Bubba the Dread
I’d like to rephrase my argument in favour of war in Iraq (that it is the only politically possible way of ending the horrendously cruel blockade of Iraq) in terms which won’t convince anybody any more, but which might hopefully spoil the dinner of most of the other members of the pro-war camp.
The main argument of the warbloggers at the moment is that inspections won’t work, can’t work, can’t be made to work. Because there are a million and one things that Saddam Hussein could do to foil, harry or impede the work of the inspectors, there is no way in which we can countenance taking seriously Iraq’s offer to allow “unconditional” inspections. The only thing we can possibly do is invade, and there’s an end on’t.
Fair enough. But note that this argument could have been made at any time in the last ten years. So it does rather raise the following question:
If we really think that there is no possible inspection regime which would be any use at all, why the fuck have we been starving people to death for ten years in the pretence that there is????
1) As Jude Wanniski regularly points out, the answer to the question, frequently asked over the last ten years “Why doesn’t that evil megalomanic just let the inspectors back in if he cares about his people so much?” is almost certainly “Because he knew that some lugnut like you would make exactly the argument you’ve just made now that he has offered to let them back in“.
2) Starting from this premise, it is not easy to avoid the conclusion that the policy of the United States of America over the last ten years has not been to get inspectors back in, but rather to attempt to starve the Iraqi people into revolution against Hussein. Starvation, in my opinion, ought to be classed as a weapon of mass destruction.
3) It further degrades the already debased currency of UN resolutions that they have been, in this case, clearly used in an entirely disingenuous manner.
Of course, this isn’t Bush-bashing. Although the “inspections, schminspections” wing of the warblogger community are probably guilty of pretty serious bad faith (it’s not possible to both hold the view that no inspection regime is satisfactory and maintain that the deaths from malnutrition and want of medical treatment which I call “starvation” for polemic purposes above were the fault of Saddam Hussein rather than the fault of the USA acting through the UN), bad faith is a much lesser crime than mass murder, and at least, in a sort of bumbling and insanely worrying way, Bush is holding out some hope for the end of the suffering. Nope, the policy of maintaining the death-grip of the blockade in bad faith, in the face of copious information about its murderous nature, and in the hope that it would eventually result in “regime change” without a fight, was the work for the most part of William Jefferson Clinton. Would it not be better for the soul of the Left to admit that the policy of starvation took place for the most part during the Clinton years and represents the logical outcome of the “triangulation” strategy (neither invasion nor accomodation, but rather a “third way”) which marked out most of what Clinton did?
I fundamentally like Bill Clinton. That’s why I’m right there on his side on most issues; whatever he does, he isn’t an arsehole about it. And most of his opponents are such horrendous arseholes that one’s every instinct cries out to support him. But after thinking through the argument above, I find it very hard to look at pictures of his big red old face without getting the same mental picture of heaps of emaciated bodies which always lingers as a retinal ghost image in the portraits of all the worst villains of the twentieth century.
edit: Forestalling the argument that “the reason people are starving in Iraq is that Saddam does this, that, the other instead of spending the money on food”. It isn’t so. Under the terms of the blockade, Iraq sells around $4bn of oil a year. The UN keeps 40% of this for its expenses and for reparations, leaving $2.6bn. That leaves around 36 cents per Iraqi per day, which is nowhere near enough to live on. And Iraq has next to no other exports but oil, and agriculture is pretty difficult to establish when you aren’t allowed to buy fertiliser because it might be used as chemical weapons precursors. Furthermore, any argument based on how much money Iraq spends on its army overlooks the tiny technicality that every nation tends to increase military expenditure when they are under immediate threat of bloody war!. There is simply no way off the moral hook by twisting the facts in this manner.
other edit: Just realised that, of course, all references to “USA” should be “USA and UK” above, but can’t be bothered to change them individually. I’m part of the collective guilt on this one too. The French, bless ’em, aren’t.