Thursday, August 08, 2002

David Aaronovitch says we have not met the conditions for starting a war against Saddam in which we are certain to kill civilians.

Saddam is not Hitler; he is not Nasser; he is Saddam and that is bad enough. His Tikrit gangstocracy is among the nastiest regimes in the world; he has invaded two nations, enslaved his own people, built and used biological and chemical weapons and tried to build nuclear ones; and there is nothing in his record to suggest that he is amenable to diplomacy. This is the man who refused to budge from Kuwait between August 1990 and January 1991 when the air war began, and then refused to budge when the ground campaign started. When retreating, he set fire to the oil fields. We could probably do the Iraqi people no greater favour than removing Saddam and giving them a chance to build again.

But we can't. And we can't because the church people are right. Wars are very particular things and civilised nations can't just have them when they feel like it or when they feel they have run out of options. Wars have to be justified, overwhelmingly, by a conviction that the alternative to war is actually worse. And that conviction must be widely held, as it was after 11 September in the case of Afghanistan.

I think David is right. And for me just as serious an objection is that the Iraq project is a distraction from the real task of fighting al Qaeda and the sponsors of Islamic terrorism. It betrays a dangerous lack of focus on the real dangers that face us. The priorities in the war on terrorism should be applying pressure to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and the Palestinians, not settling an old grudge from the years before Sept 11.

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