Rania Kashi: The coming days may be bloody, but we fear dictators more than bombs

Wednesday 19 March 2003 01:00
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Iraq, the land of my parents' birth, will soon be invaded by American and British troops. Planes will drop bombs on Baghdad, where many of my relatives live. The coming days may be bloody but I believe, as the daughter of Iraqi exiles, that this invasion is to be welcomed.

I remember hearing a snatch of conversation several weeks ago in Cambridge. Many of my fellow students were making plans to travel to London for the anti-war march. This is what I heard: "OK, so we'll go on the march for a couple of hours but I want to do some shopping in London too, so we'd better not stay too long." That taught me a few things about those who marched against war and vociferously condemned what they called America's cynical "self-interest".

A fanatical hatred of America's policies has so twisted the views of the world's mainstream liberals that they have become blind to the horrendous suffering imposed on people who live under cruel dictatorships. Declaring "we all know that Saddam is evil but ...", as Robin Cook did in his resignation speech, is the standard response of those who oppose his removal by force. Yet they are in effect presenting a pardon to the dictator on a silver platter.

My parents are Shia Muslims. Saddam forced them to flee 23 years ago, before I was born. They lived quietly in Baghdad and were not particularly religious or political. But my family, like thousands of others, fell out of the regime's favour. Seventeen of our relatives were killed by Saddam's secret police by the time my parents escaped.And for those who may think things have improved, Saddam is just as brutal as he was all those years ago. My aunt recently fled Iraq. She told me about the prevalent feeling among Iraqis in Baghdad. "They are waiting for the British and Americans to come and save them," she said.

Yes, of course, Iraqis fear the aerial bombardment to come. None knows this better than the Iraqi exiles with whom I am in contact and who are all in favour of military action to remove Saddam. Remember, it is their families who are in the front line. But their fear for the safety of their families under Saddam's rule is substantially greater than their fear for their families under American bombardment.

It is difficult for me to engage fully with arguments against military action that are based on the need to respect the United Nations. Nevertheless, I do recognise that other oppressed peoples fear a world where international law is cast by the wayside. That is why I believe it is important that the United Nations takes up the challenge of rebuilding Iraq after the war. If the UN can help to build a democratic and stable country then people might say in years to come, not that the Iraq crisis signalled the end for the UN, but that it led to its finest hour.

Rania Kashi is a natural science undergraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge (Her e-mail in support of intervention in Iraq was read out by Tony Blair on 15 February).

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