Monday, September 26, 2005

Iraq and the War on/of Terror

Here's a few links to interesting articles that I have read recently relating to the invasion of Iraq and the "War on Terror" (this term is a flat-out oxymoron: war is terror).

First up a US academic called Juan Cole gives Christoper Hitchens the intellectual spanking that he has deserved for a very long time. In my opinion there was a decent case to be made for invading Iraq; one which had nothing to do with WMDs or fighting Al Quaeda but was, instead, based on the humanitarian cause of freeing the people of Iraq from the tyrant Saddam. While I still, ultimately, opposed the invasion of Iraq, I did think that left-wing commentators like Johann Hari made compelling arguments for supporting the invasion. Hitchens, on the other hand, was just rotten from the start: disingenuous, dishonest and - apparently - more motivated by personal vendettas than by any desire to realistically assess the pros and cons of invasion. And – finally – someone (Juan Cole) does the long required task of exposing Hitchens’s arguments for the nonsense that they are. Cole's piece is here.

But if Hitchens is bad, some of his opponents on the left are just as gruesome - the top contender here being George Galloway. Galloway seems to firmly believe that "my enemy's enemy is my friend"; something which lead to him cosying up to Saddam before the invasion and now making comments which - apparently – indicate his support of the innocent murdering insurgents in Iraq. What is thoroughly depressing is that Galloway has become a spokesperson for a reasonable slice of the anti-war left - sigh. If you are a real masochist you can watch Hitchens and Galloway debate the war here.

When it comes to Hitchens and Galloway I am with Greg Palast: they are both redundant - somewhere out of the wreck of neo-conservatism the left needs to find a way forward that eschews the dogma of these two.

The New York Times has a very interesting piece on the way that the Iraq war has hurt the "war on terror". It's here but, unfortunately, you will have to pay to see it (about $5).

I've recommended this before, but Mary Kaldor's take on Iraq is one of the most sensible that I have read. It's on Open Democracy so you might have to register to read the article but it ought to be free.

And, finally, Johann Hari - always the sanest of the pro-war left - has another good take on Iraq.


Neal said...


It is your buddy Neal. For what it is worth, you have an interesting blogsite. Congratulations.

Regarding your post, I think that the Iraq war was and is a terrible mistake. On the other hand, I think it is much too simple to call all war "terror," if by that you mean such to be the be all and end all of war. My country, the US, would still be part of the UK but for war. And, so far as I know, my country was, at one time, a major inspiration that led to the democracy spreading in Europe. So far as I know, democracy is a better system than the alternatives.

While Johann was an interesting writer, I do not think he is any better than Hitchens. And certainly less accomplished. But you are correct that Hitchens is a blow hard - all wind.

Good luck with your website.



Terence said...

Hi there Neal,

Good to here from you and thanks for the compliment.

Just quickly...

When I say "war is terror" I mean that all wars – inevitably – end up terrorising and killing innocent civilians (and, of course, soldiers too - they are every bit as human as the rest of us). This is something that, I think, ought to be factored into any decision about whether to go to war or not (it seems obvious right? but do you really think that the neo-cons thought too much about this before they invaded Iraq?)

This isn’t an argument for complete pacifism, however. Obviously, some wars are necessary to stave off a greater evil (World War 2, for example). But, in my mind, war ought to be used as a tool of last resort as it is the worst possible state that nations and peoples can be reduced to. (Last Sunday “Saving Private Ryan” showed on public television here – the opening scene of that movie ought to be enough to cure anyone of any romantic attachment to conflict).

With regards to the “war on terrorism”: here we have a slightly more sophisticated term but it still belies an approach to the threat of Al Qaeda that is simplistic and, in my opinion, likely to fail given that Al Qaeda is an ‘idea’ as much as a military force. If I were a policy maker in charge of ‘combating’ Al Qaeda I would – rather than stomp around the Muslim world blowing things up – advocate an approach that involved the following components:

Military action (where necessary and as a last resort).
Economic action (that is: both international development and addressing the ghetto-isation of Muslim minorities in European and other countries).
Police action (arresting active cell members) but also cleaning up the international financial networks that facilitate the funding of terror.
Addressing the legitimate grievances of the Muslim world – this isn’t the same as capitulating to OBL’s insane demands but simply a way of removing some of his recruitment tools.
Becoming less dependent on oil. If this were done, then the issues of the middle-east could be assessed in a neutral manner, rather than one which involves propping up the state which is probably the greatest sponsor of terror in the region (Saudi Arabia).

None of this is particularly new, but it certainly isn’t the way that the Bush administration is tackling the problem. (They are using some of the components that I have listed above but in inappropriate ways and disproportionate degrees).

As for Johann Hari – he’s so, so much better than Hitchens. I don’t agree with everything he says but at least he attempts to tackle issues rather than just prove he was right all along.



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