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The war of liberation worth fighting for

It is 12 January 2003 and US president Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.
Salman Rushdie
12 January 2003

There is a strong, even unanswerable case for a “regime change” in Iraq that ought to unite Western public opinion and all those who care about the brutal oppression of an entire Muslim nation.

Saddam Hussein and his ruthless gang of cronies from his home village of Tikrit are homicidal criminals, and their Iraq is a living hell. This obvious truth is no less true because we have been turning a blind eye to it – and “we” includes, until recently, the government of the United States. Nor is it less true because it suits the politics of the Muslim world to inveigh against the global bully it believes the United States to be, while it tolerates the all-too-real monsters in its own ranks.

Iraqi opposition groups in exile have been trying to get the West’s attention for years. Now, there’s a change in Washington’s tune. Good. One may suspect the commitment of the Wolfowitz-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis to the creation and support of a free, democratic Iraq, but it remains the most desirable of goals.

The complicating factors, sadly, are this U.S. administration’s pre-emptive, unilateralist approach which looks like bullying because, well, it is bullying. And the United States’ new pre-emptive strike policy would, if applied, make America itself a much less safe place, because if the United States reserves the right to attack any country it doesn’t like the look of, then those who don’t like the look of the United States might feel obliged to return the compliment. It’s not always as smart as it sounds to get your retaliation in first.

Nor does America’s vagueness about its plans for a post-Hussein Iraq and its own “exit strategy” inspire much confidence.

These are some of the reasons why I have remained unconvinced by President Bush’s Iraqi grand design. But as I listen to Iraqi voices describing the numberless atrocities of the Hussein years, then I am bound to say that if, as now seems possible, the United States and the United Nations do agree on a new Iraq resolution; and if Hussein gets up to his old obstructionist tricks or refuses to accept the new U.N. resolution; then the rest of the world must stop sitting on its hands and join the Americans and British in ridding the world of this vile despot and his cohorts.

It should be said loudly that the primary justification for regime change in Iraq is the dreadful and prolonged suffering of the Iraqi people, and that the remote possibility of a future attack on America by Iraqi weapons is of secondary importance. A war of liberation might just be one worth fighting. The war that America is currently trying to justify is not.

Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.

See also Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 2.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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