I know that quite a few people I get on with do have disagreement with my position on Iraq. Which in a nutshell was a realisation that we were being lied to about going in, but the case should have been made on humanitarian reasons and that the world could not risk allowing tyrants that threatened peace and security to die peacefully in their sleep when they murdered whole families for having satellite television. But in all cases it should be for a society to have the facts, and agree to the aims if their children’s lives are to be sent to die. The cause must be true, and the sacrifice though painfully felt considered to the good of humanity.
The reduction in UK troop numbers from 4,000 to 2,500 have been halted due to conditions on the ground. Violence in Basra has increased between militia and the Iraqi army. Whether we are there as a support or actually prepared to be actively involved in the fighting with full support is unclear depending on what you mean by the term “overwatch”. To get any sense of what is going on is not helped by language that is used to camouflage the facts and to smooth the fragile senses that may react in a way that may displease Her Majesty’s Government.
Yet my acid test for withdrawal remains the consequences of us leaving. Remember in France 270,000 civilians died in WW2 and 600,00 deaths were military – Iraq is far less then that and yet what we are trying to do is have a government that is accountable to the people of Iraq and does not have the fear of terrorists or tyrants nationally or locally dictating the whims by which people may live and die. I do not propose a blank cheque or believe that the blood and treasure already spent stays our hand in remaining. Containing the violence is one thing – and reducing troop numbers if it allows that to return would be real folly.
I wish we could live in a world where the power of the people to overthrow their oppressors could be assured to bring about social change and justice. However that is not always the case. On what terms will I see a French citizen of 1944 less deserving of freedom then an Iraqi of 1999? Is it the foreign imposition of power on a country that allows us to expand much sacrifice to other people’s freedom, or is the tyranny over an other’s freedom that moves us to such action – the conquest of an individuals liberty, where an unjust constitution gives no respite save for a grave that the state will prepare for dissenters.
Or are we to really say that if people are so far away it does not affect us? Such voices were to be heard in the late 1930s in the USA; that to my shame as I walked the World War Two memorial in Washington DC I saw the years 1941-45 chiseled in and thought of how many lives were lost in the preceding years before Congress finally acted. Are we only to feel for the suffering of others if it takes our fancy, and only to sacrifice when it is others on our behalf and not our blood and our treasure at stake?
Such do tyrants and evil warlords hope – that they can make enough trouble that we shall not interfere. That such problems with such obstacles and cost shall put us off even suggesting the fight. That we shall by omission not act, and by such inaction shall we declare ourselves peacemakers and by such tokens as this be glad that we shall live while others shall die and forget that our pasts often relayed on people believing that the fight for our freedoms was worth the price paid.
Some like Bertrand Russell believed that only a world government could end war, and solve the problems that impact us. But it would take something far more then a structure of government, far more then the organised labour of many, far more then the co operation of free people fulfilling an enlightened self – interest.
It will take an idea, that has forever burned in the hearts of people, but is rarely shown for fear that it’s light may be quickly blown out. From it much hope is arisen and many small deeds of compassion, charity and hope is accomplished. It is done not for personal gain, nor done under the lash, to obey a great leader or appease a thuggish god.
It is the noblest of things – that of a common humanity, a recognition that goes beyond kin ship to those close. It may not be a natural instinct. Maybe we do not look to our biology to help reinforce the idea. Yet, it is something that exists, and the more we know of what is happening in the world the more we must be prepared to help those who do not have the means to fight off disease, poverty, war and tyranny.
It comes to an idea – one where the end is the betterment of the condition we find ourselves in, thus shall we choose the means when it comes to the fight. But let us never say we are not prepared for it – for our survival depends on it.