Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Iraqis like elections

From Adrian Weale

Sir: Rod Liddle claims that you cannot create democracy in Iraq because 'there is no evidence that many people want it' ('Things were better under Saddam', 17 April). Cobblers!

As Chief of Staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Dhi Qar province, centred on Nasiriyah, I personally supervised the first four of the 17 (out of a possible 19) democratic town council elections to have been held in the province so far. These elections were organised at the urging of local people because of their dissatisfaction with the imposed councils set up at the end of the fighting. In the absence of a census, voting qualification was based on the 'Oil for Food' scheme ration cards, with one (later two) votes being given to each family.

I have to report that enthusiasm for these elections was enormous and, despite the fact that the lead in organising them was generally taken by local Shia clerics and members of religious political parties, the great majority of the successful candidates were 'independents' with a technical or professional education.

So what? Well, what it told me was that the Shia Iraqis of the south have a great thirst for political change after 35 years of oppression, but that they also have the common sense to realise that it will take time.

The truth is that reconstruction efforts got off to a slow start and we are not as far down the road as we should be. Nevertheless, things are moving, particularly since the US supplementary budget was passed. There were always going to be setbacks but the situation, in the south at least, is not nearly as precarious as it is being portrayed. The Coalition needs to keep its nerve and stay focused on the transition to Iraqi sovereignty - which is what the various current troublemakers are actually trying to prevent.

Adrian Weale

London W8

No appeaser

From Correlli Barnett

Sir: Adopting a lofty moral stance that would do credit to the Reverend Blair himself, Michael Gove ('The deadly Mail', 17 April) denounces me and others for criticising (in the Daily Mail) George W. Bush's and Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq and its current messy consequences. We are, he says, 'appeasers'.

I am not an appeaser. My book The Collapse of British Power contains a powerful critique of Neville Chamberlain's attempt at 'appeasing' Adolf Hitler in 1937-9. I am on record as fully supporting the expedition to recover the Falklands from the Argentinian invaders. I was similarly in favour of the expulsion of Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait in 1991. But in the case of Bush's and Blair's attack on Iraq in 2003, there was neither a credible grand-strategic threat to this country nor a clear-cut casus belli as in 1981 or 1991. I have never believed that technical breaches by Saddam of stale old UN resolutions justified so extreme a response as war, and the shedding of British blood.

Let me say it yet again - the invasion of Iraq never had any connection with the so-called 'war on terror' (i.e., al-Qa'eda). That there may well be a connection now, thanks to incoming foreign fighters in Iraq, is entirely the fault of Bush and Blair. In short, I judge Bush and Blair guilty of a colossal grand-strategic blunder. Whether they were morally 'right' (as they themselves and Gove sanctimoniously believe) is completely irrelevant.

Since Gove also criticises my predictive abilities as a military commentator, I wish to record that in August 2002, a month before the publication of the first of Blair's 'dodgy dossiers', I wrote an article for the Daily Mail in the guise of the Iraqi chief of staff advising Saddam Hussein to avoid open battle with American military technology, and instead 'fight a protracted war, inflicting local setbacks and a constant drip of casualties' by drawing the Americans into 'messy close-range fighting in the major cities'. I was wrong to think that this was how the Iraqis would fight the actual American invasion last year. …

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