By Seamus Close MLA
The War for Oil – for that is what it is – is neither a just war nor a legal war, and I have little doubt that it will go down in the history books as a war that changed the global political landscape for generations.
From the outset I must make it clear that I am not necessarily anti-war. I am pro-United Nations, and have been against the invasion of Iraq since it became clear that there was not going to be UN backing for it.
I disagreed with the Government about the need for military action at that time, but that debate is over. Sadly, the decision has been made.
At the same time it is essential that we support our armed forces obeying orders, as they risk their lives in military action. I have no sympathy for the Iraqi regime, and while I firmly believe that more time should have been given to the arms inspectors to carry out their duties, I earnestly hope that our troops task will be concluded swiftly, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and with the absolute minimum of bloodshed. My thoughts are with the families of those who have already died.
The Iraqi regime may not wage their campaign on the same basis, but the coalition countries have set themselves a higher standard. And they must. Not merely to abide by the Geneva Conventions, but to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that what will follow Saddam will be better.
That standard is not an easy one to meet, and more questions must be raised about the commitment to it, particularly by America. I cannot stand hypocrisy, but the spin and lies being fed to us daily is sickening. Truth was indeed amongst the first casualties in this war. We have seen the daily capture of Umm Qasr lead to numerous deaths on both sides, ‘pockets of resistance’ turn into ongoing battles, chemical weapons finds come to nothing and the uprising in Basra turn into a protracted siege.
Yes, it is absolutely wrong for Saddam’s soldiers to mercilessly execute coalition troops. But it is also wrong for women and children to be shot dead in cold blood as they approach a vehicle checkpoint. Yes, it is wrong for US troops to be interrogated on Iraqi television in contravention of the rules of war. But that does nothing to justify the dehumanising pictures of captured Iraqis witnessed on our own televisions.
If this is the fog of war, I cannot wait until it lifts. This is not the video game war some imagined it would be. It is like all wars; dirty, degrading and stinking of death. As the battle for Baghdad gets under way, this has the potential to turn into a humanitarian disaster, with innocents suffering in cities without clean water or food. Saddam has learned lessons from the First Gulf War and knows that while he cannot win militarily, he can sustain conflict and demoralise his opponents at home and abroad through guerrilla warfare and forcing them to get bogged down in urban warfare.
What we are currently witnessing is the world’s first hyperpower exerting its undeserved authority, like a playground bully. This invasion of Iraq will have serious consequences that we can only begin to imagine. Today Iraq, but where next? If pre-emptive action can be taken against one nation, what is to stop America imposing its will elsewhere in the world?
George W Bush has his own definition of freedom and democracy. I am no fan of Saddam Hussein and I abhor his sick and perverse regime, but given America’s questionable record of intervention across the world, questions must be raised about what could follow in Saddam’s wake. Has Bush considered the instability a US puppet leader could create? Has he thought about how Turkey might react to the Kurds in northern Iraq taking advantage of the war to create an independent state?
I believe that there must be a leading role for the EU in the rebuilding of a destroyed Iraq and another for the UN to establish real democracy at the end of what could be a pyrrhic victory for American and Britain. The UN must ensure that it leads the humanitarian and political reconstruction of Iraq and remains at the centre of the debate on achieving a strong resolution for reconstruction.
Already gaps are being exposed in the so-called coalition’s plans about what must follow the inevitable victory of America’s military might over the Iraqi regime. Are we seriously going to allow a handful of US military commanders to control the country until some acquiescent lackeys can be shoved into power without the support of the ordinary Iraqi people? What then for the United Nations?
When the dust finally settles, the UK and its allies will have to take a long hard look at how this whole situation arose. Lessons will have to be learned. Diplomacy must not be allowed to fail again.