Magazine article The Spectator

I Dare to Dissent

Magazine article The Spectator

I Dare to Dissent

Article excerpt

EXPRESSING reservations about an attack on Iraq is a risky business. As assorted bishops have discovered, there is only a small step from seeking evidence to justify an attack to being portrayed as an apologist for the vile regime in Baghdad, or a fellow traveller on the chemical warfare bandwagon. As the likelihood of war grows, raising questions gets even harder. It becomes unpatriotic. At some point it threatens to undermine the efforts of our brave lads, and becomes morally unacceptable and cowardly. It is therefore, I suppose, necessary to make clear that I do not think that Saddam Hussein is a sadly misunderstood figure who, given half a chance, would do the right thing. He has been given lots of chances and has continued to do the wrong thing.

Does this justify a pre-emptive strike by the United States? If so, should plucky old Britain join in? The case against Saddam has been made - if not, so far, made well - by the Bush and Blair administrations. He leads an oppressive dictatorship, is ruthless in suppressing internal dissent, has a track record of regional aggression, and is in all likelihood developing new and hideous weapons of mass destruction which he would not scruple to use against his enemies. Moreover, on the basis that his enemy's enemy is his friend, it would hardly be surprising if he had cultivated some very nasty friends on the international terrorist circuit.

It is clear that, as No. 10 is fond of saying, `doing nothing is not an option'. But this in itself is not a justification for embarking on a war. Nor is the fact that there is `unfinished business' left over from the Gulf War in 1991. Nor is it, or should it be, relevant that the US has yet to achieve a clear result in its quest for bin Laden and the perpetrators of the atrocities a year ago. The question of what to do about Saddam needs to be addressed more clinically.

The nub of the region's problems lies in the miserable and continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. From this festering sore has poured out more than 30 years of insecurity, hatred and violence. A year ago, a tributary of this tide of grief reached Manhattan and Washington. It is reasonable to ask, therefore, what role a US-led war against Iraq would have in stemming the wound. It is by no means clear that the hawks on Capitol Hill have asked themselves this question, and even less clear that they have an answer. Would an attack on Iraq, especially one undertaken without UN approval, be more or less likely to bring about a lasting deal between Israel and the Palestinians? …

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