Shock and Awe
Lest we forget
The collection of articles below sample the impassioned debate on openDemocracy at the start of the war in Iraq - concerns which proved largely irrelevant to the architects of the invasion and occupation. They reflect the cross-current of dialogue within many communities about the war’s place in modern Iraqi history, while situating the intervention against the larger international democratic project.
Ten years later, debates continue over incrimination of the UN, the smokescreen of Western intentions, the utterly destructive civilian toll and the role of civil society in challenging the monopolization of power. Moreover, these conversations have found new meaning in the devastating events in neighbouring Syria.
A detailed recording of the precise details of the casualties inflicted by modern wars is becoming an important part of the work of humanitarian groups across the world.
Forty years ago, on 16 March 1968, United States armed forces committed their most notorious massacre. In the course of one morning in My Lai, a hamlet in Vietnam, approximately 504 civilians - men, women and children - were slaughtered by Charlie Company of the 1st battallion, 20th infantry. A number of the victims were raped before they were murdered; the thatch-roofed huts and red-brick homes of the village were burned; livestock was killed, wells were poisoned.
The United Nations desperately needs reform. The power relations of the global organisations structure - particularly the undemocratic Security Council - cry out for transformation. Yet the most powerful member-states determinedly resist any prospect of reduced authority; the desire of the second world war victors to orchestrate the post-war world, however anachronistic, is undiminished.
In both the United States and Britain, there is passionate contest over the legitimacy and honesty of government attempts to justify war with Iraq, especially claims of the existence of active Iraqi chemical weapons programmes. In an interview of profound insight, the man responsible for chemical weapons destruction operations in Iraq from 1991-94 talks to Anthony Barnett and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about the true extent of Iraq's capacity to produce, store and deliver weapons of mass destruction.
The immediate US purpose is to destroy the Saddam regime. This, no less than the weapons used to fight it, guarantees that the Iraq war will have a heavy human cost in the short term. Behind the war, the search for military and oil security is impelling a broader US agenda for regional control. This ensures further violence in the long term.
The London march against war of 15 February was impressive but confused, and desperately naïve. It filled the roads with good intentions and we all know where they lead.
One image keeps cropping up in my mind. It is perhaps the only happy image I have of Saturday 15 February. At the mass mud-caked rally in Hyde Park a single rather unhappy-looking Brit with his misted glasses askew was holding a sign Well keep off the grass, Tony, if you keep off the sand. It was perhaps the only witty comment of the day.
The huge campaign against war in Iraq offers no comfort to this young Iraqi woman. She has no illusions about US power. But in the face of a people longing for liberation from Saddam's terrible rule, how can the peace movement turn its back?
As a sovereign nation Iraq is a recent creation. It was formed by the British in 1919 out of provinces of the Ottoman Empire. While its borders may be arbitrary and contested, it does not follow that Iraq does not have the heart of a real nation, shared by the different groups who live within them. Iraq is much more than the sum of conflicting ethnic and religious groups. It is a country where people have developed a sense of being Iraqi.
My purpose here is to explore how this has evolved.
What should be done about Saddam Hussein's regime? Two Iraqi exiles of different generations and views discuss the best way forward for a country now on the brink of decisive change.
The impact of war and disaster on populations, and the record of international agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in dealing with them, receive too little attention in the mainstream media. Here, we focus on the humanitarian implications of a likely war on Iraq.
The US debate on war with Iraq is spreading. The key issues - interests of Iraq's people, justice and morality of war, US power and UN role - were discussed at a major New York University event on 22 November. Two observers summarise and critique the panelists' views.