I didn’t support the war in Iraq for a number of reasons. First and foremost amongst them was the manipulation of the media around the WMD argument. There could never have been WMDs in Iraq at the time of our invasion. They had some anthrax, which was in liquid form and would have been inactive at the time of invasion, maybe some mustard gas. Their nuclear potential had disappeared many years before when Israel took out the reactors. They did have a VX plant but it was destroyed in the first Gulf War and never rebuilt. The only evidence the UN weapons inspectors ever found of complex operational chemical equipment was Saddam Hussein’s personal food testing vehicle (he wasn’t very popular, and understandably paranoid).
The WMD argument didn’t stack up. We were lied to about the reasons for going to war. Saddam didn’t represent a clear and present danger to our lives in the West. He wasn’t involved in 9/11, he wasn’t sponsoring terrorist strikes anywhere outside his country.
I’m not saying he was a nice guy. He was a horrible person, a dictator, and someone with a lot of blood on his hands. But the Gulf War was the time to remove him, before he slaughtered 10K’s of the opposition in chemical attacks.
To summarise; Iraq was not a great idea. There was no clear political opposition, there was no plan for the future, there was a lot of deceit and evidentally incorrect interpretations of inteligence data.
But ISIS is different.
ISIS represent a major threat to peace in the Middle East. They’ve declared a caliphate which means they have to be at war. They’re allowed to sign peace treaties but only for 13 years maximum. They don’t accept international borders because there’s no greater power than God, and he didn’t set the border. They hate everyone outside of their own nihilistic death cult and are happy to sponsor international terrorism across the globe.
ISIS are not Saddam’s Iraq. This is a different beast and one that must be confronted. It’s true that it’s hard to see where a complete lasting peace will come from in the region, but we have to support the moderate groups that are already fighting in Syria and help them to push back these fascists.
The PKK might not be popular in Southern Turkey, but they’re part of the solution in Northern Syria. Assad is a dick, but we probably need to keep him around to stabilise the West of the country. In Iraq, Iran are being allowed to prop up a Shia majority in the East, and to push West to protect their interests.
The Sunni are the difficult bit. The sons of Iraq were a powerful force that brutally put an end to a lot of Al Qaeda operations in Western Iraq, but they’ve fallen apart since the Shia led Iraqi government cut their funding. Who else can we rely on to bring stability to Western Iraq and Eastern Syria? Do we just have to accept a continuation of a broadly unpopular Shia led majority keeping tabs on the worst of them?
That’s the hardest problem of all, but we already have a battle convincing Russia to stop bombing our allies, and convincing Turkey that a Kurdish controlled Northern Syria is preferable to an ISIS controlled Northern Syria. Neither of these are politically impossible, but we may need to allow Assad to stay on within a Western enclave.
This is a tough conflict to get involved in, but I don’t see how we have an option. We’re already on the ISIS hit list, what happened in Paris will happen again elsewhere in Europe. These people are a laughable group of misguided religious nuts with a sadly effective ability at instigating acts of terror across the world. We can’t stand by while others fight for our freedom.
Hilary Benn is spot on the money. We must take the fight to these people, even if we don’t have all the answers yet.
For more information about Iraq’s WMDs try this article on the chemical weapons threat posed by Iraq. Note that this is one of the sources who were often quoted about Iraq’s WMD threat to support the war. Even their evidence doesn’t look very compelling.
cracked.com have a number of great articles including this one about the origins of ISIL and our accidental creation of the threat.
For more about the Sons of Iraq try this summary of how they were pivotal in destroying the insurgency.
And it’s also worth watching Hilary Benn’s compelling argument on the need for strikes in Syria.