It boggles the mind how so many people, particularly in Europe, are calling for the withdrawal of troops in Iraq. The other day the Times ran an outstanding column (via Melanie Phillips) by the President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, which clearly and concisely explains why these people are worthy of contempt:
The Baathist regime, guilty of aggression and genocide, was overturned because Britain and the United States had courageously enforced the UN Security Council resolutions that others would barely support with words. Today the painstaking effort to enable Iraqis to express their views freely is also grounded in international legality. Foreign troops are in Iraq on the basis of a Security Council resolution, just as Iraq was liberated through the enforcement of 17 such resolutions that Saddam chose to flout.Do read the whole thing.
Those who preferred the stability of the mass grave to liberation, and who raised their voices to save Saddam, but not his victims, have spuriously claimed that the war was fought to discover stocks of weapons of mass destruction. But Rolf Ekeus, the first head of the UN weapons inspectors, has argued that stocks were not the issue. Saddam could always re-create his stocks and until the end he could restart mustard gas production within months and nerve gas production within a couple of years. Moreover, Saddam used chemical weapons casually, gassing 5,000 Kurdish civilians at Halabja in 1988 and then using chemical bombs against Shia Arab civilians in 1991 — after the Gulf War ceasefire.
It is from this perspective, of the need to rebuild Iraq after decades of being run by a criminal state, that I have come to ask Tony Blair to keep British troops in Iraq. There are very few countries whose armed forces have the broad range of skills that Britain’s do, skills vital to the sometimes volatile situation in Iraq and skills that have been evident in your troops’ impressive performance.
While Iraq has often proved unpredictable, substantial progress has been made in rehabilitating a country that from the moment of its British colonial creation in 1921 was a failed state. Unfortunately, many in Britain are unaware of the advance of Iraqi democracy and of the desire of its first democratically elected government to have British and other foreign troops remain. Instead, some parts of the media have elevated the hooligans of Basra into tribunes of the people.
The stone throwers of Basra do not speak for the 8.5 million Iraqis who defied terrorist violence to vote on January 30, 2005. Nor do they speak for the vast majority of Iraqis whose democratically chosen representatives negotiated a final constitution in record time. That constitution reflects the realities of today’s Iraq and is, like the March 2004 interim charter, a remarkably progressive document. No constitution elsewhere in the Islamic Middle East is as democratic.
Similarly, those who attack mosques and churches, who murder schoolchildren and labourers, who behead foreigners and who kidnap humanitarian workers are not engaged in "resistance". Those sabotaging Iraq’s first democracy bear no resemblance to the resistors of foreign occupation in wartime Europe. Rather, they are, in their ideology and record, contemporary representatives of the fascism that wreaked such havoc 60 years ago in Europe. They are supremacists and racists, as worthy of our contempt as those who practised apartheid in South Africa.
Nor do these terrorists have a popular base. They are drawn from a minority within Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. They have no political wing and no manifesto beyond punishing their fellow Iraqis for welcoming British and American liberation and for daring to vote. Many of the suicide terrorists are not even Iraqis, but foreigners driven by religious fanaticism and al-Qaeda’s death cult — the poisonous gift of the Arab world that supported Saddam and now vilifies our nascent democracy.
To abandon us now would be murderously irresponsible and cynical. The resulting devastation would outstrip that of the spring of 1991, when the Kurdish and Shia Arab uprisings were encouraged and then betrayed. Even Saddam’s regime conceded that during those few weeks in 1991 that some 30,000 were killed. The true number was many times higher.
Building democracy in Iraq is not a fanciful quest, but a recognition that all other approaches have failed. True stability comes from consent, not from the illusory "stability" of dictatorships. It is therefore in our mutual interest that we pursue the cause of democracy. We may falter, we may tire, but if we persevere, we shall not be defeated.