Comment: Prophecies on war go haywire
By Damian Thompson, The Telegraph Group, UK, 24-04-2003
London - On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 9, I watched Saddam's statue lurch sideways,and my fingers itched to pick up the phone. But I didn't give in to the temptation.
For the past few weeks, my Left-wing friends and I have operated a non-aggression pact, organised around a simple rule: don't mention the war. This is not out of respect for each other's views. It's because we don't want the police to be called.
It was at a dinner party, that the friendship-wrecking potential of the Iraq conflict really sank in. I have known Gregory since the 1980s; he carries off the implausibly postmodern combination of graphic designer and practising Anglican with tremendous panache.
He is almost the wittiest person I know, so I felt a pang of disappointment when he explained why he was going on the peace march. "Dubya is such a moron," he said. In my experience, people who call President Bush "Dubya" tend to be morons themselves.
So I replied, in the relaxed, conversational tone I use if I really want to drive someone crazy: "You're playing right into Saddam's hands. The blood of his victims will be on your conscience."
Within seconds, we were being pulled apart like boys in the playground by a fellow guest.
My decision not to pick arguments with my anti-war friends wasn't about agreeing to disagree. It was about not trusting myself not to hit them.
I don't include in my condemnation people who opposed the war for honourable reasons; I'm referring to those who flirted with the hate-filled anti-Americanism of the "Not in My Name" lobby, some of whose spokesmen licked their lips in anticipation of the "grave humanitarian crisis" that would follow military intervention.
I stuck to my resolve right throughout the campaign: indeed, if I'm being honest, I was glad of it during the hairy days of late March.
Even in the past week, I've refrained from gloating - partly because I've been nervous of what might happen. The anti-war movement is thrashing around like a wounded dinosaur. In the 1950s, social psychologist Leon Festinger wrote When Prophecy Fails, a hilarious study of a UFO cult whose world collapsed when a threatened global flood failed to materialise.
He minted the term "cognitive dissonance" to describe the desperate feelings created by the non-fulfilment of prophecy. Yesterday, I walked into a London bookshop and was greeted with a sight that brought me out in goose-pimples of Schadenfreude.
They were clearing away the Chomsky. Yes, the bar-room bore of the anti-imperialist Left was being eased aside to make room for a big pink pile of chick-lit; and when I asked the assistant why, she said: "Well, we thought that now the war is over..."
And I thought: enough is enough. It's time to crow. Time to stand outside London's Arts Theatre and cackle at the sour-faced Islingtonians trooping in to see a show (written before the war and hastily revised, I gather) called The Madness of George Dubya.
Time to write to the Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, and ask him on what information he based his assertion that "hundreds of thousands of Iraqis" would die in the conflict.
Time to cut out Fisky's prophecies of the siege of Baghdad and frame them in the bathroom. Time to pick up the phone to Gregory and say: "The Iraqi people have been liberated - but not in your name."