So when people ask if I think I was wrong, I think about the Iraqi friend – hiding, terrified, in his own house – who said to me this week, “Every day you delete another name from your mobile, because they’ve been killed. By the Americans or the jihadists or the militias – usually you never find out which.” I think of the people trapped in the siege of a civilian city, Fallujah, where amidst homes and schools the Americans indiscriminately used a banned chemical weapon – white phosphorous – that burns through skin and bone. (The Americans say they told civilians to leave the city, so anybody left behind was a suspected jihadi – an evacuation procedure so successful they later used it in New Orleans.). I think of the raw numbers: on the largest estimate – from the Human Rights Centre in Khadimiya – Saddam was killing 70,000 people a year. The occupation and the jihadists have topped that, and the violence is getting worse. And I think – yes, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.He won't do what many who supported the war do, blame the debacle on the incompetence of George W. Bush and company.
The lamest defence I could offer – one used by many supporters of the war as they slam into reverse gear – is that I still support the principle of invasion, it’s just the Bush administration screwed it up. But as one anti-war friend snapped at me when I mooted this argument, “Yeah, who would ever have thought that supporting George Bush in the illegal invasion of an Arab country would go wrong?” She’s right: the truth is that there was no pure Platonic ideal of The Perfect Invasion to support, no abstract idea we lent our names to. There was only Bush, with his cluster bombs, depleted uranium, IMF-ed up economic model, bogus rationale and unmistakable stench of petrol, offering his war, his way. (Expecting Tony Blair to use his influence was, it is now clear, a delusion, as he refuses to even frontally condemn the American torture camp at Guantanomo Bay).And he admits he ignored the real motivation for the war.
The evidence should have been clear to me all along: the Bush administration would produce disaster. Let’s look at the major mistakes-cum-crimes. Who would have thought they would unleash widespread torture, with over 10,000 people disappearing without trial into Iraq’s secret prisons? Anybody who followed the record of the very same people – from Rumsfeld to Negroponte – in Central America in the 1980s. Who would have thought they would use chemical weapons? Anybody who looked up Bush’s stance on chemical weapons treaties (he uses them for toilet paper) or checked Rumsfeld’s record of flogging them to tyrants. Who would have thought they would impose shock therapy mass privatisation on the Iraqi economy, sending unemployment soaring to 60 percent – a guarantee of ethnic strife? Anybody who followed the record of the US towards Russia, Argentina, and East Asia. Who could have known that they would cancel all reconstruction funds, when electricity and water supplies are still below even Saddam’s standards? Anybody who looked at their domestic policies.
The Bush administration was primarily motivated by a desire to secure strategic access to one of the world’s major sources of oil. The 9/11 massacres by Saudi hijackers had reminded them that their favourite client-state – the one run by the torturing House of Saud – was vulnerable to an internal Islamist revolution that would snatch the oil-wells from Haliburton hands. They needed an alternative source of Middle East oil, fast. I obviously found this rationale disgusting, but I deluded myself into thinking it was possible to ride this beast to a better Iraq. Reeling from a visit to Saddam’s Iraq, I knew that Iraqis didn’t care why their dictator was deposed, they just wanted it done, now. As I thought of the ethnically cleansed Marsh Arabs I had met, reduced to living in a mud hut in the desert, I thought that whatever happens, however it occurs, it will be better. In that immediate rush, I – like most Iraqis – failed to see that the Bush administration’s warped motives would lead to a warped occupation. A war for oil would mean that as Baghdad was looted, troops would be sent to guard the oil ministry, not the hospitals – a bleak harbinger of things to come.With 10s of thousands dead and wounded I can find no more joy in being right than Mr Hari can take in being wrong.
Jazz has a post on another conservative war supporter who has had a change of heart over at Running Scared.