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Melanie Phillips: Hysteria and irrationality over Iraq
Melanie Phillips ^ | September 24, 2004 | Melanie Phillips

Posted on 09/24/2004 9:14:06 AM PDT by Tolik

Debate over Iraq, 23 September 2004

Panel contribution at debate held at the Imperial War Museum among contributors to 'Authors Take Sides on Iraq and the Gulf War', published by Cecil Woolf Publishers.

When the war in Iraq started, I believed that it was legally justified and morally imperative. Saddam posed a threat to the world. And it was legal because the combination of UN resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 expressly allowed all reasonable means to be taken if Saddam was in breach of the ceasefire condition at the end of the first Gulf War. This condition required him to prove he had dismantled his WMD and other forbidden weapons programmes. It was laid down because the world agreed that, despite the liberation of Kuwait, Saddam was still a threat on account of his weapons programmes. After 9/11, that threat did not in itself change. What did change was the whole calculus of risk according to which the free world had previously lived, so that the threat could no longer be tolerated.

What do I think now? I still think the war was justified. Nothing that has happened since then has changed that view. And this is despite the appalling situation in Iraq that we now watch daily unfolding, caused by disastrous mistakes made by the coalition from the fall of Baghdad onwards. The risk was always entirely predictable. After all, following every war there is a vacuum which, if it isn’t immediately filled by the good guys gets filled instead by the bad guys. Most distressingly, that’s what happened in Iraq, with the dreadful consequences we are now witnessing. But nevertheless, that does not mean it was not right to get rid of Saddam in the first place. Indeed, this is a non sequitur which, now being repeatedly argued, illustrates a kind of collective madness which I believe has now engulfed the Iraq debate.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that those who were against the war are somehow out of order. I have every respect for those who believed as a matter of principle that war was the wrong way to deal with the threat posed by Saddam. But now the ground has shifted. Now history is being rewritten to claim that Saddam never posed any threat at all to anyone other than his own people. Indeed, we are re being fed one irrational assumption or simple falsehood after another.

We are told that since no WMD were found, none ever existed. But this does not follow at all. Absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence.

Given the history of Saddam’s repeated lies, deception and obstruction of weapons inspectors throughout the 1990s, with their final verdict in March 2003 that much WMD material remained unaccounted for, that they believed that Iraq had far reaching plans to weaponise VX gas and that about 10,000 litres of anthrax might still exist, the logical view was surely to assume that this material had not been destroyed. Indeed, no sensible explanation has ever been given for the claim that that Saddam did destroy all this WMD material but refused to say so. Yet defying rationality, that’s what we are told.

You may say – well, so where are they then? How come they’ve never been found despite strenuous attempts to do so? But there are a number of possibilities to explain what happened to them. They could still be hidden in Iraq – after all, the total amount, we are told, could have been stored in a two-car garage, and Iraq is a big country. They could have been destroyed in the months immediately before the invasion. Or they could have been hidden in a neighbouring country such as Syria. Indeed, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, Dr David Kay, said in his interim report that WMD components had been transported to Syria.

In that report, Dr Kay wrote:

'We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002…A clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.’

Even though the intelligence had been wrong to say he still had WMD stockpiles, said Dr Kay, Saddam had become ‘even more dangerous’ than had been realised. Although no WMD had been found, ‘a marketplace phenomenon was about to occur, if it did not occur; sellers meeting buyers. And I think that would have been dangerous if the war had not intervened.’

But now we are told Saddam posed no threat to anyone outside Iraq.

We are told that the report by Lord Butler on the use of intelligence said the intelligence had been too flaky to be reliable and had thus been misused by the government. But that’s not what the report says at all. On the contrary, it records that from 1996 British intelligence consistently warned of its concern that Saddam was still developing biological, chemical and nuclear programmes. The only flaky intelligence involved a few sources immediately before the famous dossier was produced.

We are told that there was no terrorism associated with Iraq until the war started. At this, one must rub one’s eyes in disbelief. Iraq was a terrorist state. It funded terrorists, trained terrorists and sheltered terrorists.

We are told it had no link with al Qaeda. There is no evidence of any link between Iraq and 9/11. But there is overwhelming evidence of links with al Qaeda.

The Senate committee report detailed contact after contact between Iraq and al Qaeda. It chairman said: ‘There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.’

Lord Butler told us: ‘Contacts between Al Qaida and the Iraqi Directorate General of Intelligence had dated back over four years.’

A US defence department memo said 1998 bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al Zawahiri met the Iraqi Vice President in Baghdad. ‘The goal of the visit was to arrange for co-ordination between Iraq and bin Laden and establish camps in al-Falluja, an-Nasiriya and Iraqi Kurdistan under the leadership of Abdul Aziz. The visit coincided with a payment of $300,000 from Iraqi intelligence to Zawahiri’s Islamic jihad, which merged that year with al Qaeda…’

The former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, General Tommy Franks, wrote that Abu Musab Zarqawi, the man who is now cutting off hostages’ heads in Iraq, specialized in developing chemical and biological weapons in Afghanistan and then operated from a terrorist camp in northern Iraq where he was joined by other al Qaeda leaders, who had been ushered through Baghdad and given safe passage by the Iraqi security forces.

