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Last night I attended a political fundraising dinner where the speaker was a Conservative MP. Because he deals with defence issues, he was quizzed (often heckled) by members of his party about the Iraq war. Last November I heard an American ‘informed source’ give an explanation as to why war with Iraq was just and necessary.

The problem I have is that there was no common ground at all between the case presented by both speakers. According to one, the hunt for Al-Qaeda is the background goal. According to the other, Al-Qaeda will be cheering when that secularist Saddam falls. One said that nuclear, biological and chemical weapons were the single jusification. The other said it was a smokescreen to get UN backing. One said that there was eidence that Saddam had financed Al-Qaeda. The other said there was no such evidence, but he was financing Hezbollah instead (which is bizarre given the long-standing Iranian connection).

So we are left with this conclusion, the politicians haven’t a clue what they are talking about, and the intelligence services are playing their pet theories off against each other.

If the war against Iraq is about the right of one country to disarm another I am against it. Today Bush thinks Iraq should be disarmed, who will President Hillary or President Gore pick on? Switzerland? Israel? The United Kingdom? If it is to overthrow tyrants then why not start with North Korea? If the war is supposed to install a pro-American government in Iraq then how will bombing Iraqi cities help?

16 comments to War

  • Well Antoine, bombing targets in Iraqi cities seems a pretty good way to start the process of removing Saddam Hussain, the local psycho-in-chief… harsh language is unlikely to do the trick.

    I do not have any rose tinted notion about the motivation of the US administration regarding Iraq, I care only about the destruction of Iraq’s tyranny, regardless of why it is done, as it is hard to see what comes after Saddam in the aftermath of a US-UK attack being as bad for Iraq or anyone else.

  • One reason different people present different cases for the war, is that there are many, many different, true justifications for the war. That everyone can come up with a different reason the war is right, is not a reason to doubt, rather it’s just a manifestation of notion that there is no one, golden road to the truth.

    That some *politicians* might not know what they are talking about, both is no strike against the war, and no proof that intelligence agencies are incompetent.

    You can’t analyse “the right of one country to disarm another” in a vacuum. Of course, no one claims that is a universal right of all countries, all the time. Rather, it applies to disarming dangerous countries, especially when they have agreed to the disarming as a term in a treaty.

    Why is it OK to disarm Iraq on those grounds, but not Israel? Because in the case of Iraq the grounds are true, and in the case of Israel, a morally upright nation, they are not true.

    If you think a war on North Korea would be a better idea than a war on Iraq, feel free to make that case. But, in the meantime, that another war might possibly be even better, is no criticism of this one.

    And the purpose of the war is not “to bomb Iraqi cities” or to kill Iraqis.

  • Ed Graham


    Iraq AGREED to disarm as a condition for ending the Gulf War, a war it provoked by invading one of its neighbors. Switzerland has nothing to fear — even from, God forbid, President Hillary.

  • We’re not just “deciding” that Saddam can’t have these weapons. He agreed to it as a condition of us letting his regime surive when we called a cease-fire at the end of Gulf War I. He agreed to the rules of the game, we’re just gonna enforce them.

  • S. Weasel

    Today Bush thinks Iraq should be disarmed, who will President Hillary or President Gore pick on? Switzerland? Israel? The United Kingdom?

    Well, somebody got a visit from the Hyperbole Fairy.

    Raising doubts about this war is entirely appropriate, and debate is absolutely vital – but I do wish our allies would stop acting like the US could go psycho at any moment and start shooting up Europe.

    Start ramping up your various armies already. The only reason I can see for such high silliness is that you feel out-gunned and vulnerable.

  • Tom Dulaney

    I don’t know to what extent this is anyone’s official party line but I consider this to be about self defense.

    With devastating weaponry increasingly available, the old paradigm of waiting for an attack to materialize isn’t an option anymore. If a nation has the weaponry and has demonstrated extreme hositility and the willingness to use the weapons, what rational options are open?

    I see only one senario that will play to the liking of the western world. That would be to show overwhelming force, as an object lesson, to those who would bring chaos. Does anyone doubt that weapons would eventually find their way from Saddam to the US or UK to be used?

    I’m not too optimistic about the ultimate outcome of all this. Sooner or later, the weapons will be used against us. Our civilization is so delicate.

    Given that the primary duty of a government would be to protect the citizenry, anything other than the obliteration of a probable source of the weapons would be a deriliction of duty.

    Now, what about Korea?

  • Elliot Temple: …and in the case of Israel, a morally upright nation…

    There are no ‘morally upright nations’, it is like saying some specific mafia is ‘morally upright’. Like mafias, some are just worse than others. Nations are at best morally neutral institutions which exist to support the liberty of the people who operate within its borders. At worst they are nightmares like China or Korea. Most of course are clustered somewhere in the middle… Israel is just another theft-based quasi-capitalist quasi-socialist welfare state not much different from a host of other modern welfare quasi-capitalist quasi-socialist welfare states. What is ‘moral’ about that?

  • Perry,

    Imagine an alternate universe where Israel was not founded. Do you think things would be better or worse in it?

    Imagine an alternate universe where, tommorow, the US government disappears without a trace, and along with it, all knowledge of how to have such a government. Would that be good or bad?

  • Jacob

    Perry: “There are no ‘morally upright nations'”

    But then – some nations (or regimes) are more morally depraved than others, and some are more aggresive and dangerous.

  • Warmongering Lunatic

    Where does it end?

    Well, how about we set up a seven-point requirement for overthrowing a regime — the regime must meet ALL seven of the following requirements for an Anglo-American intervention:

    1) The current regime must regularly supress political dissidents with torture and executions.

    2) The current regime must have used weapons of mass destruction in war.

    3) The current regime must have used weapons of mass destruction on its country’s populace

    4) The current regime must have launched at least two wars of agression.

    5) The current regime must have engaged diirectly in a terrorist act aimed at a citizen or citizens of Britain and/or the United States.

    6) The current regime must be in violation of the armistice or cease-fire terms of a war with Britain and/or the United States.

    7) The current regime must have committed multiple direct acts of war against Britain and/or the United States each year over a period of at least five years.

    How about it? Sound fair? This means the regime must be extremely oppressive at home, able and willing to use WMDs, a repeated agressor, actively hostile to the United States and Britain, and be in active violation of its obligations under an armistice or cease-fire to qualify for overthrow.

    Pretty narrow grounds, in fact. Milosevic-era Yugoslavia didn’t qualify. Iran doesn’t qualify. North Korea doesn’t qualify. Cambodia, China, the Soviet Union, Japan — never qualified. Not even Hitler-era Germany ever qualified on all seven points.

    Hussein’s regime in Iraq, in fact, is the only one in all of history that qualifies. His regime regularly supress political dissidents with torture and executions. His regime has used chemical weapons in war, and on internal minorities. He’s launched two wars to annex territory. His regime launched an assassination plot to kill George HW Bush in Kuwait. He’s in violation of the Gulf War cease-fire, and his armed forces have shot at both American and British planes repeatedly.

    Oh, well, better pat him on the head and let him go on his way. Tyrants will be tyrants, after all.

  • Sandy P.

    Why not NK? Because it’s imploding. Delay is better. The rhetoric will get louder.

  • Michael Lonie

    One of the reasons for taking down the Ba’athist regime of Iraq is that terrorism grows out of the dyusfunctional Arab/Muslim political culture. David Pryce-Jones book “The Closed Circle” discusses this culture and is very enlightening. This culture must be changed and replaced by something halfway decent that will allow Arabs to enter the contemporary world. This means some form of consensual government. I am not overly optimistic about planting democracy, as we call it, in the Middle East, but we must try and do something. According to the Arabists Iraq is the best place to try this, it has always been their favorite Arab country, allegedly forward looking and secular by comparison with the others. So this is the first step in changing the Arab political culture to something the rest of the world does not have to fear will export terrorists to them. There are other reasons too, as mentioned above.

    Governments that govern under a rule of law with the consent of the governed have a legitimacy lacking in tyrannies and mafias. To confuse such things is incorrect, no matter how pleasingly logical it seems to the dogmatic libertarians.

  • Ryan Waxx

    Today Bush thinks Iraq should be disarmed, who will President Hillary or President Gore pick on? Switzerland? Israel? The United Kingdom?

    Well, I dunno. If Switzerland starts developing nukes, sets up local embassies for terrorism, uses WMD’s on its own population, militarizes and starts invading other countries for their resources, then just maybe.

    If you consider the above to be a ridiculous proposition, then you now know how those who are not antiamerican bigots feel about your suggestion that we are one step away from invading Europe.

    Oh, wait… we already occupy Europe. So why are Shroeder and you still breathing?

    Odd sort of empire, yes?

  • Sorry for bad English for the first.
    What about next points?
    1. The country must have weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
    2. The country used these WMD in real wars.
    3. The country started some wars of aggresion or assisted to other countries which did it.

    Do you know this country? I`m sure, you do. It is the United States of America. Look for the examples for appropriate points:
    1. Of course, it has WMD.
    2. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, gas attacks in Vietnam.
    3. Corean war 1950-1953, Vietnam, Grenada in 1983, Nicaragua 1979-1985, Cuba 1961.
    Any objections, huh?
    And before you can demand disarmanent you should prove that WMD exists in Iraq. Not by telling the BS like “This is a proof because it must be a proof”.

  • Alan Forrester

    Hi Gray

    First and foremost Iraq. Saddam had weapons before and during the Gulf War and has failed to account for them – he could do this if he wanted to so he is acting in bad faith. Furthermore there seems ample evidence that he has continued to devlop chemical weapons and has ties with terrorists from Al Qaeda, HAMAS, the PLO and so on.

    The Korean War was a war to defend North Korea from invasion by South Korea, see Michael Hickey’s excellent book ‘The Korean War: The West Confronts Communism, 1950-1953’.

    The Vietnam war was a sadly unsuccessful attempt to protect South Vietnam from invasion by North Vietnam, see ‘Vietnam at War: the History, 1946-1975’  by Phillip B Davidson.

    The abortive attempt to liberate Communist Cuba in ’61 is notable more for being utterly ludicrous than being evil. Also, why exactly was it wrong for the US to free Cuba?

    WW2 has been covered in a Samizdata post by me already.

    Nicaragua was a Soviet client state, again why should the US not have helped to liberate it?

    Grenada was a Communist client state of Cuba and was building a military grade airport with Cuban military engineers. On October 13, 1983, the Grenadian Army led by hardline Marxist former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard again seized power in a bloody coup, and there were about 1000 American medical students there who were in deep shit, reason enough to invade methinks.

  • Devilbunny

    It will stabilize the world and make us safer – that’s why we’re doing it. As for what the future holds, I find it somewhat odd that so many against the war fear it because it sets bad precedent. When, exactly, have The Bad Guys worried about precedent? Do you believe that (e.g.) Saddam would not have gassed the Kurds if he, rather than the WWI Germans, had been the inventor of poison gas, because nobody had ever used it before?

    If you think that the Americans are Bad Guys, well, you and I don’t have enough of a view in common to be able to debate. We’ll just have to disagree.

    Finally, please ignore trolls. If we found a nuke in a bunker they’d just say we planted it.