Having failed to convince the British people that war is justified, Tony Blair is now invoking the suffering of the Iraqi people to justify bombing them. He tells us there will be innocent civilian casualties, but that more will die if he and Bush do not go to war. Which dossier is he reading from?
The present Iraqi regime's repressive practices have long been known, and its worst excesses took place 12 years ago, under the gaze of General Colin Powell's troops; 15 years ago, when Saddam was an Anglo-American ally; and almost 30 years ago, when Henry Kissinger cynically used Kurdish nationalism to further US power in the region at the expense of both Kurdish and Iraqi democratic aspirations.
Killing and torture in Iraq is not random, but has long been directly linked to politics - and international politics at that. Some of the gravest political repression was in 1978-80, at the time of the Iranian revolution and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. But the Iraqi people's greatest suffering has been during periods of war and under the sanctions of the 1990s. There are political issues that require political solutions and a war under any pretext is not what Iraqis need or want.
In government comment about Iraq, the Iraqi people are treated as a collection of hapless victims without hope or dignity. At best, Iraqis are said to have parochial allegiances that render them incapable of political action without tutelage. This is utterly at variance with the history and reality of Iraq. Iraqis are proud of their diversity, the intricacies of their society and its deeply rooted urban culture.