Friday, January 31, 2003


The common objective in all three statements is to remove a threat to world peace by disarming Saddam Hussein. John Howard adds the additional justification that this will deter other potential rogue states but this is secondary. Equally secondary to the main justification of war on Iraq is the liberation of the Iraqi people. This is not offered as the casus bellus but as an anciliary benefit. The case of Iraq is not like the UN backed interventions in Bosnia, Rwanda and East Timor: we won't be going to war to protect the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein. On the contrary a decision to go to war will inevitably involve sacrificing some of the Iraqi population for geopolitical purposes and, only incidentally, the removal of an oppressive government. It's rather like deciding to kill your psychotic gun-toting neighbour on the general principle that he's a threat to public safety then rationalising your decision with the excuse that once he's dead he won't be able to abuse his wife and kids any more. A wrongful act isn't justified by the unintended benefits it confers on third parties: to claim the liberation of the Iraqi people as the just cause for the war requires that we act with that specific intent, not that the liberation occurs as a secondary effect of a war fought for geopolitical purposes.

Ending Saddam's war on his own people is a just cause but that isn't the reason we're being offered as justification for this war. I don't think it's the basis on which it's being planned either. That's one of the reasons I'm not sold on it but I'm never going to be sold on war: war isn't something you sell, soap is. If we do go to war with Iraq for the reasons offered so far we may end up doing a good thing very badly and for all the wrong reasons.

Postscript: having seen Ken Parish's latest post "Reprising Iraq argument" (broken permalink) I suppose I'll be lumped in with the hand-wringing Pontius Pilates of the Left who want to monopolise the moral high ground. All I have to say on that score is that being knee-deep in shit may be a little more comfortable than being balls-deep in shit but the smell isn't any better.

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