Iraq War: the beginning of mistrust of Western democracies?

In this week’s L’Express (french), Frédéric Encel revisits the war in Iraq: “a calamity, yes, the beginning of chaos, no”. He wants “we not to look in the American adventure of 2003 for the source of the mistrust of the global South against the West”. The connection is easy, it’s true: Twenty years ago, the US and 43 Western countries in coalition attacked Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with two false pretexts: his responsibility for the September 11 attacks and his illegal possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Too easy for Frédéric Encel, who goes back in history. But by insisting on the long anterior existence of Middle East conflicts, the Sunni-Shiite schism, and the regional aggressiveness of Saddam “Hussar”, Encel completely misses the point. He avoids its symbolic value. Yet a symbol is not reduced to the context that awakens it. It has a strength per se. Amplified or degraded by each of its interventions.

The symbol of symbols…

The symbol in question is important because it is at the very heart of the democratic principle: the participation of all citizens in the determination of a collective truth. The process involves an obligation of transparency and elected officials are not above the law. Indeed, the existence of untouchables denigrates the right to importance, egalitarian, granted to each citizen, the foundation of democracy. It is this symbol that the war in Iraq destroyed for the US.

Of course, this is not the first time that the highest officials of a democratic state have lied or manipulated their population. It is even commonplace. But the evolution of Western regimes has been constantly towards increasing transparency. Manipulation is tolerated when it aims to promote our universal values. The world is a battlefield. Ingenuity does not pay. Democracy is inherently manipulative: it promotes itself on the planet to the detriment of other regimes. It injects Western culture along with its values, suffocating other cultures. But no one will make it the Devil for that. Acceptable side effects. It is quite different for a West that no longer respects its own fundamental values.


This is the face it gives today: the false pretexts are called ‘fake news’ and have installed large social movements with impunity: wokisms. These groups destroy the democratic collective. The right to importance is no longer equal between citizens because it takes a collective to enact it. But everyone claims to be superior to others because they belong to a particular group of opinion, and refuses that the collective imposes itself on them on the pretext that the group is not in the majority. The fundamental principle of democracy is rejected. Each group creates its alternative truth and furiously forbids its questioning.

Of course, the war in Iraq is not the explanation for wokism. Nevertheless, it is the first spectacular manifestation in a West that has hitherto sought to get rid of its historical lies, in search of an authentic democratic virginity, especially the USA which is in the vanguard with a press very emancipated from the rulers. But it could not do its job. The US was directly at war instead of simply financially assisting another nation like Ukraine today.

Too much relativism makes you lose your dignity

However, the press would have been expected to then punish those responsible for this reversal of the race for transparency. Nothing like that happened. The hawk Rumsfeld and his pooch Bush junior were not worried. One less dictator, the end justifies the means, OK. But what effect does this have on populations that have always lived under dictatorial regimes, without judging them in this way for lack of having known anything else?

The lesson-giver does not respect her own ideals? In these societies where an ordinary life does not matter much, the most desired value, even before money or the right to vote, is dignity. The Westerner, who revamps reality at ease with her fake news, denigrating her own values, has lost her own.


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