Is Iraq worth the Life of a single British Soldier?

“The purpose of British troops in Iraq is to discover and destroy any weapons of mass destruction,” said the defence minister, Geoffrey Hoon, regarding the deployment of troops to the Gulf in coalition with American forces. The consequential expulsion of the regime of Saddam Hussein has, no doubt, benefited a country suffering from years of sanctions and oppression. His murderous regime has denied the Iraqi people a democratic government, and crushed those who fought to get one. It will never be known the total amount of people murdered by the dictator, when their only crime was to seek the freedom taken for granted in the West. The tragic deaths of British soldiers during the conflict has provoked many a debate as to whether the war should have happened in the first place, and whether the deaths of the young soldiers were in any way justified by the immeasurable benefits to the country and its people. Especially when the country in question is considered by some to be such a long way away that it is irrelevant whether he does have the weapons of mass destruction or not, for he doesn’t have the weapons capabilities to reach us with them anyway. Yet with the ever-growing threat from international terrorism, it cannot be denied that a Nation’s security now begins a long way past its” borders. The overriding question which arises now the bulk of the conflict is over, is whether the deaths of British soldiers in a far-off country will, in time, be considered worthwhile, or whether they will have been in vain.

Ever since the dropping of the two atomic bombs by the United States of America on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the other side of the world in 1945, no country in the world is now “safe” from these weapons. The USA had shown the world that distance and oceans did not matter any more, for mankind had finally harnessed the military capabilities to render this problem obsolete. The fact the USA were forced into the war by the devastating attack at Pearl Harbour in December 1941, an attack on their own homeland, showed that every country is a potential target for attack.

After the 11th September, the world was again changed. It became clear that enemies had the knowledge and the ability to strike deep into the heart of a country without warning. The terrorists responsible for the atrocity came from the Middle East, some from Saudi Arabia and others from the countries around Afghanistan, countries previously considered by the West to be so far off that they were not a immediate danger or threat.

“Far-off” is not applicable in the world of today, as everyone is in range of someone else. If indeed Iraq had the weapons of mass destruction that George Bush and Tony Blair claim he did, then other countries would have no choice but to get involved for another main reason. Oil.

Iraq is a member of the oil cartel OPEC, and has the second largest oil reserves in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. The world’s complete dependence on oil partially explains why the West was so worried at the prospect of Saddam Hussein having the weapons of mass destruction. If he did possess weapons of mass destruction, then he could single-handedly start a war involving the entire Middle East. Oil prices would consequentially rise uncontrollably, and the world would grind to a literal halt, sending many economies straight into a recession.

As a result the West, with countries such as Britain and the USA so dependent on oil, must ensure that Iraq doesn’t harness the potential to cause such a crippling conflict. However morally wrong this maybe, the fact remains that Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction was a risk Mr Bush and Mr Blair were not willing to take.

The advances in technology in the 20th century have meant that the average citizen now has access to the lives of people all over the world. Real-Time news services mean that we can find out what is going on in the rest of the world, even in countries that are physically a long way away. This was first proved in the Vietnam War, when Americans woke each morning and watched horrific images of war being shown on channels such as CNN. As President Nixon quickly found out, this globalisation turned public opinion so much against the war that the Americans had no choice but to pull out of Vietnam. “Far-Off” does not apply in the world of today, for the British public can find out exactly what is going on all over the world with the press of a button. Or as the slogan for a magazine puts it, “Their lives in your hands.”

The determination of the West to ensure that Saddam in particular doesn’t acquire any weapons of mass destruction is not without reason. His history in power speaks for itself. One year after gaining power, he started a conflict with Iran; a conflict that would eventually drag out for 8 years and cost the lives of over 1 million Iraqi soldiers. He authorised one of his generals, a man known as “Chemical Ali”, to use chemical weapons on his own people. Iraq’s consequent invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was the reason for the Gulf War, a war that he thought the West would ignore but one that resulted in his forces being driven from Kuwait by an American-led coalition. Iraqi militia then attempted to assassinate George Bush Snr. in 1993. In 1997, he expelled weapons inspectors, and then rejected a proposal in 2000 to send the inspectors back in. In 2002, he finally accepted the weapons inspectors back in, yet Britain and America still claimed he was “playing games” with them, and not honestly admitting to the weapons the West claimed he possessed.

With a record like Saddam’s, it is no wonder Britain and America were willing to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq in order to rid the country of any weapons, and at the same time, rid the country of a regime that has ruled by fear and terror over the last twenty years. The continual oppression of the Iraqi people meant that their liberation quickly became one of the main aims of the campaign.

The suffering and oppression of a country should not be ignored merely because the country is considered to be “far-off”. People will still continue to suffer whether the country is a neighbour or half way across the other side of the world, and it is still the duty of other countries to try and stop this persecution. When attempting to stop this misery inflicted by those in power, “far-off” doesn’t matter, for people will still continue to die. And the World will still continue to watch on CNN.

Some question what gives the west, in particular America, the right to “police” the rest of the world and to attempt to control governments in other far-off countries. If indeed Saddam has the weapons that America claims he does, then the weapons are no different to those already possessed by America, Britain, France, Russia, China and several other countries. The justification of a war just on these grounds seems to be even more hypocritical after the declaration by North Korea that they have re-started their production of weapons-grade nuclear plutonium. It seems that the Iraqi inclusion in Bush’s “axis of evil” seems to have backfired on the American President even more, for why is he bent on pursuing an axis “member” that probably does not possess nuclear weapons in preference to one that does?

The sudden attention paid by America to the current Iraqi situation oozes further hypocrisy, further emphasising that any campaign would not be worth the life of a British soldier. For example, the USA is obsessed with the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) supposedly possessed by Iraq, yet they do nothing about Israel’s. It also insists that Iraq comply with every UN resolution passed; yet it allows the Jewish state to ignore resolutions calling for it to withdraw from Arab land. So now is Saddam really the greatest evil in the Middle East? Will British troops be asked to die punishing Israel for breaking the same rules as Iraq?

The hypocrisy continues. America also removed Iraq from its” list of “terrorist-sponsoring nations” during the Iraq-Iran war. This is so ironic when America has embarked upon a war with Iraq after specifically citing its” links with international terrorism and for its” development of WMD’s. Let it not be forgotten that Britain and America completely supported Iraq throughout the twentieth century to such a degree that when the regime used a deadly mixture of chemical weapons on its” own Kurdish towns due to their occupation by Iranian forces, America was prepared to look the other way. They even supplied the Iraqi regime with arms to ensure the defeat of the Iranians. As one journalist for The Times put it, “Bush is so sure that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction because the White House still has the receipts.”

As asserted earlier, many people claim that Britain and America neither have the right to intervene in Iraq nor the right to police the rest of the world. Yet we must face up to the reality that America is the world’s only remaining superpower, and the West relies on America to provide more than many would care to admit. Were America to pull out of NATO and the UN, those organisations would not be half as important as they currently are. It would also be hypocritical to accuse America of policing the world and being imperialistic, for Europe was only to happy to let America take the lead role in the Gulf War and in the latter part of the Second World War. Yet when America decides not to intervene, not to “police” other parts of the globe, it is derided as selfish and as acting as an isolationist. It seems that America simply cannot win, so this argument seems to not be valid.

Critics of the Iraq liberation object to it on the basis that the west has no right to “police” other countries when the happenings inside these countries don’t affect them. Yet it has to be questioned whether the west, in particular Britain, still has a duty to Iraq and to it’s people. On April 25th 1920, Iraq was formally made a mandate of the United Kingdom. This mandate then ran out in October 1932, but it was not a secret that Britain continued to pull the strings backstage for years to come. Unfortunately in July 1958 the Hashemite dynasty, which had ruled after the public absence of the British but over whom the British continued to have a degree of influence, was overthrown in a military coup, and both King Faisal and the Prime Minister Nuri al Said were murdered. A Council of Sovereignty under General Abdel-Karim Kassem was established, and it was this that spelled the end for the stability which Iraq had happily enjoyed for the previous few decades. It was General Kassem who first proclaimed that Kuwait was a part of Iraq, a notion that would be the basis for the Gulf War of 1990.

