This war is something no one wants, least of all an Arab and a Palestinian like myself. There is no rational reason why it should be prosecuted and no argument proffered to date has been convincing – certainly not the weapons of mass destruction argument, which has fallen flat on its face ever since the US showed itself willing to counter a real threat coming from North Korea with diplomacy and offers of economic and energy support. For Arabs, the tolerance shown to Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians and its known possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction while castigating Iraq in the harshest and most bellicose of ways is nauseating. Many theories have been put forward to explain the American imperative to attack a country which is on its metaphorical knees and which poses not the faintest threat to the US or the West, but the real reason it seems to me lies in the West’s foolish policy towards Iraq, before and after 1991.
Having decided that Saddam Hussein was becoming a liability rather than the asset he had been during the 1980s, the US led a war designed to squash the Iraqi leader. But, despite stringent sanctions and a degraded country, he clung onto power and is a living monument to Western double-dealing and ineptitude. Iraq therefore poses a conundrum: how to resume normal business with it but have to stomach the fact that if Saddam stays in power, he will have ‘won’, and the US with all its might and power will have lost? This is unthinkable and, hence he must go, so as to enable the West deal with Iraq once more. The fact that this may get out of hand and drag the US (and Britain) into an Iraqi post-invasion quagmire is a nightmare which was not anticipated when the eagerness to teach Saddam a lesson first rose to fever pitch. If this ego-driven enterprise goes ahead, we will now all have to live with its dire consequences.
Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.