Emma Nicholson writes: Was the war worth it? … a resounding Yes from me

 Some rights reserved by mashleymorgan Today is the 10th Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We are marking it by publishing reflections on the war and its aftermath by senior Liberal Democrats.

The first, by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne,  was written in Basrah, Iraq

I am writing this dispatch from a conference in Basrah where the Iraqi Oil Minister has just been outlining plans to spend US$200 billion to rebuild the hydrocarbons industry, in a country where US $1 trillion is earmarked for reconstruction and where in just a few weeks free and fair local elections will be held.

And yet in endless news reports from the UK marking the 10th anniversary of the US led invasion of Iraq I have been reading the same old cliches about Iraq being a broken country on the brink of civil war.

That description, readers, is not the Iraq I know.

I must say I have no illusions about the challenges and let me say how appalled I am about the continuing sectarian violence which tragically is claiming so many lives.   And I also condemn absolutely the deep levels of corruption which permeate every level of Iraqi society including the upper echelons of government.

It is right these twin tyrannies be highlighted and discussed.

But the world should also be aware of the events in Iraq not reported in 10th anniversary coverage, and which would never have happened had Saddam and his evil henchmen still been in power.

First, the Iraqi economy: last year Iraq attracted US$56 billion from foreign companies, a 40 per cent increase on 2011.

Thanks to the free market which is starting to flourish as it never could under Saddam, Iraq’s Central Bank has the biggest reserves in its history at US$60 billion and the Iraqi budget for 2013 was in excess of US$100 billion.

Meanwhile Iraqi banks generally are awash with cash as wages quadruple from a decade ago when Saddam was in power. The Economist Intelligence Unit has predicted a healthy 8.2 per cent GDP growth  this year and 9 per cent in the years leading up to 2017. GDP has increased by 55 per cent over the past five years, driven largely by oil production and exports.

There are other signs of a true economic revival. Recently the Baghdad Stock Exchange successful hosted the biggest floatation of a public company in the Middle East since 1988 when the mobile ‘phone giant Asiacell raised US $1.3 billion. Rivals Zain will follow suit later this year.

In the world of global finance these are game changing events and a clear signal Iraq is certainly not “broken.”

As Executive Chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council I have frequent meetings with high level Iraqi politicians including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Deputy Prime Ministers Shaways and Sharhristani and President of the Kurdish Regional Government Masoud Barzani, as well as other senior figures such as the Governor of Basrah Dr Khalaf.  I have also taken trade missions to Baghdad, Erbil and Basrah and hosted at least 4 conferences a year in the UK and Iraq.

During these extensive visits I have witnessed the rebirth of a nation.

Planned or actually underway are thousands of kilometres of new highways, ports, schools, hospitals and airports.  Building work has started on at least 3 million new homes. There are plans for a “Baghdad Eye,” and a high speed rail link between Basrah and Baghdad;  I recently visited the stunning Basrah Sports City Stadium, a 65,000 seater colossus where from March 2013 football will be played in a building of world class standards. Also in Basrah they are constructing the tallest suspension bridge in the Middle East.

I must also mention the amazing revival of Iraq’s oil industry which I am proud to say is led by Britain’s BP whose mega-giant oil field at Rumaila is currently generating more than 40 per cent of federal income.  Iraq is now the second biggest oil producer in OPEC and will undoubtedly challenge and perhaps surpass the leader Saudi Arabia one day.

Secondly  Iraq – now free from dictatorship – is proving itself as a regional power broker and successfully hosted last year’s key Arab League summit and also talks on Iran’s nuclear policy.

Finally and perhaps the most compelling reason why Iraq is a better place without Saddam is the genocide against Kurds in the north and proven war crimes against Marsh Arabs in the south for which there have been convictions.

More than 20 years ago I was in Iraq’s southern deserts and watched in horror as tens of thousands struggled, some barefoot, to reach the sanctuary of marshlands in the east. I was there as a British Parliamentarian after stories emerged of Saddam Hussein’s brutal crackdown.

The Liberal Democrats have quite rightly condemned another tyrant Syria’s Bashir al-Assad and anyone in the party who does not believe the US-led invasion of Iraq to topple another monstrous dictator was not the right thing to do is guilty of hypocrisy.

