Mar 2006

We were wrong to invade Iraq

Todays Guardian sees the publication of a column by Oliver Kamm entitled “We were right to invade Iraq”. Regular readers of my writing may be aware that some years back I had a bit of an online altercation with Mr. Kamm. He became abusive and nasty, and I decided that the man and his views were entirely loathsome. Once in a blue moon I encounter something of his linked to from somewhere I regularly read. To date he’s written nothing to counter that “loathsome” judgment. He’s Stephen Fry without the wit, the looks or the charisma.

Anyways, there I was perusing the columnists in today’s Guardian (Tuesday is George Monbiot day, incidentally, so you should check out his piece when you get a chance). To my disappointment there was nothing by Zoe Williams – another Tuesday regular – but there, listed in her place, was the name “Oliver Kamm”.

A travesty.

Kamm’s essays always have a slightly surreal note to them. They’re so close to being clever parodies, that in the past I’ve suspected he’s actually a deep-cover Discordian. The column in the Guardian is no different… it’s so witless and filled with gaping intellectual holes that it’s almost difficult to believe that it’s meant to be taken seriously.

Recall also the alacrity with which some commentators attributed the 7/7 bombings to the provocation of the Iraq war. Disgracefully, the New Statesman carried a cover picture of a rucksack with the caption “Blair’s bombs”. But containment would have meant persisting with what most outraged Osama bin Laden: western troops in Saudi Arabia – and Bin Laden urges “Muslims to prepare as much force as possible to terrorise the enemies of God”.

Kamm appears to be suggesting that the London bombers were pawns of Osama bin Laden. That they were merely tools of his desires. That what “most outraged” bin Laden would also be the motivating factor for the bombers. But that’s just ridiculous. Certainly these men will have heard bin Laden’s broadcasts and watched his tapes. But their outrage was clearly aimed at the British government. These young British men did not kill themselves and murder dozens of Londoners as a protest at American troops in Saudi Arabia.

They did so as a protest at British support of – what they saw as – US imperialism in Iraq. To suggest that they would have committed the same outrage had UK policy been the same as France or Germany is to ignore both the evidence (the tape left behind by the bombers) and common sense. Certainly it requires a little more proof than a blasé assertion by someone desperately trying to justify an obviously disastrous war.

Those pesky WMD

But quite aside from his mentalism with regards to the July 7th bombings, Kamm’s main reason why “we were right to invade Iraq” is – astonishingly – that to have done otherwise was to invite Saddam Hussein to strike at the West with his Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Yes, you heard it right. Three years on, Kamm is still peddling the line that even the Dubya Bush administration abandoned as being too bloody embarrassing. He’s still waving non-existent nukes at us and telling us to be scared of The Bad Man.

See what I mean when I say it’s difficult to believe we’re supposed to be taking this at face value? I’m assuming the Guardian published it as satire. For example, can anyone tell me what this line is all about… “The absence of WMD was a huge intelligence failure; so it is fortunate that we are no longer reliant on Saddam’s word.”

To the best of my knowledge we were never reliant on Saddam’s word. Seriously, wasn’t that the reason we went to war in the first place; because we didn’t take his word on it, and our intelligence was wrong despite his word being – in this case – perfectly right? We never ever relied on Saddam’s word. To suggest otherwise is to engage in shameless historical revisionism. We invaded his country precisely because we refused to rely upon it.

Kamm also namechecks George Galloway. It’s a cheap and easy shot. Try to put a discredited “celebrity” face to the anti-war movement in the hope of making it look a bit silly. Galloway is – in my view – a fool. I don’t know of any intelligent anti-war writer who takes him seriously. To paint him as the figurehead of the peace movement is cynical and, ultimately, fruitless.

But as for his “crime” of shaking Saddam Hussein’s hand and saying nice things about him…? Even Kamm must admit that his only real crime was doing it after it was fashionable. We’ve all seen the video footage of Donald Rumsfeld warmly greeting the “psychopathic despot”, so I hardly need to track down a still to illustrate the point.

It is intellectually dishonest – yet it is something the pro-War crowd determinedly stick at – to criticise Galloway for cosying up to Hussein just a few years after the hawks in the US administration were doing the same. Did we think he was a Nice Man then? Did we think he was going to treat his people well and offer them the democratic reforms that are so very important to us now? We did not. We knew, just as Rumsfeld knew, that he was shaking the hand of a psychotic despot, but it was politically expedient for him to do so. So he did.

But when a left-wing loon shakes the same hand, just a few years later, for exactly the same reason (political expediency), then it’s knives out. And call The Senate to session. I guess Galloway’s real crime – ironically enough – is that he didn’t bring home lots of oil money upon his return. He didn’t sell any guns or poison gas or fighter jets to the psychotic despot. Clearly he should be lambasted for that failure.

Oliver Kamm is ultimately suggesting that it is “right” to wage war on a country based upon what we suspect they might do at some future date. It is an abandonment of hundreds of years of European rationalism. Embracing feudalism and mindless savagery, it hints at a Divine Right of leadership… that the dangerous suspicions, foolish whims and outright lies of our leaders, when acted upon, are nonetheless moral and just.

Posted in: Opinion