Brian Brivati: 'We were right to go to war in Iraq'

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The Independent Online

Brian Brivati is professor of contemporary history at Kingston University in Surrey. He believes the war in Iraq is right.

I still think it was the right thing to do. I supported the war not on grounds of evidence of weapons of mass destruction but on the grounds of genocide. The UN resolutions in 1991 were pretty straightforward. And the simple fact is that Saddam's genocidal regime killed 180,000 or 200,000 Kurds. The international community had a responsibility to deal with that regime. It failed to do it in 1991-92. The leaders of the Ba'athist regime needed to be brought to justice.

Saddam was responsible for the systematic murder and arrest of his own people. If we let it stand, like we did in the Cold War, we would be saying dictators are OK as long as they're our dictators. We have to say that some regimes are unacceptable. What's happened since has been disastrous. There have been some appalling policy decisions. Which is the worst? But there have also been some triumphs: drafting the constitution; the elections; what's happening in Kurdistan.

There isn't a magic figure of civilian deaths that if you go over this it was the wrong thing to do. Who's made this humanitarian disaster? It's not us. It's the sectarian groups in Iraq and foreign fighters feeding the insurgency. Most of it is Iraqis killing other Iraqis.

The point was to set up a sovereign state of Iraq. We should withdraw when the Iraqi government say they can deal with the security situation. I don't think they're saying that now.

When people say the war has made us a target for terrorism they seem to forget that we were being attacked already. We were already a target for Islamic fascism. Al-Qa'ida didn't have a shortage of recruits before. The war has neutralised some state actors who were supporting terrorism; Libya's reaction is quite interesting. And remember that the West is not al-Qa'ida's primary target, their ultimate target is to create an Islamic state across that region.

Have we helped them achieve that? Well, if we want to move forward from that Cold War realist approach we've got to change the rules. I supported the war in Iraq because it gave us a chance to change the rules. It says, we will not do business with these kind of rulers. We can't go back to the way things were. Governments doing horrible things to people and we didn't care because they were African or Asian. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't want to go back to that.