A while ago I wrote that Iraq was not a war for idealists, arguing that if it wasn’t for oil we’d have shown as much concern for Iraqis as we did for Rwandans and as the occupation’s gone on I’ve despaired at the occupiers’ often grotesque behaviour. It was clear that war aims were only vaguely (if at all) stated and certainly lacked any focus.
Yet that lack of focus is to be expected. War supporters are bound to have a multitude of competing, and sometimes conflicting, motives. No coalition (and that includes coalitions of American and British supporters at home) can survive if every member insists that every other member’s motives are identical to their own. The US gave Iraq to Saddam: he was a de facto ruler with no moral authority beyond his expired US mandate. The US taking out one of its most brutal ex-proxies, is no more or less immoral than letting him stay in place.
Ironically, some of the best evidence that the Iraqi situation needed to change comes from those currently against war. Pre-war Iraq was a country under siege, with UN sanctions responsible for a number of atrocities, including 4,000 deaths among under-fives each month. Sanctions also failed to stop Saddam’s near genocide against the Marsh Arabs, who’s population fell from 250,000 in 1991 to 40,000 a little over ten years later: many, says Human Rights Watch, were ‘arbitrarily held, tortured, “disappeared,” or executed’. Removing sanctions would have left Iraq in the hands of a brutal dictator who’s other crimes included wiping out a whole city with chemical weapons and turning torture into a medical science.
Slowly, too slowly, things might be turning around: it’s too early to say. British and US leaders have learnt that their troops have no inherent moral superiority and need control. Better late than never the European Convention is proving human rights can be exported. Afghan elections have proved that something approaching democracy can be achieved in a country half governed by warlords and with no democratic traditions and Iraq is squabbling over its election results in a healthy, coalition building way… good that could never have happened without the war.
Meanwhile, Nature reports that the Marsh Arabs’ homelands may be partly restored. Ninety per cent of the area some claim was the biblical Garden of Eden, was deliberately turned to desert as part of Saddam’s attempted genocide. But it’s hoped up thirty per cent can be restored and some plants and wildlife are beginning to return… good that could never have happened without the war.
Not a war for idealists……Getting some focus on Iraq war aims……Myth of Moral Superiority……Exporting Human rights to Iraq… even in war