Debating the Iraq War: The Extent of Reason


Anon #1: I do genuinely also think the war was a horrible idea.


Paddy: The stated goals by Blair just prior to invasion were 1) regime change, and 2) uncovering WMDs for neutralization. The second of those aims resulted, of course, from institutional self-deception, but still. (And, to be fair, the British state had good reason suspect Saddam of maintaining a WMD stockpile – after all we still held the invoices re: chemicals employed against the Kurds and Iranians.)

Now, even if you add securing oil for corporate exploitation here (the majority of which were not American or British-based), I can imagine far worse reasons for war.

Anon #1: Right, but just because you can imagine a more ignorant motivation, this doesn’t make the actual rationale any more sensible.

The “principled” face of Stop The War


Paddy: Okay, George I-haven’t-met-a-dictator-I-didn’t-like Galloway.


Anon #1: Yeah, because George Galloway was, and still is, the only person who ever thought going into Iraq was a bad idea.


Anon #2: A reasonably common joke at the time was “We know Saddam has WMDs because we’re the ones he bought them from.”

Rumsfeld and Saddam: Entirely true the the US and UK courted the big man during some of his worse crimes. Hell, the CIA aided his ascent to power! Would the anti-war activists have liked this to continue?


Paddy: And not a single one of them could have convinced me that maintaining Saddam’s grip on Iraq, its people and its neighbours was a good thing. There were principled and convincing strategic arguments for opposing that war (Patrick Cockburn springs to mind, as do some academics who suggested such force and funds would be better employed to combat poverty) but I seldom heard them. Definitely not from anyone carrying one of those placards.

Most leftists thought “it’s all about oil” was a sufficient argument, others sought to compare it to Vietnam – which was truly sickening to anybody who knows anything about that region and its history.

And to #2:

I remember. I also remember a lot of sentences starting with “Saddam’s a bad guy and stuff, but…”. I was – and am now again – sick of the whole bloody lot.


Anon #1: Wow, you’re like a caricature of someone who bought into all the propaganda they were ever sold. I didn’t know anyone like you actually existed. At least most of the Remain voters weren’t deluded about the fact they voted that way to get rid of all the dirty foreigners. How much would it cost to hire you to display as a circus freak?

[Note: You can see views on that issue here and here.]

It’s uncanny


Paddy: And not a single substantive thing in your post…

If I decided I was going to go full ad hominem I would have had made sure it was going to be bloody good, rather… rather than that.

“How much would it cost to hire you to display as a circus freak?”

Really, lad?


Anon #1: And what’s substantive about pretending everyone opposed to the war was George Galloway?

Also, learn what an ad hominem is before you throw the term around.


Anon #3: There are a multitude of “bad guys” in the world, that doesn’t mean every country burdened with one needs a military intervention cast at them like a brick through China shop window. Not least one lacking any meaningful knowledge of the social or political history of the region into which it’s staggering.


Paddy: This is another one I used to hear, and really I expect better.

What you are suggesting is this: if you cannot fix all the world’s problems you shouldn’t even bother trying to fix one.

Humbly, I disagree.

“And what’s substantive about pretending everyone opposed to the war was George Galloway?”

Did I? Um, no, I didn’t. I responded to your specific comment, addressing you specifically (if you really are a collective of a million or more people, I will apologise).

You suggest deposing a dictator who had a history of committing genocide, torture and aggressive war was not “sensible”. I disagreed, so compared you to the leader of the Stop The War coalition, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Mainly because you gave me nothing else to go on.

“Also, learn what an ad hominem is before you throw the term around”

How was I throwing around such a term, and how have I misunderstood its meaning? I directed it at specific target – you.

You have an unfortunate tendency of passing-the-buck… suggests you’re not, well, confident with your position.

And, again, nothing substantive in the rest. I’m really not going to get anywhere with you, am I?

(NOTE: just to be clear, by “you” I mean you, as an individual.)


Anon #2: Regardless of how passionately you oppose the evildoers, that alone isn’t enough to make it sensible, no. There are other considerations. “Will this massively destabilise the country and greater region for a generation?” is a pretty important one.

“How was I throwing around such a term, and how have I misunderstood its meaning?”

Someone insulted you. That is not the same thing as an ad hominem.


Anon #1: Except literally nothing, not one thing, is better for the people of Iraq now than it was 15 years ago.

I swear some people use this place solely to hone their debating skills.


Paddy: “Someone insulted you. That is not the same thing as an ad hominem.”

He insulted me instead of actually responding to my argument… I don’t quite get why you’re choosing to ignore this? If you’re trying to turn this into a tedious semantic debate, I really don’t have the time.

How about I put it in another, more British way: I was always taught, growing up, that you tackle the ball instead of the man. “You belong in a freak show” sort of falls outside that for me.

Thankfully though, I did receive something of substance this time:

“There are other considerations. “Will this massively destabilise the country and greater region for a generation?””

Yes, an important consideration. But seeing as it doesn’t actually address any of my points made so far, and it is lacking context, I’m not entirely sure how to respond.

I mean plenty of conservatives were making that point at the time based on Hobbesian rationale, and I would have to say, as a leftist, I prioritize progress over order. But, again, seeing as your point really was just thrown out there, I can’t really say more.


Anon #2: He insulted me instead of actually responding to my argument” 
Which is not an ad hominem.

