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March 12 2003
Article for the Birmingham Evening Mail:

War against Iraq could only be justified if Saddam Hussein possesses both the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction and the intention to do so. We know he has neither nuclear capability nor missiles to deliver WMD. So far the weapons inspectors have found no evidence that Iraq has chemical or biological agents and former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter,, concluded that any such weapons concealed from the UN inspectors before they pulled out in 1998 would by now have degraded and become useless. Even if the Dictator does possess some residual capability, he has never used chemical and biological weapons without the acquiescence of the most powerful states that supplied them in the first place.

President Bush has suggested that Iraq could supply arms to terrorists. However, there are no links between the Iraqi dictatorship and al-Qa’ida and the small paramilitary groups that Iraq has supported, the Arab Liberation Front (in Palestine) and the Mujahidin e-Khalq (for Iran) have never received access to Iraq’s more advanced weaponry.

Bush has sought war with Iraq throughout his presidency. He and a handful of advisers, who are part of an organisation that calls itself "the Project for a New American Century", are obsessed with the desire to control Iraq and its oil resources. The war they want will cause the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi people (Baghdad has a population four times the size of Birmingham) and displace millions more. UK soldiers will also be killed and for what? Far from helping to combat terrorism, attacking Iraq will provide the recruitment drive that al Qa’ida and their ilk are looking for – I very much doubt that they are opposed to the war.

In answer to the question what should be done about Saddam Hussein, I would answer that this depends on the threat he poses and what your objective is. Is it disarmament or regime change? The real threat comes from terrorists, as evidenced by the bombs in Bali and Mombassa. They don’t need Saddam Hussein, whose secular regime is despised. A more coherent response would involve assistance to former Soviet satellites to decommission nuclear material and opening up the arms trade to international scrutiny. We must strengthen the treaties and bodies set up to prevent weapons proliferation. I condemn the US for not paying their dues on time to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the UK Government should not have supported them when they ousted its Director, José Bustani, when he was trying to get Iraq to sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention last year.

The human rights of the Iraqi people must not be ignored but organisations like Amnesty International are not calling for war. They are calling for the deployment of human rights monitors throughout Iraq without delay, in line with UN requirements. Furthermore, if we take a moral stand, we have to take a consistent approach to other human rights abusers. For example the UN has condemned the military occupation of Palestine by Israel, which is being bankrolled by the US.

Finally, we have to respect the UN. The Government say we have to attack Iraq because the UN is being flouted but they will ignore the UN if it doesn't give them the authorisation they want. That would be illegal under International law.


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