* Emma Nicholson is a former MP and MEP, and was made a life peer in 1997

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  • I’m not surprised that the Iraq you know is vastly different to the one the news reports; yours after all is that seen by a Baroness, not a normal person.

    It’s true that wages are rising now in Iraq but how much of the low wages under Saddam were caused by our sanctions? And surely it’s inevitable that wages will have to rise after a reasonable chunk of the population is killed off? How much have prices risen too?

    Record investment is needed in Iraq’s oil industry not because of how bad it was under Saddam but because of the damage our war caused to it.

    And lastly, I think it’s very hard to justify a military intervention by simply saying afterwards “look how much marvellous infrastructure spending there is”.

  • A fascinating point of view, well done to LDV for finding an alternative one.

  • It would have been cheaper just to pay Saddam 10 Billion to retire, maybe even 100 Billion.

  • Paul Pettinger 19th Mar '13 - 11:14am

    I suspect many Lib Dems could have been convinced to support a war, me included, but never that war. As is often the case by defenders of the second Iraq War, I find the analysis above simplistic, and it ignores the incredible human cost, as well as the damaging political, geo-strategic and financial consequences, and I find it crass to frame the war as in the interests of the population, as theirs were never of key concern.
    If the coalition of the willing were still not suffering a hangover from Iraq, and if their reputation had not been so damaged by the conflict then its members would probably have done a lot more in Syria by now. At it is, the second Iraq war besmirched the name liberal interventionism. If you think the well being of future generations is better secured by wars of aggression then I think you are very much mistaken Emma.

  • Great. So that means we can invade any country and depose its leadership on the basis of concocted falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction, just as long as there are juicy enough commercial opportunities (including directorships), I presume.

    So, let’s see, who’s next?

  • Light blue touch paper stand well clear !!

  • On a serious point, in my opinion the biggest mistake made with Saddam Hussein was made in 1991. I served in the first Gulf War and I can say we were all amazed that the offensive stopped when it did. Whilst Kuwait was liberated the only ones to really suffer in Iraq were the poor, mainly conscript Iraqi forces followed by the poor when the sanctions kicked in.

    He went on to attack the Arabs in the south brutally and defy the international community for another 12 years. It’s particularly concerning that the Arabs were not supported, we encouraged them to rise up against him and then hung them out to dry.

    Further authority should have been sought from the UN to continue into Iraq and make the Country a UN protectorate until free and fair elections were held. Would it still have descended in chaos, maybe, but the coalition was wider and had fairly strong regional support.

  • @Simon. He never had WMD when Iraq was invaded which we were told he did, so yes we were lied to.

  • I am afraid that most LibDems are on the wrong side of history. Violence is horrible. Massacres, violent oppression, violent dictatorships are all horrible. The reality of life is that the Hitlers Saddams and Assads of this world can only be removed by the use of massive violence. Hitler succumbed only in the face of all the violence that the (then) combined industrialised world could muster (My father lost seven years of his life because of Hilter, he [my father] was not of violent nature, I am certain he was involved in much violence – that’s war). Either these tyrants and their evil systems are destroyed,and many people pay a dreadful price in the process; or they are allowed to prevail and many people pay a dreadful price indefinitely. Bush and Blair chose a route that involved much brutality and injustice, but with at least a chance that a nation could make a fresh start. The route that most LIbDems seem to advocate, to leave Saddam in place, offered much brutality and injustice, but with no hope for anyone. Yes, I, like all people who have not had first-hand experience of war, am talking from an ‘ivory tower’.

  • I thnk on this basis an invasion of Zimbabwe and quite a few other places would be easily justified.

    The thing about war, though, is that the dead never get to be able to say whether it was a good idea or not. Those who continue ot support the invasion of Iraq, need to spell out what constitutes a just war and why. An uncharitable view of this artcle is that the author has done that , more charitably I prefer think that the Baroness is hopelessly muddled on this issue.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Mar '13 - 1:19pm

    How ill informed so many of the posters on this essay are.

    First, the ‘lies’. I suppose that the reference is to the ‘dodgy dossier? Well, even though Campbell did change the wording of that report, the Joint Intelligence Committee signed it off. Now to the intelligence behind the report. Here’s what the JIC said in retrospect two years after the war.

    On Nuclear . . . [this] “was wrong, in that Iraq was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme”. It says the claim was “correct on Iraq’s nuclear ambitions”.
    On Biological . . . The JIC now says that the ISG found Iraq could resume production, “but not within the time frames judged … and [it] found no evidence that production had been activated”.

    On chemical warfare . . . . . In 2002, the JIC judged: “Iraq may retain some stocks of chemical agents … Iraq could produce significant quantities of mustard [gas] within weeks, significant quantities of Sarin and VX within months, and, in the case of VX may already have done so.” It now admits: “Although a capability to produce some agents probably existed, this judgment has not been substantiated.” It adds that the Iraq Survey Group found that Saddam “intended to resume a CW [chemical weapons] effort once [UN] sanctions were lifted”.

    The above shamelessly copied and pasted from the Guardian article here

    The main thrust of the article is that it was the fault of the intelligence supplied by MI6 which was at fault and not a deliberate lie by the then Labour government.

  • Geoffrey Payne 19th Mar '13 - 1:21pm

    Thomas Long makes a very good point about the sanctions applied against Iraq prior to the invasion having an inevitably depressing effect on the Iraqi economy before the invasion. In addition one of the consequences of the invasion was a huge increase in the price of oil, which was generally bad news for the global economy, but very good news for the Iraqi economy.
    It is worth remembering the ambitions of the pro war lobby. After Iraq they were going to invade Syria and Iran. The people of the Middle East would find out how wonderful western capitalism and democracy are, that they were going to stop supporting Al Qaeda and turn into pro western democrats. Sounds incredible? Well how else can you explain the complete lack of preparation for running Iraq after the invasion? These people thought that after the fall of communism history was on their side.
    Also Iraqi oil was going to be used to pay for the cost of war. Never happened of course, the US/UK taxpayers had to stump up and there is nothing in the article that says how much, although Joseph Stiglitz reckons it is £3Trillion for the US. Just think how much the economy US needs that money today!
    The reality is that the real winners of the war are Iran – surely the last thing anyone would want under their current government?
    But this is the fundamental problem that Liberals have in relation to Middle East politics. There is a section of the population in the Middle East that are influenced by western ideas such as Liberalism. They tend to be well educated and relatively well off, and as a result are only a small section of society.
    Remember the BBC coverage in Egypt that predicted the Muslim Brotherhood would only get 20-30% in the elections there? No doubt they got that impression by speaking to English speaking Egyptions.
    So the problem for liberals is that the real choice for government in many of these countries are between groups who are simply not liberal. The people who replaced Saddam Hussien may not be as bad as him, but they are not far off it. And the continuing difficulties in maintaining law and order makes the country in some respects worse than before. Certainly the during the war itself when huge numbers of Iraqis had to flee to neighbouring countries things did get much worse.
    A liberal government in Iraq is what we want but is not an option. In these circumstances the responsibilities of Liberals are 2 fold; first understand the country, it’s history and culture, and second do not make things worse by selling weapons that strengthen the regime.e

  • A Social Liberal 19th Mar '13 - 1:30pm


    You have obviously little knowledge of strategic matters. The UK or any other country not in the vacinity of Zimbabwe could not prosecute a successful war with that nation given the refusal of any of the countries round it to support a conflict.

    To engage with Zimbabwe would mean establishing a bridgehead by air after flying hundreds of miles over countries not willing to have our aircraft in their airspace, possibly inviting hostilities. It would further have to maintain a logistics train by air with all the limitations that has.

    In short it would have been impossible to liberate Zimbabwe from its dictator

  • Peter Watson 19th Mar '13 - 1:55pm

    @Martin “Those who continue ot support the invasion of Iraq, need to spell out what constitutes a just war and why.”
    To be fair, I think those who oppose the invasion should also spell out what constitutes a just war.
    I’m pretty ambivalent about the whole affair, but I certainly feel there is a lot of inconsistency on both sides of the argument.

  • Richard Dean 19th Mar '13 - 1:58pm

    @Lucas Amos. Were we lied to? Where’s the evidence? The decision to invade was not taken with the benefit of hindsight. It would have rightly involved balancing risks, not balancing certainties.

  • Tragically ironic that this was posted the day that several large bomb attacks in Iraq went off.

    I would imagine that Baroness Nicholoson also missed last nights documentary from Peter Taylor where it was pretty clear the scale of the deception of the public was. Lord Butler looked so uncomfortable throughout as the sole spokesman for the British establishment.

  • Paul Pettinger 19th Mar '13 - 2:27pm

    Saddam was a twisted, but rational actor. There was no sign he posed a threat to western targets at least. The regime sexed up its own military capability in part to deter Iran, who are now a regional superpower.

    The Iraq War was a neo-liberal fantasy, bought into by a US public seething after 9/11. Real friends point out when you about to do something really stupid, but the PM committed the UK to joining the invasion and the WMD justification was one of several arguments cooked up later on.

    Social-Liberal – I have a copy of the dossier in my living room and, unsurprisingly, it reads like a PhD thesis ripped of the internet!

    I struggle to understand how or why Baroness Nicholson would look to a war of aggression to help sell liberal interventionism.

  • Richard Dean 19th Mar '13 - 3:13pm

    It sounds ruthlessly exploitative to invade a country and then get companies from the invader to compete for contracts there. Happiness doesn’t come from having things but from being part of a community, so is the social infrastructure more important than the physical? Are Iraqi companies gaining from all this new infrastructure construction? The impression a few years ago was that the billions of outside investment were flowing right back to companies from the investor countries.

  • In a roundabout way the war was worth it:
    – It proved what the voices of experience were saying at the time about the difficulty of winning the peace.
    – It has probably helped to restrain some politicians from invading Iran.
    – It has lead to a different style of engagement in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

    On the converse we now seem to have significant numbers of radicalised people (mainly young men) who believe rightly or wrongly that the Western nations are evil and out to destroy some way of life that owes more to rose-tinted glasses and mythology than to reality, and hence are disconnecting from civil society in both the West and in Islamic countries.

  • Liberal Neil 19th Mar '13 - 3:51pm

    The article misses the point entirely.

    The question is not ‘Was Saddam Hussein a bad man?’ – no-one other than a few barking mad people believe he was – but whether the invasion of Iraq was legal and/or right.

    There are lots of dictators and other unpleasant regimes in the world, but we don’t invade them unless there are grounds under international law to do so.

    Conservative and Labour MPs voted for the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false information, itself based on poor intelligence. Millions of people understood this at the time, thousands of us marched.

    Whether or not it was a good thing Hussein was defeated, it was still wrong to invade.

  • Richard Dean 19th Mar '13 - 4:35pm

    It is of course our duty to assist in overthrowing all dictators, mainly one by one. Sometimes this will be by economic means – which is essentially how we defeated communism. Sometimes by military means. Rarely by purely diplomatic means. Often by multiple means. Hopefully usually by concerted rather than individual efforts. We are learning all the time, and hopefully getting better – Libya was not an Iraq.

  • The commenters here completely miss all variety of points.

    This article is not about whether we should have gone in, but that once we went in we had to succeed.

    Yes, finishing the business that was started in 1991 was undertaken on a false pretext – In Britain Blair claimed Saddam had weapons which could strike UK bases in Cyprus within 40 minutes, and that he had various WMD that his missiles could transport.

    This was untrue, and we all knew it. LibDems knew it and we marched in the face of massive approbrium. Ed Miliband knew it, but he did not speak up about it and does not acknowledge his shameful part in it.

    The case for war was made internationally by undermining diplomatic effort, manipulating media formats and subborning due process to overzealous partisan ends – so claims of deposing dictators, spreading democracy, securing energy resources, liberating repressed populations, gaining revenge for past atrocities etc were pressed incoherently according to individual prejudice and the fears of each national audience around the world.

    The invasion plans were a complete hash which could not be supported at the time, both on practical and moral grounds, but having opposed them prior to the decision we can now look back and say both that we were justified in issuing our warnings and in supporting the effort of the troops to mitigate the worst effects, making the best of a bad job undertaken according to the barmy instructions of the political leadership of the time.

    However, if we are to criticise the basis and conduct of the second Gulf War, we must also criticise the abominable decision to leave Saddam in power in 1991 which made it virtually inevitable.

