September 22, 2005

Hari wobbles on the war

Johann Hari, a British journalist, who likes to refer to himself as "pro-war left", is having a wobble over his support for the war on Iraq. I don't think it's his first but it's the first one I've noticed. I don't read his stuff as a rule because he's silly and self-indulgent. This article shows both traits in more or less equal measure. Anyway he starts roughly here
For anybody who supported the war, the images of British forces fighting against the Iraqi police in Basra - two and a half years after the war was supposed to be over - forces difficult questions like needles: is Iraq today 100,000 deaths better off than under Saddam Hussein? Is the choice now between cut-and-run, or stay and cut-cut-cut into Iraqi flesh with a monthly Fallujah or Tal Afar?
Good question. Now for some self-indulgence
When the invasion ended, [when was that?] and opinion polls - using the same techniques that successfully predict elections across the world - found that most Iraqis had preferred the invasion, I felt, pretty smugly, that I had been right.
Followed quickly by some, actually much, silliness.
Much of the left had lined up with Robin Cook, a man who said continuing with the sanctions that killed half a million Iraqi children was "the best option". Or, worse, they were cheering George Galloway, who is now busy saluting another Baathist dictator in Syria and telling the people how "lucky" they are to live under his tyranny. But I had lined up with the majority of Iraqi people.
Ok he uses the expression "much of the left" but there's a clear insinuation here that the left consists of Cookists and Gallowayists (for the latter read Baathists). No room for a principled anti-war or leftist position here. The anti-war left, and really there is no other left, for Hari, subdivides into people who supported the sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis or they supported Baathism which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Most of the people who opposed the war did not want the sanctions and didn't want Saddam. They (I should say we) reasoned that since the WMD stories were complete tosh there was no defensive reason for the invasion. The getting rid of a leader because his compatriots didn't like him argument would tie us into wars against most states; literally most of the states in the world. No one who supported the war could possibly have believed that America was in it for anything other than an economic or strategic reward. In a word, the reason (whatever the reason) was imperialism. So even if most Iraqis, in their abject misery, believed somehow that Iraq would benefit from an invasion there was no way that anyone could have believed that America (and the UK) was going in for altruistic reasons. If America was there for, say, oil, then its interests were bound to clash with even those Iraqis who did want an invasion.

I have to say here that I think Hari's poll findings are suspect. I can't believe that with all that the people of the Middle East know of America and Britain's involvement in Middle Eastern affairs they actually thought that an Anglo-American invasion would benefit them but I honestly don't know. But it's still no excuse for "our" ignorance. We know the history of western meddling in the Middle East. We should have known, we did know, better. Hari knew and others on the pro-war so-called left knew. Still I'd like to see a few more like Hari come out and just toy with the idea that they were wrong. Better still would be when one of them has the gumption to admit that they knew they were being wrong while they were being wrong.

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