him, and with what better ally than Russia. The case concerning Saddam Hussein, on the other hand, is both remarkable and outrageous. We complained that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and therefore must be disarmed. This was after, of course, we gave him these very arms.
Now why would we give him these arms? To fight the evil Iranians, of course. Yet while we were arming Saddam, we also sold the Iranians arms to fight against Iraq in the Iran-Contra scandal. Eastasia and Eurasia sound similar – so who can remember which is which? Conveniently, we enjoy the same situation with Iraq and Iran. Now instead of using the crude system of 1984, where news articles of the past are amended to erase what happened, our leaders just choose to lie outright; which works just as well and has no paper trail. Perhaps burning old news articles is a bit crude, but if I were Donald Rumsfeld I would totally burn that ’80s-era picture of Saddam and me shaking hands.
Nowadays we say that Saddam used the weapons on his own people, and because that is evil, he must be punished. Of course that’s “evil,” but so is using the weapons against their intended target; Iranians, or anyone for that matter. But if it’s more helpful, we need not concern ourselves with the moral complexity of whether gassing foreigners is okay. These moral complexities aside, Saddam gassed the Iraqi Kurds while we were arming and funding him. The following year, to demonstrate our outrage, we doubled his funding.
Then he did something really terrible. He went from fighting the evil semi-democratic Iranian people, to fighting the good monarchy of Kuwait. Attacking that monarchy was bad, whereas gassing Iranians was good – or, at least, worthy of American tax dollars. Not to worry, the good Americans and their good allies in the oppressive monarchy of Saudi Arabia saddled up and drove back the Iraqis, now considered evil, and bombed the heck out of civilians in Baghdad. Then, to show just how good we were and how bad Iraqis were, we implemented a sanctions regime which successfully led to the deaths of 1.5 million evil Iraqi civilians, including 500,000 children, according to the United Nations. The shifting enemies we witnessed in past years reflect a 1984-like foreign policy; but not to worry, there are plenty of domestic comparisons as well.
We have Big Brother here at home protecting us. Big Brother was good old John Ashcroft. Now it is good old Alberto Gonzales. Now Big Brother has successfully harassed, vilified and interrogated many evil liberals, also known as the people who like peace rather then war. Also, Big Brother Ashcroft attacked libertarians declaring that their criticism of him only aided terrorists. The remarkable thing about this is that many of these evil libertarians, like the dissidents of 1984, were members of his party. Some examples include the American Conservative Union and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. In 1984, the evil dissidents were advocating for the original principle goals of Oceania’s revolution. Here today, our evil libertarians are doing the same thing by insisting on things such as a right to a trial by jury and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
Let’s not forget the satirically brilliant two minutes of hate in 1984. In 1984, pictures of evil people were shown and everyone watching would get real mad and espouse their hatred of them. Now we have 24-hour news networks of hate. Today people like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and other right-wing political hacks ensure that we’re always informed on whom to hate, such as terrorists, gays and liberals (liberals being people who like feeding hungry people with government money rather then building nuclear, not nucular, bombs).
-The writer is a junior majoring in Middle East studies.