    Labour were guilty second time round, Conservatives were guilty first time round. They proved just how little difference there is between them.

    Iraq is not a healed society, but the visible developments show it is doing far better now than for as long as anyone can remember. This is not due to the invasion, but to the eventual resolution it forced.

    I did not support the Iraq war though I supported it’s resolution, and I would not support an intervention in Syria at this time based on an Iraq model.

    Emma Nicholson is unwise to make a direct comparison between the two situations. Commenters here are unwise to confuse her confusion.

  • It is not the business of the UK, or any other country, to act as the self-appointed constabulary of the world. Many countries seem to have done quite well throwing off their dictators without the help of the UK — or, quite frequently, against its opposition. Quite a few times it was rule by the British that was the dictatorship that needed to be overthrown. Would the British have been quite, quite happy if, say, the Americans, the Russians, or the Germans had intervened on behalf of the Irish, on the grounds that they were “overthrowing dictators”?

  • Richard Dean 19th Mar '13 - 6:02pm

    @Jedibeeftrix, that would be @Thomas.

    It is our duty to assist in overthrowing all dictators partly because we are human beings, and it is human to care for others and to want to prevent suffering. Human ultimately trumps every other principle and rule. Some call in love.

    We believe in freedom, not selfishly for ourselves only, but for others too, not only emotionally as part of our humanity, but also because free people make for a much less stressed, more pleasant, more varied, richer, sustainable, and interesting world.

    That would be one view anyway.

  • Richard Dean 19th Mar '13 - 6:04pm

    in love -> it love
    ! 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Mar '13 - 6:28pm

    Thanks for this insightful article Baroness Nicholson. I do not agree that it has all been worth it however I have not liked the vilifying of the decision maker. I believe Tony Blair made a mistake with the best intentions and no one knows what they would have done because they weren’t in his shoes.

  • Paul in Twickenham 19th Mar '13 - 7:25pm

    @Liberal Neil – quite right.

    Who do those who support the invasion on the grounds that Saddam was evil (I wouldn’t disagree with that description) propose that we should invade next? There are plenty of countries being run by despots.The only difference I can see between them and Saddam is O-I-L.

    Let’s have a “top 10 countries that us enlightened Liberals should invade in order to civilize the natives”, please.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Mar '13 - 11:57pm

    @Paul Pettinger

    You mention the dossier. You mean the dossier that the Intelligence and Security Committee signed off on, that the JIC signed off on. That was agreed by MI6. What gives you the insight to say what you did Paul, to gainsay both experts and knowledgeable politicians.

    As for the BBC programme, It was SIS that decided to believe Curveball – Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi. Further, Murrays contact who told him that there were no WMD did so a week before the dossier was handed out. The CIA mans contact, by the way, was of course the Iraqi foreign minister- not a source that should have been instantly believable. As far as I can remember there was no date given as to when his intelligence was handed over to the British intellligence services. If you can remember I would be grateful for a heads up.

    So, the cock up (in my opinion) was down to SIS and their believing two sources who were ‘fabricating’. They passed the information on to the JIC who wrote it up. The only way the government was in any way culpable was by Campbells egging the report. None of the essential information was changed, no deliberate lie was given out.

    @Liberal Neil

    Given your statement about the invasion of countries – please tell me what UN Resolutions were sought or received to justify the Sierra Leone invasion, the Kosovo war or any number of others.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Mar '13 - 11:59pm

    Incidentally, I agree totally with what Paddy Ashdown said about the Iraq War, the right war fought for the wrong reasons

  • It is easy to criticise after things have happened. But wouldn’t the region look even more as a threat with Sadam in power in power nowadays? Will we live better (even in the most pragmatic way) if we turn a blind eye to what is happening in the rest of the world? There is no advantage in being a spectator and the show is for real and is tragic.

  • Nigel Quinton 20th Mar '13 - 10:15am

    Seems to me the crux of Emma’s argument is that the end justifies the means.

    Well, not in my name.

  • Emma Nicholson 20th Mar '13 - 1:14pm

    Apologies for a slightly slow response; but the delay has given opportunity to a real spread of opinions,forcefully expressed. Two points of information from myself on why the US-led invasion was worth it : both evidence based and documented.