“as a leftist…”
Then understand that not everybody is quite so convinced of the merits of military force as a tool for progress.


Paddy: Except literally nothing, not one thing, is better for the people of Iraq now than it was 15 years ago.”

Now that’s just silly.

I don’t have anything to swear on nearby, so you’ll have to take me on my word. I was much more ambivalent about the Iraq War until I met a visiting Kurd (at Speakers Corner actually) who told me he fully supported what he called “the intervention”. It had turned a place where the earth was permanently scorched and its people permanently scared into place worth living (and worth defending, but ISIS “happened” after we met). They were thriving off the oil money and participating, for the first time, in elections.

The Kurds were the largest ethnic group without a state and now they have the beginnings of one. That’s something.

That’s the funny thing: the people who have actually been affected by what seems to us rather vague and distant, can sometimes have a better idea of what’s going on.

I swear some people use this place solely to hone their debating skills”

I’m not entirely sure what your point is. Is it that hard for you to accept that there are those who sincerely disagree with you? And can actually defend their position?

I have a feeling I just wasted my time trying to discuss this issue.

Don’t you find it funny that I was the one accused of being brain-washed, when in fact my contributions are the least dogmatic?


Anon #1: The “dogma” of the people you’re arguing with is called reality mate.


Paddy: Great, good to see another Stephen Colbert fan. (And someone who apparently has never heard of the Kurds.)

Honestly however, I don’t have much time for anyone who attempts to make Henry Kissinger look like a “fun guy”



Anon #2: Action like this should only be taken if there’s multilateral agreement, there are clearly defined goals, and it has minimal chance of worsening the situation.


Paddy: This actually took me back. I mean… really.

I’m sorry, but you really come across as someone who knows very little about the Iraq War and even less about international relations.

Coalition Members

Look at the pic, how much more multilateral do you want?

The UN supported disarming Iraq and had condemned again and again the Saddam regime. Suggesting that his power grip had to be “removed anyway necessary“.

And there were clearly defined goals: regime change and neutralization of Iraq’s WMDs. The success or failure of their outcomes does not change the fact that these objectives existed.

“…has minimal chance of worsening a situation”

What does this even mean? It’s so vague it almost doesn’t deserve ridicule. For who? Worsen in what ways?

But, more broadly, its clear you’ve never held a position of power. And, in politics, if you do want to wait for the “perfect moment” an entire people could be wiped out in the interim. (In some quarters, governments that have participated in military interventions have been pilloried for enacting the “right to protect” principle while not doing it elsewhere. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. See Mark Curtis, who, bizarrely, has been praised by John Pilger.)

Brexiteers: No, Your Opinions Aren’t Just as Valid

  1. Economy = downgraded to that of a “developing” country.
  2. Society = ridden by fear and abuse.
  3. Our politics = seized by cynicism, opportunism and mutually assured destruction.
Et tu, Watson? The Blairite Revenge

This, all of it, our country chose.

We, those on the Remain side of the argument, seriously misjudged our neighbours and compatriots: many of them really are that stupid. And, no – they cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. Figures from the left, right and centre warned them, the economic institutions and trade unions warned them, the professors and cultural figures warned them, NATO, USA (Trump excluded), Norway’s PM warned them. Warned them what our country would become.

Gone are the As: Sterling plunges

And, nay again, they themselves cannot suddenly pretend that their political analysis is just as deep and deserving of respect as the above.

(In fact, the only figures of note which supported Brexit appeared to be Putin – a long and bitter hater of the EU – and ISIS. The latter has since praised Britain’s move.)

As much as I cannot abide the cult which has slivered up upon and about the grave of that vicious fat dog, Churchill’s words are playing on repeat in my inner ear,

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter

This may help you make sense of Michael Gove’s insight:

…People in this country have had enough of experts

You really have met a cultural incline when expert has become a dirty word, sewn into our porch alongside those other faux-pas (excuse my French) “‘ealth and safety” and “political correctness”.

Of course I’m being unfair: 52% is barely a majority of the voting population, and fairly meaningless of the whole. But it is demonstrative of that cultural strain, long nurtured by demagogues and flustered Cameroons, in this United Kingdom: anti-Brussels, anti-immigrant, anti-Other – becoming something more than a nuance. A new and dangerous voting block that Westminster has no idea of how to counter-act (and may soon not wish to).

A good number of those who put a cross next to Leave seem to have sincerely thought their choice meant, “send the Poles, Pakis and… uh, Polynesians home” (whatever that means). Taking “their” country back so they can set it back on course to backwaterdom, which Britain momentarily detoured from post-WWII. There in the swamp that results they can fester and congeal, filling the pungent air with their pungent thoughts.

Byron, Blake, Paine… are these the heroes of the Britain Firsters?

And it’s this demographic which knows the least about the history and culture of Britain. When they talk of defending its culture they are almost certainly referring to football hooliganism, shit larger and trash TV – and not the domains of Tolkien, verses of Auden, those skyscapes of Turner. Nor do they acknowledge the Levelers, Chartists and the heroes of the Enlightenment, without which their suffrage would be denied.

(I mean really, just take a look at Britain First’s take on the Peasant’s Revolt here)

Ezra Pound may have been writing of his country of birth, but there is something in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley which does apply here and now, in this Blighted realm where the 52ers reign:

No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait