HITCHENS: WE MUST FIGHT IRAQ
By Christopher Hitchens
IT is almost certainly a mistake to assume anybody's position on Iraq is determined by evidence
After all, last year there was overwhelming evidence of the connection between the World Trade
Center aggression, al-Qaeda and the Taliban - and a decisive UN mandate for action - but many
on the left opposed military action in Afghanistan, and still do.
I have the feeling that Tony Blair would feel happier making the moral case that Saddam must
He could then lay more stress on the atrocious character of his regime, the plight of the Iraqi
people, the aspirations of the Kurds and - perhaps most importantly - the opportunity to turn the
tide against despotism in the wider Middle East.
But as Prime Minister of a nation which has a permanent seat on the Security Council of the
United Nations, he is obliged to be somewhat legalistic.
It must be obvious to anyone who can think at all that the charges against the Hussein regime
are, as concerns arsenals of genocidal weaponry, true.
Saddam has been willing to risk his whole system and his own life rather than relinquish this
And the resolutions of the UN are neither recent nor ambivalent.
I doubt that even if this evidence could be upgraded to 100 per cent it would persuade the sort of
people who go on self-appointed missions of mediation to Baghdad.
These people further fail to see that governments now have a further responsibility to their
citizens - namely to see that something is done to prevent future assaults on civilisation.
President Bush calls this the doctrine of pre-emption, which obviously has its perils and could
be used to justify very rash actions.
Nonetheless, anybody with any sense must confess that there can be no return to the security
posture adopted before September 11, 2001.
A leader who was not trying to take the war to the enemy would be delinquent in the extreme.
However, in the end the moral case for action is the strongest one.
WE have inherited, along with the right to destroy an illegal system of aggressive weaponry, a
responsibility for the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples.
They are compelled to live with scarcity and fear in their daily existence, as a result of the
policies of a homicidal megalomaniac.
One day, this man's rule will be at an end. On that day, we want to be able to look these people
in the eye and tell them that we cared about them, too.
And a friendly Iraq, free again to trade and to make contact with the outside world, could
transform the atmosphere of the Middle East.
To take one small example, Iraq would no longer be supplying the more thuggish elements
around Yasser Arafat, or offering subsidies to suicide bombers.
And it might be noticed democratic forces among the Palestinians have begun to insist on a mini
regime change of their own. I am a political opponent of President Bush and at best a lukewarm
supporter of the British Labour Party.
But I think it is inaccurate and unfair of the opponents of regime change in Iraq to refer to the
Prime Minister as "Bush's poodle".
This glib expression has become a substitute for thought, among people who were never
conspicuous for originality in the first place.
It overlooks the fact Mr Blair pushed a wavering Clinton into taking action in Kosovo, and that
he also decided to act on his own to prevent another Rwanda-type bloodbath in Sierra Leone.
A British government that thought Afghanistan was only America's problem would have been a
shameful and stupid one. There's nothing to apologise about in being an American ally at this
moment: it belongs in the better tradition of the Labour Party's internationalism.
ISOLATIONISM also overlooks the fact that Britain has friends and interests of its own in the
region, as well as a long and deep connection with Iraq, and a correspondingly large stake in the
Just on the material aspect - I love it when people darkly describe the coming intervention as
"blood for oil", or equivalent gibberish.
Does this mean what it appears to mean, namely that oil is not worth fighting over?
Or that it's no cause for alarm that the oil resources of the region are permanently menaced by a
crazy sadist who has already invaded two of his neighbours? There is another base rumour in
circulation, to the effect that Bush is doing all this for electoral reasons.
It's hard to imagine a sillier or nastier suggestion: the American public does not want a war and,
as usual, prefers a quiet life.
Every newspaper in the country reflects this mood, and prints a huge daily output of misgivings.
But one proof of the worthwhileness of this enterprise is its riskiness. Nobody can guarantee a
successful outcome, and both Bush and Blair know they could face great reproach for failure.
But the long period of unwise vacillation and moral neutrality seems to be drawing to a close,
and this is a good thing in itself.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair.
(September 25th, 2002 -- 3:59 PM EDT // link)
Christopher Hitchens is finally leaving The Nation.
He'll apparently make the announcement in a column
in the magazine's next issue. Hitchens seems to
no longer believe the Nation audience is a receptive
or congenial one for him, given his hawkish
stands on the war on terrorism and Iraq and -- I
would imagine at least -- more or less everything
he's written for the last half dozen years or so. The
Nation released the following statement -- which will
apparently also run in the next issue -- to TPM
Wednesday afternoon ...
We note with keen regret that this
week marks the final appearance of
Christopher Hitchens's column,
"Minority Report." We have been
publishing Christopher for more than
twenty years, and the relationship with
him has been a rewarding one for this
magazine and for our readers. That is
testimony to the fact that Christopher
has always been completely free to
express his views, and differences he
has had with the editors he has
honorably ventilated. We will miss his
eloquent and passionate voice and his
elegantly crafted prose.