Over There (in the UK)

March 13, 2003 at 11 PM

Ear rack

You know, I’ve tried to say nothing, I really have, about this whole brouhaha in the Middle East. In recent months, legions of fellow bloggers have waged a war of words either to hasten or to prevent an actual war occuring in Iraq. In innumerable cities throughout the world, thousands have expressed their displeasure with America. In the US itself the mainstream media have all but put up the blinders to competing viewpoints. In short, the lines have been drawn and you are either a compassionate peacenik or a war-mongering, oil-hungry imperialist. You are either a cheese-eating surrender monkey or a proud, anti-terrorist liberator. Argue if you like, but Godsakes man, don’t stand in the middle.

Opinions on Iraq that aren’t loaded with political assumptions are an endangered species. What if I’m just not sure about war? Is there no longer room for the middle ground? What if I think Bush has no scruples and deserves no trust but I think the same about Jacques Chirac? Am I allowed to think that economic sanctions don’t work, that Saddam Hussein should be removed from power, but that full-scale war is not acceptable? Can I concurrently believe that the United States does not now have the credibility to follow through and ensure future stability in the region?

This morning I listened to a radio interview with a group of Iraqi exiles, all with family in Iraq, all of whom were in favour of an American-Iraqi war. As an open-minded person, no matter how much I find war objectionable, I have trouble neatly dismissing the opinions of those who have personal ties to the conflict.

The ever-rational Paul Wells wrote recently that he was uncertain that war would be a good thing. How refreshing to read a political columnist who can admit doubt. Doubt is not a bad thing. Doubt permits debate, which permits compromise, which, as far as I can tell, is the only way democracy ever works in democratic fashion. The French and American governments apparently don’t understand that principle. Or they’ve chosen to ignore it with the worst sort of demagoguery.

On one side I see a political novice, leading people made vulnerable by fear, pandering to the suspect wishes of his most ardent supporters. On the other side I see people with good intentions who are acting so reflexively against someone and something that they’ve adopted a heinous, dictatorial murderer (and the people he continues to victimize) as their cause célèbre. Two sides, zero reason, one scary world.

I don’t have the answers. But it would be nice to talk about what they might be with people that share an interest in finding some.


Well said; these times call for a cool head. However, I must disagree that those of us who oppose the war have adopted Saddam as a cause celebre. Many of us (if not most ) recognize that his regime is oppressive and perhaps even evil (whatever that means), but that bombing the hell out of the country mus always be the last resort. We may have taken some of the first resorts, but have we really taken any of the intermediary ones? In my opinion, we have not.

As far as exiles go, it is only natural to expect that they would favor a war, which isn’t to say they are wrong, just that they are stronly biased. (Is a person whose son has been murdered the best person to ask about the morality of the Death Penalty?)

At any rate, my main question is: Why the rush?

Beerzie Boy | Mar. 14, 2003 — 11 AM

I share your interest in the opinions of people with direct ties to the conflict. The woman who sells me coffee every morning is Iraqi and opposes an invasion on the grounds that civilians will be bombed, because that was her experience when she lived in Iraq during the Gulf War. This isn’t an attempt to nullify the opinions of the exiles you mentioned, just a dreary observation that not even the Iraqis can come to a consensus on their fate.

rebecca | Mar. 14, 2003 — 11 AM

I didn’t mean that anyone who opposes the war is boosting Saddam Hussein. Far from it.

But some people who have expressed their opposition to war also harp on the idea that “thousands of Iraqis die” from economic sanctions, and that the US is waging “genocide”.

Perhaps it’s just that inflamed zealots stand out more than those of cautious reason, but that’s what I mean when I talk about reflex. It’s too easy for all of us who oppose war for the right reasons (and I do count myself in that category) to be drowned out by those who oppose it for the sake of opposing everything and everyone else they dislike.

— Luke | Mar. 14, 2003 — 11 AM

Let me add too that, as far as exiles go, I think being “strongly biased” is okay if you were chased unwillingly out of the country in question.

That’s a much better justification than foreign interest in oil or military contracts. (cough France, Russia cough)

— Luke | Mar. 14, 2003 — 12 PM


I agree with you. This is an issue that has been polarised around the wrong issue: war. Though I think war itself should be a consideration in all of this, it’s difficult to see how the other issues (and there are many) are served when debate is focused on war and war alone.

As you point out, it’s now no longer possible to reconcile the positions of people who agree on many issues (such as the long-term human rights situation in Iraq) without casting them into one of a pro- or anti-war position.

Beerzie Boy’s point is telling. He’s war-neutral at this point … to him the big issue is timing. I think there is an interesting debate to be had here. Should twelve years of sanctions be long enough to consider that time is up? How long can previous international agreements be in violation before they must be enforced? Have all other possible avenues really been exhausted? Who or what can dictate this standard?

The real issues of the situation have become sidelined. The solution is to not let the centrality of the war question become hedgemonic, however. We all need to sort out our own stands on the important issues. And as you point out, doubt about some of the more dogmatic ones is not necessarily a bad thing.

Chris | Mar. 16, 2003 — 4 PM

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Subsequently: Someday We’ll Stop Talking About the Weather

March 2003
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