    First,Saddam’s assault on the southern Mesopotamian marsh-dwelling tribes included the use of chemical weapons, now more familiarly known as ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

    The dates I noted on the ground included the mid-nineties and the early 2000’s.

    Victims of chemical weapons that survived the onslaught were identified and treated by medical experts with whom I was working on the no-man’s land and border zone lying between Iran and Iraq.

    I was there,and I saw and listened to those victims.

    Since the Allies decision to invade Iraq was taken some time before the 19 March 2003, there was a reasonable belief that since those weapons were then in use that other, and much larger quantities were available to the regime.

    Secondly, Crimes Against Humanity were the judgements passed against some of the defendants in the trial of those charged with involvement in the destruction of the marshlands and of the marsh people. The larger charge was that of genocide.

    That was not proven, possibly through fear of the vengeance Saddam’s remaining supporters were already wreaking upon the Supreme Court judges and their families.

    That ‘genocide’ was still going on in March 2003; and the Genocide Convention is clear and uncompromising in such a situation,we must take action.

    The subsequent UN Duty to Protect has arisen because of our unwillingness to honour the convention in time to save lives and cultures as Rwanda,Bosnia and Iraq showed all too clearly.

  • Robin Bennett 20th Mar '13 - 1:40pm

    Regime change to free a population from dictatorship is justified if the conditions are right (as they are not in Zimbabwe). Had the policies adopted by the US during the subsequent occupation of Iraq not been so misguided, there would now be fewer critics of the decision to invade.

  • Nicholson’s claims of chemical weapons attacks in “the mid-nineties and early 2000’s” are uncorroborated and unsubstantiated. No such claims of recent chemical weapons use were being made in 2003. Likewise, the claims of “still going on” genocide were not voiced in 2003. These are all after-the-fact justifications to cover the fact that the war was actually based on a tissue of baldfaced, manifest, palpable lies.

  • Richard Dean 20th Mar '13 - 2:06pm

    Do you have any evidence whatsoever to substantiate your claims, David?

  • Michael Parsons 20th Mar '13 - 3:31pm

    Invasion of Iraq, and if possible Iran; or indeed a strong-arm USA presence anywhere; is best in practice functionally measured and forecast by the presence of profitable natural resources. Given those, the newspaper argument is quickly advanced that the native population are apparent;y incapable of managinbg these riches efficiently or fairly, and need our presence – forcible or by financial infitration – to cope. Hence the “humanitarian” rhetoric and interference in Iran, S.Sudan contrased t no “humanitarian war” action in Zimbabwe, or the Congo, where manipulation already makes “rare earth” resources accessible to mobie phone companies and so on. Anyone foolish enough to imagine Zimbabwe could not be invaded if it were oil-rich shoulod look as the Congo situation and the power if a well-packed Rwanda.

    Broadly we can use this rule of thumb guide. Israel for example is the only middle-eastern nation with a record of both genocidal policies, constant contempt for UN resolutions and international law and also proved possession of substantial deliverable nuclear WMD’s, but resource-wise would not justify the cost of enlghtened “humanitarian” supervision. Tghe answer? Withdraw volutart submission to these swindlers, take back our ives.

    As to Bosnia, this was just the on-going ‘Eastern Question’. Eager for more warm-water ports Russia supports the Orthidox Christians there, and eager to thwart that Germany supports the Moslems, from the C rimean War and Bismark’s day onwards. This scenario is being played out again in C yprus, where no doubt we shall hear more of the need to sustain the wonders of European party-political and financial oligarchy (so-called “humanitarian liberalism”) against the evils of Russian financial and military presence in the Orthodox Chriistian world (and accessto ports and Cypriot gas resources of course) Already Blair and his bloodstained Iraq/UK trade bans have popped up again like ghosties in some macarbre chilkdren’s tale: but beware, they are after real blood and gold – ours if they can swing it their way.

  • Emma,
    thank you for responding, and doing so in such a measured tone on what is such an emotive subject.

    As I have been given to understand it, the evidence for WMD obscures the deeper fact of the breakdown of the Baathist regime after 1991, as Saddam handed chemical stockpiles to favoured tribal leaders who then used these to maintain their position, while Saddam himself was able to remain in power by staying at arms length of these atrocities – although this is not to say he wasn’t neglecting his wider responsibilities, or that the various tribal factions who prosecuted their in-fighting by committing crimes against groups (such as the Marsh Arabs) weren’t following his example of attacks agains Kurds (among others).

