The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

'Saddam's destruction is now a matter of honour'

>From today's Guardian (

Saddam's destruction is now a matter of honour
America's resolve is hardening against the Iraqi regime

Martin Woollacott
Friday February 15, 2002
The Guardian

One year ago to the day the sirens sounded and anti-aircraft fire ripped
through the sky over Baghdad as American and British planes struck Iraqi
command and control centres. The raid, less than a month after George Bush's
inauguration, was intended to blunt Iraq's growing capacity to threaten
Anglo-American air patrols over the Kurdish areas in the north of the
country and the Shi'ite region in the south. But it was also a signal that
the Bush administration had come into office with unfinished business to
settle with Saddam Hussein.

At a moment when there seems to be a hardening resolve in Washington to
destroy the Iraqi regime come what may, it is worth recalling that every
element of American - and British - policy on Iraq was already in place
then, long before the September attacks. The American desire to dismantle
that regime is not really a part of the campaign against terrorism, but
represents instead an understandable wish to write the final chapter in an
interrupted war against a dangerous state. The policy in February last year
already included the idea of moderating and repackaging sanctions in such a
way as to regain international support.

The idea was also, as it is today, to create the basis for a demand, again
with international support, that effective inspections be resumed. The
possibility existed then, as now, of a confrontation with Iraq over
inspections that might then be settled militarily. After all, President Bush
had already said that if Saddam was discovered to be producing weapons of
mass destruction he "would take him out", and Dick Cheney had added that if
there were such evidence: "We would have to give very serious consideration
to military action to stop that activity." Bush had also approved the
release of US funds to the Iraqi opposition for various purposes in Iraq,
although these did not include money for arms, largely because the Iraqi
National Congress was deemed unready for armed conflict.

But it is true that this time round the project seems far more serious.
Indeed the Bush administration is close to the point where a failure to
bring down Saddam would damage its credibility. It has let slip so many
hints that America will, if necessary, go to war to achieve "regime change"
in Iraq that it can be argued that Saddam's survival beyond a certain point
would now be humiliating, rather than merely embarrassing, to the US.
Conversely, there is always the possibility that the threat itself will
induce a change in Iraq.

In any case, America's allies are likely soon to be faced with the choice
between supporting and opposing preparations for an Iraq campaign. Merely
expressing disquiet over Iraq may not much longer serve as a policy and
staying on the fence may prevent the European allies, in particular, from
having influence over the way in which action against Iraq might fit into
the broader approach to the Middle East and the problem of terrorism.

There was only one moment in his fluent exposition of how the job of
bringing down Saddam Hussein would be relatively easy when Richard Perle
looked troubled. Asked whether Saddam might use weapons of mass destruction
against the American and other troops invading Iraq, or against Israel, he
said quietly: "That's a very real danger." But, in an interview earlier this
year, he made it clear that it was nevertheless a risk worth taking. Perle
may be unusual in his tireless advocacy of military action against Iraq, but
he is not alone, in the circles that weigh American policy, in being ready
to consider such risks.

There is no horrified intake of breath when the question of war against Iraq
comes up in the Washington thinktanks that both service and criticise
American administrations. Some are against, some in favour, and some in
favour only if certain conditions are met. But the mere idea of military act
ion does not cause fainting fits on Massachusetts Avenue or in the other
places where these policy intellectuals are based.

Some Europeans would charge that this is the morally blunted response of men
and women mentally corrupted by America's great power. But it may be that
beneath the persistent transatlantic clashes over such issues, beneath the
accusations and counter accusations of "cowboys" and "appeasers", there are
deeper differences that should be brought to the surface. One American
analyst, himself of European birth, suggested that Europeans had ceased to
think of war as acceptable under almost any circumstances except in the
constrained form of humanitarian intervention. Europeans have historically
been much more ready to make war than the US, which has been a relatively
reluctant warrior. Now the pendulum has swung some distance the other way,
helped by America's possession of large military means and of techniques
limiting her own casualties - although they would not do so in the scenario
that worried Perle.

Then there is the contrast between European pessimism and American optimism.
Europeans considering war in Iraq instantly focus on the dangers that such a
conflict would spread, that there might be use of chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons, that there would be an irreversible shift in Arab opinion
against the west, and that the world might be in a far worse state at the
end of such a conflict than before it, whatever happened in the meantime to
Saddam Hussein.

Some Americans, at least, focus on the likelihood that the conflict would be
contained, that Arabs would not only accept but be inspired by an Iraqi
liberation, that there would be no use of weapons of mass destruction, and
that the world would be a greatly improved place after a democratic
government replaced Saddam in Baghdad. Most Europeans, feeling their way
cautiously into the future, prefer to bet on a certainty, that of human
mortality, which means that one day, perhaps quite soon, Saddam will be dead
of natural causes and replaced by a son without his charisma or ability and
therefore unlikely to last long. Americans in general may not have the same
inclination to let things take their course, wishing to act now before Iraq,
and some other countries, have a firmer hold on weapons of mass destruction.
Who can deny the daunting nature of that prospect?

A little modesty on both sides of this transatlantic debate would be in
order. European and Russian caution is not appeasement, nor is it primarily
the result of economic interests in Saddam's Iraq, although these exist.
European fearfulness is justified. Yet American readiness to consider
military action against the dismal prison house that is Iraq today is not
proof of madness.

If it is to be done, however, it must be done well and it must be part of a
convincing overall policy toward the region, something which the axis of
evil speech suggests the US has not yet achieved. There are dangers in doing
and dangers, too, in doing nothing. What America and Europe should agree on
is that the most rigorous assessment of relative risks - and there is still
time for such an assessment - is the only foundation for wise

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]