Is it in Britain's interest to invade Iraq?

I've changed my mind ? I supported the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, but now I think I was wrong

Share

I want to debate entirely in terms of British interests the rights and wrongs of going to war with Iraq. Yes, I mean a wholly selfish appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of our troops, our aircraft and naval units, our tanks, and our money being used in this enterprise. For these purposes, I don't wish even a shred of morality or sentimentality to enter into the argument; let us concentrate solely on what suits or does not the inhabitants of these islands.

I want to debate entirely in terms of British interests the rights and wrongs of going to war with Iraq. Yes, I mean a wholly selfish appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of our troops, our aircraft and naval units, our tanks, and our money being used in this enterprise. For these purposes, I don't wish even a shred of morality or sentimentality to enter into the argument; let us concentrate solely on what suits or does not the inhabitants of these islands.

The primary reason for launching an attack on another country is self-defence. British defence chiefs feel this strongly: for it to be right to attack, aggression has to be present from the opposite direction. What, precisely, would we be defending ourselves against? As we are not expecting military attack on the United Kingdom or its possessions, what other forms of aggression would we be countering?

Two possibilities are apparent. The first is that, if unchecked, Iraq would again invade one of its neighbours and this would be against our interests. Given the earlier attacks on Iran and Kuwait, this must be considered likely. But I have changed my mind about the significance of this scenario. I supported the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, but I now think that I was wrong to do so.

The border between the two countries was arbitrarily placed there by the British 80 years ago. The conflict was a purely regional one, far from our shores. Its outcome had no implications, either favourable or unfavourable for us. Neither government had any democratic legitimacy. Oil would be pumped anyway because the Middle East has no other major source of revenue. In fact, the Western involvement in the conflict led to oil-extraction facilities being destroyed and a toxic fire storm. It was therefore counter-productive in the short term. And Kuwait still has the same type of government.

I don't believe that we have received any lasting value from the loss of lives and the expenditure of considerable resources, nor would we do so in the similar circumstances in the future.

The second possibility under the heading of other forms of aggression is that Saddam Hussein is financing terrorist groups; supplying them and training them with the objective of carrying out attacks in this country, as well as in others. Whether they belonged to the al-Qa'ida network or not would scarcely matter. This is a plausible threat that must be considered. Unfortunately, the Government's assertions on this subject are worthless because they are largely tendentious and inaccurate.

People have to rely on their common sense, on leaked intelligence assessments and on the work of media correspondents in the field. And common sense alone tells us that, even if Iraq were rendered incapable of sponsoring terrorist attacks on the West, other groups and other countries hostile to the hawkish British and Americans would thereby redouble their efforts. In practice, I believe an allied attack on Iraq would increase the risk of terrorist activity within Britain rather than diminish it.

After considerations of self-defence comes the second-order issue of international security. The creation of an international framework of law governing the behaviour of nations would be a great blessing. It is undoubtedly in our interests that United Nations resolutions are enforced – provided that such action does not compromise our ability to defend ourselves. That is why I call it a second-order consideration.

However, Saddam has flouted 116 UN resolutions in 12 years. He has violated the resolutions which ended the first Gulf War. He is likely to be in breach of resolution 1441 which demands that he gives up all weapons of mass destruction. Hence the Prime Minister's repeated message that, if we show weakness now, no one will believe us in the future. Likewise, David Owen states: "This war, if it comes, will be about asserting the authority of the UN Charter."

To which it can be added that this war, if it comes, will be because the United States and Britain, at least, have lost faith in the current policy of containing Iraq as a response to Saddam's defiance. Undoubtedly, containment has many disadvantages. Despite over-flights by American and British warplanes, despite substantially reduced oil revenues, despite periodic visits by UN inspectors, it allows Saddam – albeit with great difficulty – to work at acquiring weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, containment inflicts great suffering on Iraqi citizens by depriving them of medical facilities.

This is a genuinely difficult choice. Containment to enforce the UN resolutions on the one hand, which is what France and Germany continue to argue for, or invasion as an act of liberation which America and Britain support. Both policies cost lives, only the timing differs. The second also, as I have noted, increases the possibility of terrorist attacks within Britain. Furthermore, it represents American revenge for 11 September, which is not our business, and it demands from the US a commitment which it has repeatedly walked away from since General Douglas MacArthur left Japan in the early 1950s: nation-building.

Taking account of all these factors, I believe that a prudent reading of British interests would favour a continuation of containment, not war.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones