Opposition to the war wasn’t just about anti-Americanism

There is a letter in the Observer today in response to an article from last week’s paper from Nick Cohen, who said that the Chilcot inquiry won’t declare Blair a war criminal and disputed the claim that the war in Iraq was illegal. The letter reads:

Having been shouted down by opponents in what passes as debate for years, it was a profound relief to read Nick Cohen articulating the moral high ground on which the Iraq war was based (“Blair will never be branded a war criminal”, Comment).

It is so simple. The cases for going into Rwanda, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq are identical: people were being murdered in their thousands. End of story. You can’t support intervention in the first three but not in Iraq. Saddam killed for 30 years and his sons were carrying on murdering.

Opposition to the war is fuelled largely by anti-Americanism in general and a hatred of Bush in particular and, yes, I think he’s a twerp too.

But how can you possibly support such a monster by opposing his removal? How could you and then claim any moral high ground? You should be ashamed of yourselves.

There were, in fact, substantial differences between the situations in Iraq and those in Sierra Leone and Rwanda. In fact, the UN did not intervene to stop the genocide in Rwanda; it stopped when the rebels took control of the country. The UN was in the country, but did not act. UN troops had been doing much the same in Bosnia for two years by the time the Rwandan genocide happened.

However, there always was a very voluble public clamour for military action in Bosnia, because it was very clear that atrocities were taking place and that this was taking place in Europe, in a country that had been considered civilised and where people had taken holidays just a few years earlier. Although the atrocious record of Saddam Hussain’s regime was well-known, the impetus for that invasion came from above, not from below. It was Bush’s and Cheney’s own idea, whether in revenge for Saddam’s attempted assassination of Bush’s father or for whatever other reason, and Iraqi human rights could not have been high on their agenda given what they were doing in Bagram and Guantanamo Bay.

Many people who had supported military intervention in the past, even in Afghanistan, opposed it in 2003. We knew that Bush’s intentions were not good, that it would not lead to a meaningful democracy (it remains to be seen whether what exists now will last), that it would be extremely corrupt and brutal. Nick Cohen and his gang were the useful idiots, cheering on the American hard right thinking they were on the same side. In fact, they proved even more incompetent than might have been expected, as parts of the country became awash with terrorists and the country ended up in virtual civil war. Cohen seems oblivious to the fact that elements that he might despise, and that Saddam Hussain kept a lid on, were unleashed after the invasion.

Some of us wanted to see Saddam Hussain gone, including the Muslim Brothers who were instrumental in running the Stop the War Coalition in the UK. We were against this invasion because it was the wrong time and for the wrong reason. Speaking personally, I have friends and relatives in the USA (not just Muslims) and I am not “anti-American”, just against that particular government, and given that its own legitimacy was questionable at the time, it was ironic that it should pretend to spread democracy in other places.

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