As the old year heads for the exit and the new year shows its fresh face, newspapers always succumb to the inclination to review the twelve months just gone. They review events, personalities, films, books, sporting highlights, fancy gadgets, sleep-walking gymnasts, and even sometimes - as the Guardian did a few days ago - the best of themselves. Well, why not? Here are some choice Guardian moments of 2004, as noticed by me.
In January, Paul Foot reported on a friend of his who was leaving the Labour Party and who thought that 'Saddam Hussein was not by any means the worst of the dictators in charge of a country in the world today.' Alexander Chancellor declared the capture of Saddam a mere (unintended) 'side effect' of the invasion of Iraq.
In February, Naomi Klein saw her way to persuading herself that, even with a democratic outcome to it, the Iraq war would be wrong - the credit for the democratic outcome going, by implication, to those who had opposed the war.
In March, she - yes, Naomi Klein - next managed to persuade herself that the chief beneficiaries of terrorism in Iraq were... the Americans.
In April, Jonathan Steele reacted to the killing and dismembering of four American civilian contractors in Falluja by talking about a 'cycle of violence' and 'ordinary [Iraqi] families, driven by nationalist pride'. He did, however, later criticize those taking journalists hostage in Iraq. His criticism? 'The hostage-takers are their own worst enemies, since free access to the media would probably uncover more evidence to damn the US than to exculpate it.'
In May, a front page Guardian headline billed the murder of Nicholas Berg as being 'in revenge' for the torture of Iraqis by US troops.
In June, Richard Norton-Taylor perpetrated a comparison so ridiculous that it isn't possible to summmarize it briefly; but it was about like saying that a car and a bicycle have nothing whatsoever in common, because a bicycle can't seat five people. John Pilger wrote to the Guardian complaining of its silence over anti-war dissent in Britain. Steve Bell favoured us with one of his more egregious moral-equivalence cartoons.
In July, seven academics wrote to the Guardian to say that 'in the UK there has been only limited opportunity for public debate on Iraq'.
In August, Naomi Klein returned, calling for Najaf to be brought to New York, and selling us the representative merits of Moqtada al-Sadr. Jonathan Freedland had a nice formula which encouraged his readers to think that there might be a simple continuity in Iraq between the human rights record of Saddam Hussein's regime and that of the US-led coalition.
In September, Jonathan Steele expressed criticism of those Islamist groups in Iraq willing to target even 'severe critics of US and British policy'. Harold Pinter had a political poem that ended with one man 'bow[ing] down before another man/And suck[ing] his lust'. Jonathan Freedland came up with the brilliant proposal that the population of the entire planet should have a vote in the US presidential election. And Martin Jacques thought we might be losing our humanity because of communication technology and the high divorce rate, among other reasons.
In October, Madeleine Bunting figured out that everybody's anxious and fearful these days 'because of how isolated and fragmented our lives are'. She also worried thus: 'How many times we have all been there, interrupted in an exchange with a child to attend to the constant urgency of the adult world'; and saw the 'pervasive values of market capitalism' as responsible. Jonathan Steele thought Afghanistan would have been better off without its election. And Richard Dawkins thought that in going into Iraq George Bush had attacked an 'irrelevant country... however nasty its dictator'. A Guardian editorial saw the US as 'on the threshold of becoming a one-party state' should Bush win the election. And there was a crop of revolting letters following the murder of Kenneth Bigley.
In November, Adam Curtis argued that politicians shouldn't be sowing fear of terrorist attack, because the threat of this, though real... isn't well-organized but 'disparate and complex'. After Bush won the election, a collective wail went up in the Guardian's pages about the stupid, indeed moronic, nature of the US electorate. Mike Marqusee denied that Bush had a mandate; Simon Tisdall carefully pointed out that 48% of the voters had rejected Bush, but he failed to complete the maths. Ian Brown criticized Care International for lack of 'independence', offering a definition of NGO independence which would entail just accepting the terms laid down by Islamist hostage-takers.
In December, Naomi was back once more, deepening our discussion of democracy in bizarre ways: like criticizing the US in Iraq for discrediting women's issues by... no, I can't - not a second time. John Patterson had George Bush 'turn[ing] America into a fascist imperium'. Jeremy Seabrook decided it would be a nice idea to co-opt the tragedy caused by the recent earthquake in South Asia to his own preferred view of contemporary world politics.
Here's wishing the Guardian a better 2005.
(Update at 5.25 PM: Happy New Year to all visitors. Please take a few moments to give some cosideration to putting in an entry for this.)