Socialist Worker

Writing some wrongs on Iraq

by Judy Cox
Issue No. 1921

THERE IS one person left in Britain who still believes Saddam had weapons of mass destruction when the US invaded.

Stand up Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail columnist and broadcaster.

Phillips was speaking at the “Authors Take Sides on Iraq” event in the appropriate setting of the Imperial War Museum in London last Thursday.

Even Phillips had to admit that Bush and Blair’s coalition has made serious mistakes in the aftermath of the war, but these mistakes didn’t dent her overall support for the invasion of Iraq.

She told us that the anti-war movement was demonstrating a “collective madness” in rewriting history to claim Saddam was not a threat to the world. He did have weapons of mass destruction, he did sponsor terrorism around the world, and he did have close links with Al Qaida, she insisted.

Such claims involved some nifty rewriting of the facts by Phillips herself. She had to ignore the conclusions of the 15 month long investigation by the Iraq Survey Group, which reported two weeks ago that there were no WMD in Iraq when the US invaded.

Phillips quoted US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying that when it comes to WMD “the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence”. This may be true—but nor is it the evidence of presence you would want to bet thousands of lives on.

The British ambassador to Italy recently claimed that George Bush was the best recruiting sergeant for Al Qaida. But in Phillips’s looking glass world is it the anti-war movement that makes Western governments look weak and so encourages Al Qaida attacks.

Joining sides with Phillips was novelist Duncan Fallowell and military historian and Oxford don Sir John Keegan. Fallowell told us that “militant Islam is the totalitarianism of the 21st century. It is threatening us with a new Dark Ages.”

Rather than talking about the invasion of Iraq, he wanted to talk about the “other invasion, the one we are not supposed to talk about—the invasion of Islam into the West.”

Sir John told us, “There is no point bewailing what happened in Iraq in 2003, or in 1991. This is today”—a strange argument for a historian.

He urged the audience not to the debate the legality of the war, which was better left to the experts. He said the war was justified by Saddam’s evil intentions.

Then he dealt his killer blow: “Islamic fundamentalism is as bad as Bolshevism or Nazism—in fact worse, because it doesn’t believe in governments or elections.

“If you want to be ruled by the Caliphate, then don’t support the actions of the US and British governments,” he said. “What they are doing is essential to the survival of civilisation.”

I don’t know many people who support the occupation of Iraq. I had wondered if these celebrated intellectuals would put a pro-war case that was challenging or sophisticated. They didn’t.

The case for war was either based on lies—WMD, links with Al Qaida—or it was a crusade against Islam, something Blair desperately denies.

The authors taking sides against the war were Beryl Bainbridge, Tony Benn and Harold Pinter.

Beryl Bainbridge argued that the war was about oil. “After 12 years of sanctions and war on Iraq”, she said, “an escalation of destruction could serve no purpose except to leave thousands dead.”

Tony Benn, on blistering form, pointed out that Saddam Hussein opposed Islamic fundamentalism. He said that George Bush planned the invasion of Iraq before 11 September 2001, but seized the opportunity to grab oil and military bases.

Harold Pinter argued, “Taking hostages may be barbaric, but so is dropping daisy cutters on Iraqi cities. We don’t see the pictures of the mutilated corpses of Iraqi children on the TV.

“The war on Iraq was illegal, but it was quite consistent with the deranged US foreign policy of full spectrum dominance.

“The US isn’t finding it easy in Iraq. The harder they find it, the more dangerous they become. Bush and Blair are war criminals”.

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Sat 2 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1921
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