Tuesday, June 28, 2005


At the risk of repeating my repetitions I say this about Iraq: everyone knew from the beginning that the reasons why the US and the UK invaded Iraq were bogus. Andrew Sullivan in his big piece in The Sunday Times (26 June 2005) runs through the whole thing again. He says: "Maybe it will prove an inspired decision to launch a war for the future of democracy in the cradle of civilsation." Up to a point Lord Copper.

Anyone with any grasp of the reality of the Middle East knew it was nothing to do with democracy simply because they knew the west dealt, and continues to deal, with so many undemocratic Arab States, and many other unsavoury governments across the world, without worry either about democracy as a principle or the freedom and human rights of individuals within these countries - as in police states such as Egypt and Syria. Indeed, it is slowly being divulged that the US is particuar is using countries such as Egypt to send people they consider a threat for roughing up and interrogation.

If this project had ever been about the spread of democracy in any way that was other than the convoluted logic of "by democratising the world the US maximises its economy", it would be surprising. Although western politicians play with the notion of the necessity of protecting the individual rights of its citizens, a mist comes down when they are asked to consider the same principle for other peoples. We could expect this sort of hard-nosed politicking in the colonial and immediate post-colonial era, such as the way Britain dealt with the "insurgents" in Malaya or Kenya: it doesn't seem as if the British government cared a damn who died in order to keep the communists or Mau Mau at bay. Indeed, Malaya seemed to form the model for the way the US operated in Vietnam a decade later.

But in the 21 century? What should globalisation be about if not a greater understanding (a ecologico-political understanding) and sensitivity about and respect for other people even if they are poorer and less educated than you. It can't just be everyone wearing the same baseball caps and trainers, whether you live in Maine or Mombai. In essence: it has to be a two way process or it is nothing. At a minimum it ought to be the movement of goods services and ideas round the world by a set of fair rules. It has to be by rules, because the default is always for the more advanced to dominate the weak by such things as flooding markets with the goods they do not want, even if so doing they muck up the economies of the countries they dump their goods on. This would also mean a complete re-thinking of the EU, as well the way the US choses to operate as an economic power.

The peaceniks, at the beginning of the current Iraq debacle, argued that many innocent Irqis would die needlessly, and or for the continued supply of oil to the US. Though nobody listened, they were right but this was hardly 'rocket science'. The point is, surely, that in the willingness to shed the bloood of others in pursuit of so-called principled gaols such as the further spread of democracy, it hurts like hell (for governments, politicians and the grieving relatives) when combatants, trained to kill, and deliberately sent in to either kill or restore order, die to the extent of a thousand or two in support of this aim, while the US, and even the UK perhaps, have the affrontery to refuse to count the number of Iraqi civilians killed. In my eyes this shows the level of thinking and lack of principle: morality and ethics.

It would have been easy to admit to the deaths of the innocents without losing the argument about occupying Iraq. But it would also have provided the proof (goes the politic-think logic) that the peaceniks were correct in the lead up to the war. It is this which the US administration had their eye on rather than the simpler facts of life and death and facing up to reality of what happens in war, and what is the necessary minimum admittence. Perhaps it is unrealistic to think wars are not also public relations exercises.

The point of associations such as the UN is to obviate the need to invade countries in what in effect will always be an arbitary fashion (i.e. based on the needs of one or other country rather than as those of the world as a whole). The UN charter could quite easily have been set up to prevent one country invading another at all. If any invading was to be done it would be by an international force in the true sense: one which was set up and run with only this purpose in mind. No one is prepared to pay the high price of having a standing UN force to sort out problems around the world.

In this case there were a series of resolutions demanding Iraq do certain things. None of them specifically stated that the former president should free ghis people or else. They were all about the threat Iraq was perceived to be to other countries.

We have to take aside the convenient by-product of the recent Iraq wars, which was the chance of real freedom for Iraqis. You have to be very stupid indeed to believe the rhetorical emphasis on freeing Iraqis from their tyrant was the main reason. Other countries round the world hadn'r been baying for Saddams blood over the last 20 years. It was only the former colonial master, the now world master, who just happened to use more oil than any other country and Israel.

Going back a stage to the Kurdish crisis. Remember the pitiful sight of thousands of people fleeing in the snow? And various of the great and good parachuting in to solve the problem, including Jeffrey Archer with his camapign for funds to help the Kurds?

In the end No Fly Zones were sanctioned with the ostensible purpose of protecting the Kurds in the North and the Shia in the South. If there had been a case for UN blue hats to be on the ground, it was when the mass exodus started. We we all sat around wringing our hands waiting for our governments to do what was right. Indeed, the presence of the UN at that stage, under a sensible UN resolution, might have led, by stages, to the removal of the murderous Ba'athists without the death of thousands of innocent men women and children. To have taken control of the north would have been a good first step. But it would have been for genuininy humanitarian reasons.

By stages Iraq could have been forced to tell the world whether it possessed WMD. They would have been much more likely to have done so, instead of stalling, if 20,000 UN troops were stationed 100 miles from Baghdad.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq was merely an act of opportunism. Its raison de etre was stage two of tackling the problem of international terrorism - the invasion of Afghanistan being the first - even though Iraq was not responsible for it, just a place where there a few odd camps and a handful of potential terrorists hung out. No one ever even suggested the biggest exporter of terrorism, Iran, be invaded. Those in the US administration who argued it would achieve something sensible won over those who said it would end up in the chaos, random violence and blood the Iraqis are now experiencing on a daily basis. As Andrew Sullivan is beginning to say, now, the oportunists probably didn't think actually having a post-invasion plan really mattered. Their minds were fixated on the anti-terror strategy, which included (a) locking a lot of people up (b) having centres to do so outside the US. We all learnt about the Department of State report which pointed out the absolute necessity to have a detailed post invasion plan, which we also learnt Rumsfeld binned probably without even reading.

The best way to solve the crisis of resurgent fundamentalist Islam is to sooth the hurt of the masses of Muslims across the world. Money can go a long way to achieving this. And it is only the US who has the money. Health and education. People may be suspicious if you give them presents, but if you keep on giving, they will hopefully, eventually come to trust your motives. Although, of course, when states give money it can only ever be with a political end in mind!

memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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