Two very different viewpoints on Iraq today.
Firstly, an unapologetic piece by the essential Oliver Kamm: We were right to invade Iraq. (This article also appears in today’s Guardian.) Kamm is always an intriguing read, being a self-declared left-wing supporter of neo-Conservative strategy. He’s even written a book about it. So while there’s nothing surprising about the content of this latest article, it’s still well worth reading.
"Saddam allowed intrusive inspections only because of the threat of force. Containment of his regime would have meant continuous military deployment in neighbouring states and the no-fly zones; intensified economic sanctions; inspections coercive enough to withstand Saddam's intimidation and fraud; and the support of France and Russia. Even with personalities of greater competence than Hans Blix and higher morals than Jacques Chirac, that commitment would have been inconceivable. Of the permanent members of the security council, only the US and UK could have been relied on."
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"Recall also the alacrity with which some commentators attributed the 7/7 bombings to the provocation of the Iraq war. Disgracefully, the New Statesman carried a cover picture of a rucksack with the caption "Blair's bombs". But containment would have meant persisting with what most outraged Osama bin Laden: western troops in Saudi Arabia - and Bin Laden urges "Muslims to prepare as much force as possible to terrorise the enemies of God".
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"The failures of the occupation are legion: delayed elections, inadequate security, eroding infrastructure, complacency over the tortures at Abu Ghraib, and a heavy death toll among Iraqi civilians and our troops. But had we allowed Saddam's regime to persist, in defiance of its obligations under 17 UN security council resolutions, the consequences would have been an unalloyed catastrophe. The Uday-Qusay dynasty would have ensured further extreme oppression, unless and until the regime collapsed in chaos. It is a fine judgment whether a rogue state or a failed state, prey to the barbarities that jihadists are trying to inflict on Iraq now but without hindrance, would have been the worse prospect. The notion that terrorism has been brought to Iraq uniquely by the west's overthrow of Saddam, who bankrolled it and was the most likely conduit for Islamist groups to obtain WMD, is astonishingly ahistorical."
I’ve posted significant chunks of it here, but could easily have quoted it all.
Meanwhile, on The Guardian’s new Comment Is Free site, Gary Younge puts forward the opposite viewpoint in his post Marching into the mainstream. The premise of his argument is that “It's becoming apparent that the supporters of the Iraq war are morally and politically bankrupt. But when will the anti-war movement take advantage of its own position of strength?”
Younge sets his piece around the results of a CNN/USA Today poll showing that 57% of Americans now consider going to Iraq to have been a bad idea. All well and good, but if we’re talking statistics, nearly all polls conducted in Iraq show that the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are glad that Saddam and his psychotic henchmen have been driven out, arrested or killed. So where does that leave his argument? Nowhere, because he doesn’t actually have one. While Oliver Kamm has set out a well reasoned defence of a position that has become increasingly difficult to defend (you’d have to be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid to support the war but not acknowledge how disastrous much of the post-invasion strategy has been), Gary Younge just trots out once more the bland protestations of the anti-war movement. I’ve yet to read a convincing anti-war piece because they all peddle the same insubstantial, self-satisfied arguments, posited around one or all of the following: “It’s all about the oil”; “It’s all for Halliburton’s benefit”; “It’s American imperialism”; “It’s a crusade against Muslims”; “Blair is just Bush’s poodle”, etc, etc, etc. The other old classic is the claim that ‘we’ armed Saddam in the first place. Actually, ‘we’ didn’t arm Iraq to any great extent at all (the vast majority of their weaponry was bought from France and the Soviet Union*), this is just another falsehood that has been repeated so often it’s become accepted as a fact in many quarters.
A principled objection to war is one thing, but I’ve never come across anything written by anybody who opposed the invasion explaining why removing the tyrant of an imploding rogue state, who menaced the whole region for decades, is a bad thing. If anyone thinks they can point me in the right direction then, please, enlighten me.
Younge, meanwhile, signs off with the following:
"As the situation in Iraq moves to the next level so should we. The marches are important; but what we need now is a movement."
No. What you need, what you have always needed, is a coherent argument.
* According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which conducts research in these areas. A list of arms sold to Iraq from 1970-2004, by country, can be read here (.pdf).