Magazine article The Spectator

The Wrong Target

Magazine article The Spectator

The Wrong Target

Article excerpt

For those who savour poetic justice, the sight of Mr Blair consorting obsequiously with the greatest force of conservatism in the world, Mr George W. Bush, will be among the most pleasing and delicious of recent years. For the sake of preserving the special relationship, so useful as a counterweight to the ever-increasing pretensions of Brussels, Mr Blair is prepared to bomb Baghdad when he's told to by the man who has already most laudably cut taxes and reduced the public funding of abortion.

Thus the British government bombs Iraq because it can't quite make up its mind whether it is European or Atlanticist. The fundamental moral question that Mr Blair asks himself when he puts the innocent citizens of Baghdad at risk of collateral damage - that is to say of death - is `Will I be more important if I do Washington's or Brussels' bidding?' For the moment, the balance seems to lie with Washington. Of course, he will eventually have to make up his mind definitively: though making up his mind is the one thing he is not very good at. It is difficult to make a final decision when you don't know what, if anything, you believe in.

The raid on Baghdad undoubtedly had a certain military logic to it. The command centre in the city was guiding an increasing number of Iraqi attacks on British and American aircraft in the no-fly zones of the country, which made it likely that before long one or more allied aircraft would be shot down. The command centre therefore constituted a danger to the British and American air forces and was a legitimate target.

But there is more than one way to safeguard the lives of British and American airmen. Unless there is a pressing reason for them to be flying over Iraq, the best way to ensure that none of them is killed is by withdrawing them from the country's air space altogether. What, exactly, is the bombing of Iraq, now chronic though with periodic acute exacerbations, supposed to achieve? It is not necessary to be either a pacifist or a sympathiser with Saddam Hussein to doubt its value. To bomb a country, even one led by a man like Saddam, requires both a moral and a practical justification. It is universally acknowledged that Saddam is an evil man and the world would probably (though even this is not quite certain) be better off without him and his odious regime. The world is full of such evil men, however. The bombing, moreover, has not removed him from power in ten years, and he could easily survive a further ten years of it. We may be sure that when Iraq is bombed, it is not Saddam who suffers. …

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