Saturday July 24 2004
'Narrative' of a war for global dominance
Sir: Adrian Hamilton ("A mistaken sense of smugness at Number 10", 22 July) refers to the "narratives of war". Thanks to Robert Fisk's reports, I have asked myself a simple question: "What if this was the predicted and desired outcome of the invasion and occupation of Iraq?"
Bush and Blair are both quite clear that this act of war was a continuation of policy by other means, and we should not forget that policy before the war was to degrade Iraq through severe economic sanctions. We have simply taken direct control over the degradation while ensuring best access to oil in the ground and as a geostrategic tool. A "narrative of war" concluding that Mr Blair seeks for his country a place at a table it was occupying about a century ago, albeit tucked in the pocket of Uncle Sam's waistcoat this time, may not be far off the mark. No doubt the Foreign Office has a long institutional memory and takes a long historical overview for its remit.
This is in our best interests. Cheap fuel and a destabilised Middle East are morally questionable, but economically and geostrategically desirable to an American/European society as yet unable to transform reliance for all its material pleasures on slave-populations around the world into something worthier.
Mr Blair does not find it in his or our best interests to offer us grown-up, real-world choices: if you want to continue to live like this, we will need to do certain unpleasant things on your behalf; if you don't like those things, start preparing for a materially less comfortable future. The language of personal morality (Saddam is a bad man and has gone away, so rejoice) is simply inadmissible in these greater narratives, and as long as politicians use it they must expect raised eyebrows, at least. Even from those of us who accept that we are direct beneficiaries of the prizes they have won for us.
Sir: Like Rod Chapman (letters, 23 July), I am glad that Tony Blair's distortion of the French government's position in the lead-up to war is now being exposed. Luckily for those interested in the truth, the website of the French Foreign Ministry has preserved several important documents, including M. Chirac's formal declaration of 18 March 2003, the very day of the House of Commons debate, and M. de Villepin's interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme on 14 March.
M. de Villepin's comments are clear - the French government did not rule out military action if the UN inspectors were unable to complete their task. It rejected only "the logic of an ultimatum" - that is, the approval of an immediate war. He also revealed what must have been the British argument of the time: "Nous devrions donc partir en guerre parce que nous avons une armée sur place? Nous devrions nous en servir?" (So do we have to go to war because we have an army in place? Do we have to use it?) The British had trapped themselves in an American logic of deployment and war - the railway timetables of 1914 in miniature.
Tony Blair has always denied that Britain has to choose between Europe and the US. But in March 2003, he made his choice. We will only be able to choose differently when he is gone.
Sir: Once again you have manipulated the evidence to create a anti-Tony Blair front page, and grab headlines (21 July). Under the title "Cause for rejoicing?", you listed all the prices we've paid in Iraq, and none of the gains we paid those prices for.
We've given the Iraqi people an opportunity for freedom, democracy and progress, and a chance to use their country's natural resources to gain wealth. There's a chance to end the poverty and resultant high death rates that reigned under Saddam and the UN sanctions. Hospitals are rebuilt, children are in school. And yes, we've made certain that countless lives aren't at risk from weapons that really could have been there, as far as we knew. Better that than sit back and take the chance that Saddam didn't have weapons, even though he refused to comply with the UN.
In an imperfect world sometimes it's proper to take actions even when we can't be certain that they'll be proved to be the right actions at a later time. And things aren't always black and white, which means that we are left with both causes to rejoice, and causes to despair, in the wake of military action in Iraq. There is no clear right, and no clear wrong here, so how can you be so one-sided in your pursuit of a juicy headline?
JAMES C BUCKLEY
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Sir: Many must have viewed with disgust the self-righteous triumphalism of the Prime Minister in scoring cheap political points off an inadequate opponent in Tuesday's debate on Iraq in the House of Commons. In no other walk of life would it be possible to cause the death of thousands on a false prospectus and walk away scot-free. If, as now seems likely, party interest rather than justice prevails and Mr Blair is retained in his post, we will have a prime minister who is held in contempt by a majority in the country he purports to lead.
Sir GEOFFREY CHANDLER