Why did Saddam Hussein have that Pulp Fiction DVD? Quentin Tarantino’s Meisterwerk was found nestling incongrously in a corner of one of the Iraqi President’s own signature achievements, the gilt and marble palace he built on the banks of the Tigris while his people starved. Finding a video nasty with random violence, gratuitous bloodshed and torture in Saddam’s boudoir is not perhaps surprising. But why did the Iraqi dictator need to shell out on fantasy footage from Hollywood? His son Uday could have provided hours of documentary material for free.
The disintegration of Saddam’s regime has been revealing, not just about the grotesque nature of Baathist tyranny, but also about the faulty world view of those who opposed this war. It would be premature to rejoice while Iraq’s dictator has not yet been run to ground, and while fighting that will claim more lives continues. But it is not too soon to expose the pernicious nonsense that passed for geopolitical wisdom before the conflict began — the pulp fiction of the peaceniks — so that we can learn from their mistakes. Honest men can differ. But we will find it more difficult to build something worthwhile on the rubble of Saddam’s regime if we do not also dismantle those positions occupied before the war that were built on intellectual dishonesty.
Three myths stand out as ripe for deconstruction. The first is the allegation, peddled by Charles Kennedy and Robin Cook among others, that Britain and America armed Saddam’s tyranny. The second piece of nonsense is the notion that targeting Baghdad was somehow a “diversion” from the war on terrorism. The third canard overdue for stuffing is the argument that we must now show “evenhandedness” by enforcing UN resolutions against Israel, just as we have against Iraq.
The first myth, the claim that Iraq’s liberators were once Saddam’s armourers, may seem to be of diminishing relevance now that so much of Saddam’s arsenal is scrap metal. But it matters because it encapsulates the tendency of those who oppose Anglo-American policy to believe the worst of the US and Britain, to attribute cynical commercial motives to those governments actually prepared to take risks for international security, and to pass over the sins of the world’s real cowboys.
It is certainly true that most of Saddam’s apparatus of terror was supplied by permanent members of the UN Security Council who have abused their position to further their own interests, heedless of innocent deaths. But the guilty men are not the Americans and the British, but the French, Russians and Chinese. According to figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 1973 and 2002 Russia supplied 57 per cent of Saddam’s arms imports, France 13 per cent and China 12 per cent. The US supplied at most just 1 per cent and Britain significantly less than that. Brazil supplied more weaponry to Saddam than the US and Britain combined. No wonder France, Russia and China declined to support action to disarm one of their best customers. And no wonder they are so keen to have their pet UN run the country now. We cannot have any inconvenient invoices falling into the wrong hands now, can we?
If it is important to remember just who Saddam’s real friends in the international community were, it is also vital that we do not forget who he invited over to join the party when the presents arrived from Paris, Moscow and Beijing. The “secular” Iraqi regime played host to a variety of Islamist terrorists from across the Arab world, training them on its territory, supplying them with its weapons and sending them abroad on missions to kill its enemies. During this war it has been striking to note that Saddam’s most determined defenders have not been the Iraqi Army but Islamist fanatics. Far from this campaign having been a distraction from the wider war on terror, it has been a hammer blow against a regime which sponsored, succoured and exported terrorism. The lesson to potential terrorists is simple: you will not prevail. We have been told that this war has put a smile on Osama bin Laden’s face. Yeah, and D-Day had Hitler laughing all the way to the bunker.
The third myth that cannot be allowed to persist is perhaps the most widespread of all, the proposition that it is somehow hypocritical to act against Iraq when Israel is also “in breach” of UN resolutions. The attempt to imply some parity of guilt between Iraq and Israel is morally shameful and a wilfully blind misreading of the relevant UN resolutions. Iraq was in breach of Chapter 7 resolutions, which provide for military action to deal with threats to international peace and security. The resolutions which concern Israel are based on Chapter 6 of the UN Charter and they are non-binding recommendations for settling disputes. To bracket Iraq and Israel in the way that Robin Cook did is to suggest that there is a moral equivalence between a murderer and someone who is having difficulty with marriage guidance counselling.
It may seem a waste of good ink to take apart Robin Cook’s arguments when he has done such a good job of discrediting himself. But if myths such as Mr Cook’s bogus line in moral equivalence are not exposed, they have the capacity to do harm long after their propagator has been laughed off the stage. Jack Straw, of all people, has now been arguing that, after Iraq, Israel must abide by UN resolutions. In so doing he blights one achievement in the war on terrorism by placing terrorism’s biggest victim, rather than its perpetrators, in the dock.
After the demise of the epic horror that was Saddam’s regime, the inventions peddled by those who would have left him in power should be seen for the myths that they are. The appeasers’ fictions are overdue for pulping.