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Unless I did not look carefully enough, I have not seen the following opinion by Johann Hall that appeared in the Independent two days ago in Peter Brooks greatly help- and resourceful News, nor did I find a reference anywhere else, - maybe because it was just two days ago. Alexander Sternberg The Independent (UK) January 10, 2003 Forget the UN: Saddam Hussein is the best possible reason for liberating Iraq; If Britain were governed by such a man, I might be prepared to risk my own life to end my country's living death By Johann Hari Why do we need evidence of a stash of anthrax or sarin to convince us that Saddam, the gasser of the Kurds and butcher of Baghdad, should be overthrown? Hans Blix and his UN inspection team issued an interim report in New York yesterday. They have found no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), so war, it seems, will not come this month. Why does this make so many of us on the left relax? What has become of the left which argued that we had a moral responsibility to defend our fellow humans from fascist dictators? By taking the route of hunting for WMD, and only accepting the overthrow of Saddam on those grounds, we have made a crucial mistake. The greatest possible evidence for this is that, while some in the West celebrate today, the Iraqi people will be weeping. Who, you may be asking incredulously, would want their country to be bombed? What would make people want to risk their children being blown to pieces? I wondered this too until, last October, I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam Hussein. Strangely, it's the small details which remain in the memory, even now, three months later. It's the pale, sickly look that would come over people's faces when I mentioned Saddam. It's the fact that the Marsh Arabs - a proud, independent people who have seen their marshes drained and been "relocated" to tiny desert shacks - are forced to hang a small, menacing picture of Saddam in their new "homes". It's the child wearing a T-shirt saying "Yes, yes, yes to Daddy Saddam". If Britain were governed by such a man, I would welcome friendly bombs - a concept I once thought absurd. I might be prepared to risk my own life to bring my country's living death to an end. Most of the Iraqi people I encountered clearly felt the same. The moment they established that I was British, people would hug me and offer coded support (they would be even more effusive towards the Americans I travelled with). They would explain how much they "admire Britain - British democracy, yes? You understand?" This evidence is, admittedly, anecdotal, and I would be wary of supporting a war based simply on these impressions. But now there is concrete evidence. The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based independent think-tank, by no means pro-war, conducted extensive interviews with people in Iraq last autumn, and, as their report explains, "a significant number of those Iraqis interviewed, with surprising candour, expressed their view that, if [regime change] required an American-led attack, they would support it. The notion of leaving the country's destiny in the hands of an omnipotent foreign party has more appeal than might be expected - and the desire for a long-term US involvement is higher than expected." There are important conditions, however, attached to Iraqis' support for the war. They expect it to be quick - one person I spoke to said that "the few soldiers who fight for him will be defeated in a weekend" - as happened in 1991. The extremely unlikely scenario of a protracted, Vietnam-style conflict would almost certainly lead to a change in their attitudes. And, crucially, the Iraqi people expect the Americans to help to rebuild their country after the war. This, surely, is what we should be marching in the streets for - not to oppose a war that will remove one of the world's worst dictators, but to secure a guarantee from Blair and Bush that after the conflict we will stay and help its people to build a peaceful, federal, democratic Iraq. Those who scorn this possibility, either with the racist notion that Arabs are incapable of democracy or with a fashionable cynicism about political progress, should remember that their sneers could equally have been directed towards post-Second World War Japan and Germany. The Japanese had no history of democracy or freedom, and the Germans had only the memories of the disastrous Weimar Republic, but American occupations oversaw their transformations into successful democracies. We must campaign, then, to make sure that Iraq becomes a Japan or Germany and not an Afghanistan, bombed and then starved of the funds it needs to establish stability and basic human rights for its people. There is more hope for Iraq because its people are highly educated, it has a developed infrastructure, and because it would be morally obscene if the profits from Iraq's vast oil reserves did not go towards rebuilding the country. It is time that, in light of the ICG report, we in the West admit that we have misunderstood the Iraqi people's position. We have been acting as though an attack on Saddam would be the beginning of another hideous ordeal for the population, the interruption of an otherwise peaceful situation. In fact, as the ICG report explains, "for the Iraqi people, who since 1980 have lived through a devastating conflict with Iran, Desert Storm, sanctions, international isolation and periodic US-UK aerial attacks, a state of war has existed for two decades already". Do not imagine that if we fail to act, the Iraqi people will be left in peace - quite the opposite. We can act to shorten their suffering. Nor can we criticise this war, as figures such as Tariq Ali have, as an "imperial adventure". The Iraqi people are already living under imperial occupation. The 80 per cent of the population who are Shia Muslims live under the imperialistic rule of the minority Sunni clique with whom they feel no common identity. You might be thinking that if they are all Iraqi, it is not foreign occupation; if so you are misunderstanding the nature of Iraq. This is an artificial state created by Europeans in 1921 at the end of the Ottoman Empire, comprising many divergent groups (Kurds, Shia, Sunni, Christian, Jews and more). We have no reason to believe that they now have a collective national identity, so to be ruled by a Sunni is indeed akin to being under foreign occupation. Would you rather be ruled indefinitely by a totalitarian imperial ruler who will cling to power down to the last bunker, or a temporary American imperial ruler which might offer a democratic and stable future? If your hatred of Dubya overwhelms your hatred of Saddam, then I sympathise - that is the reason why I too once viewed this war with dread and contempt - but I strongly suspect that if you were confronted with the reality of Saddam's Iraq, you would change your mind. Of course, forming an alliance with George Bush is an unpleasant experience, but we formed an alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler. It is also possible that Bush, like his father, will betray the hopes of the people of Iraq - and we must campaign to prevent this. We do not need Bush's dangerous arguments about "pre-emptive action" to justify this war. Nor do we need to have the smoking gun of WMD. All we need are the humanitarian arguments we used during the Kosovo conflict to remove the monstrous Slobodan Milosevic - and this time, we can act in the certain (rather than probable) knowledge that the people being tyrannised will be cheering us on. ______________________________ The report Johann is refering to is to be found at: http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/middleeast/iraq_iran_gulf/reports/A400837_04122002.pdf _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk