I am against war in any place on earth. I have lived in the shadow of three wars since my childhood in the 1970s and I know the gravity of the catastrophe it engenders.
At the same time I am against any regime that kills and liquidates its people with every means at its disposal, bringing about the same results as war, but more slowly, which is worse.
The American war against Iraq could not be sustained were it not for the existence of Saddam, and Saddam would not be able to continue in power were it not for America. Thus Saddam and his regime, and America and her war, have become equal and opposite partners in the tragedy being meted out upon Iraq.
I have within me a great desire to return to a Baghdad with no security forces to compel me to join the troops going off to war; without my tongue being cut off if I speak out against the regime; and without having to see American soldiers festooned in combat-gear, ordering everything in Baghdad, right down to directing traffic in the streets, and invigilating in little schools in the sticks.
But if this desire is so difficult to realise, it is because we are in an age of vested interest. Consider the claim “America has stirred all these titanic armies for the sake of ‘Democracy in Iraq’… and because of ‘chemical weapons’?” Where have these grand sentiments been since the mid-1970s? Why did America participate in the construction of weapons of mass destruction and aid Saddam’s regime in the killing of the people of Iraq, and in the use of these weapons in the 1980s? It is only because it was America herself that equipped the regime with chemical weapons that she knows that Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that the inspectors found no ‘smoking gun’.
In 1991 America herself stood against the Iraqi people in their desire for regime change as her plans in the region had not yet come to their conclusion as yet. She still needed Saddam around. We want an Iraq without Saddam and without a war… and let America realise her all other interests as she pleases. Bush knows ways to achieve this, but they would poorly serve his ulterior motives.
© Ahmad Mukhtar 2003
Originally published as part of a debate on 6th February 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. II