Sunday, July 02, 2006

Burning Beacon

Here's a first: an approving link to a Will Hutton article. I can see no other way to describe the Israeli government's response to the kidnapping of one of her soldiers than as an illegal, morally objectionable collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Two wrongs do not make a right and when the second is so disproportionate, and is carried out by people who profess to occupy the moral high ground, it is particularly unsavoury.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli PM has said today that he intends to intensify the military action. Yet another circle of hatred and violence, as desired by extremists on both sides, will be the inevitable result.

On 14th March 2006, Tony Blair explicitly linked Iraq to the Israeli/Palistinian conflict.
I have always said the most important thing that we can do is to show even-handedness towards the Middle East. We are right to focus on Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, but we must put equal focus on the plight of the people whose lives are being devastated by lack of progress in the Middle East peace process. Israeli civilians who die in acts of terrorism, and Palestinians living and dying in appalling conditions of suffering.
A few days later, in his statement to parliament before the vote on the invasion, he did so again.
I tell you what Europe should have said last September to the US. With one voice it should have said: we understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD and we will help you meet it. We will mean what we say in any UN Resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily; but in return we ask two things of you: that the US should choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of re-starting the MEPP [Middle East Peace Process], which we will hold you to.

I do not believe there is any other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course there is cynicism about recent announcements. But the US is now committed, and, I believe genuinely, to the Roadmap for peace, designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today.

All of us are now signed up to its vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestininan state.

And that should be part of a larger global agenda. On poverty and sustainable development. On democracy and human rights. On the good governance of nations.

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance.
Three years on, it could not be clearer that the PM's assumptions, policies and desires were woefully and fatally flawed. Iraq today is not an island of democracy, human rights and good governance. It is, sadly, very far from being that.

And the peace process is effectively dead. The US administration's "genuine" commitment to the Roadmap for peace, if it ever existed, is certainly not visible today. And there's no sign that they "recognise the fundamental overriding importance of re-starting the MEPP", an apparent condition of our support for military action in Iraq.

Failure to deal with this issue has had an impact beyond the Middle East itself (as Blair clearly understood at the time). The idea that the UK government is "even-handed" in its approach towards Muslims has suffered immeasurable damage. We have, after all, invaded and occupied a Muslim country, and then failed to provide any sort of security for its citizens, a legal responsibility under international law. And we did this for reasons which were, ultimately, entirely spurious. Muslims are dying today because of it.

At the same time, when the Israeli government uses their overwhelming ability to inflict violence in an attack on the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, our government does nothing more than issue vague mumblings of displeasure.

There can be no doubt that the Middle East today is a more dangerous and less stable place three years on from the beginning of our bloody misadventure in Iraq. And no-one can be surprised to learn that although wrong, the propaganda of extremism is gaining new converts in the UK and around the world as a result.

Blair once argued that the invasion of Iraq would make us safer. Given that Saddam didn't pose any sort of threat, can anyone seriously argue that we are safer today because of it? It is only when the situation is extrapolated over a timescale which makes the exercise meaningless that there is a possibilty that this action could conceivably increase our security.

And before anyone starts about hindsight, here's a reminder about the scale of the threat which existed from Saddam before the invasion:
[T]he sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq....
- Colin Powell, Feb 2001
Yes, Blair and Bush thought Saddam probably retained remnants of his pre-GW1 chemical weapons programme. But they knew he wasn't a threat in any meaningful way.

Today, we're further from peace in the Middle East than we've been for a long time. There were those of us who warned that military action in Iraq would polarise the region and damage the prospects for peace. While certainly not the only reason for the current crisis, the many entirely predictable failures of our Iraq debacle have undoubtedly been a factor.

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1 comment:

Seeker said...

That invasion was always about the Iraqi oil, Donald Rumsfeld was making a case for over throwing the rule of Saddam Hussein as early as 1998, it's about diversifing oil supplies and with the Iraqi's embargoed up to the hilt with no end insight nothing short of direct action was going to shift the blockage. Tony Blair played tag along because our nuclear deterrent is wholly dependant on keeping American support for the maintenance of the Trident missiles.