With such strong ties to the British throughout much of the twentieth century, we must therefore question whether Britain has a certain unwritten duty to the Iraqi people to stop the oppression of Saddam Hussein. It was only 50 years ago that the country was practically ruled by the West, and we have some sort of a responsibility to try and ensure that the country prospers to it’s full potential. Some may even go so far as saying that it is still the responsibility of Britain to help the country develop to the same comparative luxury that we currently find ourselves living in, and not just to abandon the country as soon as the mandate runs out. It is worth the life of a British soldier to die liberating a country which one generation ago used to belong to us.

Let us look at a different scenario. Iraq has the weapons America claims it does, and while Europe debates what to do, Saddam Hussein decides to launch al-Hussein long-range missiles loaded with VX gas towards Israel and Kuwait. The world would be plunged into chaos as it was realised that something had to be done in order to stop Iraq. Europe would unanimously turn to America to lead the counter attack. However, if America does nothing about it, saying that it is not their job to “police” the rest of the world, especially as the country was “far-off”, and that they would not want to intervene in another country unless they had no other choice. With a scenario like this sounding frighteningly realistic, we realise just how much the world relies on America. It seems sadly ironic that France, the country accusing the US of policing the world, would not be around today were it not for American intervention in the Second World War.

Although there is a moral argument as to why a war should never be entered into, there is undeniably a counter argument saying that the war is worth the life of a British soldier. Many feel that the west and the “developed” countries of the world have a duty not to ignore the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein, for if we do then we imply it can continue, and then we become as guilty as him. Seeing as it was the West who partially supplied Iraq with the weapons that we now so ferociously condemn, do we not have a duty to clear up the mess that we chose to ignore for so long? Surely it is worth the life of a British soldier to try and stop the oppression of millions of innocent Iraqi’s by the tyranny of a maniac? Is it not justifiable to try and stop the further murder of thousands, and attempt to give them the freedom and democracy that is taken for granted in the West? If it is not the worth the life of a British soldier to try and help those in oppression under the rule of a tyrant, then we must ask ourselves, what is?

Much of the reason that many members of the public are against military action, and the loss of life of British soldiers, is because many believe that Bush is trying to get revenge for September 11th and that he has decided to manipulate the current patriotic feelings of Americans created after September 11th to try and do something that George Bush Snr. could not. This implies that he has turned his guns on Iraq too suddenly and without reason. This is not the case; Iraq has been in the forefront of American foreign policy since 1979, shortly before the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. However after the unprovoked invasion of Kuwait in 1989, Iraq has been a public enemy of the United States, and after the attempted assassination of President Bush senior in 1993, it became clear that Iraq, underneath Saddam Hussein, was not going to be considered friendly any longer. This culminated in the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, signed by US President Bill Clinton, pledging that the USA was prepared to take decisive action against Iraq until there was a regime change.

So all who are against the war on the basis that it is too sudden and unprovoked are mistaken, for it has been the goal of America for quite some time. Just about everyone, for or against the war, believes that what is currently happening in Iraq is wrong, so therefore all agree that something has to be done in order to stop the oppression. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution, and we must ask what else can we do to stop this crisis from continuing. All other forms of diplomacy have been tried and have failed. The West has tried diplomatic pressure, UN Sanctions, weapons inspections and ultimately the threat of military action, but none of them have worked as Saddam has continued to defy the UN. There is no other means left to use against him except for the action promised. Saddam has shown that the sanctions imposed by the UN in the aftermath of the Gulf War have hurt no one except for the people they were intended to protect. Military action really is the last, and only, option.

It is therefore worth the life of a British soldier to die whilst enforcing a threat made to a dictator who has continued to dodge every diplomatic weapon used against him. For the power and credibility of the West at least, surely it have to be seen to back up the threats that are made, otherwise they count for nothing. We must all consider the fact that if Saddam is seen to have escaped the west just by refusing to disarm, then it will give rise to a host of other maniacs who think they can get away with their crimes simply by refusing to cooperate. It is now up to the West to carry out the action promised, and to prove to that blatant disobeying of International Laws will not be tolerated. For the sake of the credibility of the West, a conflict in Iraq is worth the life of a British soldier.

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