Knock it down, then build it back up again

It's like undertakers burning down a house, then squabbling about who gets to make the coffins
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The Independent Online

What have we learned from the images of the last few days then? Well, apparently Saddam was even more evil than we thought because his palace was full of expensive things, including gold coloured taps. Unlike our own Royal Family who live in a terraced house in Northampton. And Prince Philip collects his water from a swamp in a neighbouring village.

But most of all we're shown anything that can make it appear that the Iraqis are being "given back their country". You have to admire that phrase. The Americans bombed the country to rid it of a dictator they backed in the first place, then gleefully awarded vast contracts to their friends to rebuild it, then announce that they've given it back. Liverpool football fans should have tried this after knocking over the wall in Belgium that killed all those Italians. If only they'd had the business sense to announce, "The good news is we're giving the contract to rebuild the wall to our Terry from Sefton, so it's a marvellous feeling to be able to give you back your stadium."

In fact the Americans even awarded the rebuilding contracts before the bombing, so maybe they were taking orders. "George, it's Consolidated Concrete here. We're pretty good at cinemas, so if you can knock us over a couple, we can stick them back up by Christmas."

Now there are complaints from certain quarters that, as a fair bit of the country we're giving back was destroyed by Britain, it's only fair that some of the money from rebuilding goes to British firms. It's like a pair of undertakers burning down a house, then squabbling about who gets the job of making the coffins.

Just to show how keen we are to give them back their country, the place will be ruled by Jay Garner, who has managed to criticise the US government for being too critical of Ariel Sharon. One pro-Sharon newspaper has declared, "Israel's friend to rule Iraq". It would be as if someone invaded Britain and said, "We're giving you back your country. So here's your new rulers – Diego Maradona and that bloke from the mosque with one eye and a claw."

As well as giving their country back, we're also going to bring them democracy. Where has America done this in the past, then? True, they have sometimes re-shaped a country's democracy. For example in Chile, they tried out a new system of picking a leader, where you hold an election and whoever gets the most votes, you kill him. I think they called that method the single transferable coup. They were going to bring democracy to Kuwait after the war in 1991, but 12 years later it remains under the control of the al-Sabah family. Still, George Bush is sure to want to sort this out, because if there's one thing he can't stand, it's someone who uses his own family to undermine the democratic process to become ruler of their country.

And yet, throughout yesterday, both BBC and Sky News channels showed the same pictures, of an Iraqi beating a picture of Saddam with his shoe. And this was shown over and over on a loop, as if to prove the Iraqis have welcomed us. And the narration went on and on, citing "these remarkable pictures" as if they hadn't noticed it was the same bit of film. I'm sure that eventually they were saying, "And there's yet another man, almost identical to the last one, and he's attacking a picture with a shoe. Maybe this is an old Shia custom, the removal of the shoe representing your foot at last being allowed to breathe, just as you can breathe again now you've got your country back, or something. Oh and there's another one, with a similar beard and again the shoe."

There will be plenty of Iraqis delighted at Saddam's demise, but this is very different from assuming they'll welcome the Americans. Do Bush and Blair honestly believe their actions are popular around the Arab world? Or even in Britain? This week, unnoticed by the media, the biggest political meetings for a generation have been taking place. In dozens of towns, hundreds have crammed into community centres. Over a thousand turned up in Liverpool. And, as with the huge march, they've had little resemblance to anything connected with the old left, but have reached into every area of British society. Britain is currently awash with vast numbers of people in a constant state of rage, at how we've been dragged into this carnage that exists to ensure American dominance, and that few people can imagine is making the world a safer place.

It's not just that millions disagree with Blair, it's that they hold him in utter contempt. He won't see that of course. He'll march blindly on to support the next one as well, and as the derision that surrounds him closes in on him, he'll jump up and down like the Iraqi Information Minister, yelling, "There is no problem, my people still love me. The reports that millions of people despise me are all lies. Lies I tell you. Go see for yourself."