Also, did PETA skin the racoon specially, or did they have one handily lying around?
And in the second review of the day, from the Indy,
THE ASSASSINS' GATE by George Packer
(Faber 467 pp. £ 14.99)
reviewed by Roz Kaveney
Sometimes those of us who were right all the time about an act of folly are best advised to listen in all humility to the disillusion of those who thought that folly a good idea at the time. The invasion of Iraq was both a mistake and a crime, but there were good reasons to support it, just not enough of them. George Packer's book about the Americans in Iraq is a fine one because it is an elegy for lost illusions; none of us are so right all the time that we can afford to ignore what he has to say.
Packer was one of those who thought the Saddam regime so intolerable that he was prepared to flout international law to see it deposed. He was never a neocon, but thought that they were reasonable men who on this issue might be on the side of the angels. He was a close friend of exiled Iraqi idealists like Kanan Makiya, and, like them, thought that the fall of Saddam would be one of those dawns in which it was blessed to be alive. He writes well about those certainties and that idealism and those misconceptions; he comments in a bitter jest that the race to war coincided with a new film of Greene's 'The Quiet American' and at the time he did not see the prophetic irony.
Packer has spent much time over the last years in the wreckage that used to be Iraq and one of the things his book conveys is the pity of it. Intelligent women who spent the latter years of Saddam's regime of machismo and random rape afraid to leave their houses are now imprisoned there by Islamist vigilantes for whom female intelligence is surplus to requirement. Plump young men who in a happier environment would be Star Trek fans are growing their beards and becoming aficionados of Judaeo-Masonic conspiracies and beheading videos. The electricity hardly works, and nor does the sewerage. And when, in one of the few moments of hope, people turn out in the face of threat to vote, they opt for godliness over competence.
This book is clear where the blame lies and places it fair and square on Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney. America's leaders had no great interest in the welfare of the Iraqi people and thought they could be liberated on the cheap; when Saddam's regime crumbled at a touch, they felt vindicated and regarded the collapse of law and order as a mere consequence of freedom. They lied to the American people about WMDs; they treated Iraq as a source of profit for their cronies; but above all they lied to themselves about the practical consequences of what they were doing.. Iraqis are dying; young American soldiers are dying; UNESCO idealists were blown skyhigh. And as yet, no-one in Washington has paid a price. This is a bitter book that could not have been written as sincerely by someone who was right all along - it is the sort of book that helps ensure that people like its author won't be fooled again.