Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Cancer of Iraq

The Lancet has reported an estimated civilian death toll in Iraq of 650,000.

I think the situation in Iraq cuts to the heart of the really big issues.

What is a just war?

What level of violence can democracies allow themselves to inflict?

What is a civilian in a civil war?

In my heart of hearts I did wonder whether the Liberal Democrats were doing the right thing when we opposed launching the war. By all accounts, Charles Kennedy stood up in the whips office of the House of Commons and explained why the party was going to vote en bloc to oppose the launching of attacks and was actually rather inspiring. It was, I think, a real example of political courage.

I think now that Blair did the worst thing that a PM can do - he prosecuted an unnecessary and unjustified war. What we do now is not clear to me, but all the time the image of the helicopters in Saigon is in my mind. Blair is now unlikely to be Prime Minister for much longer, I hope that he can live with his conscience in his "retirement".

I don't know if the death toll reported by The Lancet of 650,000 Iraqis is the right number. I do know that "shock and awe", daisy cutters, the storming of Fallujah, the Green Zone and so on are not likely to be contributing much to a winning of hearts and minds.

We have given our troops an impossible job and an alliance with US forces that seem to do more to provoke than to pacify.

I think now that we should be working to a timetable to withdraw- whether we declare it or not. I see the more relevent- and more justified- war in Afghanistan moving towards an unwinnable end game too. Perhaps with more resources we could still- just about- win here. Yet it seems literally incredible to me that- given the long history of guerilla warfare in Afghanistan- the President of the United States thought that the situation was "solved" merely by the fall of Mullah Omar, and that therefore he could strip the country of troops to fight his family feud with Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile our moral force has been blown away - from now on it is going to be extremely hard to confront North Korea, Iran, Russia and the many other bad guys out there.


Dr Maybe said...

I find it somewhat promising that your comments have been echoed by the head of the British army...

Cicero said...

Yes- not sure he should have said it publically though.