Editorial from Irish Political Review, April 2003
The Blood-Ba'ath In Iraq
The fourth British invasion of Basra (not counting British participation in the United Nations mass bombing of 1991) is in progress as we go to print. The Irish Government is facilitating this invasion, returning to the ways of Redmondite Ireland which played an active part in the first invasion (December 1914). At the time of the second invasion (1920), Sinn Fein Ireland was defending itself against the same Army that was invading Iraq. The third invasion, in 1941, was for the purpose of over-ruling the Iraqi declaration of neutrality in Britain’s second World War of the 20th century and facilitating a conquest of Iran.
Of all these invasions the present one is the most outrageous. Iraq had got itself together after the carnage of 1991—in which, at a modest estimate, the United Nations killed 10,000 innocent civilians. Economic life had resumed despite the sanctions, which were kept up on an indefinite basis by the Vetos of America and Britain on the Security Council—the British Veto being cast for the sole purpose of staying on the right side of the USA. An informal normality had developed in the region despite the best efforts of Ameranglia to prevent it. Extensive trade and political relations had developed with the outside world to the East and North, and indeed with many countries to the West. And a new middle class had emerged from the chaos.
It was obvious that nobody felt threatened by Iraq. Not even the British administration, with its ever-ready sense of paranoia, gave credence to the idea that Iraq needed to be invaded—until it realised that Washington was in dead earnest about invading. It then conjured up a feeling in itself that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was threatening the world with them. And, when asked why none of Iraq’s neighbours—not even the pseudo-state of Kuwait which had been carved out of the province of Basra—felt afraid of Saddam Hussein or supported an invasion, the answer was that the neighbours were too afraid to show fear.
That was the looking-glass through which they entered the Wonderland in which everything is reversed. And Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney followed them. And Garret FitzGerald said that the main thing is compliance not containment—in other words, not whether Iraq poses any actual danger to “the world” (as the British have now cornered themselves into having to say), or to the only region on which it has a territorial claim, Kuwait (which is absurd, given that Kuwait is now a piece of the United States and is armed with weapons of mass destruction), but whether it is in full, pedantic compliance with a Security Council Resolution passed in a different era for a purpose which was achieved twelve years ago.
Iraq says it is in compliance, and that it possesses none of the weapons which it alone amongst the states of the world is prohibited from possessing by ‘international law’, i.e. a Security Council Resolution adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. (Israel is in breach of a great many Resolutions, but it says they don’t count as international law because they are not Chapter 7 Resolutions. War is authorised under Chapter 7. The reason why Israeli acts of conquest were not sanctioned under Chapter 7 is that the USA used its Veto to prevent it. The International Court has ruled that Chapter 6 Resolutions are also binding as ‘international law’. But the International Court is like the Courts of the Kingdom of Poland in the late Middle Ages—it has no executive power to enforce its judgments. And it discredited itself back in the 1980s by bringing in a judgment against the United States for planting mines in Nicaraguan territorial waters. It was the only possible judgment in the circumstances, but it was the death knell of the International Court as a practical component of the system of ‘international law’. When the judgment came to the Security Council for enforcement, it was vetoed by the United States.
So Israel is right for all practical purposes. It may do what it pleases and still not be in breach of ‘international law’ because the United States (whose catspaw it is) will veto Chapter 7 Resolutions against it.
That is the real context in which Garret FitzGerald’s opinion must be judged. We know that he does not live very much in real life, but there are people who have no choice but to do so. And the real situation is that Israel, which everybody knows is at the source of Middle Eastern instability, is not in compliance because there is nothing for it to comply with in ‘international law’—no Chapter 7 resolution—and is most certainly not being contained.
has been very tightly contained. It says it is in compliance, and the probability
is that on any reasonable understanding of compliance it is. But compliance
in this instance takes the form of requiring Iraq to prove a negative, which
is a logical impossibility, as well as a practical impossibility in view of
the American determination not to be convinced. Compliance has been a rapidly
shifting goalpost during the past year.
Britain’s foreign policy under Major and Blair has been simply to stick to the USA at every turn, regardless of what the turn is. The US regime, having stated its intention to invade Iraq regardless, went to the UN for authorisation last Autumn to enable Tony Blair to handle his party. At that juncture it needed Blair’s support because American opinion was running strongly against action outside a UN mandate by the US alone, and the elders of the Republican Party were uneasy about discarding the UN facade. Blair did not get the clear authorisation he required. A second Resolution would be needed after an Inspector’s Report to authorise action.
