Weblog entries for 16 September 2002


The war on terror continues

Today's newspapers are quoting a dissident Iraqi nuclear scientist as claiming that Iraq could produce nuclear weapons within months.

This will presumably serve to strengthen America's resolve to invade Iraq, and it seems that even previously staunch anti-war countries like Saudi Arabia may be joining the pro-war side on this debate.

The vast majority of people in the UK, as well as most of the MPs, are against invading Iraq. This hasn't prevented Tony Blair from going more and more blue in the face as he tries to convince us otherwise.

The logic goes as follows. If Iraq develops nuclear weapons, Saddam Hussein will not hesitate to use them, and if he has links to al-Qaeda then we can assume they know what he knows. Imagine September 11th with nuclear bombs on the planes, the protagonists of war say. Preventing this kind of attack is far better than a retaliatory strike.

Saddam Hussein has been shown in the past to have little regard for the health and security of his people. Prior to the Gulf War we heard stories of him using chemical weapons on his own citizens, and I'm sure I don't need to remind you of the long lines of Kurdish refugees braving the mountains in winter to try to get out of the country.

But during the Gulf War, Hussein was wise enough not to allow a single drop of chemical weapons on the Allied forces, because he knew only too well what the repercussions would be. It goes without saying that the repercussions of a nuclear attack would be many orders of magnitude greater, and therefore the deterrent to using nuclear weapons against the US is that much higher.

What would invasion of Iraq achieve? It has been pointed out that removing Saddam Hussein would render Iraq 'ungovernable', and unless the US is willing to make a long-term commitment to restore the stability of the country, they could do more harm than good by removing him. If someone else assumed power in Iraq, they would also assume control of any weapons left there, and it seems dangerous to assume that any invading army would be successful in removing every last trace of their nuclear weapons programme.

So is there another approach? The British government have tended to deal with terrorists by acknowledging that they have a point to make, but insisting that they stop using weapons and start negotiating a resolution to their grievances. Could America try this approach?

At first glance it seems unlikely that the kind of people who are willing to fly aeroplanes into skyscrapers are the kind of people willing to negotiate. But what's their grievance? Basically, they don't like Americans. I suspect it has to do with their attitude to global politics. They throw their weight around like an arrogant teenager and seem inclined to think that they have the answer to all the world's problems, apart from those to which they turn a blind eye.

Now we find ourselves in a Catch-22 situation. America, quite rightly, doesn't want to be seen to cave in to terrorists' demands, but the terrorists' demands are precisely that. They want America to stop acting as though it owns the world. So what is America's response to the attacks? An invitation to negotiate? Quite the opposite. They strut around the world stage, threatening to attack whichever nation has offended them this week.

Wake up, Mr Bush. Don't you see that the actions you are taking are precisely those which are most likely to antagonise your enemies further? This war on terror can only escalate if you invade Iraq.

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This entry forms part of Stephen Wettone's weblog, published in September 2002.

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