Yet we are told that Iraq never a threat, that it had no connection with terrorism or al Qaeda.

We are told that Tony Blair misled the country by exaggerating the threat from Iraq. Not true. In Commons debates and other statements, Blair’s case to the country was that in the last resort war was necessary to enforce the UN resolutions which had been flouted for 12 years by Saddam’s refusal to disarm. It was to uphold the international world order and the authority of the UN which had been brought into disrepute. The threat he identified was the confluence of rogue states, terrorism and WMD. In his own words in his Commons speech, there was a ‘real and present danger of terrorist groups in possession of WMD’. This is exactly what Dr Kay subsequently said was the real danger in Saddam’s Iraq.

In conclusion, I always thought invading Iraq carried the risk of producing what has now so unfortunately developed. But I thought we had no option but to take that risk because the alternative risk was far worse. As I have said, the current conflagration is the result of appalling mistakes for which our leaders should rightly be held to account. But saying that the current situation in Iraq is the fault of Bush and Blair for attacking Saddam in the first place is a bit like blaming the British government in 1940 for the Blitz on the grounds that it wouldn’t have happened if Britain had not declared war on Germany.

The problem is that in the current climate, facts and rationality are being driven out by emotion. The result is that the terrorists in Iraq have every incentive to perform ever more barbaric acts because they know that every atrocity puts more pressure on Bush and Blair from a public which will lose any stomach to see this through, let alone confront the other actors in the jihad against the west such as Iran or Syria.

The key point is this. It is not the west’s strength that provoked the jihad to declare war upon it and to inflict these current atrocities but, as al Qaeda has repeatedly said, it is the perception that the west is weak, that it has no stomach to defend itself and that it will instead turn on itself because it is decadent. I fear that in this analysis, it is currently being proved right

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: iraq; melaniephillips; waronterror; wot

1 posted on 09/24/2004 9:14:07 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; Valin; yonif; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; Alouette; ...

   Melanie Phillips' Witty Logic Ping !

This ping list is not author-specific for articles I'd like to share. Some for perfect moral clarity, some for provocative thoughts; or simply interesting articles I'd hate to miss myself. (I don't have to agree with the author 100% to feel the need to share an article.) I will try not to abuse the ping list and not to annoy you too much, but on some days there is more of good stuff that is worthy attention. I keep separate PING lists for my favorite authors Victor Davis Hanson, Lee Harris, David Warren, Orson Scott Card. You are welcome in or out, just freepmail me (and note which PING list you are talking about).

2 posted on 09/24/2004 9:15:15 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: Tolik
When the war in Iraq started, I believed that it was legally justified and morally imperative

It's too tough in Iraq now, lets quit. --sarcasm

3 posted on 09/24/2004 9:25:08 AM PDT by frog_jerk_2004
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To: Tolik

She has a good point, and WE MUST be the ones to stand up and not allow that to happen by keeping the prayers and information flowing.

4 posted on 09/24/2004 9:25:29 AM PDT by Kackikat
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To: Tolik
Does anyone have a map of Iraq that shows the states and/or provinces so that we can mark which ones have terrorist activity and the ones that don't?
5 posted on 09/24/2004 9:32:52 AM PDT by fella
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To: Tolik

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that those who were against the war are somehow out of order. I have every respect for those who believed as a matter of principle that war was the wrong way to deal with the threat posed by Saddam.

Begs the question, how else do you deal with a monster like saddam except dealing with him like you would a rabid dog?

6 posted on 09/24/2004 9:49:24 PM PDT by Valin (I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.)
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To: frog_jerk_2004

When the going gets tough, the toughest military and the mightiest country in the world...should turn tail and run.

The new Kerry translation of the old saying.

7 posted on 09/25/2004 9:50:55 AM PDT by Choose Ye This Day ("We showed weakness, and weak people are beaten."--Putin / "A more sensitive war on terror." --Kerry)
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To: Valin
I see four groups of people who were/are against the war in Iraq.

First: those who opposed the war on principal. The reasoning can be very-very different: from pacifist to neo-isolationists.
Second: those who are very much pro war on terror, but opposing this specific step in this war.
Third: those who oppose this war only because its Bush led war. They would have been for it if it was Clinton/Gore/Kerry war.
Fourth: those who just simply wish it was still 9/10 and don't want to hear that its post 9/11.

I have a beef with the first and second, but simply can't stand the third and fourth.
8 posted on 09/26/2004 6:39:50 PM PDT by Tolik
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