This was said by both the US and the UK in order to get the first Resolution. But, after the first Resolution (1441) was passed, it began to be said that, far from a second Resolution being necessary, the first Resolution itself had not been necessary, because the first Resolution was really the 16th Resolution which the Security Council had passed on the matter. However, a second, or 17th, Resolution would be put, but an “unreasonable Veto” which obstructed the will of the majority would not be recognised as valid. In the event, no 2nd/17th Resolution was put. The reason for this is that not even the “moral majority” could be got for it.
That is very unlikely to have been the reason. It is very unlikely that the US would have failed to whip the strays into line if it wanted to. Britain tried, but Britain’s power is negligible when it is not acting for the United States. The US did not try, because it wanted freedom of action in Iraq and the UN would be a nuisance, and, because decisions by majority vote on the Security Council would be very much not in its interest. It has been the chief wielder of the Veto by far, using it more than all the others combined.
The UN is irreformable by its own rules in the matter of the Veto because any proposal to abolish the Veto would itself be subject to veto. Fifty years ago there was a proposal to circumvent the Veto by means of the General Assembly. It was called the “Uniting For Peace” procedure. Under it, a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly could authorise executive action. The much smaller UN of those days was dominated by Western states and the USA felt obstructed by a couple of Russian vetos cast in the Security Council. That new procedure had no standing under the Charter, but if acted on it would have had the force of the Pragmatic Sanction. But its first use would have been against Britain, France and Israel over their invasion of Egypt in 1956. And Britain, whose idea it had been, said it wasn’t having it. And then, with the admission of new states to the UN, Western dominance of the General Assembly passed away and Uniting For Peace was forgotten about.
The invasion of Suez was stopped by the American threat to wreck Sterling in the currency markets. And America would have been able to whip France into line this year, if its economy still operated with the Franc. A European foreign policy is still pie-in-the-sky. But the Euro has had the foreign policy effect of enabling France to obstruct the will of the USA without fearing for its currency.
A remarkable turn-about has happened within Irish politics. Fianna Fail has bolted—gone to seed. Conor Lenihan rambles on, Smart Alec style, about “the dictator Saddam Hussein”, like a junior Blairite, while John O’Donoghue engages in complicated ratiocination to persuade himself that Irish neutrality in this situation requires the state to facilitate the war on Iraq, and that actual neutrality would be tantamount to entering the war in support of Iraq.
At the same time Fine Gael shows signs of pulling itself together under Enda Kenny, with John Bruton putting up a very strong defence of European values. His criticism of Bush and Blair for pulling down the system which has maintained order of a sort in international affairs since the Second World War is all the more bitter for coming from someone who was starry-eyed about American and British statesmen when he was Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach. He is in for more disillusionment. Tony Blair proposes to have a day of reckoning with his perfidious European colleagues after his American friend has won the war. He has told his Labour National Executive that Europe may not attempt to rival American power around the world, and that it should be kept weak and divided. If America and Britain win this war, it is more than the Iraqis and the Middle East which will fear the cold draughts of superpower displeasure.
Fragments of the “official Republican movement”—the Stickies who are now distributed across the political spectrum—have been having their say. Eoghan Harris, naturally. But even Sean Garland has come out against the dictator.
difficulty for them is that he is the wrong dictator. Their dictator—and
Mrs. Thatcher’s—was Sir Nikolai Ceacescu.
John Reid, former Northern Ireland Secretary, and former militant of the Communist Party of Great Britain, remains in tune with his close colleagues of former times in this regard. In a BBC radio interview on the eve of the war he explained that Iraq had to be attacked, because it was a Fascist state. When it was objected that Fascism had become a merely emotive word, he insisted that it was strictly applicable here because the Baath Party was a national socialist party. And, even though Reid has become a thoroughgoing capitalist in politics, he knows from his previous incarnation that international socialism is good while national socialism is evil.
And, of course, he remembers that, when he was a Communist Party militant, that the political force that was being repressed within Iraq was the Communist Party. In those days Saddam was evil to him because he stood in the way of the triumph of the Iraqi Communists—which is, of course, why Saddam was supported by Reid’s close ally of today, the USA.
that Reid is New Labour, intent on reforming the last elements of the social
market from the European scene, the social market in Iraq becomes intolerable
to him. And, now that his dictators have fallen, and the law of the jungle prevails
in their regions, dictatorship is intolerable to him.
