International World Women’s Day today, so Newcastle University put on a lecture by an international world woman; Emma Sky. Eight-hundred people. Packed. Every seat taken on a freezing, wet March night.
People started leaving after ten minutes. Weird. Not a mass exodus or anything, a trickle really but what were they expecting? Everyone knows she supports the American Military [they have degrees from Harvard; they want the same things as me; they want to do good in the world, save us all from the bad guys]. She took questions: ‘It’s a Jewish conspiracy’. Which she took head-on and answered, says the Arab Spring was spontaneous; Israel isn’t an issue except in the Palestinian Territories. Bremer she says, did as he was told. By Cheney and others. Says polls showed there was 95% support among the population for de-Baathification.
She isn’t optimistic. In another of her more detailed answers, she said, ‘people change. People I knew who were Communists became Baathists, then Sunnis and are now Shias. Atheism is on the rise’. Utterly deplores the West’s non-intervention in Syria and the fact that we have not invested in democracy. Said the West has allowed tyranny to flourish in return for oil, or a mining concession or weapons sales and now democracy itself was under threat. There is a lot of this talk around at the moment; the imminent collapse not just of Europe but all the Western Democracies, USA, Japan and chunks of the BRIC trading block. Someone asked her whether the future was one of dictatorships, benign or otherwise but she seemed to believe that democracy was worth fighting for.
She was pushing a book of course, The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq it’s called and you could buy a signed copy and have a brief chat in the reception area outside if you wanted. I didn’t want. Ricks writes very highly of her in The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the Surge; gives her a great deal of credit for her advocacy of the Surge, which she was remarkably modest about last night. A lot more modest than I would have been. But its old news now that America didn’t have nearly enough troops on the ground and that the men Bush trusted, Cheney, Bremer, Rumsfeld of course were largely political appointees with no idea about the course they had set their country on.
She must be the world expert on Iraq, Iran and Middle-east power-struggles; or one of them. Speaks Arabic fluently; PHD from Oxford; teaches at Yale [but still lives in London]; writes; lectures. Still out there trying to change the world for the better. Definitely an international world woman.