I was going to write about the systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners by UK troops, but Swiss Toni has got it covered.

I’ll just add that I find it difficult to believe that any lowly private or corporal would dare to commit acts of torture and humiliation if they were not sanctioned – in fact, encouraged – by commanding officers. These soldiers will be made scapegoats, like the American private Lynndie England and several of her low-ranking, inarticulate colleagues were blamed for flouting orders, not following them. But it’s impossible not to believe that the rot runs very deep indeed, into the very foundations of the military system. Like Swiss Toni and Gerry say, if you train a person to be a cold-blooded killer, don’t be surprised if he or she behaves viciously.

Then I considered writing about Bush’s inauguration. As George Monbiot neatly wrote this week, “On Thursday, the fairy king of fairyland will be re-crowned. He was elected on a platform suspended in mid air by the power of imagination. He is the leader of a band of men who walk through ghostly realms unvisited by reality. And he remains the most powerful person on earth.”

But I was in peals of laughter by the second paragraph of the first news report I read about today’s lavish inauguration.

“The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,” Mr Bush said.

This is black comedy, I thought, surely? I couldn’t help picturing furious editors of the Oxford English Dictionary taking out an injunction against such wilfully perverse use of the word “liberty”.

“It is the policy of the US, he said, to support forces of democracy ‘with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world’.”

ENDING tyranny! He really said that!

With my sides now comprehensively split, I decided to move onto another, less bleakly hilarious topic. Well, less hilarious. Equally bleak.

How about speculation that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, goaded on by the US administration?

The long-awaited Iraqi elections are being imposed by force by an invading nation. It’s no way to nurture democracy. And the very definition of democracy is that the Iraqi people have the right to choose any leader they wish. Given the unpopularity of the occupying army, it seems likely that, left to their own devices, the Iraqi people would largely choose an anti-US candidate.

Now let’s think about this. America have worked hard to colonise what is one of the most strategically important countries in their sights. Are they really going to stand for the election of a socially-minded Iraqi president who sends them packing, sets up a decent welfare state and imposes tax on oil at source to pay for it (a deftly wrought suggestion of Robert Newman’s)? Or are they going to find a way to ensure they get their own way, and first rights to cheap oil, by any means necessary?

Um, can I have a moment to think? Uh…

Mike Whitney writes:

“Civil war can be messy. Inciting religious and sectarian hatreds tends to disrupt the smooth execution of business; like the purging of potential enemies and the extracting of vital resources. Never the less, Rumsfeld is nearly out of options; ‘divide and conquer’ may be all that’s left. If we glance at the last 3 imperial projects; Kosovo, Haiti and Afghanistan, the very same strategy was applied. All three nations have been effectively carved up, delivered to US multi-national corporations, and reduced to warlordism or anarchy. Their outcome sets the precedent for similar results in Iraq. Will Iraq be Balkanized along ethnic and religious lines?

That’s what the Generals are hoping, and their plan is already in full swing.”

And it’s not just America attempting to control the crushed, brutalised state of Iraq. Medialens reports that not only are the US nudging their preferred Iraq presidential candidates forward, so are Iran:

“…[T]he American writer Edward Herman, co-author with Frank Brodhead of the classic work, Demonstration Elections (South End Press, 1984), points out that when an occupying power sponsors an election ‘it is not free and democratic because it was imposed by an external force and did not come from demands from within’. (Email to David Edwards, January 15, 2005) Moreover, because the election is externally imposed, participation can be interpreted as an implicit approval of the occupation, a corrupting factor in the vote.

And of course the 100,000 Iraqis killed under the occupation will not be voting; nor will the unknown thousands languishing without charge in US-run jails. The ongoing conflict will prevent many more from participating – the several hundred thousand refugees from Fallujah, for example, who are currently busy trying to survive. Nor will international observers be able to monitor the election inside the country.

On December 15, the New York Times reported that on a list of 228 candidates submitted by a major Shiite-led political alliance to Iraq’s electoral commission, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s name was entered as No.1. The Times reported that Hakim has close ties to Iran’s ruling ayatollahs…

Unreported by the mainstream US and UK press, another foreign power is also using its influence to push its candidates.

Washington-funded organisations with long records of manipulating foreign democracies in favour of US interests are deeply involved in the election. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) are part of a consortium to which the US government has provided over $80 million for political and electoral activities in Iraq. NDI is headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while IRI is chaired by Republican Senator John McCain.”

Meanwhile, back in Washington, “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world” says Bush.

Freedom. Liberty. Those words which used to mean something light and empathetic and gentle. Which now mean something violent and sly and corrupt.

If I’d thought about it more carefully, I might’ve come up with a proper conclusion. But it’s late, and you know all this already.

NB: For a far clearer commentary on selected highlights of Bush’s speech, I recommend visiting Jenni chez Déesses Démocratiques. And apologies to anyone else who’s written an incisive post on this topic which I may have missed, in my half-awake bookmark-free (grr) state. I plan to be more coherent next time, and it may even be possible for a casual reader to locate the point. Here’s hoping.