Reid and his kind (who constitute a large part of the British Government) gave no more thought to the conditions of existence of what is called democracy when they were Communists than they do now that they are capitalists. They just shifted mindlessly from one ideology to another.
If Baathism is “national socialism”, its socialism was of a kind that was functional within the Western world market. And its nationalism (which is Arab rather than Iraqi in spirit) was of a kind which aligned it with the West. And, if it is a dictatorship, it is not of the kind so much admired by Harris and Sean Garland and Reid, which collapses at a touch.
The system of dictatorship in which a small inner core terrorises a slightly larger outer circle, which in turn terrorises a still larger circle, etc., is a delusion.
If the Baath system is Fascist because it suppressed the powerful Communist movement which had developed against the British puppet state, then either Fascism or Communism was a necessary phase of the existence of the Iraqi state.
The “million Muslims”, that Saddam is said to have killed by the war propaganda, are never specified. They include the members of the Communist Party, presumably. And we do not recall if the figure mentioned at the time was a hundred thousand or hundreds of thousands. (A million were killed in Indonesia to hold it for Democracy.)
America has stimulated Kurdish rebellions more than once for ulterior purposes. 1991 was only the greatest of these. It might have consolidated the 1991 rebellion as a Kurdish state, if it had wanted to. It found in the moment of truth that it did not want to. The Iraqi state suppressed the rebellion which was not supported by its instigators. That is what states do. The wanton act of destruction was the instigation of rebellion. The same goes for the Shia rebellion of 1991. Bush said “We have done the heavy lifting” and the rest is up to you. And then he decided it would not be in the US interest for the Shias to liberate themselves because that would strengthen Iran.
The Halabja bombing was an incident in the “unprovoked war” against Iran, which was in its time a proxy war fought by Iraq on behalf of Western civilisation. We remember that clearly because we did not support it. Its foreign supporters have forgotten that they supported it.
“Saddam’s dictatorship” is a functional state, unlike that of the much admired Sir Nikolai. Its main internal victims were Communists. Most of its other victims fell in a war context. Apart from that, a small number fell in power struggles—within a very narrow circle.
Life had become very normal in Iraq when this war was launched on it for no good reason.
It was obvious that the regime had reconstructed itself effectively after 1992 and had broadened its base. The military had learned not to plot coup d’etats after Washington let them down in 1996. And one learned from late-night radio programmes in which genuine experts said things they were not allowed to say in the daytime that the awkward thing about Saddam was his ability to draw people from all strands of Iraqi society into the workings of the regime.
Blair learned too late that the Saddam dictatorship was “a thin but strong membrane” of state. He was too full of himself to learn it until it was too late.
How many states are there whose membrane would be strong enough to withstand the “shock and awe” of overwhelming force as “the dictatorship of Mr. Saddam Hussein” has done?
An opponent on one of the saner Iraqi exile groups explained why the Shia have not come out to liberate themselves this time. He said they learned from the West in 1991 that they were not allowed to. On the same day (April 1st) the Coalition said that any groups not under US command found in arms in Southern Iraq would be treated as hostile.
Air Marshal Burradge, the British Commander in Qatar, explained that the liberation project involved “pricking the bubble of unreality so that we can rebuild the attitude of the people” (Interview, 25 March).
The bubble of unreality is what Blair in his moment of awful realisation described as the strong membrane of state. The Burradge project involves the remaking of Iraqis after conquest into a people who will welcome the conquest retrospectively. The whole thing reminds one more and more of the invasion of Hungary in 1956.
Another significant event of 1st April was Saddam’s call for a jihad. The implication of that is that the project of a secular state in the Middle East has been made impossible by the duplicitous conduct of the West, which is intent on wrecking the only state in the region formed on Western lines.
C O N T E N T S
Blood-Ba'ath In Iraq
The Thinking Behind Fianna Fail's Fudge
At A Crossroads
War To Preserve Dollar Supremacy
Cor Tuathail: A Song At The Start Of The Great European War
(Compiled by Pat Muldowney)
Irish Thought Of An Autograph Hunter
Girl In Prison by André Chenier
Translation by Niall Cusack
Ireland News Digest:
And Northern Ireland
UCC: No Show By Mo with Northern Ireland: What Really Happened!
Labour Comment, edited
by Pat Maloney:
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