Issue 272 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published March 2003 Copyright © Socialist Review
This is a war without reason, justification or explanation argues Pat Stack
Tony Blair recently proclaimed that even if he were in a minority in the country he would still be committed to wage war on Iraq. Today it appears he is, so he's going to get the chance to prove it.
Never has a war seemed to have less reason, justice or explanation. It is impossible to find a single persuasive argument in its favour.
There are two reasons for every war--the stated one and the real one. The real one is not my concern here--suffice it to say oil, regional control and proving the unchallengeable authority of a superpower provide the most potent explanations. For the purposes of this column I want to look at the stated reason.
Personally I did not support the Falklands War, the first Gulf War, the Kosovan war or the war on Afghanistan. Nevertheless arguments could be put forward to greater or lesser degrees in favour of each.
The Argentinians had invaded the Falklands against the wishes of the local population. Iraq had invaded 'poor little Kuwait'. The Milosovic regime was terrorising ethnic Albanians and denying them independence. The Taliban were barking and very oppressive towards women.
Actually each of these explanations was in reality weak. What the hell had a rock in the South Atlantic got to do with Britain? How could it possibly be British? How could it be worth killing or dying for?
Plucky little Kuwait was an undemocratic imperialist invention, controlled by an enormously wealthy, corrupt and cruel royal family who denied the vast bulk of their workers citizenship, let alone any basic rights. Not worthy of a drop of blood.
The Kosovo conflict was an immensely complicated one where ethnic division saw pogroms, gangsterism and atrocities on all sides. It suited our rulers to lay all blame at the feet of the Serbs, but this bore little resemblance to the truth. After the blood was spilt the pogroms, gangsterism and atrocities continued, but most were inflicted by 'our allies' the KLA.
Afghanistan--well, this was a cruel war of revenge for what happened on 11 September. Those who believed it was going to bring peace, stability, progress--oh, and women's liberation--have been badly let down. The US, so keen on doling out death, shows little interest in raising the quality of life.
Nevertheless, each to a greater or lesser extent had on the face of it 'a case'.
What then of the two biggest conflicts in human history? The Second World War is portrayed as a war against the Nazi menace, against the evils of fascist ideology, a war to save the victims of the Holocaust. Indeed, with an apparent complete lack of irony, it is this war that Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair and their motley crews are citing as a precedent. They are apparently the heirs of Churchill, the rest of us Chamberlain's bastard offspring.
I do not have the space here to look at the real reasons for that war. Suffice it to say that Churchill had little problem with fascists or their ideology, almost nothing was done to save the Jews from their fate, and when it was all over the victors of this 'noble war' carved out the world between them. Nevertheless the stated reasons for war were pretty impressive.
The First World War, on the other hand, is a completely different kettle of carnage. If you don't buy the real reason--'imperialist carve-up'--then the war seems the most illogical of all. 'The reason for fighting I never did get' writes Bob Dylan in his song 'God On Our Side'. It would be hard to blame him. Back at school I learnt that somebody or other (a Serb, I seem to recall) shot the Archduke Ferdinand, and as a result millions died.
All very odd. However, we have to acknowledge that there was an Archduke Ferdinand and there was an assassination.
This time there is nothing, nada, nowt. The best case against Saddam seems to be that he hasn't completed the paperwork properly. True, he's a dictator, but that can't be a stated reason of any conviction. After all, most of the US's allies in the region are dictators, and Bush seemed rather keen to help the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Venezuela recently.
True, he has used chemical weapons in the past on Iran and the Kurds, but they were supplied by the US, and one Donald Rumsfeld cheered him on as he used them.
True, he had imperialist aspirations in the region, but his defeat in the last Gulf War and 12 years of crippling sanctions have made these aims redundant.
Despite desperate efforts on behalf of Bush, the most meaningful link to be found between Iraq and Al Qaida is that both have a 'Q' in their name.
Ah, but he's a despot to his own people. This argument reminds me of the US army major in the Vietnam War who announced that he had 'destroyed the village in order to save it'.
So all that's left is the botched paperwork. Never has a war's stated aims been less convincing. Perhaps people would be a little more convinced if Blair were to acknowledge that his main ally is a pretzel-puking, warmongering know-nothing who hasn't even been properly elected.
As it is, Blair seems to see no fault in the man at all. How could the man who appeared to be in love with Clinton move so effortlessly and without a blush into Bush's bed?
No wonder you fear you might be all alone, Tony.
Both Iraq and Al Qaida have a 'Q' in their name