    I think it is a massive failure of our Intelligence services and analysis to conclude that because devolved use of WMD by tribes during intra-ethnic conflicts that the nation continued to produce such weaponry, and had either the desire or means to do so. Instead we learn that Iraqi stockpiles of WMD were dispersed and depleted, both to regional leaders who in some instances used them on populations and in others on the black market by their corrupt officials.

    I am also highly sceptical of some of the more modern fashionable uses of ‘genocide’ as an application to describe what are nonetheless terrible crimes, and have great concerns about subsequent misuse of UN procedures to build political will to use force where this can be avoided. ‘Conventional’ knowledge is not always true.

    Rwanda, Bosnia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Libya and others are all separate cases with particular circumstances and should not be used to create a precedent to urge action in the latest crisis, for the clear reason that internal powers will manipulate the international community for their own ends, as it has been shown time and time again – particularly during the wider power struggles between great empires and in the nuclear age between superpowers.

    The UN does not have a good reputation as a global policeman precisely because it is subject to its own constituent biases and is unable to apply its own framework for international law consistently. The UN does not have a reliable mandate because it is not either fully, or proportionally, representative.

    The sickening murders of former despots like Gadaffi and Saddam are direct proof of the failure of due process and the weakness of the international system.

    Until we can police ourselves we can have little credibility to police others – and this is why we must place greater emphasis on civil liberties to eliminate torture and rendition, extra-judicial killings including drone attacks, and other forms of expedient immorality.

    Should we not set an example by citing Barack Obama for his decision to murder Osama Bin-Laden?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 21st Mar '13 - 10:21pm

    It is very easy, when one is not likely to ever face a combat situation to place others in such danger. The fact is that in Afghanistan and Iraq it would appear that we have managed to kill more civilians than combatants, so I question the validity of our involvement.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Mar '13 - 8:21pm

    @ R Uduwerage-Perera

    Do you have proof that HM Forces killed more civilians than combatants? I have not seen this before and am interested in where you gained this point of view. If it is just opinion and not based in fact then I can only assume you have very little knowledge of what went on out there.

  • This is an informative and interesting article written by somebody with extensive knowledge of both Iraq and its people. Much of that knowledge, particularly that acquired after the first Gulf War, was gained at considerable personal risk.

    The article, which expresses the Baroness’ personal views, is addressed to the readership of the Liberal Democrat voice, and presents both positive and negative outcomes for the Iraqi people ten years after the Second Iraq War.

    The big positive for the people of Iraq is the gift of democracy. What the Iraqi people do with that gift has to be a decision for them; which, of course, is their democratic right.

  • Daniel Balanescu 26th Mar '13 - 4:49pm

    Baroness Nicholson does not speak her opinion from reports and newspaper articles, Those who have been following her work in the region know that she has been supporting there education and health services (since early 90s to date!), working with local people through the Amar Foundation which she set up. Her view therefore reflects local voices of those who have lived in oppression.

  • Wallace Edward Brand 2nd Jun '14 - 1:47pm

    @Michael Parsons who charges Israel with the only record of genocide in the Middle East and contempt for the UN.
    First, according to British Col Richard Kemp, an authority on asymmetric warfare, Israel has the best record of any army in history of being careful to avoid collateral damage to civilians. Second, the Resolutions of the UN General Assembly are only recommendations. After WW2 the UN had to give a vote to all the little colonies that became independent including those that the Soviet Union gave up to give its vote at the UNGeneral Assembly more weight. It has become dominated by the Russian and Afro Asian bloc that Russia is still using to try to dominate the Middle East to help it attain hegemony in Western Europe. As to genocide, if the Jews are at it, they are doing a very poor job as there are more Arabs and Muslims in Palestine all the time. Since Israel’s War of Independence, some 60,000 Arabs and Muslims have been killed by the Jews in all the wars it had to fight to defend its existence, but millions of Arabs and Muslims have been killed by other Arabs and Muslims. See the numbers in Ben Dror Yemeni, “A Home Made Genocide.”

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