Hysteria and irrationality over Iraq
Published in: Miscellaneous
Panel contribution at debate held at the Imperial War Museum among contributors to 'Authors Take Sides on Iraq and the Gulf War', published byCecil Woolf Publishers.
When the war in Iraq started, I believed that it was legally justified and morally imperative. Saddam posed a threat to the world. And it was legal because the combination of UN resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 expressly allowed all reasonable means to be taken if Saddam was in breach of the ceasefire condition at the end of the first Gulf War. This condition required him to prove he had dismantled his WMD and other forbidden weapons programmes. It was laid down because the world agreed that, despite the liberation of Kuwait, Saddam was still a threat on account of his weapons programmes. After 9/11, that threat did not in itself change. What did change was the whole calculus of risk according to which the free world had previously lived, so that the threat could no longer be tolerated.
What do I think now? I still think the war was justified. Nothing that has happened since then has changed that view. And this is despite the appalling situation in Iraq that we now watch daily unfolding, caused by disastrous mistakes made by the coalition from the fall of Baghdad onwards. The risk was always entirely predictable. After all, following every war there is a vacuum which, if it isn't immediately filled by the good guys gets filled instead by the bad guys. Most distressingly, that's what happened in Iraq, with the dreadful consequences we are now witnessing. But nevertheless, that does not mean it was not right to get rid of Saddam in the first place. Indeed, this is a non sequitur which, now being repeatedly argued, illustrates a kind of collective madness which I believe has now engulfed the Iraq debate.
Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that those who were against the war are somehow out of order. I have every respect for those who believed as a matter of principle that war was the wrong way to deal with the threat posed by Saddam. But now the ground has shifted. Now history is being rewritten to claim that Saddam never posed any threat at all to anyone other than his own people. Indeed, we are re being fed one irrational assumption or simple falsehood after another.
We are told that since no WMD were found, none ever existed. But this does not follow at all. Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.
Given the history of Saddam's repeated lies, deception and obstruction of weapons inspectors throughout the 1990s, with their final verdict in March 2003 that much WMD material remained unaccounted for, that they believed that Iraq had far reaching plans to weaponise VX gas and that about 10,000 litres of anthrax might still exist, the logical view was surely to assume that this material had not been destroyed. Indeed, no sensible explanation has ever been given for the claim that that Saddam did destroy all this WMD material but refused to say so. Yet defying rationality, that's what we are told.
You may say - well, so where are they then? How come they've never been found despite strenuous attempts to do so? But there are a number of possibilities to explain what happened to them. They could still be hidden in Iraq - after all, the total amount, we are told, could have been stored in a two-car garage, and Iraq is a big country. They could have been destroyed in the months immediately before the invasion. Or they could have been hidden in a neighbouring country such as Syria. Indeed, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, Dr David Kay, said in his interim report that WMD components had been transported to Syria.
In that report, Dr Kay wrote:
'We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002