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10 wrong reasons to oppose war with Iraq
Posted: Monday, February 17, 2003

by Brendan O'Neill

There are lots of good reasons to oppose the planned attack on Iraq. And there are lots of bad reasons to oppose it, too. Here are 10 of the worst reasons I have heard in recent months:

1) 'Because there are other more dangerous dictators to deal with...'

Statements like these do not challenge the West's right to intervene abroad. In fact, they can often boost Western powers' moral authority on the international stage by calling on them to sort out the psychos 'over there'. Saying 'Forget Saddam, what about Kim Il Jung or Ariel Sharon?' may sound radical, but it's a pro-intervention criticism that Bush and Blair can easily live with.

2) 'Because the weapons inspectors need more time...'

To do what? To continue undermining Iraq's sovereignty and acting like an invading army in all but name? The anti-war movement ties itself into knots by supporting the weapons inspections. These inspections are based on the idea that Iraq should be open to investigation, and that if something is found then 'something must be done'. A better slogan would be 'Hans off Iraq...Blix out now!'

3) 'Because war hasn't got the backing of the UN...'

And what if it did? You'd support it then, would you? Many anti-war protesters are putting too much faith in the UN as a check on American imperialism. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are the only nations legally allowed to hold nuclear weapons; they can decide whether, when and why to launch a war; and the UN effectively occupies large parts of the former Yugoslavia. Stop kidding yourself about the UN.

4) 'Because it will make us more at risk from terrorism...'

This is a popular argument - that the West will become a riskier and scarier place if we further intervene in the Middle East. There are two problems with this line - it buys into the pro-war claims that the world is an out-of-control place that Bush, Blair and co should try to control, pre-emptively if necessary; and it betrays an anti-war stance that is based less on solidarity with the people of Iraq than on fear for ourselves.

5) 'Because there are more peaceful ways to help Iraq...'

Again with the pro-intervention arguments. So many anti-war protesters seem to have their own preferred option for resolving Iraq's problems and for bringing democracy to the Gulf. But since when could 'democracy' be imposed from without? And whatever happened to 'Hands Off', the notion that Western powers could not be trusted to sort out another state's problems? The best people to build a new Iraq are the Iraqis themselves.

6) 'Because there isn't enough evidence yet to prove Saddam is dangerous...'

I have heard so many 'principled' anti-war commentators say things like, 'This is the wrong war at the wrong time', or 'It cannot be justified right now'. But these are not anti-war statements at all. They are anti-war-right-now-but-pro-war-at-some-point-in-the-future-maybe statements. We shouldn't buy into all the 'evidence' stuff. Powell and co could 'prove' that Saddam had 500 nukes pointed at Tokyo, and I still wouldn't support their war.

7) 'Because war will provoke Saddam to use his weapons...'

Another weak argument, which depicts Iraq as the lunatic state and the West as the rational ones who should hold back for the good of us all. Calling on Bush and Blair to calm down because otherwise they will provoke Saddam to do terrible things puts America and Britain on the moral highground. It is an opposition based on fear of what Saddam might do in response, rather than on rejecting the West's right to intervene in the first place.

8) 'Because it's all about the oil...'

This is lazy rhetoric, which misses out what is original and peculiar about this war. Of course oil figures in the USA's dealings with the Gulf, but do we really need to see economic reasons for every Western war? Today, it is often the lack of an economic or territorial interest that makes war so dangerous. Wars fought in the name of 'humanitarianism' and 'nation-building' can be even more terrible and unpredictable. 'Humanitarian' warmongers assume to have right on their side - and from that position, they can often do what they like.

9) 'Because Israel is a far bigger threat to the Middle East...'

Israel has become the black-and-white issue of the anti-war movement - the one state they all agree is Really Really Bad. Consequently, many respond to the planned attack on Iraq by saying 'What about Israel's weapons?'; 'What about Israel's non-compliance with UN resolutions?'. All of which is true. But yet again, this is a position that assumes the US or the UN or NATO should do something about Israel, instead of Iraq - and the last thing the people of the Middle East need (whether Palestinian or Israeli) is yet more intervention from outside.

10) 'Because we should live in peace and harmony and teach the world to sing...'

Give me a break.

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